Have Non-Parents Failed at Life? Definitely Not

If you’re not a mother, what are you? Years ago, I faced this question from a 4-year-old at a Montessori School where I was taking pictures for the newspaper. If I was not a teacher or a mommy, what was I? She didn’t understand when I explained that I was a newspaper reporter. In her world, all women were either teachers or mothers. It’s a question that continues to come up for those of us who have not had babies. 

Jody Day looked at this phenomenon in her recent Tedx Talk, “Social Plankton: Why Single Non-Mothers are the Fuel of the Future.” Most of us here at Childless by Marriage are not single, but much of what she said still applies. For example, she asked what other terms of respect do we have for older women besides “grandmother.” Well, um, hmm. 

Until life got in the way, I hoped to be “Professor” or “Doctor.” What else do we have? Director? President? Boss? But what if we are just regular people who happen to have never had children? 

As Jody Day says, we still have great value to society. Although she was specifically speaking about single women and not men at all, look at what non-parents can do:

  • It takes a village to raise a child. We are part of that village as sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, friends, role models, and helpers.
  • Because we are not taking care of children, we have time to be more involved in our communities, doing the volunteer work that parents cannot.
  • We are the ‘backbone” of many organizations. For example, I have led several writers’ organizations, been a teacher, and a church choir director. 
  • We serve as society’s “elderwomen” and “eldermen,” source of memories, skills, and wisdom.
  • We offer loving hearts and extra hands.  

In some circles, Day noted, childless women are considered failed women because they did not live out their biological mandate to procreate. While we may grieve the loss of the life we had planned and the children we might have had, we are not failures. 

I have just finished reading a book by Kamalamani aka Emma Palmer titled Other Than Mother: Choosing Childlessness with Life in Mind. I will write more about this fascinating book next week, but she has some encouraging words about the topic at hand. “What is increasingly clear to me is that the life work of each of us is to find out what to do with the time and health we have available to us. I do not think that we are all on the planet to have children. In fact, I am starting to wonder whether in our generation, a growing minority of us are here to start to redress the attention we pay to our relationship with the earth and other elements, and our effect on them as a human specifies, rather than creating more new lives.”

Kamalamani quotes Jane Barrett in Will You Be a Mother? Women Who Choose to Say No: “The space in the childfree woman’s life is not empty and barren, but full of potential.” 

We may consider ourselves “childless” rather than  “childfree,” but you get the idea. If we don’t have children, all is not lost. It’s not the life you planned, but your life is still important and of value. 

You can listen to Jody Day’s Tedx talk here

I welcome your comments. 

***

I placed in a poetry contest recently and won an invitation to a national competition in Florida. Yes, I am pleased. But as the director started talking about the accommodations where we’ll be staying and how my kids will love it, I thought, oh no, not again. Should I explain that I will be coming alone because I don’t have any children or just let it go? I let it go. We were having such a nice talk up till then, and I will enjoy the dinosaur-shaped swimming pool as much as any child would. 

Mother’s Day is coming. Our priest is already talking about the pancake breakfast and how the church will honor all the mothers. Grit your teeth. Here it comes again.  

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How Young is Too Young for a Vasectomy?

Why are men as young as 18 trying to get vasectomies? They’re not even old enough to drink legally, at least in the U.S., yet they are already sure they don’t want children. What gives?

An article at sbs.com in Australia follows the case of Matthew, who underwent a vasectomy at age 21. He had been trying for three years to convince a doctor to perform the procedure. Wait until you’re older, he was told.

The Chicago Tribune offers a similar story of a tattoo artist who got his vasectomy at 27. The thought of getting a woman pregnant was “the scariest thing in the world.” He said he’s long known he doesn’t want to be a father, and he didn’t want to take any chances.

“[Between 2020 and 2021,] there’s been close to a 20 percent increase in the number of childless men under 30 requesting vasectomies . . . it’s getting to the point where once or twice a year we have a list where half the men getting vasectomies are childless,” reported Dr. Justin Low from Australia.

While most commonly, vasectomies are done on men who have had all the children they want, doctors are getting more and more requests from men in their 20s who are childless and want to stay that way.

In the U.S., as in Australia, any male age 18 or older can legally obtain a vasectomy, but doctors will try to talk them into waiting. They are reluctant to operate on people under 30 because of the high rate of reversal requests in this group. Men have just as much of a right to choose as women do, but no one can predict the future. They may change their minds or meet someone who wants to have children and discover that the vasectomy is a deal breaker.

Even for men who have already fathered children, the future could bring divorce and remarriage to a woman who is still waiting for her chance to be a mother (my situation and many of yours).

Five years after his vasectomy, Matthew has a woman in his life, and they want to have children. He is hoping to have his vasectomy reversed. There’s no guarantee it will work. The longer it has been, the worse the odds, 76 percent after three years, going down to 30 percent after 15 years.

Sperm is still available in the testes. In theory, it could be directly retrieved and used in artificial insemination, although that is a tricky and costly procedure.

But men shouldn’t count on being able to change their minds. “We want men to look at vasectomy as a permanent solution,” said Dr. Chris Gonzalez, a urologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

Why are such young men so anxious to be “snipped”? All the usual reasons we hear from partners who don’t want children: work, money, freedom, the effect on their relationship, fear, worry about passing on physical or mental problems, concern about the planet and overpopulation. Or they just don’t like kids. They don’t want any babies, and they don’t want to deal with birth control.

Men aren’t the only ones. Young women who are sure they don’t want children seek tubal ligation surgery to end the possibility of pregnancy. As with the young men, their doctors urge them to wait a while before taking this step which will affect their entire lives and the lives of their future partners.

Those of us who have lived a few more years look back and realize how little we knew and understood about life when we were in our teens and 20s.

It bothers me that people would want to be permanently sterilized at such a young age. Why does my midnight mind keep wandering to dogs and cats and the way we get them “fixed,” as if they were broken, to avoid being overrun with puppies and kittens? But with young people, it’s their bodies and they have a right to do what they want with them.

As someone who married a father of three who’d had a vasectomy in his 40s, unwittingly ending my chance at motherhood, I want to scream, “No! Wait. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”

We have certainly heard from women here in that situation, including some who learned about the vasectomy after they were married. Oh, by the way . . . [see “What If the Man Has Had a Vasectomy?” and “He Forgot to Mention His Vasectomy”.]

But I’m an older woman and also Catholic, so I admit I’m biased. Readers, what do you think about this? Are you dealing with a vasectomy situation? Did you know early in your relationship? Men, if you have had a vasectomy, when and why did you do it? Any regrets? Do you think an 18-year-old or a 25-year-old is mature enough to make this decision?

A little more reading on the subject: https://www.socalurologyinstitute.com/blog/Vasectomy-Age-Requirements-Am-I-Too-Young.html

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Forgive my tardiness this week. Mix Holy Week church music, events I’m running for National Poetry Month, and a new weekly physical therapy appointment on Wednesdays, and the blog may well be delayed for the next few weeks, but it will come.

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This Sunday is Easter. For me, it’s about Jesus rising from the dead and the end of my Lenten cookie fast, but for parents, it seems to be all about bunnies, Easter baskets, and Easter egg hunts. Kid stuff. You may be roped into some of that this weekend. Try to find whatever fun you can out in it. Don’t drive yourself crazy comparing your life to that of friends and family with kids.

You can also excuse yourself and do your own thing. My plan is to go to church, then come home and bake cookies, walk and read in the sun if the weather cooperates, watch a movie if it rains, and make myself some enchiladas for dinner. Do what works for you.  

Happy Easter and Happy Spring to all of you.

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How Do You Talk About the Baby Thing Without a Fight?

Last week I told you about the book I was reading, Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy. Cathy’s husband Neil had announced he didn’t want any children. In fact, he insisted they had agreed on that. No, they hadn’t. She was willing to wait a few years, but she did expect to have children eventually.

What happened? She got pregnant. He was furious. He wanted her to have an abortion. What happened to his belief in a woman’s right to choose, she asked. She chose not to terminate the pregnancy.  

At 14 weeks, she had a miscarriage. Her husband tried not to be smug about it, but he was clearly relieved. What about future babies? Well, by then, their marriage was falling apart. The baby issue wasn’t the only one where he made rulings instead of asking what she wanted. By the end, they couldn’t have a civil conversation.

Finally, trying to save the marriage, he said, okay, you can have a baby. But it was too late. Cathy left him. He took a job in Africa that he had wanted all along. Meanwhile, Cathy’s work partner Tom had dumped his girlfriend. Soon he and Cathy were getting cozy. They will probably get married and have a dozen kids who will all grow up to work in their catering business.

But this is fiction. Cathy left the guy who didn’t want kids and fell into a relationship with the real Mr. Right, who can’t wait to be a dad. I suppose it could happen. But can we count on it?

For hundreds of pages, Cathy and Neil couldn’t seem to talk about their issues. They were both too busy at work, and neither one wanted to risk an argument. So Neil assumed they were on the same page about kids when they weren’t. Cathy was afraid to stand up for her right to be a mom. When she got pregnant, she put off telling him until people were starting to guess. There were so many issues where he wanted A and she wanted B, and neither would compromise. He didn’t respect her work, and she didn’t trust him not to cheat on her. They kept saying they loved each other, but was that enough? Not for Cathy and Neil.

What lessons can we learn here? Couples have to talk about the important issues. Even if it’s difficult, even if the other person keeps changing the subject, even if you’re both so busy you can’t see straight, you have to have do it. That includes discussing whether or not you will have children and when, what you will do if the woman falls pregnant when it’s not planned, and what you will do if you have trouble getting pregnant. I know it’s hard. Some people clam up when it comes to feelings and touchy issues, but it has to be addressed. This applies to living arrangements, work, and other big choices, too. When you’re a couple, one person is not supposed to make all the decisions.

How do you do it? People don’t react well to ultimatums or whining or accusations. Perhaps it’s a matter of asking questions and really listening to the answers. Why is this so important to you? What are you afraid of? Could you give in on this issue because it’s so important to me? In some cases, an intermediary, a counselor, a priest, a friend, might be needed. But I would hope if you’re really in love, you can find a way to have those important talks and check back in occasionally to see whether you both still feel the same way. Don’t be like Cathy and Neil. Find the time to talk.

Some helpful websites:

“How the 5-5-5 Method Helps Married Couples Work Through Conflict”

“10 Tips for Resolving Relationship Conflicts”

“7 Ways Happy Couples Deal with Disagreements Differently”

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Money or family? Which Would You Choose?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

At church last Sunday, Father Joseph posed a question: If you could have $10 million or a happy family with a loving partner, kids and grandkids, which would you choose? While some of the parishioners hesitated or sheepishly said they would take the money, I knew I would choose the family. I have enough money, but I don’t have the family. Just last night, I had a meltdown because I felt so alone. I have no family anywhere nearby and those from afar rarely connect with me in any way. I have great friends, a church family I treasure, but people who look like me and come from the same roots, not so much.

I’d take a little of that $10 million for security in old age, but what would I do with the rest of it? I’d probably give it away, either in life, or in my will after I die. Show me the money? No. Show me the family.

Which would you choose? Is there a possible compromise? Give me just one million and a couple of children? That would be good, wouldn’t it?

A while back on Facebook, someone asked: What is the most precious thing you have in your life? What is more valuable to you than any amount of money? One person after another named their children and grandchildren. Many cited their husband or wife. What would I say? My piano? I could always get another one. My dog? There will never be another Annie, but I could go to the shelter and adopt another dog right now. My work? It’s hard to hug a computer or a book.

Father Joseph would say his most precious thing is his relationship with the Lord (And then his dogs Ally and Bailey). He would like us all to say the same thing. I’m trying to get there. Religion aside, I have my life, health, work, Annie, friends, and that extended family I see once in a great while. My memories are precious, too.

Without children, we don’t have that standard knee-jerk answer. Most precious thing? We have to dig a little deeper.

What would you say? What is the most precious thing in your life? If there’s time to change your situation and add children to the list, what are you going to do about it?

Please share in the comments. Let’s help each other work it out.

***

In the book I’m reading, Maeve Binchy’s Scarlet Feather, Cathy’s husband Neil just declared that children would ruin their busy lives and he has no intention of having any. What is Cathy going to do about that? Stay tuned. How refreshing to read a book where children are not assumed. Binchy was childless herself, due to health problems. I’ll let you know how she resolves the situation in the novel. It’s 501 pages long, and I have about 350 pages left to read.

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Is Childlessness by Marriage Not the Same as ‘Real’ Childlessness? 

“Imposter syndrome” is a phrase that gets tossed around a lot these days. In my understanding, it means you don’t feel qualified for the thing you are doing. For example, I would be suffering from it if I believed I wasn’t a good enough writer to be published, even though I have been published many times. 

Says “Very Well Mind”: “To put it simply, imposter syndrome is the experience of feeling like a phony—you feel as though at any moment you are going to be found out as a fraud—like you don’t belong where you are, and you only got there through dumb luck.”

Some of us probably feel this way in our careers. When I play the piano at church, I expect someone to figure out that I don’t have much training and leave out a lot of notes because I can’t play them all without my fingers getting tangled up. It hasn’t happened so far. I get lots of praise, but I know, and God knows. 

But how does this apply to being childless, particularly childless by marriage? Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos, author of Silent Sorority, talked about it at our Childless Elderwomen fireside chat last Sunday. (You can watch the video here if you missed it). I hadn’t thought about it before, but I realized I had felt that.  Here are some ways we might be feeling like phonies and fear being caught:

  1. You’re in a gathering where most people are parents. They’re chatting about their kids, school, sports, whatever. You’re nodding, adding a comment here and there. But you just know any minute someone is going to ask how many children you have and you’ll have to confess you don’t have any. Busted!
  2. You’re hanging out with friends who don’t have children because they never wanted them. You agree about the freedom, spare time, and extra cash it gives you. But you’re faking it. You would gladly give up your time and money to have someone call you “Mom” or “Dad.” 
  3. You’re talking with people who are physically unable to have children, sharing the yearning and grief, but you know you are not infertile, that if you had chosen a different partner, you could have had all the kids you wanted. So what right do you have to complain? 
  4. Your partner has children, making you a stepparent, legally or in practice. How can you call yourself childless? 

Are we phonies? Are we imposters? No. Our grief is real. We had a dream of how our lives would be, and we lost that dream. For one reason or another, we did not create life. Maybe it was our choice of a partner. Maybe it was just bad timing.

I can’t imagine the pain of infertility, often coupled with multiple miscarriages. And yes, I do enjoy the freedom I have. My husband shared his children with me. Although it was not the same as having my own, it was a little like having kids–for a while. But I still ache for those children and grandchildren I will never have. I am not an imposter, and neither are you. 

The subject of Sunday’s chat was the blurred line between being childless and childfree. We have more in common than you might think. Nosy questions, rude comments, feeling left out, fear of old age alone, we all experience that. It’s a continuum, and we’re all on it. 

Your truth, whatever it is, is real and valid. You are not a phony. 

I welcome your thoughts in the comments. 

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Are You Giving Up or Have You Had Enough?

What’s the difference between giving up and deciding you’ve had enough? Sheri Johnson addressed that question at her “Awakening Worth” podcast recently. Johnson, a Canadian mindfulness coach who struggled with infertility, offers an extensive program for people trying to figure out life without children. Many of her points in this podcast can be applied to our childless-by-marriage situation.

The main difference between giving up and deciding you’ve had enough comes down to fear, she says. You give up out of fear, fear of regret for not doing more, fear that if you did have a baby you would regret it, fear of judgment from other people—why did she stay with him? Why didn’t he stick with her?

We may give up out of fear that we’ll end up alone. What if you leave him and never find anyone else? What if you try to have a baby on your own and it doesn’t work? What if the adoption falls through? What if you push too hard and he/she leaves you? What will people say if you never have children or grandchildren?

“Giving up is quitting because of fear. It’s quitting before you can fail.” It’s an act of self-preservation, Johnson says.

Deciding you’ve “had enough” is the other side of the coin. It’s an act of self-care. You have reached your end point. In her case, it was stopping fertility treatments. For someone else, it might be deciding that you need to end your relationship or that you will choose childlessness because your relationship is too precious to give up. It takes courage, tons of courage to say, “This is what I need to do for myself,” no matter what anyone else thinks.

What do you think? Are you giving up or deciding you’ve had enough? Is the question even valid in your situation? Are you not ready to make a permanent decision either way? Let’s talk about it.

You can read Johnson’s views on the subject at her website, https://sherijohnson.ca/54/. You can find more podcasts and writings about childlessness and “worth,” along with various services and things to buy. She offers a free “worthiness” quiz you can take. You can also find her on Instagram at awakening.worth.

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The “Nomo Crones” are meeting again. This international group of childless elderwomen led by Gateway Women’s Jody Day will meet via Zoom on Sunday to talk about being childless vs. childfree. It’s a subject we discussed here in January, but there’s so much more to say. For those of us who are childless by marriage, I think the line between choice and non-choice is always a little hazy. If we had chosen another partner, we might not be childless. Register at bit.ly/nomo-binary, and tune in at whatever time fits your zone. It’s noon Oregon time, 8 p.m. in the UK. I would love to “see” you there. You will not be on camera, so don’t worry about blowing your anonymity, if that’s a concern. You will be able to talk to us in the “chat.” Join us, and let us know what you think. If you’re not a “crone” yet, even better. We need to hear from all ages.

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Does Not Having Children Make Us Younger Than Our Years?

Today is my birthday. I’m 70 years old. OMG, right? What can I possibly share with readers so much younger than I am? But I don’t think or feel as old as that number seems to signify. I know I’m not young. I know I have lived many lives, but in my heart I start fresh every day.

My younger brother talks like he’s minutes from the nursing home and the grave. I adore my brother, but I want to smack him and say, “You’re too young to be so old!” Does he feel older because he has adult children and grandchildren? I have seen this in other parents, too. Are the rumors that childless people are immature true?

When I was researching my Childless by Marriage book, I asked people if they thought not having children made us less mature than parents. The answers varied from “They’re the immature ones” to “I refuse to grow up.” Having children is certainly not the only way to learn the lessons of life. By my age, most of us have experienced caregiving and loss with their parents and other family members. That stuff grows you up in a hurry. The grief of the growing list of losses, including the children we never had, can eat you up if you let it. All we can do is have a good cry and move on.

My childless friends seem more youthful and more active. Why? Is it that we have missed the milestones of graduations, weddings (and divorces), and grandbabies being born? Maybe we have simply had more time to take care of ourselves. Maybe we don’t have anyone to remind us that we’re the older generation and the kids are the new and improved model. What do you think? Does not having children make us less mature?

Another aspect of having a milestone birthday with no children or grandchildren is you may not have any family around to help you celebrate. When my aunt turned 70, her children threw her a huge party. I knew that wouldn’t happen for me this year. Even with kids, COVID might have prevented it. I have spent some sad birthdays alone, and I was determined not to do that this year. I stewed about this a lot, then woke up one day with a plan. 

I went to church this morning, Catholics offering Mass almost every day. I thought it was good to bring God into the celebration. Then I went on a hike on a section of the Oregon Coast Trail that’s known around here as the 804 Trail. It follows a rocky coastline with wild waves and stunning views. The path was muddy and the air was drizzly, but I enjoyed it, happily greeting the people and dogs I passed, feeling strong and free. 

Afterward, I parked by the Alsea River outside Waldport and played my recorder, badly, just because I wanted to. I followed that by having a 2 ½-hour lunch with friends whom I invited to the restaurant of my choice, the Salty Dawg. It’s downhome and friendly, and I like it. The waitress sang happy birthday, a friend gave me flowers, and I pigged out on a Reuben sandwich, fries, and chocolate lava cake. I had so much sugar and caffeine I may never sleep. But it’s my birthday, and I did it my way.

Back at home, I took the dog on a long walk, talked on the phone with family and friends and enjoyed an online poetry reading. You do you, the obnoxious saying goes. I did me. As a childless woman with no one taking over my day, I was free to do that. 

Do I feel 70? No. Well, my knees do, and my hair is graying very quickly now. But otherwise, no, I feel the same as I did at 40, 50, 60, and yesterday. 

Not having offspring to celebrate your special days is both sad and wonderful at the same time. Yes, it would be nice having a daughter bake me a birthday cake, maybe have grandchildren singing to me in their squeaky voices or helping me blow out the candles. But I was able to take charge of my own birthday and do it my way. I choose to be happy about that.

I welcome your comments. Know that I treasure your presence. 

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Stranger in the Strange Land of the Parent-People

Do you ever think about talking to mothers and fathers as a journey to another country where you don’t speak the same language? 

I was tilted back in the dentist chair yesterday while the hygienist scraped my teeth, and she started talking about kids. She’s a new hygienist, but her predecessors all talked about their kids, too. I don’t think I ever met one who wasn’t a mom. The mom-talk used to annoy me, but this time it didn’t.

One of the patients who passed by our cubicle was a girl, Izzy, whose basketball team was playing that night against the hygienist’s daughter’s team. She has known this girl since she was so little she couldn’t get the ball up high enough to go through the hoop, but now she’s four years older and a skilled player. Izzy’s team was likely to trounce her daughter’s team, but she was looking forward to attending the game and cheering both girls on. 

Hmm, I thought as she moved from inside my bottom teeth to outside, where they’re extra close together. This is interesting stuff that I know nothing about. When she paused to let me rinse, I asked how many kids she had. She has three, two girls, ages 10 and 12, and a four-year-old boy. The girls play a lot of sports. From basketball, they will go into volleyball and softball, and my hygienist and her husband will spend most of their off-work time going to games. They want to get the boy into T-ball but don’t know how they will find the extra time. 

Clearly their children dominate their lives. My parents weren’t like that. If we wanted to do something that required their time, they said no. They had their own things to do.

But for a lot of parents these days, it’s all about the kids, and everybody at the dentist’s office seemed to have them. As the scraping moved on to my upper teeth, I heard the word Mom a lot from another room. I overheard the dentist talking a boy through his first Novocaine shot. A dad himself, he told me later that he wants to make sure kids aren’t traumatized by their early dentist visits. 

Surrounded by parent-people, I felt like an anthropologist who had come upon a civilization completely distinct from her own. It was so intriguing, I was surprised to realize the hygienist had finished scraping and was polishing my teeth with minty toothpaste. We were almost done.

I didn’t feel any personal lack or grief or annoyance, just a welcome distraction from the assault on my teeth. My life has no children in it, especially in these COVID days when I rarely go places where children might be. I spend my weekends with church, house-cleaning, yard work, movies, and dog walks. I was an alien asking, “Tell me about your people, who seem very different from mine.”

It took me years to get past the anger, grief, and resentment that dogged me in my 40s and 50s,  but these days, I find children and parents fascinating. I’m not aching to join them anymore, but I watch with interest. 

Do I feel left out sometimes? Sure. Do I wish I had grown children to help me with things I can’t do alone and to put on my forms as emergency contacts? Definitely. But that’s not how it turned out, so I’ll pay the occasional visit to the land of children and parents then return to my own land, where we take care of dogs and cats and maybe write books or play the piano. It’s not the place I expected to live, but it’s a very good place.

The best part of this visit? Nobody asked me how many children I had. I was dreading that question. 

How do you feel when others talk about their child-filled lives? Do you think you will ever reach a point where it doesn’t bother you? If not, is there still time to change your situation?

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Is It Possible We’re Childless by Ambivalence?

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

Katherine Baldwin says she is childless by ambivalence. A former journalist turned relationship coach and author of the book How to Fall in Love, she says she was always of two minds about having children. Growing up, she got a negative view of motherhood. For her single mother, having children seemed to be a terrible burden that took away all her dreams. 

Baldwin chose her career instead. “For the first, say, 34 years of my life, I wasn’t in the slightest bit interested in having children. I didn’t feel a yearning. I didn’t make a space in my life to think about them or plan for them. I was too busy traveling and focusing on my career.” 

It wasn’t until she found herself in a good relationship with a man that she began to think about settling down with a husband and children. That relationship ended, but she was now ambivalent about motherhood. Some days she wanted it, other days not so much. Does that sound familiar to any of you?. 

Ambivalence is a big word. My Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines it as “simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings” or “continual fluctuation between one thing and its opposite.” In plain English, you keep changing your mind. You have two choices and don’t want to let go of either one.

In her book, Baldwin describes how she was ambivalent about everything in life, and that’s one of the reasons she was in her 40s before she found a relationship she could stick with. She broke up with that man several times before making a commitment to live with him and then to marry him. What was scaring her away? He did not want to have children. And she was . . . ambivalent.They kept coming back together. At 42, she decided to set aside her baby dreams. She was getting a bit old and had never been certain about motherhood anyway. She chose the relationship, knowing it meant remaining childless. And they are happy together.

That’s that, right? No. In a recent interview on the One in Five podcast, she said she still grieves the loss of children. “When in my stages of grief, I wish that we had tried.” She wonders if they might have had kids if they had met 10 years earlier. But most days, she accepts things as they are. “I try to live by the idea that I want what I have.” She urges her clients to do the same. Make a choice and learn to accept what we have, knowing that we did the best we could at the time. 

Baldwin goes into her story in more detail in her book and in a post at her blog, From Forty with Love. The post is quite long, but I encourage you to read it. 

At this blog, we talk about being childless by marriage, but I wonder if many of us are, like  Baldwin, childless by ambivalence. If I’m being totally honest, I know that I am. I was fairly broody during my first marriage, back when I had this idyllic picture of being a stay-at-home mom who writes books. But by the time I met Fred, work had become a major factor in my life. Asked to give up my writing or my music, I would have responded with a solid “Hell no.” But asked to give up babies? I was never directly asked, but my answer would have been, “I don’t know.” Maybe I assumed the step-children would be enough. But instead of devoting myself to them, I kept working, kept singing and playing,  and enrolled in graduate school. When would I have had time to raise children? Yet I wept and ranted about the unfairness of not being a mother. I was, and still am, ambivalent.

It would seem that if a person was absolutely sure they wanted children, they wouldn’t commit to a partner who refuses to have them or who won’t give a straight answer about it, who keeps them hoping they will change their mind. The kids/no kids question would be a deal-breaker. And yet, who wants to be alone? Who wants to leave an otherwise perfect relationship because of this one thing?  

Maybe we’re all ambivalent. 

What do you think? Are you of two minds about motherhood or fatherhood? What is keeping you from making one definite choice? Please comment. I’d love to know what you think.

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Tickle Your Ears with These Podcasts About Childlessness

Dear readers,

Podcasts abound on just about every subject, including childlessness. I often use them as sources for this blog, and today I’m going to share a few. I find most of them via https://www.listennotes.com, which is an inexpensive service that allows you to plug in any topic and get a list of podcasts on the subject. You can also go to Apple or Spotify for similar results.

Geeta Pendse: 1in5 Podcast

Most recently, I listened to the brand new 1in5 Podcast. It covers all sides of leading a life without children, whether by choice or by circumstance.” Host Geeta Pendse plans to explore a range of subjects, including the pressures of social expectations, the biological clock, infertility, ambivalence around parenthood and embracing a life without kids, in whatever shape that comes.

Civilla Morgan: Childless Not by Choice

I can testify that I find Civilla’s voice soothing and her interviews enlightening.

“The Childless not by Choice Podcast is the story of an entire segment of society that goes largely ignored and misunderstood as we live and sometimes hide, in plain sight. I lived that story. I am living the story. Childless not by Choice is a podcast about the woman and man who wanted but could not have children. Of course, I invite everyone to listen. Because this is also a podcast that was created to bring awareness and conversation. It is a message for everyone: we are all walking the journey called life. But our paths are not the same. When we realize this, our minds will open up to the realization that we can treat each other with understanding, empathy, and grace, regardless of our journey, our paths.”

Jody Day: Gateway Women podcasts

Jody Day, who is frequently interviewed on other people’s podcasts, also conducts her own podcast interviews of other people, as well as hosting the quarterly Nomo Crones Childless Elderwomen chats that I have participated in. Find a wealth of listening pleasure at her Gateway-Women site.

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Robin Hadley: podcasts about childless men

Remember our discussion last week about childless men? Robin Hadley, who sparked that post, has a great list of podcasts on his website at https://www.robinhadley.co.uk/podcasts/ to give us the male point of view.

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That should keep you busy while I do a little more research for my next post. I didn’t want to give it to you half-baked. A hint to what it’s about: ambivalence.

If you know of other podcasts we might be interested in, please share in the comments.

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My sweet Annie celebrated her 14th birthday yesterday. That’s 98 in dog years. She has weathered her tumor surgery quite well. The lab decreed that it was not cancerous, to our great relief. Today the vet will probably remove the last of her stitches, and she will soon be free of the plastic cone around her head.

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