Is COVID Lockdown Easier Without Kids?

I just listened to a UK radio show in which the speakers were enjoying their time at home during the COVID-19 lockdown because they did not have husbands or children. The main speaker, Sinead Kennedy, is writing a book about living alone (Flying Solo, not published yet), so the situation is perfect. She is using the time to “sit with herself,” to think, walk, and be creative. She feels sorry for those who are having to deal with husbands and children 24/7. On the rare occasions when she gets lonely, she knows her friends with kids are too busy to talk, so she seeks out her childless friends.

Click here to hear the show. The hostess and another caller were also childless and making the best of their time at home. Maybe this will cheer you up. Maybe not.

As you know, I’m at home alone, too. Well, my dog is here, but she’s old, and she sleeps most of the time. I attend Zoom meetings and “watch parties.” I go out for groceries and once a week to do music for the videotaped Sunday Mass at our little church, but I’m mostly here by myself. To be honest, it’s not that much different from pre-COVID times.

Last week, I met with three other women for a “socially distanced” chat session in one of their back yards. The others are all grandmothers who have been separated from their children and grandchildren since the pandemic began. They are hurting because they can’t see their families, especially the little ones. Another friend’s first grandbaby was born in March, and she hasn’t been able to hold her yet. How sad. Children grow and change so quickly. It’s hard not having children, but it’s also difficult having them and not being able to see them except on telephone or computer screen.

On the other hand, I panic at the thought of trying to home-school children. I’m a good teacher of college-age adults, but kids, oy. I suspect they would rebel at Mom or Dad trying to impose a school schedule on them. I’d be going crazy trying to work, too. I’m relieved I don’t have to do that.

Then there’s the husband part of it. God knows I miss Fred, but let’s face it. He was not good at sitting still. With no sports to watch, he’d be unbearable. He’d be like, I’ve got to get out of here. Let’s go do something. I can’t stand it, while I’m okay reading, writing, baking, walking, or watching ‘chic flicks” on my tablet.

So yes, maybe at this time, it’s easier not having children. Whether it’s comfortable sheltering in place with a partner depends on the partner. It’s certainly a test of how compatible you really are. Can you find things to do together or can you agree to do things separately? I wonder how many relationships will implode during this time. As for having children, is this the perfect time to start a family or the worst?

This is my 700th post. I had hoped to do something special today, a video or such. The “Best of Childless by Marriage” book is coming along well. But we’re panicking around here this week. Up to last weekend, our county of 50,000 on the Oregon Coast only had 10 positive cases of COVID-19. No one had been hospitalized or died. We were doing incredibly well. Lincoln County moved into Oregon’s Phase I of reopening just before Memorial Day. Restaurants, hotels and many businesses reopened, with lots of restrictions—masks, distancing, sanitizing, etc. Tourists rushed in. The number of COVID cases went up to 30, but okay, that was still not so bad.

Then on Sunday, authorities announced that we had 124 new cases of the coronavirus, all employees at Pacific Seafood on the Bayfront in Newport, the city closest to me. This being a fishing town, the company processes and packages what our fishermen catch. They tested 376 employees, and 124 had the virus. As of this morning, we now have 157 positive cases, two in the hospital. Most of those who tested positive did not have any symptoms yet.

You might say that’s still not such a big number, compared to places like New York, but these are small towns–Newport, with 10,000, is the biggest–and these people all have families and friends who have been exposed. They have shopped in our stores, eaten in our restaurants, and visited our parks. They’ve been to the gas station, the bank, the doctor’s office, and all the other places people go.

We’re officially staying in Phase I for now, but one business after another has announced that’s it’s closing back down to be safe.

Suddenly I’m dying to go out, to socialize, shop, travel, do things that were normal four months ago. I feel like I’m living the movie “Groundhog Day,” in which the characters relive the same day over and over. Will things ever be “normal” again?

Is it easier without children? Probably. Is it better? I don’t know.

How are you doing in this crazy COVID world? Are you more or less eager to have children? Are you talking about it? Is your partner driving you crazy? Are you able to see your family, including the little ones? Please share.

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I’m thinking about doing a Facebook Live broadcast where I can talk to you all, and you can ask me questions or chat among yourselves. What do you think? Would a Zoom meeting or another format be better? Let me know.

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IMPORTANT NOTICE: As I mentioned above, 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. If you have any objection to have 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. Thank you. Many of you are better writers than I am.

Socially distanced hugs to one and all.

 

 

Who are we saving our COVID-19 stories for?

A writer friend, Grace Elting Castle wrote a column in the local paper last week about how we ought to document our experiences during this COVID-19 crisis for our children, grandchildren and the generations that follow. Journal, write letters, and save newspaper articles, she says. Your children’s children’s children will want to know what it was like. She says she wishes she had asked her grandparents more about their lives.

Stories Grandma Never Told_justified text.pmdWell, I have been thinking the same thing about my own grandparents. In fact I wrote a whole book called Stories Grandma Never Told sparked by what I didn’t know about my grandmother’s experiences growing up Portuguese-American in California. I interviewed a whole bunch of Portuguese women to get their stories, and I’m glad I did. Many of them have since passed away. But own grandmother’s stories died with her.

Not only did I not ask about her Portugueseness. It never occurred to me to ask about the 1918-19 Spanish Flu pandemic that was so like the COVID-19 crisis we’re living through now. All four of my grandparents were teens or young adults at that time, and they could have told me. They could have told all of us. Maybe we would have learned something. But they never talked about it, and we didn’t ask. We all assumed it would never happen again.

What does this have to do with childlessness? Those of us who don’t have children have no one to save all this information for. Do we? Certainly no children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. Maybe descendants of our siblings’ kids will be interested later on. Maybe not. So what do we do with our stories, just let them die with us?

I’m a writer. I can’t do that. I feel compelled to keep a record. I’m writing, I’m saving information, I’m documenting the whole thing. I’m not planning to write a book about it. God knows we’ll be drowning in coronavirus books in a year or two. But I’m taking notes.

I grieve the loss of descendants. I want there to be someone down the genealogical line with my name and my genes who wants to know what it was like, who will treasure every scrap of information she can get about what it was like for me and others during this time. I want that so bad, but I can’t have it. And yes, I know that if I had children and grandchildren, they might not be interested at all.

Going through a box of my parents’ things the other night, I came upon a tiny prayer book published in 1922. I think it was my grandmother’s. It’s a beautiful thing with lovely illustrations. Who will want it when I go? I placed it with my other keepsakes from dead loved ones, including a Portuguese prayer book that my childless great-aunt left behind. It’s so old I wonder if one of her parents brought it from Portugal in the 1800s. Maybe that little Portuguese book offers an answer. Aunt Edna’s book made its way to me, and I love it. Where it goes from here is not up to me.

I’m not sure who I’m saving my coronavirus stories for. My niece and nephew? Friends? Strangers? My fans (hah)? Maybe they will go to a museum or be archived online. Maybe a researcher or another writer will be overjoyed someday to find my accounts of this time. All I can do it write it. What happens after I die is not up to me.

God help us, whatever we leave behind will go where it goes and we have no control over that.

Grace Castle is the author of A Time to Wail, a Native American novel set here in Oregon. It captures some of her family history. I wish her column had included a paragraph or two that might begin, “And if you don’t have children . . .” but I guess we have to fill that part in for ourselves.

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How are you doing during this time of fear and isolation? My neighbor and her daughter are coming outside every night at 8 p.m. and howling like wolves. They are joining a growing group of howlers across the country expressing their frustration as well as their support for healthcare workers and first responders. I have joined them a couple times and plan to do it tonight. What the heck. Go out and howl. See if anyone howls back. Awwwoooooooo!

I welcome your comments.

Childless or not, Easter comes again

Dear friends,

How do I make this blog relevant in these days when we’re all thinking about the coronavirus, COVID-19, and its effects on our health, our finances, and our whole lives? I mean John Prine died yesterday, they’re running out of places to put the bodies in New York, millions of people have suddenly lost their jobs, and we’re running around wearing masks. It’s a strange world. When I look around my community, it seems that the Rapture (all the good people taken up to heaven) has happened and we were left behind with no jobs, a massive recession, and constant fear that we or someone we love will catch this disease from a friend, off our groceries, or in the wind and die. How on earth can we even think about childlessness and whether or not to have a baby?

At least that’s how I feel—and that’s on the good days when I’m not so depressed I think about drinking my way through the liquor cabinet. (I’m not. There’s green tea in my cup.)

But it’s Easter. For Christians, this is Holy Week, celebrating the events leading up to Jesus’s death and resurrection. For Jews, today is Passover, when God saved his people from death. For all of us, it’s spring, the sun finally coming out, tulips and daffodils blooming, buds on trees and shrubs promising flowers and fruit. In spite of all the craziness, spring is still happening.

Spring is a time of fertility, of birth and rebirth. Easter is a time of families celebrating together. Last year, I watched my cousins’ kids hunt for Easter eggs as we gathered in the sun for a barbecue at my aunt’s house. There were at least 25 people there. This year, we’ll all be separated. We can’t even go to church.

You might see sheltering in place as a blessing for those of us who find family gatherings painful. This year, for once, you can stay home without excuses or guilt and do Easter your way–or ignore it altogether. Will you dye eggs, pig out on candy, put bunny ears on the dog, sip wine on the porch, make love, or watch videos? Will you “Facetime” or Skype with family, including the little ones? Me, I’m planning to attend church online and then have myself a picnic in the back yard. We can do whatever we want. We still have options; they’re just different.

I hope and pray that you and your loved ones are well. Whether you have COVID-19 or something else, it’s a terrible time to be sick, with access to health care so limited and people not allowed to bring anyone with them for support. I read online about a pregnant woman who is terrified to deliver her baby in the midst of this crisis. We’re all kind of scared. Most of us believe we would survive if we got the virus, but what if we don’t?

What is my point today? We all have to survive this time in our own way. When I told my brother it is difficult being alone, he replied that it is also difficult being at home with three grandchildren under age 5. I’m jealous that he and his kids and grandkids are together but grateful I can read and write and sleep in peace. Meanwhile, this is an opportunity to try new ways of being and thinking and doing.

How are you managing this Easter week? How are you feeling about being childless now? Has the COVID-19 affected your relationship with your mate? Has it changed your thoughts about having or not having children?

Please comment. I’m here. We’re all here. You are not alone.

 

 

 

Another COVID-19 Loss: Fertility Treatments

Coronaviruses Close the Fertility Clinics Across the Country

When I read this headline yesterday, I felt sad, but I also thought: of course. In this time of crisis, making babies is considered an elective procedure, just like my friend’s postponed hip replacement and the dentist appointment I was supposed to have yesterday. It appears that most clinics are finishing procedures they have started but not initiating new treatment cycles.

I feel sad for the people whose fertility journey has suddenly stopped. It’s a big leap just to try to get pregnant via IVF and other methods. Many of the people doing it are at or near an age when it will soon be too late. But of course when people are dying of COVID-19, when hospitals are filling with patients struggling to breathe and health-care workers are risking their lives every day to treat them, dare we complain?

In history, fertility has dipped in times of crisis—wars, depressions, epidemics. Now is no different. In the animal kingdom, animals stop reproducing when conditions are not right, when it’s not safe or there isn’t enough food. Humans are no different. Look at how many couples put off having children because they can’t afford them or because they want to buy a house first? Right now, with so many people out of work, the economic future isn’t looking too good.

It’s a rough time. We’re “social distancing” by staying home far more than we’re used to. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting cabin fever real bad. Last night, I got in my car and drove around for a few minutes just to GET OUT, but everything was closed and all the wonderful parks here on the Oregon coast are barricaded. There was nowhere to go, so I looked at the bay for a few minutes then drove back home and watched three episodes of “Good Girls” in a row.

Most of you are younger than I am. You may be staying home with your partner. Maybe both of you are trying to work from home, or you’re going out to work, worrying constantly about getting the virus. You may be hearing your friends whine about staying home with their kids. I’m sure that is challenging. I don’t envy them, but does it make you feel worse about not having any children?

Let’s talk about this mandated staycation. How are you doing? Have you put having children way in the back of your mind until the pandemic is over or are you thinking why not get pregnant now? Has this whole situation changed how you feel about becoming a mom or dad? What’s going on at your house these days? Please share. I’m lonely, and Annie just says “feed me, pet me, and walk me.” So let’s talk.

I wish you all health and peace of mind.

Isolation spreads faster than COVID-19

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COVID-19, the coronovirus, is splitting up families. One of my friends is afraid he’ll never see his parents alive again. They’re in a nursing home, and visitors are not allowed. Indeed, as of Monday, in Oregon and a growing number of other states, we have all been ordered to stay at home. It’s a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine or time in jail, to venture out on a “nonessential” trip. The idea is to stop the spread of the virus. Instead, we’re spreading fear and isolation. It can’t be avoided, I suppose, but it’s painful.

My aunt, just a few years older than I am, lives across the street from her son’s family in Santa Clara, California. Because she has some serious health problems and because the grandchildren have been out and about until very recently, she is not seeing them now, except on her telephone. Those kids have been part of her everyday life since they were born. With her job winding down and all social activities canceled, she is suddenly as isolated as I am.

My friend Bill lives in an assisted living facility. Going on two weeks now, the residents have not been allowed to go out, and no visitors are allowed in. Their meals are dropped off outside their doors. Used to socializing and going out for lunch, shopping and church, he says he’s going stir-crazy. He can’t see his friends. He has no children, but he’s worried about his sister’s family in California. The lockdown is meant to keep him safe, but he feels like he’s in jail.

My life is not so different from usual these days. I miss my church and my writing and music groups, but most days I still do the same old things: writing, practicing music, walking the dog, interacting on Facebook, doing my chores, eating, and watching TV. I live in the coastal forest. When I step out the door, I rarely see other people. I’m already isolated.

If I had children whom I could not be with, this shelter-in-place thing would be a whole lot worse. I would worry about them getting sick. I would give them hell for not protecting themselves. I would worry about them losing their jobs. I would worry about the kids stuck at home with nothing to do. I’d want to jump in and help. But like my aunt, I am “older” and not supposed to go anywhere. Nor am I supposed to welcome groups of people into my house. At the moment, I’m grateful not to have to deal with this angst.

I’ll be slipping out for groceries and mail today. I’ll be walking my dog. I’ll telephone at least one friend I know is also alone. And then I’ll go back to my solo life.

All anyone talks about these days is the virus. Newscasters seem to have forgotten everything else happening in the world: wars, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, immigrant parents and children separated at the Mexican border, even the upcoming U.S. election. Jody Day, whom I wrote about last week, says comments have dropped off on her blog. The same thing has happened here. Have we become so distracted by the pandemic that nothing else matters right now? What is your thinking about having children in this crazy time? How are you doing? Please comment.

How Does Coronavirus relate to Childlessness?

Dear friends,

I can’t stop listening to the news, which is getting more frightening by the hour. The coronavirus/aka COVID-19 is on everyone’s minds. Events are being cancelled, schools shut down, and the stock market crashing. Last week, I decided on the way to the Portland airport not to go to my conference in Texas. The conference went on with greatly reduced attendance, but this week, everything is being cancelled. I have never typed the word “cancelled” so many times.

In Oregon, our governor is on the radio right now talking about the restrictions she is putting in place to prevent the spread of the disease—no large gatherings, no school events or field trips, no unnecessary visits to nursing homes . . . Store shelves have been stripped bare of hand sanitizer and toilet paper as people prepare to be quarantined indefinitely. This all sounds like a bad science fiction movie. I have never seen anything like this before in my life. I don’t know which frightens me more, the disease or people’s hysterical reaction to the disease, but everything else suddenly seems irrelevant.

How do I make this situation relevant on the Childless by Marriage blog? Maybe it doesn’t make much difference whether or not we have children. We are all in the same boat, except those of us without kids take up less room.

Some random thoughts I offer for discussion:

* If schools are closed, should we who don’t have children volunteer to help working parents take care of them? Is there a special role we might play because we are freer to do so?

* Are we less likely to get the coronavirus because we don’t have children bringing germs home from school?

* For those of us older childless people, who will take care of us if we get it? Because it’s so contagious, who will want to go near us? I have this image of friends leaving food at my front door and driving away as I crawl out to get it.

* Is it a relief to have only ourselves to worry about, especially if our jobs go belly up?

* Are we kind of glad we didn’t bring children into this insane world? Is your partner saying, “See? This is why we shouldn’t have kids.”

* Or do you feel like, in the face of this pandemic, you might lose your chance to ever have children?

It’s on all our minds, so we might as well talk about it. What changes have you made in your lives? Have you been forced to stay home from work or school? Are you cancelling trips, staying home, stocking up on TP and cleaning supplies? Are you worried about your older relatives and friends? What do you think will happen?

Stay healthy. Feel free to share your thoughts. We’re in this together.