Love or Children: the Flip Side of the Story

Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both is the title of my new book which came out Dec. 7. In my mind, this book, based on the Childless by Marriage blog, is totally about being childless because your partner is unable or unwilling. If you insist on having babies, you will have to leave and find someone else. It’s one or the other; you can’t have both.

But when a friend who has children saw the title and said, “I need that book,” I realized a whole other set of people might be looking here for answers they may not find. What if you were the one who had children? What if you were a single parent? Would that make it difficult to date or remarry? That’s not the subject of this blog, but a lot of us have dated or married single parents. Suddenly our relationship is complicated with babysitters, custody arrangements, a lack of privacy, child support payments, and the growing awareness that those kids will always come first in the parent’s heart. The kids may be resentful of any potential mother or father substitute or so eager for a new mommy or daddy that it’s all a bit overwhelming. You may like the person you’re dating, but that’s a lot of baggage to take on.

When the woman says, “I have two kids,” does the guy say, “Oh, great. I love kids,” or “Whoa, that’s a deal breaker”? When the guy says, “I have three kids and they’re with me this weekend,” do you get excited or nervous? Is your new girlfriend or boyfriend terrified their kids will scare you away?

In the few cases I dated men with children, they did not have custody, so it was a little easier to deal with. In one case, I got along better with my boyfriend’s sons than I did with my boyfriend. With Fred’s kids, it was easy with Michael, the youngest, but the teenagers came with massive chips on their shoulders. I wanted so bad to be a mom, but it never got as warm and fuzzy as I wanted it to. Would I rather Fred didn’t have children at all? Well, then I’d wonder why not. At his age, don’t most men have children?  

Since I’ve been a widow, I have thought about what it would be like to remarry. The man would probably have children and grandchildren, and they might not accept me at all. I certainly wouldn’t replace “Mom” or “Nana.” If they loved me, how wonderful, but I fear I’d be coming in way too late for that.

What about leaving a childless relationship to have children on your own, via sperm donor, adoption, or another relationship? If you have these kids by yourself, will that sour your chances for love later on? I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’d love to hear what you think about this.

The book Love or Children is not a dating guide for single parents. There are other books on that subject. But it is interesting to look at the flip side of the childless by marriage equation. What if you were the one with the kids? Many of us have married people with children from previous relationships. In the early days, was that an attraction or a potential problem? Did you foresee the existence of those children preventing you from having your own? Would you rather they did not have kids? You’re anonymous here; you can be honest.

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Annie Update:

My sweet Annie, whom I wrote about on both my blogs last week (read my posts here and here), is home. After two weeks in the veterinary hospital when she was unable to stand or walk on her own, she’s up and driving me crazy. She’s still a bit wobbly, but getting stronger every day. I hopeful she’ll be back to normal in another week. I really didn’t know whether she would survive. I’m so grateful. Thank you all for your loving comments and prayers.

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Next week, I’m going to be interviewed for the UnRipe podcast for childless and childfree women. Click here to check out some of the previous episodes. Host Jo Vraca is in Australia, but we’re recording at a civilized 6 p.m. Oregon time next Tuesday. as soon as I find out, I will let you know where and when you can hear it. The most recent episode, “Four Childless Women Walk into a Bar,” offers a wonderful discussion from varying points of view, including having a partner who doesn’t want kids, having trouble conceiving, and simply waiting too late.

Will the New Year Bring Babies, Breakups or ???

Adios, 2020. Happy New Year? This has been a year far beyond our control, a year when the “normal” just around the corner keeps moving beyond our reach. We’ve seen lockdowns, businesses closed, and people sick or dying of a virus we had never heard of a year earlier. We’re wearing masks and minimizing contact with other people except by computer on Zoom—never heard of that before 2020 either. Wildfires, hurricanes, political upheaval, Brexit—we’ve had it all. In the midst of this craziness, when most of us are just trying to survive, how can we even think about having babies? What if you’re single? If you didn’t go into the pandemic with a partner, how could you think about dating?  

I often compare COVID to musical chairs. Whoever you had with you when the music stopped, that’s who you have for the duration. If you had no one, well, welcome to my world. As I write this, even my dog Annie (pictured above as a puppy) is gone. She has been in the veterinary hospital since Christmas, when she collapsed with a type of vertigo called Vestibular Disease. It looked like a stroke, but it’s not that. As of now, she is back to eating and drinking and can sit up, but she still cannot stand or walk. Will she recover? I don’t know yet. You can read more about her situation at my Unleashed in Oregon blog.

Now that we have a fresh new year, a blank page on the calendar, can we go back to normal? Can we go from sick to healthy, fearful to confident, isolated to together again? To eating in restaurants, attending concerts and plays, working out at the gym, going to church, and throwing parties?

If only. On Jan. 1, we will still have the same problems we’ve got on Dec. 31, including childlessness. I have lost nine people I cared about this year, one to COVID, the others to the maladies of old age. I wish there were more children coming up behind them to fill the gaps they leave behind. I have my nieces and nephews, but they are far away, and I haven’t seen them in person in over a year.

I hope 2021 can bring some added daylight to your situation. As I have said in past years, make this the year that you speak plainly to your partner about childlessness and make a conscious decision to accept a life without offspring or do something about it. When you can’t have this partner and children, which are you willing to give up?

That’s the question explored in our new book, Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both. I just got my copies yesterday. It offers the best of my blog posts and your comments, and I hope you buy it.

As we wind down, although we can’t see the future, we can hear the stories of older women who have lived the childless journey at Fireside Wisdom for Childless Elderwomen webinar today, Dec. 30, at noon Oregon time. Speakers include Jody Day, authors Kate Kaufmann, Jackie Shannon Hollis, Donna Ward, and Maria Hill, “NotMom” founder Karen Malone Wright, and me. This will be my first Zoom outing with this international group. To participate, click here and go to the registration link near the bottom. The session will be recorded, so you can listen another time if you can’t make it today.

I wish you all the best of new years. May the problems that keep you awake at night be resolved and much happiness come to you.

Big socially distanced hug,

Sue