Today we have a guest post from Melissa:
We are childless, my husband and I. Marriage came late to both of us; I was 39 at the altar and he was 48. Our conversations center around bodily aches, prescriptions, and retirement funds. My husband’s fingers are gnarled with arthritis and his limbs stiff. Simple acts like picking litter off the floor or reaching the bottom cupboard are laborious feats. For myself, plantar fasciitis, lower back pain, and various tight muscles contribute to remind me of my lost youth.
We decided, before marriage and without much discussion, that kids were not for us. My husband’s concern was the cost of parenting, and mine was the workload. I had observed and studied the plight of American mothers: saddled with the lion’s share of childcare and domestic administration, criticized relentlessly for any tiny fault, bereft of government support programs and affordable childcare. Motherhood in America was a raw deal for women, I decided. Coupled with this, my husband came into marriage not knowing how to change a diaper, mow a lawn, or plan meals. All this was enough to make me quite happily childfree.
We married, moved in together, and settled into the rhythms of later-in-life marriage, navigating the normal squabbles of who kept hogging all the mattress real estate and whose wet towel was on the floor. I set to work on the long task of pushing my husband out of his bachelor squalor and into more tidy habits. We worked, we quarreled, we got some mileage under our belts as a married couple.
Somewhat to my surprise, I began noticing a longing for children starting to creep around the edges of my subconscious. Sometimes it was the sight of my husband playing with our dog or a father biking with his children. My ovaries fired out regular missives to my brain, warning me that the motherhood window was almost closed. My husband’s patience, his smile, and his loving doting on me made me dream at times of meeting him with our baby at the end of his work day or taking a family walk with our toddler. Despite his physical issues and his sensitive ears that can’t bear the teakettle whistle, let alone a baby’s scream, my husband has many good fatherly traits that would bless a child.
At times, I do the evaluation, the “If he does get that promotion, maybe we could afford a baby and for me to be a stay-at-home mom so we don’t have to pay for childcare” or “If I gave birth next year, he would be 69 when our child graduated high school.” I play the numbers game and the what-ifs but with a sense of futility. The time really has passed for both of us. Neither of us has the stamina for late-night feedings, sleep deprivation, or toddler energy. The cost of parenthood in America is still too punitively high and we can’t afford to wreck our retirement planning. Plus, I know I would be doing the bulk of household work and emotional labor, and just thinking about trying to do this while working full-time makes me immediately exhausted. So we remain childless.
This makes me quite sad at times. Each month when my period arrives, I feel both relief and sorrow, another bloody reminder of the child I will never have as much as I am relieved to know that I’m not unexpectedly pregnant that month. I have my moments where I fervently hope for an “oops,” even as we are diligent about birth control. I worry about facing old age alone. My mother died last year at age 64, surrounded by her four children and numerous other family and relatives. I wonder who will care for me in old age, if my golden years will be silent and lonely, if I will outlive my husband or leave him a bereft widower. I struggle with understanding why my path was not motherhood, why I could not have met my husband sooner when children were a possibility. But there are no answers.
Yet my life is good. I have love, I have life and light, I have happiness. My marriage is blessed, we have friends and richness and joy. There are moments of poignant sorrow and loss, but there are many sweet ones that soothe away the pain. I am blessed.
What do you think? Lets hear your comments.
In honor of my birthday (March 9), I have lowered the price of the Kindle version of Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both to just 99 cents. The sale is this week only, ending March 15. So click now.