A Safe Place for the Childless Not by Choice

Dear friends,

Lately in the comments, a few people have been sniping at each other. That’s not good. We get enough of that in the rest of the world. As childless people, we face questions, disapproval, accusations, and folks who can’t resist giving you unwanted advice. Right? Let’s not do that here.

Last week we talked about how some of us—maybe all of us—sometimes keep quiet about our childless status because we don’t want to deal with the reactions. We’d rather blend in and let the parent people think we’re just like them. We don’t want them coming at us with why, what’s wrong with you, etc. Most of us don’t know how  to explain or justify our situation because we’re not sure how it happened or what to do about it. We’re still trying to figure it out. There aren’t any easy answers.

Of course, I’m talking about those of us who have not chosen to be childless, who are hurting over their childless status. The childless-by-choice crowd sometimes gets pretty militant about their choice: Never wanted kids, happy about the situation, feel sorry for you breeders who want to waste your bodies, money and time adding to the world’s overpopulation. Get over it, and enjoy your childfree life. But how can you when you feel a gaping emptiness inside?

In an ideal world, we would all accept each other’s choices, but the world is not ideal. We feel left out, guilty, ashamed, angry, and hurt. We need a safe place. Let this be one. If someone asks for advice—and many readers do—chime in, but we need to support each other’s decisions once they’re made. Don’t add to the hurt. And if a certain gentleman wants to leave his childless older wife for a young, fertile woman who will give him a family, ease up on him. We women might resent some of his sexist comments, but we don’t know what it’s like for him. He’s aching for children just like we are. And sir, don’t be knocking older women. Some of us take that personally. 🙂

Let’s try to be kind here. I am grateful for every one of you. Hang in there.

P.S. Easter was brutal for me. All those kids in Easter outfits. All those happy families while I was alone. Luckily I spent so much time playing music at church that I was too tired to care by Sunday afternoon. How was it for you?

Children bring life in the face of death

My cousin Jerry McKee died yesterday at age 74. He suffered from severe health problems for a long time, and his death is a blessing for him, although many people will grieve his loss. I sure do. He was always a ray of sunshine, ready with a joke and that apple-cheeked smile.

Lately it seems like everybody is dying. We had two funerals at our church last weekend. A member of our choir died a month ago, and another is dying of cancer. A writer friend is losing his battle with pancreatic cancer. Yesterday on Facebook, I read about two of my late husband’s old buddies who are also struggling with cancer. Too much. But that’s what happens when you get into your 60s. Your older relatives and your peers start heading for the next life.

When you don’t have children and grandchildren around you, there’s a danger of not seeing anything but aging and death. We have talked a lot about the practical aspects of growing old alone. Who will take care of us if our health fails? Who will manage our affairs and take care of our stuff when we’re gone? But you know, we can find people to do those things. We can recruit family members or friends or we can even pay someone to manage everything for us. It would be nice if we had children to do it, but there’s no guarantee they would be there for us.

Jerry, widowed about 14 years ago, leaves an adult son, Eddie, who is developmentally disabled. I talked to him yesterday. He is distraught, but he is also helpless when it comes to arranging a funeral or figuring out how to take care of himself on his own. He’s in his 40s. It’s unlikely he will ever get married or have children. When I think I could have had a child like him, I’m honestly grateful I never did.

But here’s my point. While anybody could manage the practical aspects of aging and dying, we have psychological needs that aren’t as easy to satisfy. I think we need young people around us. If we could cuddle a baby in our arms as we say goodbye to the old people, if we could find ourselves playing with a toddler or comforting a teenager facing her first funeral, it would be both a comfort and a distraction, a reminder that these young people need us and life is not over, that there’s something ahead as well as behind. Despite Eddie’s problems, it helped me to talk him to him.

When we don’t get to have children for whatever reason, we may avoid being around other people’s kids. They remind us too much of what we don’t have. Also, at least in my case, we might feel awkward because we have no experience with children. But I think we need to get past that and recognize what wonders children are. If they were puppies, we wouldn’t hesitate. This has gotten a lot easier for me in recent years, maybe because my own reproductive years are over, maybe because losing my husband has given me something bigger to grieve about.

What I’m trying to say is embrace the children in your lives. If there are none, find ways (legal ones!) to be around them. Teach, coach, volunteer, be the crazy aunt or uncle and have fun with it.

Life is short to waste moping. Jerry never did.

RIP, cuz.

Santa drops off a few early childless tidbits

Dear friends,

Done with your Christmas shopping yet? Never mind. I haven’t even started. I just got home from Thanksgiving, and Christmas is coming at me like a freight train. But I’d rather talk to you.

Today I’m offering a collection of links to articles I think you will find interesting. Some may even make you feel good for a few minutes about not having children. Let me know what you think.

  1. Mothers Thought Less of Me Because I was a Childless Midwife

Interesting article about a midwife whose clients always asked, “Do you have children?” They often trusted her less when she said no.

2. The Childless Indian Woman Who Mothered Hundreds of Trees

This woman couldn’t have children, so she and her husband planted trees.

3. What All Moms Wish Their Best Friends Knew

Here’s a mom trying to reach out to her childless friend with some words of advice. Some might make you a little angry, but most make sense.

4. Childless Adults are Generally as Happy as Parents

Are they? Check out the statistics offered in this article.




If you disagree about children, is your relationship doomed?

Is it possible for a relationship to work when one partner wants children and the other doesn’t? This is the question that is still resonating in my head days after I finished reading Kidfree & Lovin’ It (reviewed Jan. 2). The opinion of most of the people author Kaye D. Walters surveyed is that this is a deal-breaker, that compromise is impossible, that the relationship is doomed. They say it is better to break up than to have a child you don’t want—or force a child on someone who doesn’t want to have children. Don’t date, don’t marry, don’t pretend it’s okay; it won’t work.

Walters urges couples to think it through and be sure of what they want. “Don’t just end a perfectly good relationship without first examining your means and motivations on the kid issue.” She offers lists of reasons to procreate and suggests that some of them are pretty shaky and perhaps one might not be a good parent after all. But in the end, like the people she surveyed, she seems to lean toward ending the relationship.
This issue is at the heart of my Childless by Marriage blog and book. It’s an issue that most books about childlessness (see my resource list) pay minimal attention to. But it’s a big one. If my first husband had been willing and ready to have children, I’d be a grandmother now. If my second had been willing to add more children to the three he already had and if he had not had a vasectomy, I’d have grown children and maybe grandchildren now. If I had dumped either one because I wanted to have children and they didn’t, my life would have been completely different.
I am childless because I married these men and stayed with them. The first marriage ended for other reasons, but the second husband was a keeper. We lasted three weeks shy of 26 years. If Fred hadn’t died, we’d still be together. He was the perfect mate for me in every other way. And maybe, if I truthfully answer all of Walters’ soul-searching questions, I would find I was too devoted to my career to add motherhood to the mix. I wanted children, and I wish I’d had them. BUT I loved Fred and knew I would never find a better husband. Should I have left him and hoped to find someone else, maybe someone not as good but who was willing to have babies with me? Am I a fool because I sacrificed motherhood for these men?
That’s the big question that many of the people who comment here are facing: stay with the partner or spouse who doesn’t want kids or try to find someone else? What do you think? Is a relationship doomed if you disagree on this issue? Is it all right to sacrifice something this big for the one you love? There are always compromises in a relationship. People give up their careers, move far away from home, or take care of disabled spouses, but is this too much to ask?
I really want to know what you think.