What if We Smashed the Biological Clock?

What if age was not a factor in whether or not to have a baby? What if you could have a baby any time in your life, so there was no pressure to do it before you got into your 40s? How would you feel about your childless-by-marriage situation then? What would you do differently?

No, I don’t know of a new way to postpone menopause. But let’s think about this for a minute.

Last night I listened to a podcast titled “Baby Making and the Fear of Missing Out,” the Aug. 8 episode in a series called “First Time Moms Beyond 35,” hosted by Isabel Prosper. We might not want to listen to most of the episodes because they get into having babies, parenting, and all that stuff we childless people are not doing. But this one really spoke to me.

Guest Courtney Shane, who is an actress, is 43. After several relationships with women and a busy career that made her feel she didn’t have time for motherhood, she married a younger man five years ago and started thinking about having children. At age 40, when she mentioned it to her then-gynecologist, the female doctor laughed and informed her that her chances were poor. Her bedside manner was so bad Shane found a new doctor, a man who encouraged her to go ahead and try.

She had her IUD removed and has started a regimen of daily ovulation checks. But she admits she’s still not sure about her desire to have a baby. The timing is not good. Because of the pandemic, work is scarce, and she doesn’t feel ready. But it’s now or never. “If I was 33, I wouldn’t be trying, no way,” she admits.

In an effort to find others who are feeling like she feels, she went online and found lots of wanna-be mothers trying to conceive. She had to search harder to find women who would admit they were not certain they wanted to do this but the biological clock was counting down the minutes until it would be too late. Once she confessed her own feelings, others began to admit they feel the same way. Shane is still looking for people who want to talk about this situation. She invites us to connect with her on Instagram or Facebook at @itscourtneyshane.

Perhaps because she is an entertainer, this 23-minute podcast was really fun to listen to, but it also addresses an important issue for us here at Childless by Marriage. How does age factor into our situations and our decisions?

*****

We have received some great responses to last week’s guest post. You can read them here. Do you want to tell your story at the Childless by Marriage blog? I’m looking for personal stories, 500-750 words long, that fit our childless-by-marriage theme. You could write about infertility, second marriages, partners who don’t want children, stepchildren, feeling left out when everyone around you has kids, fear of being childless in old age, birth control, and other related issues. Tell us how you how you came to be childless “by marriage” and how it has affected your life. Or you could write about someone else. We love stories about successful childless women. We do not want to hear about your lovely relationship with your children or how happy you are to be childfree. Not all submissions will be accepted, and all are subject to editing. If interested, email me at sufalick@gmail.com.

Should she give up motherhood for him?

Last week, I put out call for submissions to the Childless by Marriage blog. This piece from a woman who prefers to called Anonymous arrived yesterday. I am happy to share it with you. I’m sure many of you can identify with her story.–Sue

BY “ANONYMOUS”

Throughout my twenties, I always wanted children, but I wanted adventure first. Kids could wait.

Three years ago, at the age of 29, I decided to do something drastic. I sold my house, my car, gave up my job, said goodbye to my family and moved 10,000 miles across the world to explore Australia.

My intention of backpacking the country fell flat when I met my partner. He’s 50 now, separated, with two teenage children. He is the love of my life. We have a fantastic world together: we live in paradise, we have a sailing boat, we have plans to buy a family home, we share the same hobbies. I have never known love like this, and the 18-year age gap has never bothered us—he acts and looks younger than he is.

My love for this man is so intense that we applied successfully for a partner visa. I sacrificed being with my family to be with my partner, and I’ve had to watch my baby nephew grow through Whatsapp video calls and the odd Facebook photograph.

Two days ago, we were looking at houses on the internet. We began discussing how many bedrooms we would need. I suggested four—room to grow a family and still accommodate a guest room for his current children.

We’ve spoken about children often. I knew I wanted to have children, so I raised the subject early due to his age. I kept hauling the subject into conversation and would always ask him if he wanted more children. He always, always said he was “open to it.” While we looked at these houses, I asked him again. Again, he said he was open to it.

And then . . .

Silly, silly me. I asked him to really think about it. “When you turn 70, our first child might not even be a legal adult. This absolutely isn’t a deal breaker, but are you 100 percent positive that you are open to this idea?”

He said no, he hadn’t thought of it like that, and he didn’t want more children.

Since then, I have cried and cried. I will burst into tears at work. I have no one to speak to about it. There is a pit in my stomach, and I can’t eat, can’t sleep properly. I can’t concentrate at work. I’m drinking too much in the evenings just to numb the pain. I feel like I am coping with a death. I actually had names for my children, and now they are gone. I’ll never know what it’s like to be pregnant, to know a “mother’s love.” I have just started crying again as I type.

I was wrong. I think it may be a deal breaker. I knew before that we might not end up having children, but that is so very different from knowing that we will not.

I can barely speak to my partner. He doesn’t understand, didn’t realize how much it meant to me. I am so angry with him. I feel as if I have been betrayed, as if I’ve wasted two years of my waning fertile years with a man who never put enough thought into the implications of having children in his fifties. I’m offended that he didn’t spend any time considering something which, I feel, I had made quite clear was important to me.

I do not love his children, and they are too grown up to need anything from me. Why was his difficult ex good enough to have children with, but not me? Why do I get that gift taken away? It’s not fair. He has his legacy in his two kids, and I have, what? Not even a nephew that I can help take care of because, oh yeah, I gave up that part of my life to stay in this relationship.

I won’t be part of a yummy mummy’s club, I won’t get to make a photo album to embarrass my kids with later in life. Instead, I’ll have to watch families grow around me, friends fall pregnant . . . my partner gazing proudly at his boy and his girl.

I am so bitter and so lost. I do not know what to do.

Oh, Anonymous. As I told her privately, nothing she has done is irreversible. She can leave this man, go home, and start fresh. Would it be painful? Incredibly, but she would not have to give up her chance to be a mother.

Dear readers, what comments or advice do you have for Anonymous in Australia?

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

Do you want to tell your story at the Childless by Marriage blog? I’m looking for personal stories, 500-750 words long, that fit our childless-by-marriage theme. You could write about infertility, second marriages, partners who don’t want children, stepchildren, feeling left out when everyone around you has kids, fear of being childless in old age, birth control, and other related issues. Tell us how you how you came to be childless “by marriage” and how it has affected your life. Or you could write about someone else. We love stories about successful childless women. We do not want to hear about your lovely relationship with your children or how happy you are to be childfree. Not all submissions will be accepted, and all are subject to editing. If interested, email me at sufalick@gmail.com.

 

Childlessness by Marriage Gets Little Press

I have been racking my brain trying to find a subject for today’s blog, and I’m coming up dry. Plus I’m distracted. Why?

  • Four friends have died this month, and another is on his way out. Every phone call or text makes me jump.
  • I have been spending hours working on the “best of Childless by Marriage” book, which is getting close to finished. It feels like we have covered everything already, but I know there are more stories out there. (See below)
  • I’m getting ready for a writer’s conference I’m working at this weekend—all online, which requires multiple training sessions. My writerly Zoom schedule is busier than my pre-COVID schedule, and the hours, designed to accommodate all time zones, are worse.
  • I’m going crazy with something called Restless Legs Syndrome. I don’t usually talk about this, but it’s running my life these days. Do any of you have it? Basically, it’s an irresistible urge to move one’s legs, caused by a neurological problem. It’s not fatal but totally crazy-making. I finally tried medication for it; it made it worse instead of better. The doc kept raising the dose until I was too dizzy and nauseated to function. Now I’m tapering off because it’s so addictive you can’t just stop. For hours at a time, usually in the evening, I cannot sit still. Not for five minutes. This thing, also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease, can be hereditary, so thank God I didn’t pass it down to my children.

In searching for good things to share with you, this podcast at “Remotely Relatable” sounded promising: “How Many Goldfish Equal a Child?” Once we get past the chit-chat and into the topic, we learn that neither Julie nor Stephanie, both in their 30s, ever wanted children. Julie had her tubes tied at age 30 to make sure she never got pregnant. Yes, her mother is still saving her stuffed animals for future grandchildren, but it’s not going to happen. Stephanie still has intact tubes, but she has never wanted children ever. So, these are not our people.

They did talk about how hard it is for millennials to fit children into their lives, what with student loans, careers, and the major events that have happened in their lifetimes—9/11, Recession, natural disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic . . . We need a village to raise children, they said, but they can’t seem to find that village. Lots of us can identify with all that, but still, they didn’t want kids.

Oh, here’s an article about writer dealing with the decision. Nope, this won’t work either. Another woman with no urge to be a mother, she cites childfree actress Kim Cattrall of Sex and the City as her role model. She says all these people who think women have to have children to be happy should just back off.

Where does that leave those of us who are childless by marriage, who actually wanted children? Those of us who are childless because our partners wouldn’t or couldn’t are still in that rarely-talked-about but oh-so-common situation that nobody seems to acknowledge except those of us who are in it. Do you see your situation mirrored anywhere in the media besides here? Who are our role models? Where is our podcast?

*****

Would you like to write a guest post for this blog? I’m looking for personal stories, 500-750 words long, that fit our childless-by-marriage theme. You could write about infertility, second marriages, partners who don’t want children, stepchildren, feeling left out when everyone around you has kids, fear of being childless in old age, birth control, and other related issues. Tell us how you how you came to be childless “by marriage” and how it has affected your life. We love stories about successful childless women. We do not want to hear about your lovely relationship with your children or how happy you are to be childfree. Nor will I accept posts that advertise a service or product. Not all submissions will be accepted, and all are subject to editing, but those that are published will receive a loving reception from our CBM readers. If interested, email me at sufalick@gmail.com.

 

Are You Settling Too Soon for a Childless Life?

The other day, I listened to a podcast by dating coach Evan Marc Katz titled “8 Red Flags That Should Send You Running from a Man.” In this episode, childlessness is only a small part of the discussion, but Katz brought up an issue I think we need to talk about here. And that is people, women or men, who settle for partners who are less than ideal because they feel like they have to, that they will never find anybody else who will love them. Some have low self-esteem. I’m not pretty enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m too old. Others figure this relationship is THE ONE, when maybe it’s not.

He talks about a woman, Elise, who is a “settler,” who will give up her whole life for a man who is not sure he wants to get married or to have kids, and another woman named Sherry who is so picky nobody measures up to her standards. That’s a problem, too, but for today, let’s stick with the “settlers.” I used to be one of those. I felt like I could only get the loser guys. The cute, popular, smart ones with good career prospects wouldn’t want nerdy me. Oh, I could tell you stories about men I went out with, but I won’t. Let’s just say, if my parents were picking a guy for me, it wouldn’t be any of them.

Nor would it be my first husband, who made a negative impression early on by getting slap-happy drunk at my cousin’s wedding, then quit his job and flunked out of college. . . Then there was that time he sat in the car rather than visit my beloved grandfather . . . And oh, yeah, he cheated on me and he didn’t want kids. But I thought this was the guy. I had doubts, but I didn’t have the whatever-it-takes to stand up for myself and say, hey, this is not what I want in a husband. And maybe I need to live my own life for a while before settling with a man with whom I have nothing in common, except sex. Yes, I loved him, but he didn’t treat me like a man who loved ME should have, and I knew that. I settled.

It’s funny. I didn’t settle with jobs. I quit an awful lot of jobs, I admit it. My resume is crazy. But I’d get in there, find myself miserable, and say, “Oh, hell no.” I looked for something better. And I found it. Why didn’t I do that with men?

Long afterward, my ex and I agreed we would have had a great affair, but we shouldn’t have gotten married. Unfortunately, nice girls didn’t do that in those days. Which is how so many wound up with men who were less than ideal. But we have choices now. We do. Anyone who wants to marry me in the future would have to be AMAZING. I am not going to settle.

I lucked out with my second husband, Fred. But again, you should have seen who else I dated before he came along.

In comments here over the last 13 years, I have read so many stories of people, mostly women but not all, who gave up everything to be with a guy–home, country, family, career, and yes, dreams of having children. Sure, they were in love, but is that enough? Don’t we have the right to say, “No, let me look around a little more?” We’re so insecure, so afraid of being alone, that we settle. It’s like settling for shoes that don’t fit. They are always going to hurt, no matter how we try to stretch them out.

I’m on your side, but I see people here settling, and the old would-be wise woman in me wants to scream, “No! Don’t settle.”

What do you think? Have you settled? Are you now? Can you see other possibilities? Why not?

Let’s talk about this. Oh, and give this guy’s podcast a listen or just read the transcript at the link. Katz calls him the “dating coach for strong successful women.” He’s entertaining. If you decide to try his services, that’s between you and your computer.

The Cool Things Childless Women Do

Sorry I’m a day late. This is the first morning in two weeks that I haven’t felt horrible. Nope, not COVID-19. Let’s just call it a malfunctioning body part and a bad reaction to new medication. And then last night, after adjusting my prescription, hallelujah, I felt human again. I slept soundly and woke up ready to write. Whew.

What does this have to do with being childless? Nothing really. Even if I had a grown child nearby, he or she couldn’t have helped me—unless one of them was a neurologist. The biggest help was my friends offering advice and sympathy via texts and Facebook and my new doctor being concerned and available by email. Thank you, Dr. G.

Today’s post is a potluck meal, a little lasagna, a little potato salad, some brownies . . .

I’m finding that my friends know me so much better than my family. I suspect it would be the same if I had kids. I’d be “Mom” and “Grandma” to them, not Sue the writer and musician. Or the dog-mom. Annie is getting too heavy for me to lift. Yesterday after a beautiful walk in the woods, I couldn’t get her back into the Honda. We stood in the parking lot and stared at each other. Now what? Yes, a husband or a grown child could have lifted all 75 flailing pounds of her right up in the car, but we figured it out. I gave one more heave-ho, and she was in. Then I drove home and ordered a ramp from Amazon.

Let me tell you about a couple of very special childless women.

I encountered Kate Greene in a new book I was asked to review titled Once Upon a Time I lived on Mars. Science writer Greene, married to a woman and childless, had always wanted to be an astronaut. She came close by joining a simulated Mars mission, living with five others in a geodesic dome on a volcano in Hawaii. They stayed inside, seeing no one else, ate astronaut food, and did science experiments while experiencing what it would be like to be isolated from sunlight, freedom and family for months. It’s fascinating stuff, especially at a time when many of us have been sheltering in place because of the coronavirus. Not having children was one of the things that allowed Green the freedom to do this.

Catherine-RickboneI also want to tell you about Catherine Rickbone, who has just retired at age 74 as director of the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts. She never had children either. She has four college degrees, and worked a variety of jobs, including teaching, marketing and public relations before taking the OCCA job. She’s also a singer and poet. A natural with her booming voice, she has hosted a radio show on the arts for years. Supervising not only local activities at the Performing Arts and Visual Arts centers in Newport but overseeing arts all along the Oregon coast, she has been extremely busy for years, dashing into our writers’ meetings at the last second, out of breath but smiling. I’m hoping she can relax a bit now, but I know she’ll keep busy. As for children, when did she ever have time? Listen to one of her poems here. Read about her here. The article was written by my friend Lori Tobias, a longtime newspaper reporter who is also childless and whose book, Storm Beat, is about to come out and become a best-seller.

I’m telling you those of us without kids can do some cool things.

Thanks for being here. Socially distanced hugs all round.

AT LEAST THE KIDS WON’T BE BOSSING US AROUND

“Mom, don’t go out. Get somebody else to buy your groceries. It’s not safe out there with the coronavirus and all. At your age, you’re in the high-risk group. Just wait till I can come and take care of it.” “You did what? Don’t go walking alone! What if you fall and break a hip?” “Are you wearing your alert button?” “You can’t keep living in that house, Mom. I know this nice senior community . . .”

You, being younger, may be the one saying these things. I understand. I have been the child bossing the parent. Well, in my case, more like cajoling, playing “good cop” while my brother was the bossy one. Our father ignored us both until he literally could not move on his own and had to give in. Before that, if you pushed too hard, he’d bite you like a rattlesnake.

He can’t, you can’t, you’re too old, you have to stop driving . . .

What makes people do this? I think we get scared. We see our parents failing and we don’t want to lose them. We also see our responsibilities increasing and want to lighten them.

If I had a grown child—or my late father—watching me as I climbed on a chair to fix the clock the other day, they would have had a stroke. Dad was always sure I’d fall. “I’m fine,” I’d say, but he would remember that one relative who fell off a chair in her kitchen, struck her head, and went blind.

Now, I know that I’m the same aging woman with osteoporosis, arthritis and a raging bout of plantar fasciitis who was using a cane to get around earlier in the day, but I was warmed up now, and who else was going to adjust the damned Mickey Mouse clock my late husband left behind?

When we’re little, we think our parents can do anything. Then we grow up and think we can do everything. One day, we realize we’re all faking it. Then we find ourselves standing on a chair feeling our legs shake as we move the minute hand a little farther down Mickey’s thigh. But we won’t tell our kids because we want to adjust our own clocks. What if the son or daughter doesn’t like the Mickey Mouse clock and thinks we should get rid of it?

That’s if we have a son or daughter, which we don’t. I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful not to have grown children telling me what to do.

I’m rambling while I sit in the sun with a robin on the nearby fence preening his red chest feathers—and maybe taking a break from his own children. I hear another robin singing from the tree across the yard. His mate?

Back to those imaginary children of my own. They would scold me for not putting on suntan lotion and a hat. They’d be right, too. I’m getting burnt, but I wanted to get to the writing. And it’s worth it. Sitting here next to the purple foxglove with the robin nearby and the sun warming me to the marrow feels glorious.

Not having children means enjoying old age without grown offspring telling you what to do. Your friends might nudge you a bit, but they’re just as stubborn as you are and dealing with the same challenges, so unless you have dementia, God forbid, they’ll let you make your own choices. I like this. I know that’s what my father wanted, which is why he lived at home alone for so long, to 96. He got hurt quite often—the paramedics knew him well-—but in between, he could sit in his patio watching his own robins, tending his geraniums and his artichoke plants, and feeling the sun warm his bones. He was still king of his own domain.

The robin is looking toward the tree now. Maybe he’s thinking about checking in. Maybe he’s waiting for me to move so he can go back to pulling worms out of the grass. I will. I’m hot.

So it’s good that we don’t have adult children bossing us around. In these coronavirus days, I hear about more bossy sons and daughters than ever, but most of the time they’re communicating by phone or Facetime so they can’t offer any concrete physical help. That means my parent friends are in the same situation as we childless folks have always been, depending on friends who live nearby.

I don’t want babies these days, except to visit with as Grandma or Great-Grandma. I like my sleep, and I like my antique glass collection, but there are certainly times when I wish I had an adult child or two to help me with things, whether it’s moving furniture or figuring out what to do about the health insurance company denying my claim. The chores pile up, I am constantly behind, and . . . But wait, are my friends’ children really helping with any of that stuff? Not that I can see. They’re busy with their own lives.

It would be nice if I had kids to throw me a birthday party and make me a cake with “Mom” written in gooey frosting. I’d like to know that someone was around to take over when I died. I’d like to look at someone and see my mother’s eyes, my father’s chin, hear my husband’s deep voice . . .

But I don’t want to be bossed around. I fully intend to be one of those stubborn old ladies who watches out for herself as long as she possibly can. And then?

Let’s just watch Mr. Robin pull worms out of my raggedy lawn and listen to Mrs. Robin sing to her chicks.

Your thoughts?

****

IMPORTANT NOTICE: As I have mentioned before, I’m putting together a “Best of Childless by Marriage” book from the blog. I am including many of your comments, all anonymous or by first names only. Many of you are better writers than I am. If you have any objection to having those comments in a book, both print and online, please let me know at sufalick@gmail.com, and I will remove them. I don’t want this to be an issue later, so please speak up soon. I am almost finished with the book. Thank you. 

Thinking of Leaving a Childless Marriage? Read This

Dear readers,

I received this email from Victoria last week. It’s such a great story I asked if I could share it with you. Many of you agonize over whether to leave a partner who doesn’t want to have children. Faced with that situation, here is what Victoria did and how it turned out.

I met the love of my life in 2012. I was 30, and he was 37. We didn’t really discuss children too much, but six months after we met, over lunch with friends in France, he casually mentioned he did not want them. At that point, I was devastated. I knew I wanted children, but I had also not ever felt this way about anyone before. We discussed things at length, and he said he would think about whether he might change his mind. The years rolled by. We were so happy, and I couldn’t countenance leaving him.  It seemed so wrong to give up someone I loved so much for the potential of a child that might never exist. The issue came up a few times, though it was always in the back of my mind.  We ended up having some therapy together to try to get some sense of how to navigate life without resentment and guilt building up. Eventually after four years I decided that I could accept and embrace a childfree life if it meant keeping the man I loved.

I read your blog many times, often seeing the same theme: Should you leave the person you love in the hopes that you’ll find someone you love just as much, who also wants children, and you’re both able to have them? That could be a needle in a haystack. I thought I was quite at ease with my decision.

In 2017, we went on a holiday with a group of friends. One of the couples had a one-year-old baby. Watching them together was quite hard, and seeing how my partner reacted to the baby was equally as difficult. He just did not want to be around the baby at all, and it seemed to ruin his holiday. At this point, I had just turned 35. By now, the thought of being childless forever was in my mind every time I went to sleep. I thought about it all the time. Would I regret it? Did I even have any viable eggs left? I’d read so many forums, talked to friends, talked to my own therapist, and I just didn’t know what the right answer was.

One Sunday morning, after quite an emotional night, I made a snap decision to end the relationship at that moment. My desire to have children and my fear about how I would end up hating the man I loved over time became too much. I decided to leave. He understood. There were a lot of tears. Many days, I almost went back, but I didn’t. I thought I would look into having a baby alone. I had lots of tests, and I was lucky that at 35, I had a good ovarian reserve. I decided to give it a year and see if I met anyone. If not, I would go it alone. To be honest, at 35, wanting to meet a single man who was of a similar age who didn’t already have children but wanted them seemed a long shot.

Six months later, I happened to meet a lovely man. He was 36, single, no children, but he mentioned on our first date how much he regretted not having children. Eight months later, he proposed. Two months after that, we decided that as I was now 36 we should consider stopping birth control. A few months after that, I was pregnant. I honestly could not believe it. I spoke to my previous partner to let him know (he was now in a new relationship with someone who did not want children.) He was so happy for me, and said he felt a weight lifted off his shoulders, which was amazing.

In January of this year, I gave birth to my son. He is nearly six months old, and he is so perfect. I look at him every day and can’t quite believe that after all the years of agonizing, I finally have him. Admittedly, motherhood is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I struggled after a very traumatic labor and then dealing with a young baby and the COVID-19 lockdown has not been easy, but everything I went through was worth it for him.

I wondered if my story might help others who are struggling with the stay or go question.  I am not suggesting go is always the right answer, as I think for many people it isn’t, but for me it was.–Victoria

In a followup email, she added:

You reach a point where all of your friends are having kids, pregnant women or people with babies seem to be everywhere and I could hardly stand to look at them. I used to constantly imagine being pregnant, holding my baby etc. It became too much for me, and honestly I think the guilt became too much for him. We are both happier apart, I think, although I will always love him dearly.

We are undecided about another child at the moment after such a traumatic labor and being on the older side. Certainly not until next year if we do decide to but I won’t feel too bad if we don’t or can’t.

Good story, isn’t it? I welcome your comments.

 

Tales of Fruitfulness, Childlessness, and Love

Dear readers,

I’m having a tough morning. No worries. It will pass. But instead of a new post, I’m going to share some stories I’ve come across that you might find interesting. I would love to read your comments.

Hugs,

Sue

 “The future of the church may belong to the fecund, but not the nuclear family” by Holly Stallcup, Religion News Service. Stallcup, who is childless in a very family-centered church, insists that bearing children is not the only way to serve God and the church. There are many other ways we can be fruitful. Amen to that.

“I wanted to be childfree, but lockdown robbed me of my last chance. Now I’m mourning the children I’ll never have” by Emma Burnell, Independent. When you’re 45, childless, divorced, and in the middle of a pandemic–where the odds of meeting a new man are slim, you might have to accept that you are really not going to have children, writes this UK author.

“I chose love over having children. Then came the emotional aftermath” by Jackie Shannon Hollis, author of This Particular Happiness: A Childless Love Story. Sunday Morning Herald, May 22, 2020. Read this essay by my sister Oregonian author. I’m sure it will ring some bells for most of you.

I also encourage you to look back at previous posts and see if there’s something you’d like to add.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: As I have mentioned before, I’m putting together a “Best of Childless by Marriage” book from the blog. I am including many of your comments, all anonymous or by first names only. Many of you are better writers than I am. If you have any objection to having those comments in a book, both print and online, please let me know at sufalick@gmail.com, and I will remove them. I don’t want this to be an issue later, so please speak up by the end of June. Thank you. 

 

What Would You Change If You Could?

I have been watching a show on Amazon Prime called “Being Erica.” It’s about a young woman who meets this charismatic therapist who makes her write a list of all the things she regrets in her life and then sends her back in time to redo those parts of her life. Most of the time it doesn’t work out the way she thought it would, but it’s always fun to watch.

Erica is 32 years old, single and childless, and not doing well with her career. In the episode I watched last night, she throws a baby shower for her best friend but finds she is clueless about babies, and her friends don’t include her in that part of their lives. She does not get chosen to be godmother, which she really wanted, because she has never been a mom. Her friends think she should be happy being “wacky Aunt Erica.” Sound familiar?

In that same episode, Erica is sent back to her bat mizvah, a Jewish coming-of-age rite. Although she looks 13, she knows she’s 32, single and childless, but nobody else does. Her mother sits her down to talk about her future, which will of course include marriage and children. What if that doesn’t happen, Erica asks. What if I’m 32 and still single without children? Oh, don’t think such terrible thoughts. That will never happen, says her clueless mom. But we know it did. As it did for many of us

Of course, this is part of the stereotype of Jewish mothers, but in my generation, it was really all mothers. Of course you’re going to get married and have children. You might work a while, but your family will be the most important thing in your life.

Then there’s the book I’m reading by a much older woman, Sue William Silverman. In How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences, a memoir that takes us back to her early years—more time travel—she has no plan to have children. As for husbands, well, she’s had two so far, and I have quite a few pages left to read. But she never saw herself as the motherly type.

Here are two views of women without children and trips into the past to rethink their choices. So far, neither Erica nor Sue has changed the ultimate outcome for anything, only her attitude about it.

What about you? If Erica’s therapist, Dr. Tom, demanded you write a list of regrets, what would be on it? What would you want to go back and change? What would you do differently? Would it be worth it? Something to think about.

For me, everything I think about changing in my past leads to thoughts of what I would have missed, and I don’t think I want to risk that. How about you?

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IMPORTANT NOTICE: As I have mentioned before, I’m putting together a “Best of Childless by Marriage” book from the blog. I am including many of your comments, all anonymous or by first names only. Many of you are better writers than I am. If you have any objection to having those comments in a book, both print and online, please let me know at sufalick@gmail.com, and I will remove them. I don’t want this to be an issue later, so please speak up by the end of June. Thank you. 

Is COVID Lockdown Easier Without Kids?

I just listened to a UK radio show in which the speakers were enjoying their time at home during the COVID-19 lockdown because they did not have husbands or children. The main speaker, Sinead Kennedy, is writing a book about living alone (Flying Solo, not published yet), so the situation is perfect. She is using the time to “sit with herself,” to think, walk, and be creative. She feels sorry for those who are having to deal with husbands and children 24/7. On the rare occasions when she gets lonely, she knows her friends with kids are too busy to talk, so she seeks out her childless friends.

Click here to hear the show. The hostess and another caller were also childless and making the best of their time at home. Maybe this will cheer you up. Maybe not.

As you know, I’m at home alone, too. Well, my dog is here, but she’s old, and she sleeps most of the time. I attend Zoom meetings and “watch parties.” I go out for groceries and once a week to do music for the videotaped Sunday Mass at our little church, but I’m mostly here by myself. To be honest, it’s not that much different from pre-COVID times.

Last week, I met with three other women for a “socially distanced” chat session in one of their back yards. The others are all grandmothers who have been separated from their children and grandchildren since the pandemic began. They are hurting because they can’t see their families, especially the little ones. Another friend’s first grandbaby was born in March, and she hasn’t been able to hold her yet. How sad. Children grow and change so quickly. It’s hard not having children, but it’s also difficult having them and not being able to see them except on telephone or computer screen.

On the other hand, I panic at the thought of trying to home-school children. I’m a good teacher of college-age adults, but kids, oy. I suspect they would rebel at Mom or Dad trying to impose a school schedule on them. I’d be going crazy trying to work, too. I’m relieved I don’t have to do that.

Then there’s the husband part of it. God knows I miss Fred, but let’s face it. He was not good at sitting still. With no sports to watch, he’d be unbearable. He’d be like, I’ve got to get out of here. Let’s go do something. I can’t stand it, while I’m okay reading, writing, baking, walking, or watching ‘chic flicks” on my tablet.

So yes, maybe at this time, it’s easier not having children. Whether it’s comfortable sheltering in place with a partner depends on the partner. It’s certainly a test of how compatible you really are. Can you find things to do together or can you agree to do things separately? I wonder how many relationships will implode during this time. As for having children, is this the perfect time to start a family or the worst?

This is my 700th post. I had hoped to do something special today, a video or such. The “Best of Childless by Marriage” book is coming along well. But we’re panicking around here this week. Up to last weekend, our county of 50,000 on the Oregon Coast only had 10 positive cases of COVID-19. No one had been hospitalized or died. We were doing incredibly well. Lincoln County moved into Oregon’s Phase I of reopening just before Memorial Day. Restaurants, hotels and many businesses reopened, with lots of restrictions—masks, distancing, sanitizing, etc. Tourists rushed in. The number of COVID cases went up to 30, but okay, that was still not so bad.

Then on Sunday, authorities announced that we had 124 new cases of the coronavirus, all employees at Pacific Seafood on the Bayfront in Newport, the city closest to me. This being a fishing town, the company processes and packages what our fishermen catch. They tested 376 employees, and 124 had the virus. As of this morning, we now have 157 positive cases, two in the hospital. Most of those who tested positive did not have any symptoms yet.

You might say that’s still not such a big number, compared to places like New York, but these are small towns–Newport, with 10,000, is the biggest–and these people all have families and friends who have been exposed. They have shopped in our stores, eaten in our restaurants, and visited our parks. They’ve been to the gas station, the bank, the doctor’s office, and all the other places people go.

We’re officially staying in Phase I for now, but one business after another has announced that’s it’s closing back down to be safe.

Suddenly I’m dying to go out, to socialize, shop, travel, do things that were normal four months ago. I feel like I’m living the movie “Groundhog Day,” in which the characters relive the same day over and over. Will things ever be “normal” again?

Is it easier without children? Probably. Is it better? I don’t know.

How are you doing in this crazy COVID world? Are you more or less eager to have children? Are you talking about it? Is your partner driving you crazy? Are you able to see your family, including the little ones? Please share.

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I’m thinking about doing a Facebook Live broadcast where I can talk to you all, and you can ask me questions or chat among yourselves. What do you think? Would a Zoom meeting or another format be better? Let me know.

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IMPORTANT NOTICE: As I mentioned above, I’m putting together a “Best of Childless by Marriage” book from the blog. i am including many of your comments, all anonymous or by first names only. If you have any objection to have those comments in a book, both print and online, please let me know at sufalick@gmail.com, and I will remove them. I don’t want this to be an issue later, so please speak up. Thank you. Many of you are better writers than I am.

Socially distanced hugs to one and all.