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.

Book review: Kidfree & Lovin’ It!

Happy New Year! I hope your holidays were good and wish you all the best for the new year. This morning I finished reading one of the newer books on the childless life, so I’m sharing my opinion. In the interest of full disclosure, I am quoted once, on page 20, as someone who regrets not having children, and the author gave me a small discount on the purchase price. This has not influenced my review in any way.

Kidfree & Lovin’ It! by Kaye D. Walters, Serena Bay Publishing, 2012. I should have known. This is yet another book glorifying the childfree life. It is extremely well done, full of solid information and great resources, including an extensive list of famous non-parents and lists of places for the childfree to find other childfree people. Walters spent years surveying thousands of childfree people and includes lots of quotes from people who don’t have children, nearly all by choice.
This is the most thorough book that I have seen on the subject. However, I had a hard time reading it. The overarching message seems to be that only fools procreate. It’s too expensive, messes up your careers and your relationships, and, most important, you have to sacrifice your freedom. Certainly Walters offers a few words here and there noting that if you feel that parenting is right for you, then go for it and God bless you. But those passages are overwhelmed by pages and pages of why parenting sucks and why children are undesirable. Also, if you and your mate disagree, then compromise is impossible; you have to break up. Apparently there is no room in this life for sacrifice or for doing things for other people because you love them.
If you are childless by choice, you will love this book. As I said at the beginning, it is well-written, well organized and full of facts. If you’re on the fence, you may decide after reading this that you don’t want children after all. But if you want children or wanted them and couldn’t have them, I bet you won’t make it through the whole book.
Not to blow my own horn, but my own Childless by Marriage appears to be the only one coming out lately that acknowledges regret over not having children. The childfree movement seems to be coming at us like a tidal wave. Right now one in five women don’t reproduce. That leaves 80 percent who do. I wonder what will happen with the next generation. Will only a small percentage decide to have children?

Got the Childless Holiday Blues? Curl Up with a Good Book

Anyone else feeling all grinchy on this Friday before Christmas? As the saying goes, this too will pass.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a couple new books to tell you about.

Kidfree and Lovin’ It by Kaye D. Walters just came in the mail this week. I haven’t read too much of it yet, and I can tell from the title that the book leans a little more toward people who don’t want children than toward people who do. But it is extremely well done, with an almost encyclopedic collection of information and references, and she does include us “childless by circumstance” throughout. In fact, I was one of the many people she surveyed for this book. I was tickled to find one of my quotes on one of the first pages. She doesn’t mention my name, but I’m the “56-year-old writer from Oregon.”

What to Expect When No One’s Expecting by Jonathan Last won’t officially be out until February, but I have already put my order in. This book is not about the whole childfree/childless business, but about what’s going to happen in our world when we’re having far fewer children. Last maintains that it’s going to have a big effect on our economy and culture because the population will be shrinking and getting older. It sounds fascinating.

Jody Day of Gateway-women.com has a new book coming out next year that should make us feel good all over. Meanwhile, don’t miss her blog or her website.

My own Childless by Marriage, which debuted last Mother’s Day, is the only book I know about that spends more than a few paragraphs on the situation where one does not have children because his/her spouse is unable or unwilling to make babies together.

Or, if you don’t have the energy to read, and winter storms have knocked out your cable TV like they did mine yesterday, you can curl up on the couch and watch four episodes in a row of “Little House on the Prairie” on DVD. They sure don’t make guys like “Pa” anymore.

Have a happy weekend.