Writers tackle misunderstandings between those with and without children

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

TMI? How Much Should We Tell People?

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

Childlessness looks different when you’re pushing 90

Seniors have a different take on childlessness than people in their 20s, 30s or 40s. For one thing, menopause has occurred and pregnancy is no longer a possibility. For another, they know how the story turned out.
I gave a talk about my Childless by Marriage book on Sunday at the local Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. It was such a pleasant experience I’m tempted to drop in again soon. They meet in the upstairs classroom of the Newport Visual Arts Center. The big windows look out on Nye Beach, with the Yaquina Head lighthouse visible to the north. Even on a stormy day, when everything is gray and white, the view is stunning and surely inspires the many artists who leave their paint splatters on the tables and floors.
At 60, I may have been the youngest person there. The oldest was 90.The meeting was an interesting blend of morning coffee and snacks, music, meditation, readings, sharing of concerns, and me.
As I told my story and read excerpts from my book, the audience reacted with nods, oohs and laughs, and when I opened up the discussion, they had plenty to say. Nearly everyone in the room had children. A few had adopted children. Only half had grandchildren. One said her only child, a daughter, died when she was 16.
These lovely elders, several with accents from far away, one lady nearly blind, said they didn’t have much choice when they were young. You got married and had children. If you were physically unable, you adopted. Now their own children and grandchildren are making different choices. They don’t begrudge them these choices, if that’s what they want to do. It’s good that young people have more choices now. A few recalled the days when you couldn’t be a teacher or a stewardess if you were married or had children. Women worked for a few years as teachers or nurses, then retired to become moms.
A few reminded me of ZPG, the zero population growth movement that became popular in the 1960s. It stemmed from The Population Bomb, a book by Paul Ehrlich, which predicted that the human race would destroy itself and the earth if it didn’t stop having so many children. Some people did decide then not to procreate. With birth control coming on the scene, many had fewer children than the generations before.
I talked about how people ask why we don’t have children and shared some of the answers people give: “It wasn’t God’s plan.” “I didn’t want them.” “Ask my husband.” “It just happened.” The Unitarians couldn’t believe anyone would be rude enough to ask. It’s none of their business, they said, and they would not dignify the question with an answer.
We talked about old age without children. If we don’t have children, who will take care of us? Will we be all alone? As I have heard so many times, they scoffed at the idea that one’s children will be around when one needs help. Where we live on the Oregon coast is a long hard drive from any major city. Most young people move away to go to school and get jobs elsewhere. They can’t come back to hold our hands.
Whether or not we have children is almost irrelevant, they said. We need to reach out to friends to help us. If we have enough money, we can buy our way into senior communities, assisted living institutions and the like, but we can’t count on our kids. We need to count on each other.
Finally, someone commented that there seems to be a stigma attached to not having children. People don’t talk about it much. But for that hour with the Unitarians, with the ocean gently moving in and out in the background, we did talk about it, and it felt good.