When you don’t have kids and they ask . . .

Why don’t you have children? Sometimes you want to scream, “F-off! It’s none of your business.” I totally get it. But wait. For today’s post, I offer some responses for those times when people come at you with those questions.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

1. How many kids do you have?

DIPLOMATIC: I don’t have any children. How about you?

SMART ALECK: Kids? I knew I forgot to do something.

CAN’T DO THIS AGAIN: Why do you assume I have children?

2. So you don’t like kids?

DIPLOMATIC: I love kids. I just don’t have any of my own.

SMART ALECK: That’s irrelevant, isn’t it?

CAN’T DO THIS AGAIN: Why do you assume I don’t like kids?

3. Why don’t you have children?

DIPLOMATIC: Things just didn’t work out for us.

SMART ALECK: Why did you have them? Did you stop and think before you did it or just let it happen?

CAN’T DO THIS AGAIN: That is personal and private, and it hurts to talk about it.

4. Why don’t you just adopt?

DIPLOMATIC: Adoption is difficult, expensive, and not what we wanted to do.

SMART ALECK: Why don’t you?

CAN’T DO THIS AGAIN: If he/she didn’t want kids of our own, why would he/she agree to adopt? Why do people assume that’s an option for everyone?

5. Won’t you regret growing old without children and grandchildren?

DIPLOMATIC: Probably, but there will be times when I’m relieved, too.

SMART ALECK: I don’t know. Will you regret having them?

CAN’T DO THIS AGAIN: I regret having to have this conversation again. Why do you assume I’ll have more regrets than you will?

6. Who will take care of you in your old age?

DIPLOMATIC: I worry about that, but I believe my family and friends will be there for me.

SMART ALECK: I don’t know. Do you want to take care of me? We can start the paperwork right now.

CAN’T DO THIS AGAIN: Why do you assume your kids will be around when you need them?  

Your turn: Does this stir up some of your own ideas about how to answer these questions or other questions that drive you crazy? Please share in the comments. Let’s get a good list going.

This is post #800 at the Childless by Marriage blog. Good Lord, that’s a lot of posts. If you keep coming, I’ll keep writing. If you feel the urge to write a guest post, please see the instructions to the right on this page and do it.

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Here comes another clueless question about childlessness

I received an email last week from a radio person who wondered if I would be available to comment in a little over an hour on the pros and cons of grandchildren.

Say what? It was early. I wasn’t even dressed yet. Maybe I could squeeze it in before I had to take my car to the shop, but what would I say? Without preparation, I’d sound like an idiot. I declined.

Curious, I listened to that station until I got to the Honda dealer. Not a word about grandchildren. It was all about Covid and the war in Ukraine. Maybe someone decided there were more valid questions to ask.

For the heck of it, I tried making a list of pros and cons.

Pros: Little ones to love, continuation of the family, someone to call in good times and bad, someone to call me “grandma,” photos to treasure and show off to my friends, someone to receive the family keepsakes.

Cons: Babysitting, more responsibility, someone else to worry about, gifts and cards to buy, and the risk they’ll turn out badly.

Now that I’ve had a few days, I’m thinking it’s a pointless question to ask of anyone who is childless not by choice. Grandchildren are not like cars or jobs where you weigh the pros and cons and decide yes or no. Even if we had children, it would not be up to us to determine whether grandchildren would follow. It’s not really something we can control.

I’m wondering now if this radio person was looking for someone to expand the joys of being childfree to being grandchild-free. As with the frequent offers I receive for guest posts on how to be a better parent, she doesn’t quite get it. I don’t need a list of pros and cons to tell me I wish I had grandchildren.

Either way, I’m glad the car needed a new battery.

In an interesting coincidence, the waiting room at the Honda dealership was full of people, including two children who were not shy at all. They marched right up and said, “Hi” and demanded my attention. I decided to go with it. (You can read about that at my Unleashed in Oregon blog.) Kids don’t care who has or has not given birth. If you look like a grandma, they’ll assume you’re qualified to love them.

Since we’re talking about grandchildren, it’s another factor to consider if you’re coupled with someone who is unwilling or unable to have children. No kids=no grandkids. The “survived by” section of your obituary will be very short. Can you live with that?

Your turn. Do you think about grandchildren and how you won’t have them if you don’t have kids? Do you talk about it with your mate? If someone put you on the radio with an hour’s notice, how would you answer the question?

***

Next week’s Childless by Marriage post will be #800. Hard to believe. I’m planning something special to celebrate. Don’t miss it. If you aren’t already subscribed to the blog, why not sign up? It’s free.

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Do Your Childless Christmas Your Way

Dear friends,

Christmas is tough. If any time of year rubs our lack of children in our faces, this is it. Our friends are making themselves crazy buying gifts for the kids and grandkids. Facebook is full of babies and older children posing with Santa Claus. You find yourself trapped at holiday gatherings with people who keep asking when you’re going to have children. I know. It’s rough. You just want to run away to a tropical resort or a distant mountain until it’s all over and people regain their senses. You can’t even take solace in TV because it’s all holiday specials and Hallmark movies in which everybody is one happy family at the end. You try to get into the spirit. You buy treats for the dog and try to get him to pose with reindeer antlers, which he shakes off and uses for a chew toy.

I know. I spend a lot of Christmastime weeping. No kids, no husband, no family nearby. I started to decorate this year, then said no, I can’t. The lights didn’t work on either of my cheesy fake trees, the roof was leaking, the pellet stove wasn’t working, and I probably wouldn’t get any presents anyway, so forget it. Oh, woe is me. But I woke up the next morning feeling like it was a new day. I dealt with the roof and the stove. I went to the local Fred Meyer store and bought a much nicer fake tree. I spread Christmas decorations throughout the house. I did it all my way, with no one to consult, no one to say, “That looks stupid.” My decorations make me happy.

I hadn’t left any room for presents because I didn’t expect to get any. Then a package arrived at my front door. “Secret Santa,” said the return address. Inside, I found seven gifts from this secret Santa. I don’t know who it is. I know only that it was mailed in Newport, the town closest to where I live. This Santa knows I have a dog named Annie. She got a toy from Rudolph. I cried for the next hour, a blend of gratitude and embarrassment at seeming pitiful and lonely to someone. But I am so glad those gifts are there. I made room for presents under my tree.

I don’t have many people to buy gifts for. I’m thinking next year I’m going to put some energy into being a Secret Santa for other people, both the kids for whom we get requests at church every year and older people who might be feeling alone. Did you know that approximately one-third of Americans over age 65 live alone? I can buy them presents because I don’t have children and grandchildren to buy for, cook for, and worry about. I put a few doodads in the mail, and I’m done with the family Christmas. But I’m free to do more.

People are more generous than you expect. This old guy at church, Joe, stopped me after Mass on Sunday. “I’ve got something for you,” he said. Oh God, what, I thought. The man is a little loud and crude sometimes. Then Joe, who lost his wife a few years ago, handed me a framed poem, “My First Christmas in Heaven.” Tears blurred the words as I read them. The frame is beautiful, the words even more beautiful. At home, I hung it under my husband Fred’s picture and above our wedding rings and other keepsakes I display on his nightstand. So sweet. You can read the poem here.

Joe has about a dozen kids, no exaggeration, and countless grandchildren. They will probably take up two or three pews on Christmas Eve. They will probably talk while I’m singing my solo. But he misses his wife, Carmella, and I miss Fred. Having children does not make up for a missing spouse. Joe will be with his kids on Christmas. I will play and sing at four Masses over three days, then come home to Annie and a long nap. I will treat myself to a ravioli and meatballs dinner. Who says it has to be turkey or ham? I can eat whatever I want whenever I want, and I like raviolis. I will open my gifts from Secret Santa, take Annie for a walk, duty-call the family in California, and be glad Christmas is almost over.

I have a lot to be thankful for. I am thankful for all of you who read and support this blog, for everyone who has read my book, for all those people who love me and don’t care whether or not I ever had a baby. I’m even grateful now for a chance to hold someone else’s baby once in a while. And I am so, so grateful for dogs.

I have said it many times. It gets better. It gets easier. I swear to you that it does. The hardest time for me was when I could see my fertile years slipping away and didn’t know what to do about it. So I did nothing. I cried. I drank. I over-ate. I over-worked. I barked at anyone who expected me to enjoy their children, and God forbid anyone wish me a happy Mother’s Day.

Sometimes I let people think I had a medical problem that kept me from having babies. Sometimes I blamed my husband. Sometimes I just said, “Not yet.” And sometimes I told people who asked about my children that God had other plans for me. I think that’s true.

I wish you happiness and peace this holiday season. As much as possible, do it your own way. If that means running away, fine. If you can’t run away, be honest with your loved ones about your feelings. It’s okay to tell them that it makes you sad to see their babies when you may never have one. It’s okay to answer persistent questions with, “I don’t know. Please stop asking. It’s a sore subject.”

Worst case, do what I do when I’m in a tough place. Think about how in a few hours or a few days, this will be just a fuzzy memory.

Love to all of you. Feel free to cheer, whine, or rant in the comments.

Sue

Writers tackle misunderstandings between those with and without children


Dear readers, I’m feeling a little brain-dead today, so I’m sharing these links to articles about being childless.
In this BBC piece, the writer discusses how hard it is for parents and non-parents to understand each other sometimes. “A Point of View: Can Parents and Non-parents Ever Understand Each Other?”
Then Dear Abby tackles those stupid nosy questions people are always asking us. You know the kind: Why don’t you have children? Don’t you like kids? Why don’t you adopt? Etc. Dear Abby: Nosy Questions Hurt Childless Woman
And finally, if we can laugh about this, we’re on our way to healing. Marion L. Thomas’s new book Living the Empty Carriage Way of Life will have you nodding your head, saying, “Yes, yes, that’s how it is.”
Happy reading.
Please keep commenting—unless you’re one of the dozens who write about spell casters and magical potions. I will continue deleting your comments as the spam that they are.

TMI? How Much Should We Tell People?


A male friend of mine is reading my Childless by Marriage book. Once planning to be a priest, he has never married or had children. He’s still very religious, and I expected him to be shocked. I mean, the man is shocked when I say something as innocuous as “That sucks,” and he won’t watch movies with cursing or sex in them.
The early chapters of the book are quite open about my sex life, about losing my virginity to my future husband, my experiences with birth control, and my post-divorce experiences with other men. Maybe, after reading all that, he would not want to be my friend anymore. So, the next time we talked after he started reading it, I held my breath.
“Well,” he said the first day, “You’ve had quite a lot of experiences, haven’t you?” Um, yes. “I can’t believe how open you are.” I guess. “You’ve been through so much.” It’s just life.
I told him I was worried about him not liking me anymore, but he said, “Nothing you could do would change how I feel about you.” Now that’s a friend.
The second day, he talked about feeling left behind. He didn’t become a priest because he wanted to marry and have children, but he never found the right person, “the one who rang my bell.” Now, in his 60s, facing open heart surgery in the near future, he knows he can never get those years back.
That “wasted years” feeling is one many of us share. What did we do with those years when we might have been with someone we loved and/or with those years when we might have been raising children? What do we tell people when they ask, “Why?”
Do we give them all the gory details about infertility, birth control, miscarriages and misgivings? Do we talk about how our partners don’t want kids—or we don’t, how the stepchildren have messed up our own chances, how we fear passing on mental illness, addictions and other problems, or how we just don’t have enough money? What do we say? How much should say?
In casual conversation, I usually just tell people, “God had other plans for me.” I believe that, but there’s so much more to the story. Just saying I don’t have kids tends to bring conversation to a halt. No kids? No grandkids? What? How much should I share?
What do you think? How much information do you need to give when people ask why you don’t have children? Do you tell all, give a vague answer, or change the subject? Is it none of their business? Do you turn it around and ask why they DO have children?
Please share in the comments. And, if you’ve read my book, did I say too much?
Thank you all for being here.