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.

 

Parents and Non-Parents from Different Planets?

Last week, Annie and Winnie were buddies. When we passed Winnie’s house on our walks, the tan and white Corgi would waddle up to us. I’d pet her long soft fur while the two dogs sniffed each other, and then Winnie would walk with us a ways up Cedar Street. It was nice.

This week Winnie attacked Annie, barking, growling, biting. My pooch didn’t know what hit her. It was motherhood. Winnie gave birth on Saturday. The young woman who came out with her was holding a puppy, the only one that survived the troubled delivery. Now Winnie was in full mom mode. I can’t blame her. She has one tiny puppy, and she’s going to protect it with everything she has. She also probably feels sick and sore. But Annie, a spayed virgin at 11 ½, did not understand. Why doesn’t my friend like me anymore?

Ever feel that way around your human friends? They give birth and suddenly they’re not as friendly to you. It’s all about the baby.

Which brings me to the story that keeps popping up in my Google alerts. Brace yourself before you read “Childless millennials should be banned from Disney World, tired mom rants.” It seems this mother went on a Facebook rant about how childless people should be banned from Disney World, that the theme park should be reserved for “families” with kids. Say what? If I haven’t reproduced, I don’t get to have fun like everybody else? I know this mom was tired and frustrated, but we all need to think before we post.

Years ago, I wrote a post about LEGOLAND, which only allows adults without children on certain all-adult nights. I would LOVE to go LEGOLAND. So would the couple in this article who have been struggling with infertility for nine years. Come on, people. Aren’t these parks supposed to be happy places?

I’m not sure I want to mention this, but here goes. I was at a conference last weekend. I decided to duck out of one of my evening workshops to take a swim. I checked the pool on the way to my room to change into my bathing suit. Nobody there. I looked forward to peacefully gliding through the water. When I returned, less than five minutes later, at 9:30 at night, the small indoor pool was crowded with six kids under the age of six and three parent people. They took up the whole danged pool, splashing around, shouting, oblivious to this older person who needed to get down the steps and swim a few laps. Oh, I swam, but it was no fun, and I was soon back in my room, sinking into a hot bath where I could soak in peace.

Like that mom at Disney World, I was tired and frustrated. Things are not going well with my father, and I can’t do anything about it. My stomach hurt. I was tired of sitting in over-air-conditioned meeting rooms listening to people talk about writing. And now the pool was so full of children who should have been in bed that I couldn’t enjoy my swim. If the parents had thought to say something like, “Move over so the nice lady can swim,” that would have been different, but I seemed to be invisible to them.

If I were a mom person, would I have enjoyed paddling around with the little guys? I don’t know. Like Annie suddenly attacked by her former friend, I just know sometimes parents and non-parents seem to live on different planets.

Your comments, as always, are welcome.

 

 

 

News Flash! We Don’t All Have Kids!

Why do people still assume everyone has children and grandchildren? I’m reading this new book called Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher, which is supposed to help women in their 60s and 70s get a grip on the changes happening in their lives in those years. Our bodies are aging, we might be retiring, friends and relatives are dying. I heard the author on NPR and ordered it right away because . . . I’m in that age group and thought it would be interesting.

It is interesting and somewhat helpful, despite an overage of psychology advice along the lines of “develop an attitude of gratitude” and “learn to treasure the precious moments.” I know all that. Tell me how to manage my finances when I don’t have a massive retirement nest egg, and what to do about my disappearing eyebrows. But that’s not why I bring up this book today.

In all 252 pages, not once does Pipher acknowledge the fact that some of us are not mothers. When she talked about “six generations” of family stories, it took me a while to realize she was including the generations from our grandparents through our grandchildren. But . . . She spends entire chapters talking about the joys of family and the wonders of being a grandmother, how the kids carry on the family name, help you in times of trouble, make you happy and proud and so on. But what if you don’t have any? What if it’s just you and the dog, or you and your husband, if you still have one? I would love to cuddle my grandbabies, bake cookies with them, and attend their graduations and weddings. But I can’t.

It’s not a bad book, and Mary Pipher is not a bad writer. If your mom or grandma is in that age group, she might enjoy it. Pipher is just immersed in the mom world and does not see the 20 percent of us out here without offspring. If only she had added sections that might begin along the lines of “and if you don’t have children . . .”

This author is not the only person who seems blind to the fact that some people don’t have children. We have all met people who think that way. I go for a mammogram and the technician asks me, “How many pregnancies have you had?” She seems surprised when I offer a big fat zero. A kindly church woman asks, “how old are your kids?” “Um, well . . . My dog is 11.” Other people hand me toys or candy “for your kids.”

Know what I mean? The older we are, the more people assume we’re mothers and grandmothers. I know they can’t tell by looking, but I wish they wouldn’t assume we’re all alike.

So, how about you? When you encounter books, shows, or real-life situations where it’s assumed all females are moms, how do you react? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Guest Post: ‘What I’d Really Like to Say’

Hi Sue,
I recently saw this post of an acquaintance on Facebook and it was the perfect set up for what I have been wanting to express for my life. I would be ok with you posting this on your Facebook page for me as I am not wanting to put this out there under my name for fear of being ostracized by my friends.

People have said to me having a kid changes your life. Not having a baby and wanting one changes us as well. Life is always changing. Be kind to those not-moms out there. A lot of them are hurting and have to go through life knowing exactly what they are missing out on every day. They are true survivors. I would like to give them the credit they are due.

Here is a quote from a fellow mom on Facebook:

Before I was a mom… I never learned the words to a single lullaby. 🙉 I never thought about immunizations. 💉 I had never been puked on, pooped on, drooled on, chewed on, or peed on. 😷 I had complete control of my mind, my thoughts, and my life. 👸💅 I slept all night.🙏 I never looked into teary eyes and cried. 😭 I never got gloriously happy over a simple little grin. 😍 I never sat up for hours watching someone sleep 🌜😔… I never felt my heart break into a million pieces when I couldn’t stop the hurt.😵 I never knew that something so small could affect my life so much in a great way. 🙌🌏I never knew that I could love someone so much before ever meeting them. 💗Before I was a mom… I didn’t know the feeling of having my heart walking around outside of my body .👶💖Re-post if you’re proud to be a mom!!! 🙈🙈

I would like to re-post this for all the not-moms out there.

Before I was a mom… I never learned the words to a single lullaby.

I couldn’t wait to sing my baby a sweet lullaby…I had several of them on my iTunes account that I memorized the words to.

🙉 I never thought about immunizations. 💉

I researched both sides of the vaccine debate and studied epidemiology, biology and immunology as well as heavy metal toxicology in order to make the best decision for you (future kiddo).

I had never been puked on, pooped on, drooled on, chewed on, or peed on. 😷

Of course the huge void in my life was a very real loss so I got a dog from a shelter. It didn’t take too long to get potty training down. And I loved Fido as my child. Of course I have always loved dogs, so even if I had a child I still would’ve had a dog just FYI.

I had complete control of my mind, my thoughts, and my life. 👸💅

There were many times the hurt was just too much. I broke down and wept, missing the baby I didn’t have. The family I didn’t have. At least two times a year, I would have lunch with coworkers who were moms, and all they talked about was their ultrasounds, birth stories, big sister/ brother moments, taking home baby, etc. I would go back to my office, close the door, and cry for 30 minutes straight.

I slept all night.🙏

I stayed awake at night wondering why not me?

I never looked into teary eyes and cried. 😭

I watched people at the mall and admired their beautiful children and hoped for one of my own someday.

I never got gloriously happy over a simple little grin. 😍

This one is kind of obnoxious, but yes children do make their moms smile, again no surprise here. And again Fido brought us many smiles.

I never sat up for hours watching someone sleep. 🌜😔

I watched my husband sleep. The same husband who wouldn’t allow me a child. The one who said he wanted children…someday…but no idea when!!!!!!! I also stayed up all night looking for medical information and reading medical journals trying to find out what my cure was for (insert disease/symptoms here). Finally found a specialist on the other side of the country who could do (insert surgery name/ medical treatment here).

I never felt my heart break into a million pieces when I couldn’t stop the hurt.😵

I could never explain how much this happened. If Facebook didn’t exist…and when I first wanted to have children, Facebook wasn’t around and this did happen. Nevertheless, I saw all my friends’ cute Facebook photos and announcements, how happy they looked and my heart did break.

I never knew that something so small could affect my life so much in a great way. 🙌🌏

I knew. At this point all the not-moms are rolling their eyes.

I never knew that I could love someone so much before ever meeting them. 💗

I knew. I started taking folic acid supplements in college in preparation. Some of us took parenting classes and childhood psychology classes in preparation. We worked on our careers so that we could provide a safe loving home for our future babies. We were responsible so we could provide a stable family life for our children. We DID EVERYTHING RIGHT.

Before I was a mom… I didn’t know the feeling of having my heart walking around outside of my body. Re-post if you’re proud to be a mom!!! 🙈🙈

All not-moms know the feeling of another mom who is totally clueless. Like if you are proud to be a mom or a not-mom!

Military wife feels extra pressure to have children


Today I am passing the microphone to Kam, who wrote about a topic we have not discussed here at Childless by Marriage: the pressure for military wives to have children. If you can relate, I’d love to hear what you have to say about this.
Kam said…
What a great site and I am thrilled to bits to have stumbled upon you. I’m soon to be 37 and my 39 year old husband is closing in on the last four years of his 20-year military career. We are also childfree by marriage. I was always kind of ambivalent, he changed his mind after we married 7 years ago. Yikes. Let me say that the military is not just defense machine but also a baby-making machine. Trust me, we are freaking unicorns around these parts.

The topic of married and childfree in the military is rarely discussed. I have plowed through your blog hungry for a salve for all that I’ve experienced being a lifetime military brat and now spouse. There are babies left and right. I’ve lost most friends to babies except a few rare jewels. I’ve been told to keep my opinions to myself because “we don’t need to hear from a woman without kids.” The list is long and seems to be ramping up with my shriveling fertility. What we do have are three dogs and that has become our couple identity. Well, they don’t have kids, but they have dogs. Huh? I’ve found I am constantly defending myself. I am still a MOTHER. I am a woman, maternal and I am a daughter and have a mother. Seems like I’ve got some qualification to speak but I am reminded daily, I don’t. Weird.

Sometimes it’s been a bumpy road to navigate. I’ve literally given up my religion (converted from Jew to Catholic), job security, stability and now children to be with a man who is without a doubt, the love of my life. That doesn’t mean that it’s always easy for me or us. As a man, he gets high fives for dodging the baby bullet and I get a button jar assortment of judgments. The sacrifices have been and continue to be huge with no real dangling carrot. Martyr? Sadist? Who knows? The psychology here is a bunch of clowns in a tiny car for sure.

I wish I knew where more of us military spouse types without children were getting our coffee at. I’d love to sit at that table sometime.

So there is a topic that could use a spotlight if you can make sense of my ramblings.

Kam posted an additional comment:
Thanks Sue. It can be so isolating and lonely. It also seems to make the whole Pinterest mommy/milspouse/woman cattiness go into overdrive if that makes sense. Motherhood is also another tool to harm in some cases–another weapon to wield against other women. It’s the weirdest thing to watch. I’d like to say I’m above it all, but I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I armchair parent after a night out with friends with kids.

My blessing is that I am Aunty KA to a few of my friends’ kids and I love that, but . . . it’s not my own cute, fat, little pudge of a baby. It’s a hard decision to accept. I go back and forth. My husband goes back and forth. So, WE end up going nowhere. We feel the pressure, but he really doesn’t want or like kids. He loves dogs.

While I would not have minded having kids, I am a back seat driver. I’m a limp handshake on the topic and that hurts as well. Why don’t I have the baby burn? What is wrong with me? I’ve never felt it as much as I do now. The military lifestyle is so tough, too. People like to say, well you knew what you were getting into. It’s so much more than you can imagine. I see a lot of unhappy families and moms that feel so stressed out. Some of them are really stressed out. I have a young, fit friend who is my age, a mother of 4 and she just had a heart attack! Because we move every 2-3 years, we are isolated from our own families, suffer career-wise, and it seems that having kids is just the filler for that (not all of them, but some). I’ve tried to carve out a different life, but finding civilian friends can be tough too. I wonder if any of your readers are military childfree or know of any sites out there that tackle this topic? Thanks for posting my comments!
Thank you, Kam. God bless you for sharing this. Stay safe.

Childless need not be friendless

It’s surprising how many of my friends these days do not have children. The reasons vary:

Mary never wanted children. She was delighted to marry a man who already had three kids from his first marriage and didn’t want any more. She has a close relationship with her stepchildren and step-grandchildren while remaining free to live her busy life as a music teacher and choir director.

Cathy, who is gay, has a wonderful marriage with her wife Rhonda. She never saw herself as a mother, but anyone who knows her can testify that she serves as a mother to everyone, always taking care of people, whether they need food, medical care, rides, or a shoulder to cry on.

Lori had a hysterectomy when she was young. She and her husband Steve have led an adventurous life pursuing his marine biology career across the U.S. Now they’re living in New Zealand, where she’s turning into a real “kiwi.”

Charlotte is not married, has no kids but leads a busy life managing a quaint local hotel and keeping our writing group going. 

Sue, my favorite yoga teacher, never had her own children. Her husband has grown offspring from his previous marriage, and she enjoys their company. The rest of the time, she’s happy as a dogmom and yogini.

My buddy Bill has neither married nor had children. Now 65, he recently survived a health scare that has left him grateful just to be able to breathe, eat, walk and talk. He started out wanting to be a priest. Although he didn’t follow through on that career, he still lives the celibate single life and devotes himself to his four nieces and nephews.

Many of my other friends do have kids, but the children and grandchildren live elsewhere. My friends disappear now and then to visit them, but those children do not divide us because we have so many other things in common, things like music, writing, yoga, or church.

When you’re in your 20s, 30s and early 40s, it can seem as if everyone you know is having babies, that you are the only odd duck not reproducing. But you’re not. If, like so many people who comment at this blog, you are struggling to decide what to do, know that you may be left out of the Mom Club, but there are plenty of other clubs to join. One in five American women (with similar numbers in other countries) are reaching menopause without having babies. The number is edging toward one in four. You are not the only one. You are not weird. As you engage in the things that interest you, you will find other people like you. There is life to be lived and enjoyed even if you don’t ever become a mother or father, and as you get older, it will get easier. 

Copyright 2014 Sue Fagalde Lick

Ever feel like you’re from another country, the land of no babies?

At the local post office, one of the workers brings her baby every day. I have seen her grow from newborn to just starting to walk and talk. She’s a cute, smiley child. I watch her and her mom with curiosity, but I don’t know how to interact with them. Yesterday as I was collecting my mail, I watched a white-haired man having so much fun talking nonsense to the baby that he couldn’t seem to tear himself away. Clearly he’s had years of practice talking to babies, his own, his grandchildren, perhaps nieces and nephews. I have never been around babies, and I don’t have the vocabulary for it.
At the library, I encounter a group blocking the stairs, two young mothers and three little kids, so busy talking they don’t notice me trying to get to the ground floor to sit alone and write for a while. I edge around them. The children’s room, occupied by more moms and babies, sits at the bottom of the stairs. I feel as if I am not allowed to step into that room.
A friend is hosting a series of parenting classes. She keeps sending emails asking us to help, but I am no more qualified to teaching parenting that I would be to give surfing lessons or teach Mandarin.
Many of my friends have children and grandchildren. When we work on common interests, such as music or writing, we connect. But then they suddenly start talking Mommy, and our connection fades away. It’s a lot like when I walk into the chapel during the Spanish choir rehearsal. I know some Spanish, but they talk too fast and use words I just don’t understand. They look at me like I don’t belong in their world, that no matter how many Spanish classes I take, I never will.
I often feel that I’m from a country that has no children, only dogs and cats. One is not better than the other, just different. Does any of this sound familiar to you? As childless people, are there situations where you feel like you come from another country? Please share. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

Faking It in Momland at the mall

When we went shopping yesterday, I’m sure my friend had no idea she was taking me places I had never been before. I’m used to her chatting with everyone she meets and showing them all pictures of her grandchildren. I’m happy for her. At the clothing store where she talked me into a new Easter outfit, I smiled and nodded as she talked about childbirth with the store manager whose second child is due next month. It was hard not to stare at the woman’s “baby bump” in her snug knit ensemble and to wonder who would take care of the store when she left on maternity leave. But hey, whatever.

Then my friend took me someplace that hadn’t been on our agenda. Suddenly she had to buy her grandsons Easter outfits. We entered something called The Children’s Place. Oh my gosh. Miniature clothing everywhere. Tiny shirts, tiny argyle vests, tiny bow ties, onesies, twosies, threesies, I don’t know. If I had a child to shop for, this would be Disneyland. The sales prices were amazing. The merchandise was in disarray, as if a herd of rabid monkeys had come through, but my friend quickly hit it off with the clerk. Out came the baby pictures again as they compared babies and sizes and family situations while I wandered around feeling like a visitor from another planet. I have never seen so many children’s things in one place. For me, it was like a whole store full of doll clothes and I wasn’t allowed to play. Not only will I never have children or grandchildren, but nobody in my life is having babies these days. They’re either too old or they have put off marriage so long they may never get around to it. My friends’ grandchildren all live far away, so I’m not likely to ever see them except in photos on the smart phone or iPad.

I didn’t say much at that store. I let them talk while I looked at things and made color suggestions. As they continued to talk while my friend signed up for their rewards club, saying she would definitely be back, I rested on a chair near the cash register. I couldn’t say anything about my own children or grandchildren, and there seemed no point in telling them I didn’t have any kids. I just waited until they were through and we could go on to the Nike store.

I love my friend, and I’m grateful she includes me in her life, but when I mentioned that I had never been in a store like that before, it just didn’t register. Her mind was busy thinking about her babies. So I pretended I belonged, just like the other women.

Have you had an experience like this?

It’s Baby Season Again

Yesterday, I ran away to the “valley,” Oregon’s Willamette Valley between the Pacific Coast Range and the Cascades. I felt like I was smothering in gray sky, rain and storm-battered evergreens, work was frustrating, and I just had to get lost for a day. Do you ever feel like that? I have always had those days, and, not having children to care for, I can just get in the car and go.

My main destination was the mall in Albany, OR. Seventy miles away, it’s the closest one to where I live, and it’s not much of a mall. I’d have to drive a hundred miles for the real thing. I was hoping to find some new slacks and something pretty to wear for an upcoming party.

What I found was babies everywhere. Here in our small town on the coast, I live in an area dominated by retirees and tourists, so I guess I’m not used mainstream America, but everywhere I looked were young women with small children and/or pregnant bellies. Did I envy these young moms? Not really. Many of the kids were screaming, grabbing at the merchandise or talking incessantly. The visibly pregnant women looked . . . uncomfortable. What I did envy was how most of them came in pairs or groups with other young mothers, how they shared this stage of life with others going through the same thing. I never had that. Perhaps you haven’t had it either.

In the stores, whole sections don’t apply to me, the ones containing maternity clothes and things for children. There’s an invisible wall in front of those areas that says, NOT YOU. I bought some slacks, but did not find the dress of my dreams. What ever happened to lovely fabrics and tasteful designs made for adults? But that’s a whole other subject.

On the way home, I stopped at a park that runs along the Willamette River in Corvallis. It was warm enough to leave my coat in the car. The trees are starting to blossom, and the river, flooding and muddy a few weeks ago, looked green and peaceful now. Sitting at a picnic table, I watched a young engaged couple walk by, followed by a photographer taking pictures. I watched a father on a bike tow his baby in one of those plastic baby trailers while the mom roller-bladed beside them. And I watched four young men, possibly college freshmen from nearby Oregon State, pass by on skateboards. I observed and felt life passing by me.

Is it just me or are there more babies this time of year? In the fields I passed on the way to Albany, I saw lambs and calves. It’s spring, and the humans are reproducing, too. Have we bypassed the natural progression, missed baby season? Perhaps. But like the river, we move on. Have a fun weekend. Do something you couldn’t do if you had children.

Even here they ask

At my husband’s nursing home yesterday, we shared a red-clothed table with a mother and daughter for the Valentine’s Day party. It wasn’t much of a party. Most of the residents were napping. Those of us who were awake ate cupcakes, jelly beans, M&M’s, and those little sugar hearts with writing on them. I sang songs and played my guitar, and we played a little bingo with the sugar hearts. Actually, the activities director, the daughter and I played bingo, and Fred and the mom sat while we pushed candies around their cards. The mom, Jean, has been in a mood lately. She used to be very talkative and always got up to sing and dance when anyone played music. But now she just sat there in her red sweater, frowning. Her daughter, dressed identically in red and black, sang with me as we tried to keep this slow party going.

After I had won my second round of Bingo and eaten another heart, Jean suddenly surprised me. “How many kids do ya have?” she asked.

I stared and saw her staring back intently. “I don’t have any children,” I said. I felt so disloyal to my husband, not acknowledging the stepchildren. But he was my link to them, and the link is broken. “He has three,” I said,” pointing to Fred. Jean went back to her silence as an aide started setting tiny glasses of milk on the tables in preparation for dinner. The daughter and I exchanged looks. Time to go.

I wonder what would have happened if I did have children to talk about.