Can You Compromise on the Childless Issue?

Sacrifice. Compromise. Surrender.

These words have all become dirty words in our society. Now the key words are happiness, self-fulfillment, and success.

I’m feeling like a cranky old lady today, but hear me out. I listened to a podcast called “We’re not Childless, We’re Childfree” the other day. It’s not our usual bailiwick; most of us here have not chosen to be “childfree.” But I was curious, and honestly, these three women were very entertaining. Childfree by choice, they talked about women they admired who are childless and the way childless women are portrayed in the media (not well). They shared the reasons they don’t want to have children. One prefers her solitude. Another wants to continue her career. The third hates that children are always “sticky.” Overall, they just prefer not to have children.

They are not willing to sacrifice, compromise or surrender their time, money, or bodies to be mothers. They want to be happy, self-fulfilled, and successful. They have the right to choose, and that’s their choice.

What will make me happy, Kathleen Guthrie Woods asks herself in the book I’m reading now, The Mother of All Dilemmas: Dreams of Motherhood and the Internship That Changed Everything. Single and 40, she’s trying to decide whether to get pregnant with donor sperm and become a mom. Seeking answers, she undertakes a two-week “internship” caring for her 15-month-old nephew full-time while his parents go on vacation. She loves it, but she loses most of her “me time.” She struggles to work, barely has time to eat or take a shower. Is motherhood worth it? Is single parenting just too hard? I still have a hundred pages to read. We’ll see what she decides.

Some of you who are wondering whether to leave a childless relationship are asking the same questions. Should you try to become a parent on your own? Kathleen will be making a guest appearance here at the blog soon to help us find some answers.

Here at Childless by Marriage, most of us have a partner, married or not, who plays a big role in whether or not we have children. We need to consider their happiness, self-fulfillment and success as well as our own. Ideally, it works both ways. At church, our pastor Fr. Joseph, who is of course single and childless himself, preaches that relationships require sacrifice, compromise and surrender to succeed. You give up some of what you want to make the other happy, and they do the same.

In the Catholic church, parenthood is not considered optional. Married people are supposed to welcome all the children God gives them. But do they? Not so much. That’s a whole other discussion, but the need for partners to compromise is not just for Catholics. For any relationship to succeed, sacrifices will be made. You want to go out to dinner. He wants to order pizza and watch football. Maybe you order the pizza and agree to eat out tomorrow night. You want to visit your parents at Christmas; he insists on visiting his. Maybe you agree to alternate years. You want to get pregnant. He isn’t ready for a baby. Maybe you . . .

I don’t know. I can see both sides. We’re not saints. We don’t want to be martyrs. Everyone wants to be happy, self-fulfilled and successful. Everyone wants freedom. Everyone wants love. Many of us want children so bad it hurts while our partners see parenthood as a cage coming down over their heads locking them into a life they’re not sure they want. Everyone wants to avoid stickiness and poopy diapers, but sometimes people have to say, “All right, I’ll do this because I love you and I want you to be happy.”

Sacrifice, compromise, surrender. These are not dirty words; they are the keys to having a successful relationship. Without them, the relationship is not going to work.

What do you think? Have I lost my mind? Do you see a possible compromise in your situation? How much are you willing to sacrifice for love or to avoid being alone? Let’s talk about it.

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Choosing childlessness for God or art

A woman at church came flaunting her eight-month-old granddaughter yesterday. She brought her right up to me and another childless woman in the choir, apparently thinking that because we’re female, of course we want to see the baby. The child is beautiful, a blue-eyed doll who stared at me the whole time. I was appropriately complimentary, even as I felt that familiar squeeze of pain. Put simply, I want one of those and I’ll never have one.

But anyway . . . We’ve been talking about religion and how we might feel especially left out at church. Let’s look at another aspect, which I suppose is particular to the Catholic church. Priests and nuns take vows of chastity. They agree to never marry or have children. They sacrifice parenthood for a life devoted to God. In essence, they take God as their spouse. Although occasionally someone leaves the religious life to marry and have a family, I have never heard any religious people who stayed with it complain about not being able to have children.
The reasoning in the church is that one cannot be fully committed to the religious life with the distractions of a human family. In other churches where marriage and parenthood are allowed, the ministers seem to make it work, but not always. For example, one Episcopal priest I know decided not to get married because she felt she couldn’t do both effectively.
It’s not only priests and nuns who decide they can’t be parents and do their life’s work at the same time. Many artists of all sorts choose a life without children. Although I always thought I could write and be a mom, too, I often wonder how I would have had time to do my writing and music while raising a family. Perhaps I would have had to wait until now, when my children would be grown and living elsewhere, to dive into my career. All those years not raising children gave me the freedom to pursue my dreams. If I were the one showing off the baby grandchild, I would not have been able to concentrate on playing the piano at church, a job I love.
I’m just saying that sometimes people choose a life without children because it fulfills them in other ways. Maybe we didn’t choose that life. Maybe it chose us, but maybe we’re meant to do something else, something we couldn’t do if we had kids. Think about it.