Here Comes Christmas, COVID-Style

I stood in line at the tiny South Beach post office yesterday to mail the last of my family Christmas gifts to California. The postmaster, working with her daughter and her baby granddaughter beside her, was exhausted. Far more people are mailing packages because, like me, they are not going to be with their families this year.

As the song goes, I’ll be home for Christmas. I’ll spend the day with the same friend who got me through Thanksgiving. We don’t want to cook this time. We’d go out, but COVID-19 has closed all the restaurants to indoor dining and we’re not going to eat in the rain. So we’ll get something to go or prepare something simple, exchange our gifts, and watch a movie. She has kids, but they’re far away. This will be her first Christmas since her husband died and her last one here in Oregon because she’s moving to California to be near her daughter. But this year, it will be us and Pandora the cat or Annie the dog—we haven’t decided which house we’ll be at yet.  

I will not watch my nieces and nephews and their children open the boxes from me to see if they love what I bought them as much as I do. The little ones probably won’t understand who I am. Since I was last able to see them, over a year ago, they have changed tremendously. They have learned to walk, talk and start to read. This makes me sad because I wasn’t there, but not nearly as sad as I might be if they were my grandchildren.

A friend from my church has never seen her grandbaby who was born in March. Some friends have taken the risk to visit their families and returned COVID-free, but that’s not how it always goes. I know too many people suffering from the virus, some in the hospital on ventilators. Where perhaps in normal times, their families would keep vigil at their bedsides, no one is allowed in. It doesn’t matter whether or not you have children now; you die with only hospital staff to hold your hand.

On a recent SheSpeaks podcast, Savvy Auntie founder Melanie Notkin reminded listeners of the importance of attitude. “Life is a struggle. It’s what you do with it.” So, she says, decide what you want to do with the life you have, not the one you didn’t have, and figure out the steps to move that life forward.

Meanwhile, send out your presents and be grateful for whatever you receive. If you are well enough to visit via Zoom or Skype, have fun with it. Feel free to wear funny hats, dress up the cats and dogs, or make a silly video. Be glad you don’t have to spend great swaths of time this year hanging out with relatives who are all about the children and don’t understand or sympathize with your situation. Just do the holiday your way. Zoom-watch church services from all over the world. Make burritos instead of cooking a turkey. Stay in bed all day or play in the snow. Watch an entire season of “The Crown” in one sitting.  

COVID is horrible. Our little coastal county has just been moved up to the “extreme risk” category. I know too many people with the virus, two of them in the hospital on ventilators. Little children like my great nieces and nephew will not remember a world in which big people didn’t wear masks. If we are alive and well, we must give thanks and enjoy the life we have been given, even if we never get the children we wanted to have.

*****************

It’s here! Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both has been published. After seven months and several title changes, I have gathered the best of the Childless by Marriage blog from 2007 to May 2020 into a book. If I had had any idea how difficult it would be to boil down more than 700 posts into a reasonable-sized paperback and ebook, I might not have done it. I mean, it’s there on the blog. You can read all the posts and the comments. It might take months, but you can. But what if the Internet disappears? It could, you know, and we have built something here worth saving. Sure, I started it, and I write the weekly posts, but it would be nothing without your comments. That’s why the cover says this book is by “Sue Fagalde Lick & Anonymous.”

During the month of December, if you email me proof of purchase for Love or Children along with your address to suelick.bluehydrangea@gmail.com, I will send you a copy of my previous book, Childless by Marriage, absolutely free, paperback in the U.S., Kindle overseas. If you already have Childless by Marriage, you can give it to a friend or I can send you one of my other books. See https://www.suelick.com/books for other possibilities.

What about those who are childless by un-marriage?

When I heard that MelanieNotkin, author of Savvy Auntie, was about to publish a new book called Otherhood (Seal Press, 2014),  I rushed to buy a copy. I was sure this book about women who never had children because they never married would be fascinating. But the book let me down.
Otherhood started well, but I found it hard to identify with the women Notkin was writing about. Her study of unmarried childless women is pretty much limited to attractive, successful women in their 30s and 40s living in New York City. They go to clubs, date a lot, and meet at swanky places to complain about the guys they date. It’s very Sex and the City. I love that show, and I sympathize with Notkin and her fabulous friends, but she leaves a world of never-married people out of the story. Where are the women who are shy, fat, disabled, poor, uneducated, ugly, awkward, or living in small towns without a lot of eligible men? Where are the people who haven’t had a date in decades, if ever?
Notkin is childless and so are most of her friends. They talk about their options as they approach 40 and beyond. Some are freezing their eggs. Some are considering getting pregnant with donor eggs. They debate over whether they should have a child on their own. All of these options are so expensive most of us can’t afford them, especially without husbands to share the cost. With all the new ways to get pregnant, Notkin says she sometimes she feels guilty for not wanting to have a baby by herself. Is that becoming the new norm, single parenthood? The latest Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics show that in 40 percent of American births, the mothers are not married. So people are definitely having babies without husbands, but as Notkin notes, it’s not easy.
And then there are those who almost get married but break up over the having-kids issue. I get comments here all the time about couples who break up or are considering it because one of them is waffling about children. In fact, this morning I received a comment from a woman whose husband has left her because she can’t have children with him. I want to turn into my mother and shout “What’s wrong with these people?”
I’m alone now, but I have been married twice. I have known love and companionship and step-children. I really feel for those people who wanted the whole happy ending and never had a chance at it. And I am certain most of them are not living Sex-and-the-City lives drinking cosmopolitans with their girlfriends and complaining about the latest celebrity or Wall Street mogul they dated.
Otherhood is well-written and entertaining, but it only tells a small portion of the story. What do you think about this? I’d love to hear your thoughts on childlessness by way of never finding the right partner.

‘Otherhood’ and Fifty Ways to Be Childless

Today’s post is a trio of goodies for you:
1. Jody Day at Gateway-Women.com has compiled a wonderful list called “50 Ways Not to Be a Mother—with Apologies to Paul Simon.” It’s amazing how many different ways a person can wind up not having children, a lot of them through absolutely no fault or choice of their own. Me, I seem to fit numbers 9 and 39. Check out the list and see what number fits your situation.
2. Some of those 50 ways deal with not having a suitable partner, which leads me to my second link. Melanie Notkin, author of Savvy Auntie and the accompanying blog, has written a new book called Otherhood: The Unrequited Love Story of Modern Women, which talks about how many of us never find the right partner. As a result, we don’t become parents. It’s due out in February, but you can pre-order it now. Melanie has also written about this at her Huffington Post blog. Read “The Truth About the Childless Life” there.
3. Marcia Drut-Davis, author of a new book titled Confessions of a Childfree Woman: A Life Spent Swimming Against the Mainstream, has a blog called Childfree Reflections, which may offer some comfort to you. The site includes a free resource list, but I must warn you that you have to sign up for the newsletter to get it, and nearly all of the resources are for people who are childfree by choice.
Oh what the heck, I’ll plug my own site. I’ve got a ridiculously long resource list on my Childless by Marriage website, which you can access with no strings. If you’d like to buy my book, I’d be delighted, but the list is my gift to you.
Have a wonderful week.

New book Being Fruitful Without Multiplying is out now

A new book called Being Fruitful Without Multiplying has just been released in paperback and e-book formats. It’s a collaboration of several authors who write about their fulfilling lives without children. My copy is on the way. Help them out and order a copy. (While you’re at it, buy a copy of Childless by Marriage, too). I haven’t read the book yet, but I think it will help us all feel better about not having children.

 Here are a couple of other fun links to click on.
Try this new piece titled “Single and Childless: Can We Just Move On?” by “Savvy Auntie” Melanie Notkin at the Huffington Post.
The headline alone on this one cracked me up. “Never Marry an Older Man. You’ll End Up Childless, Sex-Starved and Cutting his Toenails.” I don’t want to insult my late husband, but um, yes, that might happen. 🙂 If you marry an older man, it might be fine when you’re both in the prime of life, but someday he might get old. On the other hand, there are benefits to marrying an actual grownup.
Enjoy.

Childless cheer-ups from the web

Feeling a little down about your situation? I think these posts will make you feel a lot better. Enjoy.

“What the hell am I going to do with my life if I don’t have a baby?” That’s the question posed in today’s Gateway-Woman post. I think you will enjoy reading the answers. And from me, the short answer is: a lot.

Try this Slate article, too. “Do We Secretly Envy the Childfree?”

Finally, here’s a beautiful post by “savvy auntie” Melanie Notkin called “Childless So Far: Why I Choose Love Over Motherhood.”

 

Our secret grief

A while back, I wrote a post about the Savvy Auntie, a book and blog by Melanie Notkin. She writes about the joys of being a childless aunt. I highly recommend you check her out. Even with the joys of aunthood, Melanie admits to grieving over the children she never had. Earlier this month, she published an article in Psychology Today titled, “My Secret Grief: Over 35, Single, and Childless.” It’s a touching piece about that grief that people with kids don’t always understand. After all, they think, we could have had children. If we didn’t, it’s our own fault. You and I know that’s not always true. Melanie tells it well.

Last week, I went to lunch with a bunch of church ladies. Inevitably, much of the conversation focused on their children. People talked about their latest escapades, compared their ages, remembered how they were growing up. A friend showed photos of her pregnant daughter-in-law’s sonogram. I didn’t have much to say. Finally, a woman across from me said, “You have kids, don’t you, Sue?” “No, I don’t,” I said. “I thought you did.” “Nope.” And then there was this silence. You know that silence? Oh yes.

A younger woman who arrived late took the seat beside me. I noticed her sparkling engagement ring, and she smilingly admitted that she and her fiance had finally set a date. They have been together off and on for seven years. She is anxious to have children, but now she’s in her 40s and doesn’t know if she can. “If it’s God’s will, I’ll get pregnant,” she said. I believe in God, but I wanted to wring her fiance’s neck. Does he not understand that if you wait too long, you lose the chance to have kids? Seven years. Grrr.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. You know what? It’s okay to grieve, but it’s also okay to just get mad. Then maybe we can do something about it.

Savvy Auntie offers comfort to the Childless

Although I miss being a mom, I love being Aunt Sue to my brother’s kids. How about you? Are you somebody’s aunt? (Or uncle?)A couple posts ago, I mentioned a site for Savvy Aunties, women who may not be mothers but who can be great aunts, godmothers and friends to the children in their lives. I just came across a video and a blog post by Savvy Auntie founder Melanie Notkin that you might be interested in.

Interviewed July 18 on CNN, she talked about “circumstantial infertility” and the challenges for women in their 30s or 40s who haven’t found that special someone to father their children.

Notkin’s book is Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers and All Women Who Love Kids. Visit the Savvy Auntie site at http://www.savvyauntie.com.