What Should This Childless Woman Do?

Dear friends, 
Every day I receive comments from readers about their childless situations. More than 230 people, mostly anonymous, have responded to a 2007 post titled “Are You Grieving Over Your Lack of Children?” It is the most popular post on this blog, and there’s an ocean of tears behind these comments. Sometimes the comments are so troubling I don’t know what to say, and I hate to see them buried in the comments of a seven-year-old post. Today I’m offering this comment and my response. I hope that you readers will chime in with your own experiences and advice.

Anonymous said…
I’ve just turned 35 and have been with my partner for 13 years. I always knew he didn’t want children, and I always said that I did (although in practice I feel like I’ve never really decided either way, because my opinion has never mattered). We talked about it, on and off, for years, never finding a solution to our different wishes, but staying together anyway.

Then last year I met a wonderful (but emotionally damaged) man who I fell in love with, much to my distress. I felt strongly that I wanted to have children with him (despite some really obvious, serious flaws in his suitability as a partner!) and although he says he couldn’t have a relationship with me while he’s so emotionally messed up, we did once have a quiet, nervous conversation about how we would both like to have children and… maybe… together.

I haven’t started a relationship with this man, although I still long to, however misguided I know it would be. But the feelings have overwhelmed me and the relationship I have with my partner. I’ve talked to my partner again this weekend about the long-term issues in our relationship, including children. He’s adamant he doesn’t want them and is prepared for me to leave him if I feel I have to. I’m left with trying to decide whether to stay in a good but definitely imperfect relationship with a man who I love, without children, forever, whether to leave him and pursue the man I know will break my heart, but who *might* just give me children in the meantime, or whether to give up on all of it and live in a little house on my own with a cat. I have time left, but not much, and the pressure is making me insane. If anyone has tips on making childlessness feel like your own decision… those would be very welcome.

Sue Fagalde Licksaid…

Anonymous June 15, it sounds like the relationship you have and the one you are considering are both unhealthy and destined to give you lots of heartache. I know you want children, but I wouldn’t advise pursuing a relationship with a man who says himself that he’s too messed up just because you might have a child together. As for making childlessness feel like your own decision, you can’t force that. Either it is your decision or you do your best to accept that circumstances didn’t work out for you.
I’m feeling old and cranky this morning. Anybody else have more encouraging advice?

Dear readers, what do you think?