Step-parenting is No Fourth of July Picnic

Dear Readers,

I have been on the road again this week helping my father. He is 95 years old, and he broke his upper leg very badly in March. He went from the hospital to a terrible nursing home to a somewhat better one.

On Tuesday, we saw the orthopedic surgeon again. After three months, the leg still isn’t healing much, but the doctor believes the hardware he installed around the bones will hold him up. He says Dad can start walking with a walker AND he says Dad can go home. This young ortho expert doesn’t know what he’s saying. Dad lives alone. His will is strong, but his body is fragile. My brother and I both live far away. This situation is wearing us out. We’ll both be doing some commuting while we figure out how to get things organized. Moving Dad from his three-bedroom house in suburbia to some kind of senior residence would be much easier on us, but it’s Dad’s life, and he has the right to live it the way he wants to. He wants to go home.

I arrived in the middle of a heat wave. Driving Dad’s car through the horrible traffic in San Jose, sweating, tired and hungry, I told myself taking care of Dad–and my dog Annie, who just had knee surgery three weeks ago–is my job now. Perhaps I was denied motherhood so I could devote myself to caregiving for my husband and our parents. It’s not really what I want to do, but it’s the job God has given me. I would so much rather focus on my writing and music and maybe take an actual vacation. Someday.

Meanwhile, it’s that time of year when we’re forced to look at pictures of everybody’s kids in graduation gowns or on vacation. Babies seem to be everywhere. Right? And, those of us who have stepchildren may suddenly find them arriving for extended visits, disrupting our usually childless lives.

A 2012 post, “Stepchildren Add Stress to Childless Marriages,” has drawn a barrage of comments this week. You might want to read them and join the conversation. Step-parenting is tough, and folks who think they’re a perfect substitute for having your own kids are wrong. It’s the not the same.

What do you think? What’s bugging you these days? Thanks for being here.

Sue

 

 

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The Big Gamble: Should You End the Relationship to Have Babies?

Should I leave my otherwise good relationship in the hope of finding someone else I can make babies with? That’s the question people ask the most in the comments at this blog. I can’t answer that question. There are so many other questions to be answered first. How bad do you want to have children? Are you 100 percent sure it will never happen in your current relationship? Are you otherwise happy with your partner or would it end between you anyway? What if you never find someone and you end up alone?

I can’t answer any of these questions either. I know what happened with me. The first marriage without children was doomed from the start because my husband cheated on me and the only place we got along was in bed. By the time I got to the second marriage, after a couple more failed relationships, I was sure I was going to spend the rest of my life alone. I wouldn’t even have cats because I was allergic. So when Fred came along, we were such a good match, I accepted that we wouldn’t have children together and was glad to be a pseudo mom with his kids. A close friend has a similar story except that her first husband was abusive. Her second husband, Roy, had three kids, and my friend was content not to have any of her own. But our first marriages were bad to begin with, and not everybody finds a Fred or a Roy.

What if the relationship you’re in now is good, really good, except for this one issue of having children? Let’s look at it from the view of my mother’s generation. If one’s partner turned out to be infertile, one did not leave. If one of the people was infertile, then the couple was infertile. They adopted or accepted their childless status together. They didn’t dump the first spouse as a defective model and find a new one. As for someone declaring he or she didn’t want to have children? We didn’t hear much about that? If they were having sex, they were probably going to have kids because birth control was not nearly as easy to get.

Being older than most of you, I was sort of on the cusp of the old way. A certain family member urged me to get pregnant “by accident” and then everything would fall into place. Not likely, but life seemed so much less complicated then. Marriage, babies, the house with the picket fence . . . okay, I know it was probably not that simple, but I’m trying to make a point. Are we too ready to bail on our relationships now? Or should we get out quickly, before it’s too late to have babies? Which bring us back to our original question, to which I do not have the answers.

Here are some articles to read that might offer some answers or raise more questions.

“The High Failure Rate of Second and Third Marriages,” Psychology Today. Sobering facts to ponder before you dump your partner.

“8 Tough Truths to Consider When Your Partner Doesn’t Want Kids,” Huffington Post. This writer really does give you some answers or at least a path to finding them. Read this and do some soul-searching.

“I left the husband I loved because he refused to have children (and had IVF twins alone)” There’s another way to go, as this Daily Mail piece describes. Would you be willing to have children on your own if you don’t find the ideal partner?

This subject is too big for one post. I know many of you are in pain over this issue and agonizing over what to do. Please read and comment and we’ll come back to this next time. Thank you all for being here.