Isolation spreads faster than COVID-19

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COVID-19, the coronovirus, is splitting up families. One of my friends is afraid he’ll never see his parents alive again. They’re in a nursing home, and visitors are not allowed. Indeed, as of Monday, in Oregon and a growing number of other states, we have all been ordered to stay at home. It’s a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine or time in jail, to venture out on a “nonessential” trip. The idea is to stop the spread of the virus. Instead, we’re spreading fear and isolation. It can’t be avoided, I suppose, but it’s painful.

My aunt, just a few years older than I am, lives across the street from her son’s family in Santa Clara, California. Because she has some serious health problems and because the grandchildren have been out and about until very recently, she is not seeing them now, except on her telephone. Those kids have been part of her everyday life since they were born. With her job winding down and all social activities canceled, she is suddenly as isolated as I am.

My friend Bill lives in an assisted living facility. Going on two weeks now, the residents have not been allowed to go out, and no visitors are allowed in. Their meals are dropped off outside their doors. Used to socializing and going out for lunch, shopping and church, he says he’s going stir-crazy. He can’t see his friends. He has no children, but he’s worried about his sister’s family in California. The lockdown is meant to keep him safe, but he feels like he’s in jail.

My life is not so different from usual these days. I miss my church and my writing and music groups, but most days I still do the same old things: writing, practicing music, walking the dog, interacting on Facebook, doing my chores, eating, and watching TV. I live in the coastal forest. When I step out the door, I rarely see other people. I’m already isolated.

If I had children whom I could not be with, this shelter-in-place thing would be a whole lot worse. I would worry about them getting sick. I would give them hell for not protecting themselves. I would worry about them losing their jobs. I would worry about the kids stuck at home with nothing to do. I’d want to jump in and help. But like my aunt, I am “older” and not supposed to go anywhere. Nor am I supposed to welcome groups of people into my house. At the moment, I’m grateful not to have to deal with this angst.

I’ll be slipping out for groceries and mail today. I’ll be walking my dog. I’ll telephone at least one friend I know is also alone. And then I’ll go back to my solo life.

All anyone talks about these days is the virus. Newscasters seem to have forgotten everything else happening in the world: wars, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, immigrant parents and children separated at the Mexican border, even the upcoming U.S. election. Jody Day, whom I wrote about last week, says comments have dropped off on her blog. The same thing has happened here. Have we become so distracted by the pandemic that nothing else matters right now? What is your thinking about having children in this crazy time? How are you doing? Please comment.

Jody Day’s Book Nails the Childless Story

jody coverLiving the Life Unexpected: How to Find Home, Meaning and a Fulfilling Future Without Children by Jody Day, Pan-McMillan, 2020.

If you don’t know about Jody Day, you should. Check out her website at gateway-women.com. She has been supporting childless women (sorry, guys) for as long as I have and built it into something big and wonderful. Unable to have children, Day is an upbeat cheerleader for those of us who for whatever reason are among the one in five women who do not procreate. Now she has a new edition of her 2013 book, Rocking the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for the Meaningful and Fulfilling Life Without Children.

Day, founder of Gateway Women, has become a guru for childless women, with her blog, workshops, talks, and meetup groups for non-moms seeking support. The new edition has been polished, updated, and expanded from the new cover, title and subtitle to the extensive resource list, with new quotes and examples throughout. As a childless writer with her own book on the subject (Childless by Marriage), I hate to say it, but if you’re a childless woman, you’ve got to read this book. Read it, work through the exercises, and find your way to a life in which you can feel peace with the fact that you’ll never be a mother. If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to have children, you might not be ready for Living the Life Unexpected because it emphasizes grieving the loss of motherhood, accepting it and moving on. Then again, maybe it will help you decide.

Listen to this quote from chapter 2:

“ ‘Failing’ to become a mother, particularly when there are no obvious medical issues, is seen primarily as some kind of ‘choice’. (You know, the ‘Well, if you’d really wanted to have a baby you would have just done so’ comments that can leave us winded with outrage and at a loss as to how to respond.) Because, for those of us who’ve lived that choice, we know that it’s a damned- if- you- do, damned- if- you- don’t kind of choice, for example:

  • What choice is it to choose to become a mother with a partner you’re not sure is going to stick around?
  • What choice is it to choose to become a single or partnered mother in a society where childcare can cost almost your whole salary?
  • What choice is it to put off motherhood until you (and your partner) can afford it, but risk age-related infertility?
  • And so on . . . ”

Does that ring any bells? It sure did for me. So did many other parts of this book.

m8leL6dADay, who has become a psychotherapist since the first edition came out, applies her new skills here as she writes about guilt, ambivalence, grief, and the many other difficult feelings we may be having about our failure to have children. Did we really not want to? Should we have made difference choices? Will we ever stop feeling horrible?

In this edition, Day looks at how millennials and younger generations are dealing with the baby-no baby situation. In many cases, they are having a difficult time with the financial aspects–cost of living, student loan debt, no workplace support, etc. Even if they want children, how can they possibly afford it?

Chapters and exercises look at the realities of motherhood. Day looks at the situation for single women, gays, and those who have had abortions. Sections touch on the role of religious faith, how things have changed in the last 50 years, the effects on a relationship when you give up the motherhood dream, role models, fears and myths about aging without children, and figuring out what to do with your life if you’re not going to be a mother. We get facts and figures about childlessness and related topics and an extensive list of resources to consult for more information.

The exercises are tremendously helpful. They can be used alone or in a group to move step-by-step from giving up hope for the life you expected to opening up to new possibilities for the life you have.

It’s one of those books that you’ll get something different out of every time you read it.

Tomorrow, March 19, is the release date for the new edition. Mother’s Day in the UK is March 22. This post is part of a blog tour Jody has set up for various websites. Click here for information about that. Pamela Tsigdinos of Silent Sorority and Brandi Lytle at Not So Mom are also posting about the book today. Jody is an amazing marketer who refuses to be silent about childlessness.

You can order the book here. Or you might win one. Jody will send a free copy to the first person who comments on this post. Other blogs on the tour also have opportunities to win copies of Living the Life Unexpected.

I don’t know about where you live, but more and more places are asking everyone to stay home to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Why not read a good book during this quiet time?

Here in Oregon, we are being asked to stay home except for the most essential trips. Schools, public buildings, restaurants and bars are closed. As in other places, our numbers of infected people are creeping up. It’s a scary time, but I forgot all about it while reading Jody Day’s book. Stay well.

 

 

So Many Moms and Babies Out There!

Dear friends,

I was supposed to be in San Antonio, Texas today for the giant AWP writer’s conference, but so many writers, editors and publishers cancelled due to the coronavirus fears that I decided not to go. It no longer seemed worth the time and effort. Judging by the photos published this morning of empty spaces where thousands of wordsmiths would normally be, I’m sure I made the right choice.

I made this decision on the road to the Portland airport, where I had a hotel reserved for their “park and fly” program. I was already on the fence when the friend in Texas I had planned to visit called to tell me not to come. That cinched it. Not going to Texas, but I already had a room in Portland. Might as well spend the night there, right? I had a house/dogsitter taking care of Annie. I had scheduled the week away from all my usual activities. Instead of seeing San Antonio, I would create a vacation right here in Oregon. I would read, write, shop, and visit local attractions.

The Grotto in Portland was beautiful and inspiring as usual. It’s a Catholic shrine and botanical garden full of statues commemorating the lives of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, with a meditation chapel, a church, and a gift shop. No kids, just adults seeking spiritual connections. There was one bump: a plaque on the path to the meditation chapel extols the glories of motherhood. Even here, I thought. But it’s a Catholic place; of course moms are honored. In the gift shop, I saw many books about being a parent, not one about not being a parent, unless you count the biographies of the various saints. I’m pretty sure a lot of the martyrs never had a chance to have children.

Sad, but then again, I was glad not to be Mary and watch my son die nailed to a cross.

It wasn’t until I got to Salem that I became fully aware of how different life is in my Oregon coast town where the average age is well past menopause. Suddenly I was surrounded by young people and their kids. At lunch, a mom sat at the table next to me with six kids. She did a good job of keeping them under control. I watched her show her son how to eat his massive German pancake and felt a little twinge as I ate my BLT alone. I’ll never be surrounded by kids who look like me and whom I can teach everything I know.

Salem, an hour south of Portland, has a wonderful waterfront park that includes miles of walking paths along the Willamette River, plus a playground and a carousel. I watched a father walking with his tiny daughter, so cute. I watched a teenage couple holding hands. I smiled at a guy playing bongo drums. All good, but at the playground, I felt like an outsider. There were all those young moms and all those kids, and it was like I came from foreign country. I had never been part of that group, never would be.

When I was their age, I was a newspaper reporter, walking around in a blazer, carrying a notebook and a camera, watching, never part of the group. I was never the mom pushing her child on the swing. I thought about taking a picture, but these days you can’t take photos of a stranger’s kids without the parents thinking you’re a stalker. I walked past them like a ghost and continued past the indoor carousel, where I didn’t feel the right to go inside since I had no children and I didn’t want to ride the horses myself.

It was still beautiful out there. I had a lovely solo dinner in the hotel restaurant where I watched a group of young men order beers two at a time. No kids. But I still felt the loss. If only . . .

Now, I know if I had children with me, I’d be staying someplace cheaper, if I could afford to travel with them at all, and we’d be eating at the greasy spoon across the street, but there’s no avoiding the feeling of being left out, of having missed something. At home, with most of my friends older than I am, I can avoid it more than you probably can wherever you live. Do you see women with baby bumps wherever you go? Are there parents and little kids everywhere? That makes it ever so much harder.

Is it some kind of blessing that we don’t have kids to worry about during this coronavirus scare? The parents I know always seem to have colds they caught from their kids. Are we safer because of our childless status? Would we rather have the sniffles than be childless?

I’m rambling. I need to get my hotel breakfast before I plunge back into the world of parents and children. Stay well.

 

Childless by Marriage on Prime Time

          In the olden days, babies were a given, but lately sitcom couples don’t always agree on whether they want to procreate. Almost like real life.
         On “Mom,” Jill is in a panic because she is starting to have symptoms of peri-menopause. Of course the hot flashes and mood swings are exaggerated because the show is a comedy. Now that she is sober and has a great boyfriend, she wants to have a baby while she still has time. But she is already 41, so she needs to put a rush on the babymaking. Enter the boyfriend, a truly wonderful teddy bear of a guy. When she surprises him with “I want to have a baby,” he kind of stutters and stumbles and finally tells her he just isn’t ready, that their relationship hasn’t reached the baby-making place yet. Jill, who is unconscionably rich, decides to freeze her eggs. Good idea, says the boyfriend. He isn’t averse to having children someday, just not right now. After hormone shots and more mood swings, the fertility doctor harvests her eggs. None of them are viable. No baby for Jill. Sad ending.
         Switch channels to “The Connors.” There are already plenty of children in that house, but now that Darlene and Ben are getting serious, he wants to have a baby. The thing is, Darlene already has two nearly grown kids from her marriage to David, who left her to take care of them alone. She does not want to start over at this point. Familiar story, right? Ah, but this is a sitcom, so by the end, Darlene gives in, with a caveat. She will have another baby, but if the relationship ends, Ben will be totally responsible for them. Okay, he says. They write and sign a contract to that effect.
         Backtrack to “The Big Bang Theory.” By the end, there are three married couples. Howard and Bernadette have two toddlers. Sheldon and Amy do not have children yet, but they plan to. The situation is different for Penny and Leonard. For years, Penny has told Leonard she does not want to have children. She doesn’t see herself as the mom type. Leonard really wants children, but he says he will give them up for Penny. But as the series finale approaches, aha, somehow she gets pregnant, and she is as happy as he is. Visit those people a decade later, and there will be oodles of nerdy kids.
        At least some shows are touching on the subject these days. You didn’t used to ever hear someone say they didn’t want to have children. Nor did they talk about infertility. All those Disney and Doris Day movies I grew up with ended with the usual marriage and baby carriage. As we know all too well, some people never have children. Some people never marry. Our culture makes us feel like weirdos if we haven’t done both of those things. But it does seem to be slowly changing.
        And maybe those shows, comedies though they are, can spark a conversation that needs to be had.
        Have you seen more of the childless by marriage issue on TV lately? I’d love to hear about some more examples.

If Egg and Sperm had come together . . .

The night I lost my virginity to the man who would become my first husband was probably the only time we had unprotected sex. If my math is correct, I was ripe for conception, my young eggs eager to hook up with his sperm. If I had conceived that night, almost two years before we got married .  . .

We were near Los Angeles, visiting friends of his whom I barely knew. We had spent the day at Disneyland, where he kept bugging me to have sex. We were drunk. Our friends had gone to bed, and he invited me to join him on the floor in the two sleeping bags he had zipped together. One thing led to another . . .

Before we did it, I said, “We’re going to get married, right?” He said yeah, but don’t tell anybody. It was Fourth of July. We announced our engagement in September, four months later, but there was never a real proposal.

My ex hustled me off to get birth control as soon as we got home from that trip. I remember I had told my mother, “We’re not going to do anything down there that we wouldn’t do here.” Ha. What if I had come home pregnant? My parents would have lost their minds. It was 1972. Out-of-wedlock babies were still a scandal. My reputation would have been trashed forever—or not, if we got married quickly enough to make it look like it happened on the honeymoon. But there is no quick marriage for Catholics, not with the six-month prep.

However it worked out, I would have had a child.

We probably would have gotten married sooner. I don’t think he would have left me. His parents wouldn’t let him, and he did everything they said. As it was, we got married two weeks after I graduated from college. If I had had a baby, would I have graduated at all?

Would we still have lived in that two-bedroom apartment by the freeway? We would have had to use my “office” for the baby. Where would I have done my writing? The sound of the typewriter annoyed my husband. Maybe we would have lived elsewhere. Or moved in with his parents, God forbid.

We would have missed some fabulous trips. Or maybe not. Maybe I would have been out in the desert or the mountains with my baby bump. Maybe we’d still be making love on the tailgate of the Jeep or on a rock by a river. Maybe our child would be a backpack baby.

I have a feeling he would have started cheating sooner. Maybe he would have been drunk even more often. The marriage would have ended anyway. We were just not compatible. But I would have that child, and maybe I’d be a grandmother now.

It would have been hard to do my newspaper work, very difficult, with all those late meetings and deadlines and all that running around doing interviews and taking pictures–not that I could get a newspaper job without a degree.

My parents weren’t the kind who would step up and babysit. My in-laws were still working. My ex clearly wasn’t up for childcare. He didn’t even take care of our dog and cat.

But I would have this child. When I met Fred, I would be a single parent. My child, around 11 years old, would be older than his youngest, who turned 7 shortly after we met. Fred would have welcomed him or her. He liked older kids, just didn’t want to deal with a baby. Maybe this child would have helped me through Fred’s illness and my widowhood. I might have had a daughter-in-law, too. I could live near them and do holidays with “the kids” like my friends do.

Maybe I would write about kids and motherhood instead of dogs and dying husbands. Maybe I’d write children’s books. . . .

At church Sunday, a young couple with a baby a few months old sat in the pew right beside the piano. I watched that baby the whole time. So cute. So magical with that perfectly clear skin, those tiny fingers, and those blue eyes observing everything. His parents clearly adored him. Mid-Mass, the mom nursed him under a blanket, and then he fell asleep. Oh, I melted. I started to think about how I never got to care for a baby like that. The pain started. I chased it away. Not here, not now. I had music to play. But . . . shit. You know.

I mourn the child I might have had, but at the same time, I know I was lucky. If I had had a baby with husband number one, I would have been tied to him and his family forever, even after I married Fred. That would have been complicated, to put it mildly. My career would have been trashed. I guess I should be grateful.

So that one time, I did not get pregnant. God knows, lots of people do get pregnant after one passionate night. In the movies, it happens all the time. One night together, and bam, the pregnancy test comes out positive. In the novel I finished reading recently, the couple didn’t have sex very often, but every time they did, the woman conceived. For a lot of people, it’s not that easy. Not even close.

Have there been times when you might have had an oops baby? What if you had? Does it kill you to remember what might have been? Feel free to share in the comments.

********

One of our readers recommended “5 Flights Up” as a movie where the couple does not have children. I watched it last weekend and really enjoyed it. Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton are the couple, and it’s a sweet feel-good movie. Put it on your list.

 

 

Is This Childless by Marriage Business Just a White-People Thing?

This is going to be a touchy post. One of the blessings of this kind of blog where people comment anonymously is that I have no idea what you look like. I don’t see race, gender, or disabilities. Tall, short, fat, thin, I don’t know. I recognize UK writers because of how they spell certain words. I know your ages because you mention them in your comments. I assume people are telling the truth—just as you have to assume that about me. I am. I only make stuff up for my novels. And my picture is right here for you to see.

I was reading old posts the other day when I suddenly stopped, startled, and thought, “Is this just a white-person problem? Infertility affects all kinds of people, of course, but is this refusal of one spouse or partner to have children a cultural thing? Are blacks, Latinos and Asians less likely to have this kind of disagreement? Do I dare even ask?

Come to think of it, all the books I have read about childlessness by choice, by marriage, or by circumstance were written by white women. I identify as more than half Hispanic, due to my Portuguese, Spanish and Mexican roots, but officially I, too, am white/Caucasian. OMG, how have I not noticed this before?

Aside from Oprah, aren’t all the celebrities known for choosing to be childfree also white? Wait. Karen Malone Wright, who founded the NotMom group, is African-American. But who else? Somebody set me straight on this.

Put another way, is this a “first world” problem? Those of us with access to education, jobs, and healthcare have more choices. We can choose career over motherhood. We can get birth control pills, condoms, diaphragms or IUDs. Men can choose to have vasectomies. We can even get a legal abortion. We can also buy the most modern medical help if we want children and have trouble conceiving. That is not true everywhere.

In developing countries where people struggle to get basics like food and clean water, it may be difficult to access birth control. The babies just come. There’s no discussion of, “Well, I don’t think I want to have children.” In some cultures, India for example, being childless is considered a scandalous thing. Wives who can’t conceive are shunned. I’m sure that’s true in other places.

What do the numbers say? In the United States, says the PEW research group, “…the prevalence of childlessness varies by race and ethnicity as well. Hispanic women are far less likely to remain childless throughout their childbearing years than are non-Hispanic whites or blacks. Just 10% of Hispanic women ages 40 to 44 now report having had no biological children. At the other end of the spectrum, fully 17% of white women in this age range report the same. Some 15% of black women are childless, as are 13% of Asian women.

“Across major racial and ethnic groups, childlessness today appears to vary no more than a few percentage points from what it was in 1994, or even 1988, the first year for which detailed fertility data are available. In the late 1980s, 15% of white women ages 40 to 44 were childless, as were 14% of black women and 11% of Hispanic women. Fertility data on Asian women are not available for 1988, but in 1994, some 14% of these women were childless.”

Of course, these numbers don’t answer the question of WHY they don’t have children.

Other factors play a huge role. For example, the more education a woman has the more likely she is to be childless, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Religion also plays a part. Catholics, for example, see the use of birth control as a sin. To get permission to marry in the church, the couple has to agree, in writing, to welcome children. Sure, Latinos are more likely to be Catholic, but not necessarily.

Financial status, family situation, access to health care—so many things play into this.

But still I’m asking, gently, with trepidation, is this a thing? Are white people more likely to be childless by marriage? Or do we just make more noise about it?

What do you think? Please comment. You don’t have to blow your anonymity. Am I crazy, way off base, or do I have a point?

Crocheted Baby Sneakers Set Me Off

Booties and squirrelsI was looking through Facebook the other day when I saw pictures of little crocheted sneakers for babies. Friends showered the post with likes and loves, as if they had never seen such things before. But I had.

The pictures took me back to the 70s when I was a newlywed crocheting baby booties shaped like sneakers. I had all kinds of fun patterns for baby shoes, and also for stuffed animals. I had graduated from college with a degree in journalism two weeks before we got married, but then I couldn’t get a newspaper job. We were in the middle of a recession, and nobody was hiring. My husband was still in school.

I wound up working part-time stocking shelves in the housewares department at JC Penney. That left a lot of spare time. I spent it watching TV, starting with the early afternoon soap operas, continuing into the talk shows, and then into Star Trek (the original one). Every day. It wasn’t much different from my mother’s life. Between lunch and dinner, she did needlework and watched TV, too. In my mind, that’s what moms did, and I was going to be a mom. Of course. Love, marriage, baby carriage.

I made a ton of baby booties, along with little squirrels and bears, rattles, and tiny hats, which I stashed away for the babies I was sure were coming. No one had ever told me otherwise.

My TV-and-crochet afternoons ended when the people who had loaned us their television took it back. We couldn’t buy our own. We were really poor, so poor Chevron took our one credit card away for non-payment and some days we lived on zucchini and Christmas cheese boxes. Eventually I got a newspaper job. It didn’t pay much, but it got me off the couch.

Decades later, I still have some of those crocheted booties and stuffed animals in the closet. They’re just too cute to throw away. For a while, I thought I’d sell them at boutiques, but I didn’t have enough, and since I wasn’t having any babies, I didn’t feel like making any more.

Silly little things like crocheted baby sneakers can bring all the feelings back. How many of you have made or collected things for future babies? Did you have any doubt at the time that you’d be using them? What do you do with them now?

I never envisioned that I’d be pushing 70, collecting my senior discount at the grocery store as I buy my dog food and dinners for one, nothing for a husband or for kids who might drop in, but that’s where I was yesterday, and those baby sneakers are still in the closet.

I had no idea I wouldn’t live a version of my mother’s life, that the marriage wouldn’t last or that my ex would not want to have children. If I’d known, would I have married him? I hope not. I never thought to ask him, “Hey do you want to have kids?” Or even, “How many kids do you want to have?” Sure, he hustled me into the student health center for birth control pills, but that would end once we got married, wouldn’t it? We’d have lovely brown-eyed, brown-haired babies.

I hope most young women are not as dumb as I was. My advice now to anyone getting serious about a relationship is to ask the questions: Do you want to have kids? How many? How soon? Is there any reason why you might not be able to? You also need to ask about birth control—what is he/she using?—and STDs, maybe not in the same conversation. Ask in a joking way if you need to, but find out. How do you bring it up without risking your relationship? I’m not sure. Choose your moment, but you have to take that chance. If they run away, maybe that will save you a lot of grief.

Most readers here have already gotten into situations where they’re being prevented from having children. Now they need to know whether they should leave or stay. They’re forced to choose between the partner and the children they might, maybe, possibly have with someone else. It’s so hard. If only we had asked sooner.

If only we hadn’t crocheted all those little red squirrels, brown bears, and itty-bitty sneakers.

 

Dare we ask for more than one child?

Shortly after I was born, my mother used to tell me, Grandpa Fagalde said, “Well, when are you going to have your boy?” Exhausted from giving birth, she wasn’t thrilled about the idea at that moment, but a year and a half later, she gave birth to my brother. Like most of the families on our block, our parents had two children, a boy and a girl. A full set. We fit perfectly in our three-bedroom baby boom houses in the suburbs of San Jose.

Fast forward to 2020 and the Childless by Marriage community. So many people here are hoping, praying and pleading to have a baby, just one, but I suspect we really want a full set, too, which means more than one.

If we only manage to have one, he or she would be an “only child.” Although lone children can thrive, happy to receive all of their parents’ attention, they will go through life without the companionship of another person who has exactly the same family history and who will be around for major family events. They might also provide nieces and nephews for you to cherish. God knows I would hate to have gone through the recent loss of my father without my brother. We were a team throughout that ordeal and he has handled the brunt of the estate management.

In so many situations we read about here, a person would be lucky to have a single child. The partner is already reluctant, or the body is not cooperating. If one sperm and one egg actually get together and if the pregnancy lasts the whole nine months and if the baby is born healthy . . . dare we ask for more than one? Should we just pray for twins?

Sure, having more than one child is double the cost and double the effort. My mother always said she sometimes thought she’d lose her mind those first few years with the two of us both in diapers and into everything while Dad was at work all day. But it was good for us. We always had someone to play with when other kids weren’t around. We fought a lot, but we were united against the world. Now that our parents are gone, we still have each other. I have always wished I had a sister, too, but Mom and Dad didn’t cooperate.

As Catholics, if they were following the rules, my parents would have had more children, but honestly most Catholic couples use birth control of some kind. As a working class family living off my father’s income as an electrician, they would have struggled to take care of a larger family. Two was enough for them.

Many of our readers have married someone who already has children from a previous relationship. So did I. Two of my friends in that situation had one more child together. For medical reasons, they could not have more. Others had more than one. I’m not going to say the children from the second marriage blended perfectly with the kids from the first. They did not turn into the Brady Bunch. They got along, but it was always clear they came from different tribes. But both partners in the marriage got the children they wanted; no one was left childless.

Back to the original question. While we’re asking to have one child, dare we ask for two—or more? What do you think? Are any of you “only children?” Do you wish you had a brother or sister? Would you like to have more than one child with your current partner? Dare you ask? Or would negotiations completely shut down if you went that far?

Driving down the road, I often follow cars with stencils on the back window representing their families. Have you seen them? There’s the mom, the dad, the multiple children and the dog. How many people would we like on our back-window stencil?

I look forward to your comments.

Interesting reading:

“The Rise of the Only Child,” Washington Post, June 19, 2019

 “The Truth About Only Children,” The Guardian, May 31, 2018

 

 

 

Why Didn’t You Answer My Comment?

         Why didn’t I respond? That’s the question I keep asking myself as I go through old posts and comments here at Childless by Marriage. This is the 679th post. (No wonder I have trouble finding a new topic.) Some topics have brought in dozens of comments, some only a few or none. Whenever I write about partners who don’t want kids or about stepchildren, the comments come pouring in. Sometimes I write something that seems just brilliant to me, and . . . nothing. As I comb through the posts for a “best of” compilation, I ponder whether I should skip the ones that raised no comments.
         But let’s talk about commenting on blogs. I read a lot of stuff online. I click a lot of “likes” and “hearts.” But I don’t comment very often. It takes time and thought. It also makes me visible to the author of the blog and its other readers. I often find I don’t have much to say, or if I do, I think it’s dumb. I’m may not want to get involved in an extended discussion. Maybe you can identify with some of these reasons. I totally understand if all you want to do is read. That’s fine.
          But I’m in charge of this blog, and I have set up certain expectations, like that I care about you all. I do. I truly do. But in reading back through the old posts and comments, I’m finding comments filled with worry which no one answered. I want to respond now. I know what I want to say. But it’s years too late. I don’t know what the person’s situation is now, and chances are they would not see my belated comments.
          Why didn’t you answer then, I ask myself. There are times when you readers are having a good discussion and you really don’t need my input. After all, I already had my say in my blog post. Sometimes it’s that I approve the comment on my phone or my tablet where it’s more difficult to write, thinking I’ll post a response when I get back to my computer. And then I forget. At other times, I just don’t know what to say. This is hard stuff.
          All I can do now is try to do better. I always try to approve your comments as soon as WordPress notifies me about them. For recent posts, I have taken the time to edit grammar and spelling mistakes. I will never change the content, but I will make minor changes that make your writing more readable.
         I know you have poured your hearts out. I pledge to respond more often where a response seems needed, if only to reassure you that someone has heard you and cares. I encourage you all to chime in, too. We need to stick together. And if you wrote before in a time of crisis, we would all love to know how things turned out.

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I have discovered a new source of information, inspiration and information about childlessness. It’s http://www.listennotes.com, a search engine for podcasts. Plug in childless, childless by circumstance, childless stepmom, or some other variation, and you will find hours of good listening.

How Do You Defend Your No-to-Kids Partner?

Your family is ganging up on you about why you don’t have children. “What’s the hangup?” “Don’t you want to have a family?” “Is there something wrong with you?” “Everybody else has them.” “We can’t wait to become grandparents.” Etc.

What do you say? Do you tell them honestly that you don’t have children and may never have children because your spouse or partner doesn’t want them? Do you explain that your mate already has all the children he (or she) needs or that he thinks kids will cramp his style? Or that he believes only a fool would bring children into a world that is going to hell in a handbasket? Do you tell them further that you really do want children and you sit alone in your car and cry about it, but you’re stuck because of your partner?

Is your first response, “Well, sure, I’m going to be honest. I’m going to defend myself. It’s not MY fault.” Wait. Tread carefully here. This is your partner, the person you love, the person to whom you have committed your life. How do you think your family is going to react? Will they just say, “Okay. We understand”? I doubt it. They’re going to hate your partner. And they’re going to think you’re a fool for staying with this person who in every other way is your soul mate. From now on, the relationship between your partner and your family will be tainted. Depending on how your loved ones relate to people, they may jump all over your partner or just quietly seethe and talk trash about him to each other and to you. You will be stuck in the middle.

Has anybody experienced this? Show of hands. Higher. I can’t see you. My family was pretty chill about Fred. They knew he’d been married before, they knew he was older, and I must have told them he’d had a vasectomy. I didn’t have to say he didn’t want any more kids. That was irrelevant. In their eyes, he couldn’t have them.

I didn’t tell the world all the gory details. I’m sure I have mentioned before that my Grandpa Fagalde was especially persistent in asking why we weren’t making babies. Finally, I blurted, “He’s shooting blanks.” Meaning he had no sperm. That stopped the questions forever.

But what if there’s nothing wrong with his sperm or your eggs? To your knowledge, you could get pregnant right now–Excuse us for a half hour. Okay, done. The baby will be ready in nine months–How do you defend the two of you as a unit when the world starts ganging up, demanding answers, demanding action, demanding a baby, especially if that’s what you want, too?

I wish I had the answers to these questions. I don’t. I spent more than 30 years evading the nosy questions. I said, “God had other plans.” “It just didn’t happen.” “We have Fred’s three kids (and a vasectomy).”

I generally believe in honesty, but what happens when that honesty turns your family—or your friends—against your partner and against your decision to stay with that person. You and your partner need to be a team if the relationship is going to last.

Is it possible to get to a place where you can calmly say, holding your loved one’s hand for emphasis, “We have agreed not to have any children, and I hope you will support our decision”? Or maybe, “We already have [Insert names of stepchildren.] I hope you will love them as much as I do.”

It gets a little easier as the years pass and the ability to bear children falls into the past tense. You can say, “We never had any children. Tell me about yours.” Let them think what they will, place the blame wherever they want, but don’t give them time to dwell on it. If you need to elaborate, perhaps just say, “We have had a wonderful life together, just the two of us.”

Time for you to chime in. Have you been put in the position of defending your partner for his/her failure to make you a parent? How have you responded? How have people reacted? Can you support your partner when everyone else seems to be against him/her?What do you suggest childless-by-marriage people say when their love ones insist on answers?

I look forward to some lively comments.