Do You Ever Lie About Your Childless State?

People end up childless for many different reasons. Some are unable to conceive or to carry a baby to term; some don’t want children; some have never met the right partner; some of us are with partners who can’t or don’t want to reproduce; and some of us are just victims of bad timing—when you were young enough, the opportunity wasn’t there, and when the opportunity came along, you were too old. There are all kinds of variations on these themes.

But most of the world sees only that we have deviated from the norm by not having children. I’ve experienced that. People have said, “Oh, you didn’t want kids.” I scrambled to convince them that that was not the case, that I did want children, but it didn’t work out. “Well, then, why did you stay with Fred?” they might ask. Soon I feel as if I’m on trial because I’m not a mother. It’s easier to jump in with a half-truth. “We couldn’t.” “God had other plans.” Or, when I was younger: “We’re working on it.”

We weren’t working on it. We were never going to work on it. Fred had no sperm, thanks to his vasectomy, and he was done with babies. There would be no reversal, adoption, or other work-around. But I didn’t want to get into another 20-questions situation. At baby showers, when people would announce that I would be the next to have a baby, I’d just smile or laugh. I didn’t want to spoil the party.

In the book I just finished reading, Childless Voices by Lorna Gibb, she describes horrible things that are done in some parts of the world to women who don’t produce children. They are shunned, imprisoned, beaten, or banished. (I’ll share more about this next week.) But even in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries, the childless are considered “other,” a weird and foreign species.

Gibb writes: “Western society is predominantly pronatalist and the childless and child-free are often interrogated as to the reason for their state. If it then becomes known that someone is voluntarily childless, they suffer from negative stereotyping and may be regarded as deviant, and treated with disbelief and disregard.”

In other words, we get stink-eye. Even if it’s not our fault, if we are childless because it takes two and we don’t have a willing or able partner.

So my question today is this: Do you find yourself lying or shading the truth about your lack of children to avoid awkward conversations? Why? What do you say? In similar situations, what does your partner say? Does his/her story contradict yours? Let’s talk about this in the comments.

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Forgive me for missing last week. I had a minor medical situation, but it’s all fine now. See my Unleashed in Oregon blog for a most unflattering photo. 🙂

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The Nomo Crones—childless elderwomen—are chatting online again on September 15 as part of World Childless Week. It’s at noon Pacific time. Check the website for information on all the week’s activities happening on Zoom from all over the world. You’re sure to find something that grabs your interest. The sessions will be recorded so you can watch them at your convenience.

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‘Your Fertile Years’ offers eye-opening facts

Your Fertile Years: What You Need to Know to Make Informed Choices by Professor Joyce Harper, Sheldon Press, 2021.

Back in 1969, Dr. David Reuben published a little book titled Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex But Were Afraid to Ask. People couldn’t wait to read it because frankly they were afraid to ask. Joyce Harper, professor of Reproductive Science at University College London and a longtime fertility researcher, has written a 2021 version that includes everything a woman or man could possibly want to know about sex and reproduction. Loaded with research and study results, it’s not easy reading, but here are the facts about menstruation, fertility, how to have good sex, contraceptives, sexually transmitted diseases, how a baby gets made, egg freezing, in vitro fertilization, menopause, and the future of reproductive science–artificial wombs that could be implanted in men?!!! Everyone with reproductive parts should have this book on hand.

Harper, who has three children conceived by IVF, is very frank about age and reproduction. Men are blessed with millions of sperm and keep making them throughout life. Women come with a limited supply and a deadline. If you want to get pregnant the natural way, she says, you should do it before age 35. In your 20s would be even better. To make things worse, she cites studies that show fertility begins to decline at a younger age for women who have not had children.

She writes: “In my view, women need to decide if they want a family in their late twenties to early thirties, and, if they do, they need to make some important life choices. If they have a willing partner, they can decide to start trying soon, or if they have decided on solo motherhood, they may wish to start donor insemination An expensive alternative is to have their eggs frozen. Or they could decide to wait, in the hope that they will be one of the lucky ones.”

Worldwide, young people are delaying childbirth. They are anxious to finish their education and establish their careers. They want to be in a stable relationship, preferably with the house and the picket fence before they attempt to get pregnant. Totally understandable. Times have changed and women have more options, but their ovaries have not changed. Even those who decide to freeze their eggs in the hope that they will find the perfect partner later on are encouraged to do so in their 20s, when their eggs are the most healthy and plentiful.

“Freezing eggs gives women more time to try to find Mr/Ms Right, rather than rush into a relationship with Mr/Ms Second Best. Some of those women who have a partner freeze their eggs to take the pressure of the relationship These women are usually older than the ideal age to freeze eggs, with the majority being over 35,” Harper says.

Couples who run out of natural options can turn to Assisted Reproductive Therapy (ART), which includes IVF, donor insemination, and other techniques. It’s stressful, expensive, and frequently not covered by insurance. In her book, Harper describes all the options in detail, along with the side effects and the odds of success. It’s not something you want to go into without thinking hard about it. How much is that baby worth to you?

Circling back to our theme here at Childless by Marriage, ART is not even an option if your partner doesn’t want a child in the first place.

The biggest lesson of Your Fertile Years is that you need to decide early how important it is to you to have children. If you can’t imagine life without them, you need to take action, whether it’s convincing your partner that you can’t wait, finding someone else to donate sperm or egg, freezing your eggs, or ending a childless relationship in the hope of finding someone new who wants to have children as much as you do.

This book goes way beyond having babies. Even if you decide not to have children, it offers extremely useful information about periods, PMS, birth control, STDs, and more, all that stuff your mom probably never told you. I know mine didn’t. Thank God for books.

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My interview at the UnRipe podcast with Jo Vraca is online now. Listen to it here. Jo asked some hard questions. At the end, you hear a woman singing in the background. That’s me.

Our Nomo Crone Childless Elderwomen fireside chat last Sunday went very well. We are some rowdy ladies, all proof there is life beyond age 55, even if you never had children. Here’s the link to listen to the recording.

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Should She Marry Him if His Kids Hate Her?

Some posts just go on and on. Back on Oct. 23, 2021, I posted “Stepchildren Add Stress to Childless Marriages.” Clearly that was an understatement because the comments flooded in, and they keep coming. The one I received last week from “The Struggle is Real,” in response to a Jan. 10, 2017 comment by Struggling Stepmom, was so passionate, I decided to feature it this week. The comment has been edited for length.

To StrugglingStepmom,

This response may only come in four years too late and so I don’t know what situation you are in now, but I am in your situation right now (more or less) . . . and it is pretty painful.

I have been in a seven-year relationship with my partner, and he has two daughters from his previous marriage. The children live with their mother but come to our home every second weekend and during school holidays. His ex has disliked me from the start and has always called me names. I thought that would fade over time, but it hasn’t. I never knew why she hated me. I met my partner about a year after they broke up. Her hatred towards me continues, and she has always tried to influence the kids by saying things like, “Your father prefers his girlfriend over you.”

Lately the youngest daughter, a teenager, is going through a rebellious phase. She acts rudely towards her father and me. I once disciplined her, and it did not go down well (I never laid hands on her, I just lost my patience and started raising my voice and putting her stuff that was thrown all around the floor into the bin because she wouldn’t clean up her room). In hindsight, I probably should have left this task to my partner, as she is not my child. But my partner is so relaxed and he always takes the backseat in this whole parenting game. He is not great at communicating (like most men), and he always just ends up telling her off and yelling at her instead of trying to explain things to her. It’s like he almost doesn’t know when to explain and talk to the child calmly and when to get angry and set boundaries. This really frustrates me at times.

I have set some house rules for when they are here, but they continually try to test our boundaries and break these rules. Because the whole disciplining thing did not go down well that other time, I have tried to get my partner to be more proactive at disciplining them. The kids of course still don’t like it, and they test their father all the time. I think they feel that their father would be more chilled and relaxed if I wasn’t in the picture.

Their father is really busy at work, and given COVID, I have been working from home. He is more than happy to leave the children under my care when he is at work. I feel that if I’m in charge of them, then perhaps I should be entitled to disciplining them to a degree. After all, if they act rude or say rude things to me, and all I can do is shut my mouth and wait until my partner comes home, then they have even less respect for me. They see that I can’t even fight my own battles. That is the logic that I thought of, anyway.

Because of what happened when I tried to discipline her, his daughter hates me. She tries to ignore me when she’s here. She only talks to me when she wants something. She’s not interested in having conversations or chitchats and she seems to always be in a bad mood (maybe she’s going through puberty as well. Not sure). She also doesn’t talk to her dad as much and resists hugs and kisses from him.

I have never overstepped the boundaries or treated her in a rude and selfish manner. I organize everything, from Father’s Day to the children’s birthdays to Christmas. But like a lot of people here have said, they just don’t appreciate it and they don’t see you as someone that they want in their lives. A lot of things go by without thank you’s, and I certainly would never get a happy Mother’s Day card.

My partner and I are now engaged, and we are planning our wedding. However, deep in my heart I have doubts about the future. I feel that his daughters are forever trying to tear us apart, and that all they ever want is to have their father all to themselves and for me to be out of the picture. This is of course supported by their mother, who hates me beyond anything and therefore encourages them to behave even worse. I feel really disheartened and afraid of what’s next. I also worry about whether I should marry a man when his children do not like me. I feel incomplete, and I feel like I should only marry him if his children and I get along beautifully, but that is probably never ever going to happen. I love my partner to bits, but I don’t want a dysfunctional family where everyone pretends everything is great on the surface but hates each other deep down. As I’m planning the wedding, these questions and concerns are becoming more concrete in my head. I always thought I’d stay with him in the long haul, with or without the marriage. But now it is becoming a real concern. Maybe I am just channeling my bridezilla? I don’t really know anymore. What do I do? Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.

Well readers, what do you say? Things might get better as the kids get older, but they might not? I welcome your comments.

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Guess what? The Kindle version of Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both will be on sale for only 99 cents next week. Visit the Childless by Marriage Facebook page after March 6 for details.

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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.