Post on man who doesn’t want kids draws strong reaction

 

 Dear friends, 

Sometimes I get comments on posts that appeared here months or even years ago. You may or may not remember what I wrote last August about a friend’s daughter finding herself in a pickle shortly before her wedding when her fiance declared he did not want children. Not fair, I said. What a horrible thing to do to her. The young woman subsequently broke off the engagement and took herself on a tour of Asia instead. Now she’s back home with her new dog Prince. She has gone back in school to finish the education she interrupted to be with this man. 

You can read the original post here: Another Man Drops the No-Kids Bomb

This week, Aaron responded. His words are harsh but include a lot of truth. So I offer his comment in full and encourage you to respond. 

I know it’s a little old now but this post is completely ridiculous.

“What is she supposed to do now?”

Leave him. It’s not complicated. They disagree on a fundamental life decision. The timing is far from ideal but better to end it now than getting divorced later, or him having children he doesn’t want.

“I want to throttle the guy.”

Really? You want to throttle someone you seemingly have never met, over an issue you know almost nothing about? You have no idea what was actually said. For all you (and your friend) know, he made it clear from the start and his fiancee chose to ignore it. I see it all the time on forums; someone posts all weepy about “never getting to have a family” but admits that their partner told them they didn’t want children before they ever got married. They’ll add in some rationalization like “we had a miscommunication” or “I didn’t know he meant never,” but we all know what really happens in most cases: he told her upfront that he never wanted children, she heard it loud and clear, and thought she could change him. That is 100% on her, no sympathy.

“What right does he have to take motherhood away from her?”

Thankfully he doesn’t, and that isn’t what’s happening. She can choose to leave him if she wants to be a mom that badly. Not sure why so many people infantilize women in relationships like this; that’s something else I see all the time. The woman wants marriage, children, etc. and her man is “dragging his feet” or whatever. Everyone talks about how he needs to step up, s*** or get off the pot, let her go… when all they should really be doing is telling her to leave him. Women are adults with their own agency. They shouldn’t be waiting for nor depending on a man’s actions. It’s pretty misogynistic really, and that’s coming from someone who is disgusted by much of modern-day feminism.

“He’s not old, does not have kids from another marriage. So what’s the deal?”

Maybe… he just doesn’t want kids? Like, you know that’s a thing right? Some people just don’t ever want to have children. I’m one of them. You aren’t, and I respect that. And you should similarly respect the choices of others.

I hope I haven’t offended any of you, and I can appreciate that you and many here have been through terrible emotional pain regarding having your own children… but that isn’t an excuse for posting nonsense like this.

Thank you, Aaron, for giving it to us straight. Readers, what do you think? 

For a female view of a similar situation, see this May 2017 post, Should She Stay with Her Boyfriend Who Doesn’t Want Kids? 

 

 

 

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Mother’s Day: Another Stab to the Heart

I thought I could deal with Mother’s Day by now. I mean, I’m 13 years past menopause. It will get easier, I tell my young readers here. Most of the time, it is easier, but not always.

As you may know, I play the piano and lead the choirs at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Newport, Oregon. I share the job with another woman who never had children. For her, it was a conscious choice. I wonder if our not having children gave us both a better chance to pursue our music. Probably.

My friend was scheduled for the Sunday Mass, which got me off the hook for the actual Mother’s Day, but I played the Saturday vigil Mass. It also happened to be First Communion. The church was packed with boys and girls beautifully dressed in white, along with their parents, godparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. It’s a big deal and an honor to be part of it. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it. If only it weren’t Mother’s Day weekend, too.

No problem, I thought. Even when a friend wished me Happy Mother’s Day at the Sign of Peace then started to correct herself as I hastily wished her a Happy Mother’s Day and hurried back to the piano, I was okay. In fact, I was proud of how I had evolved.

But wait.

We have this relatively new and uber-conservative pastor. We got our previous pastor enlightened to the point that on Mother’s Day he honored all women for their nurturing, caring, etc. It was nice. I didn’t feel excluded. But this priest went old school. He asked everyone to sit. Then he asked the mothers to stand. All the women around me rose. There I was, right in front, sitting as the priest stared at me, no doubt thinking I was a big sinner for not having children. He knows nothing about me, has no idea how painful it was as he blessed the mothers. Like a knife, I swear.

It could have been worse. Nobody handed out flowers. Many a year I have played with a misguided carnation on the music stand. But it hurt.

Normally on my Sundays off, I would join friends at another Catholic church and go to brunch with them afterward. Not this week. I couldn’t go through another mother blessing. As for eating out on Mother’s Day, I’m not suicidal. Restaurants would be jammed with mothers and their loving offspring. Everyone would be wishing me happy Mother’s Day. I’d rather eat dog food. I stayed home, washed clothes, did yard work, read, walked the dog and baked cookies—for me!

It’s safe here at the end of the road in the forest. The three houses clustered together are all occupied by people in their 60s and 70s who never had children, just dogs, cats, and a parrot.

So that was my Mother’s Day. Several of you have commented on my last post. How was your weekend? Let us know.

***

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Sally Carr, who died surrounded by friends because she had no family. It turns out some of the facts I reported were wrong. She did have some family, cousins in Philadelphia who were shocked when the State of Oregon contacted them about Sally’s estate. Sally’s parents did not die in a car accident when she was young. They lived to old age, but she chose to separate herself from them. I doubt we’ll ever know why, but this makes the story even sadder. I regret publishing what wasn’t quite true and hope those who knew Sally better than I did will forgive me.

Keep the comments coming and feel free to correct me when I get it wrong.

 

Take the sting out of Mother’s Day

Oy, this Sunday is Mother’s Day again. I have been blogging about this hurting Hallmark holiday for years. Go to the archives, look up the second post every May to read what I wrote.

What can I say this year? Stay off social media until at least next Tuesday. I know, I probably won’t either, but I’m giving you fair warning that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., will be loaded with motherhood posts and pics. I’m already seeing them today. If all those baby pictures and mom tributes make you nuts, go to the little X in the corner of your computer screen and click it. Do whatever you’ve gotta do to silence the madness on your phone or tablet. Just don’t look.

Even in the non-digital world, Mother’s Day is brutal for people who want children and don’t have them. I’m thinking about skipping church because I hear there’s a whole big ceremony planned. Nuh-uh. I’d like to go out to brunch, but I don’t relish the crowds, the flowers and the servers wishing every woman Happy Mother’s Day as if at least one-fifth of us are not mothers and will never be that sweet old lady surrounded by children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

If someone invites you to a Mother’s Day party and you know it will hurt like crazy, don’t go. Tell them honestly how you feel or make up an excuse, but don’t go.

The only way to avoid the whole mess is to either stay home or go somewhere far away from people and media. Squirrels don’t know about Mother’s Day. Seagulls don’t give a rip. A redwood tree stretches toward the sky, oblivious.

One way to make it easier may be to give all your attention to your mother or others who have mothered you in your life. Go back to being the child handing a color-crayoned card to Mom. If your mother, like mine, is not around anymore, find some way to honor her anyway. Light a candle, sing a song, bake a cake.

I had a chance to look through my mother’s old cookbooks last week. Now I have a craving for her Salisbury steak. Maybe I’ll make that on Sunday and bake her chocolate cake with Cool Whip frosting for dessert. Or maybe I’ll just go to the gazebo overlooking the ocean where I used to talk to her when she first died. I can bring her up to date with everything that has happened lately.

In other words, I will make the day about my mother and not about the fact that I am not a mother. Like Secretary Day or Veterans Day, it’s not about me. For some of us, it’s too soon or too painful to think about our lost moms. Find someone else to honor.

I know how hard Mother’s Day is. I used to be the meanest, most miserable person on that day. I’d growl at anyone who wished me a happy Mother’s Day. I’d make my day worse by offending everyone around me. I learned that that doesn’t help. Nor does getting drunk and staying that way until the day is over.

Hang in there, my friends. As my dad likes to say about every holiday, “It’s just another day.”

Here are some things to read about the Mother’s Day dilemma:

“What Mother’s Day Feels Like When You’re Childless” 

“How to Deal with Mother’s Day When Mother’s Day Sucks for You” 

“How to Survive Mother’s Day If You’ve Experienced Adoption or Infertility” 

What are your plans this year?

Facing the children we don’t have

Kids, kids, kids! I made a quick trip to San Jose this week for my dad’s 96th birthday. Everywhere I went, I saw children. In the small town where I live, the average age is over 60. Not having any reason to hang out at schools and other places where children congregate, children are mostly an abstract concept, someone my friends leave town to visit. But wow, get on a plane for San Jose, and you will see children. They were in the airport pushing their tiny pink suitcases, they were on the plane, and they were in the shuttle bus to and from the parking lot. They were also at my aunt’s house, where we gathered for cake with my cousin, his wife, and their little girls age 1 and 3.

I will never know how to relate to children the way my mother did. She had years of practice, and I’m a lot more comfortable with dogs. But I’m getting there. For those readers who can’t bear to be around children because they don’t enjoy them or because they remind them of what they don’t/can’t have, I want to assure you that it gets easier. It’s not the child’s fault that we have this giant baby-sized hole in our heart.

Kids can be annoying. They clamor for attention. They whine. They break things. They disrupt your grownup life bigtime.

But there’s nothing like a little-girl hug. Seriously. And babies are fascinating. They learn and grow so quickly. When they look at you and smile, come on, that’s magic.

On the shuttle to the parking lot back in Portland, I watched a young family board with a ton of paraphernalia and three kids, a baby girl, a boy about 3, and a 13-year-old girl. They all looked just like the mother. At first I was annoyed when they piled their stuff on top of my bag and sat across from me. Then I was amused watching the dad holding the baby, who was just starting to talk.

Then I felt the pain, you know the one, the pain of not having a family of my own. I wanted to weep for lack of those grown children and grandchildren. Why couldn’t’ I have that? I’m sure they had no idea I was going through a whole range of emotions as I sat there holding my purse waiting to get to the W7 section of the parking lot.

Being around kids can be challenging for us. It can cause real pain, but if we stick around, it can also bring joy. We need to be open to that joy.

And then be relieved to walk to the car alone with just one bag and nobody clamoring for food or needing a diaper change. Ah, freedom!

It was a short trip filled with emotion. I hate leaving home, and I hate leaving my dad. I know I’m blessed to still have him. And I was lucky to see my little cousins as well as the big ones. Now it’s just me and Annie again.

Families stir up all kinds of feelings. How are you when you’re around kids? Do you enjoy them, or does it make you feel bad? Do you avoid them? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

For another view of my encounters with children on this trip, read this week’s Unleashed in Oregon blog.

 

With friends, childless won’t die alone

Sally CarrSally Grant Carr seemed to be everywhere. If there was a gallery opening, a rally for peace, a singalong, or a poetry reading, she was there with her big glasses and fluffy white hair. So when about 30 friends gathered Sunday at Café Mundo to celebrate her life, it felt odd that she wasn’t among us.

Sun beamed through the big windows and skylights, lighting up the art on the walls and hanging from the ceiling as people from the various facets of her life settled at the wooden tables in the quirky tree house-like restaurant where Sally used to hang out. Many of us had not known that she died on April 1 until the notice for the Celebration of Life appeared online at newslincolncounty.com. What? Sally gone? No, where is she really?

But a small circle of friends who had sat by her hospital bed around the clock as she finally gave in to a lifelong lung condition were all too aware. Wouldn’t the hospital refuse to let you into intensive care, I asked. Wouldn’t they refuse to tell you anything? One of those friends, a tall woman with a booming voice, said she informed the hospital staff that Sally had no family, and her friends were coming in, whether they liked it or not. “They told us everything,” she said.

Sally’s parents died in a car accident when she was 18. She was married a long time ago, but the marriage ended. She left her home in Connecticut to start fresh on the west coast. She had no children, no siblings, no family at all. The people of Newport, Oregon became her family. That happened because she reached out. She cared. A graphic designer by trade, she got involved at local art galleries, worked with a local book publisher. She came to our monthly writers’ gatherings (and she bought all of my books). She got together with friends for a weekly happy hour party. If she was lonely, she didn’t complain about it.

Friends said she liked to go on late-night drives, loved to watch the moon and stars. She also loved to talk, a brief call or visit often going late into the night.

Perfect? No, she was goofy and sometimes annoying. But now that she’s gone, we miss her.

I last saw Sally at a meeting at the senior center for people who live alone. The object was help us connect with each other and with resources for help. I remember Sally being more concerned about other people’s worries than her own. I suspect that she was somehow involved in that Secret Santa box that arrived on my doorstep shortly before Christmas.

We talked about getting together, but we never did. We should have. I’m not good at reaching out the way Sally was. Now she’s gone. Lesson learned. Take a deep breath and call, text, email, something.

It was a cheerful gathering, full of love for Sally and for each other, now that she has brought us together. We shared our memories, ate cake, and took home photos. Sally was not religious, so there was no church service. I don’t know what happened to her body. I’m sure she had something arranged.

The one jarring note: Her will, written in the 1970s, did no good because everyone named in it died before she did. The state of Oregon is taking over her estate. Can they do that? Yes, they can. Read this. Get your paperwork in order, and keep it up to date. If you end up with no family, you can leave your money and possessions to friends or a favorite charity. Make your wishes known.

Those of us without children worry about ending up alone. That doesn’t have to happen. Not if you have friends. I recently read a book titled One’s Company: Reflections on Living Alone by Barbara Holland. This upbeat, often funny book published in 1992, offers everything from how to make a proper cocktail to how to attract lovers. One of the comments that sticks in my mind is about the value of friends. Children, she notes, are only with us temporarily. In the end, it’s better to have one true friend. Think about that. So often our friends are the ones who really know us, who show up when we need someone.

Sally had friends.

Something to think about as you agonize over whether you’ll be alone if you never have children, especially if your partner divorces you or dies. You’ll be okay.

***********

We have gotten some great comments on last week’s post about foster-adoption. Keep ’em coming.

 

When people assume we have children

I sit in a windowless conference room at a Doubletree Inn listening to yet another speaker talk about finding time to write. Children, especially little ones, seem to be the biggest obstacle for most. So needy, so 24/7. You can get up before sunrise or write late at night. Write while they’re at school or napping. Write in waiting rooms or on the bleachers during their sports events. Hire a babysitter for an hour. Steal whatever time you can.

My mind wanders off. I know all that. I just never needed to worry about it. I never had a baby to take care of. By the time my youngest stepson moved in, he was old enough to take care of himself—and he preferred it that way. In one of my favorite memories, Michael trooped through the house with his friends. As they passed my office, where I was writing, he said, “There’s my mom. She’s a writer.”

Sure, there were school activities, Boy Scouts and such, but they were no big intrusion on my work. I wrote for three different newspapers and worked on the novel du-jour unfettered. Ironically, the walls of my office those first few years of full-time step-motherhood were wallpapered with Care Bears. I suppose the room was intended as a nursery. I enjoyed looking at the bears while I nurtured words instead of babies.

Husbands can be a bigger interruption. They need attention, too, but for me, husband number one was never around, and husband number two found it amusing when I raced off to throw words on paper. He had his own work during the week and on weekends, it was football all day long. When he got sick with Alzheimer’s Disease, finding time was more difficult. I wrote after he went to bed, while he was watching football, or while his caregivers took him to lunch. I talked my stories into a voice recorder in the car. I got it done.

Back at the Doubletree, the speaker drones on and on. He assumes we all have children and spouses to care for, that we are all just like him, but we’re not. We might wish we were, but we didn’t ease into a “normal” family situation like he did. We don’t have family dinners, soccer games, and trips to the beach. We don’t buy school clothes, throw kid birthday parties, or nurse children with chicken pox. It’s just us, writing, and we’d like him to please change the subject.

People assume. A childless Facebook friend recently told about how an older woman started talking to her at a coffee shop. The woman gushed about her six grandchildren, then asked the writer how many grandchildren she had. She had to admit she had none, which brought the conversation to an awkward halt. She found the encounter terribly unsetting. You all would understand. But the grandmother didn’t mean any harm. She just assumed that all women of a certain age have grandchildren.

We don’t. With one out of five of women not having children, there are a lot of us who don’t have grandchildren either. Hey world, stop assuming.

A few days before Easter, I made the mistake of going out to lunch at one of our most popular local diners. It was spring break, and people were lined up waiting for tables. Lots of kids. So many kids. When I went to the restroom, I found myself waiting with a woman in her 30s. We could hear a mom in one of the two stalls talking to her kids. We heard yelling and whining. It took forever. When they came out, the other woman and I stared. She had three girls under the age of four in that little stall.

When the door shut behind them, the woman said, “My worst nightmare.”

I nodded. “Really.” This was not the time to explain my childless situation.

We rushed to use the empty stalls. She probably assumed I was a mom. I assumed she didn’t want children, but when I came out, her husband and son were waiting for her.

Never assume.

The good news is I’m free to write here in my bathrobe for as long as I choose and then share it with you while my dog takes a nap . . . Oops. Here’s the dog, needing attention. Yesterday she chewed half a pen, and I still don’t know where the other half went. Gotta go.

Easter is not just for folks with kids

12470942 - dog holding easter basket with colorful eggs“This Sunday is Easter,” I told my Dad on the phone the other day.

“Is it? Well, it’s just another day for me.”

I resisted the urge to explain the religious significance, which as a Catholic, he ought to know as well as I do. He says the same thing about Christmas and his birthday. Maybe it’s a self-protective mechanism. If he doesn’t expect anything, he won’t be disappointed.

Me, I expect everything, and I’m always disappointed. That’s why it felt easier this year to spend my March 9 birthday at a Best Western in Blythe, California on my way to Tucson. I ate leftover pizza in my room and chocolate lava cake at Denny’s. No candles, no singing, no gifts. Which is exactly what would have happened at home because I don’t have children and grandchildren to gather around on my birthday, just a dog who doesn’t do birthdays.

Anyway, Easter. For Christians, it’s the most important event of the year, commemorating Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. When I was a kid, our daily newspaper would print a full-page picture of a cross, a risen Jesus or a field of lilies with a headline like, “He is risen!” They wouldn’t dare do that now; religion is kept separate from everything else.

I would wake up to Easter baskets sitting on my dresser. The Easter Bunny came during the night! Of course it was my mother, delivering the goodies from herself and my grandparents. Those baskets were full of candy and toys. After a quick look, we all went to Mass, came home to a breakfast of scrambled eggs and linguiça sausage, and dove into the baskets. Soon we were eating the ears off our chocolate bunnies.

Grownups don’t get Easter baskets. If you’re not religious, it looks like Easter is for kids: making color-crayoned pictures of rabbits or papier-mache eggs at school, dyeing hard-boiled eggs, egg hunts at dawn, encounters with adults dressed in rabbit costumes. Candy, toys, parties. Fun!

It’s another one of those holidays that may sting if we don’t have children, especially if we desperately want to have them. Whether you spend a quiet day with adults or watch everyone else’s kids having fun, it can be hard. Hang on. It doesn’t last long.

But there is much to celebrate. Before Easter came about as the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, people celebrated the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It’s a time of rebirth. Out my office window, the robins and jays are back. Daffodils wave their yellow heads. The berry vines are loaded with new green leaves, and the trillium are blooming in the woods. The grass is tall and lush. People may disappoint you, but spring comes every year.

You can tell yourself it’s just another day and try to ignore the whole thing. But why not celebrate? Buy yourself a chocolate bunny. Dye some eggs. Go to church. Or go for a hike. Weep if you must, then go on.

Happy Easter, my friends.

For more information on Easter traditions, click here.