10 Challenging Thoughts About Childlessness

1. Don’t assume you know what your partner wants. Ask. Ask again later to be sure, but don’t nag. Nagging doesn’t help, whether you trying to get someone to take out the trash or change their mind about having children. They feel the way they feel.

2. It’s not just women who get caught in childless-by-marriage situations. Men do, too. They just don’t talk about it as much.

3. When guys meet, they don’t ask, “How many kids do you have?” They ask, “What do you do?” Maybe we should all just say, “Tell me about yourself.”

4. Childless women still have motherly instincts. Example: Our new neighbor’s little boy runs around naked most of the time. He’s too old for that, plus it’s cold around here. I want to wrap a blanket around him and get him some clothes.

5. People with giant families will never understand what it’s like to be just you and your partner or to be alone.

6. Mother’s Day is a drag for most people. I’m guessing 80 percent of us hate it. Some don’t have children. Some have stepchildren who ignore them. Some don’t get along with their mothers. Some loved their mothers, but they’ve passed away. Father’s Day gets less attention, but the same issues apply: no kids, no dad, no acknowledgement from stepchildren. And all those pictures of fathers fishing, hunting or barbecuing with the adoring family, bleh!

7. There will come a point in your life when you don’t want a baby. The idea of caring for an infant sounds exhausting. But you do want grown children and grandchildren. You would give anything to have someone who looks like you call you “Mom” or “Dad.”

8. Most of us can’t point to the day we knew we were never going to have children. It just happens. When do you change from potentially childless to forever childless?

9. The UK and Australia appear to be way ahead of the Americans in forming groups and offering meetups and online support for the childless. Why is that? I have considered doing some kind of Zoom thing, but then I remember most of you prefer to be anonymous. So what should we do? Ideas?

10. Our book Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both is listed for sale at target.com. I don’t know if you can buy it at an actual Target store; we don’t have any of those here. But people are ridiculously impressed. #1 on the New York Times bestseller list? Yawn. Available at Target? Wow!!!

Things have gotten a little too quiet around here. If you feel moved to comment on any of these, do it. Let’s talk!

Hugs from the Oregon coast.

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Hey, some of us are not having babies!

A childless Facebook friend had a horrible experience at the dentist last week. Her hugely pregnant hygienist never stopped talking about her baby and she had to sit while doing the work, forcing my friend into awkward positions. But that wasn’t the worst of it. My friend was having an impression made of her teeth. The hygienist clamped a goop-filled mold onto her teeth. It was supposed to stay on for 15 minutes. The patient waited over 45 minutes while she could hear the hygienist talking to other people in the building about her baby. She knew it was too long but felt helpless to do anything about it. By the time the hygienist came back, the stuff had hardened so much it had to be painfully chipped off. The impression was ruined. I hope the hygienist was fired.

It’s not always that way. The last time I had my teeth cleaned, my hygienist was about to go on maternity leave. Once in a while her belly bumped against me, but she was completely professional and did not talk incessantly about the baby.

I know having a baby is exciting, probably the most exciting thing that can happen to a woman, but sometimes it’s hard to hear.

Another friend recently got pregnant via in vitro treatments. I’m happy for her and praying the pregnancy results in a healthy baby. But do we need a daily report of every symptom and every little doodad you have purchased for the baby? The rest of us are still back in no-baby land.

Today is my great-niece’s first birthday. She lives far away. I can’t get away to see her. My nephew posted a video of her first steps last week. So cute, but I’m missing it all. I will never get to experience the milestones of life with a little one, not my own, not a grandchild, not even my great-niece while all around me people are glorying in babies. Even at my age, that still hurts a lot.

Meanwhile, I’m torn between dog and dad. Annie got her stitches out yesterday. Her incision seems to be healing well. She is walking gingerly on her repaired leg. I’m still afraid to leave her alone for long, but this morning I slept in for the first time in weeks because she can finally take herself outside through her doggie dog. Before, the inflatable collar around her neck made her too wide to get through.

As for Dad, I’m heading back to California Monday for his next appointment with the orthopedic surgeon. Pray the doctor says he can start trying to walk. I don’t know how he’ll survive if he gets bad news again. He hates the nursing home, but we really don’t know if he’ll ever get to go back to living in his own house. Complicating matters, he was being taken to Kaiser yesterday for a bad cough. I’m still waiting to hear what the doctor said. What if it’s something worse? Sunday is Father’s Day. I won’t be there. What if it’s his last? I can’t let my mind go there.

Father’s Day. Childless male readers, I’m sorry about this stupid holiday which causes pain for everyone who isn’t a father or who doesn’t have a living father. Women get more attention for Mother’s Day, but Father’s Day is tough for men, too. As with the women, I suggest that you stay away from social media the whole weekend and get out of town if you can. Don’t expect your stepchildren to honor you. It’s probably not going to happen. Go fishing. Take a hike. Read a good book until it’s over.

So that’s what I’m thinking about this week. What’s on your minds?

 

 

Father’s Day tortures childless men

Sunday was Father’s Day. We tend to kind of forget about it, getting all obsessed about Mother’s Day and then a month later, oh yeah, we have to send Dad a card. Right? There’s a lot more hoop-tee-doo about Mother’s Day. Remember all those commercials? All those people wanting to wish you Happy Mother’s Day when you’re not a mother, so it just makes you feel worse? The gatherings where everybody has kids but you? It’s brutal. But as Tony, a frequent commenter here, reminded me on Sunday, it’s just as bad for the men.

Tony and I had a brief e-conversation on Sunday as he tried to survive church. People kept wishing him Happy Father’s Day, and he felt like “chopped liver.” His stepchildren sent their obligatory wishes, but it didn’t ease the emptiness of not having kids of his own. I reminded him that in less than 24 hours Father’s Day would be over and life would return to normal. He gritted his teeth and got through it.

At my church, we had a visiting priest who had just been ordained. He threw out an offhand “Happy Father’s Day,” and that was it. No making the dads stand for special blessings like our regular priest did for moms on Mother’s Day. Maybe the fathers felt ripped off, but I was relieved. Afterward I went to lunch with a friend and didn’t realize at first why the restaurant was packed. Of course. People taking their fathers out to brunch. And the servers assuming any man over 30 was a father.

I told Tony it would all be over in less than 24 hours. Technically, it was. But when I opened up Facebook on Monday, it was loaded with pictures of fathers and posts about Father’s Day celebrations. Among them were pictures of first-time fathers and grandfathers, including my nephew, my brother and my cousin. It was all very nice, but I had to stop looking. All that happy family business was too much. Let’s get back to dog pictures and trashing the presidential candidates.

Next year, I recommend running away. Go fishing, take a hike, see a movie. And do not look at Facebook until at least Tuesday.

Tony’s a little concerned that we don’t hear from many guys here. Men, if you’re out there, tell us how you deal with Father’s Day.