The choices that lead us to childlessness

Fred Lick and Chico

I’ve been rewriting a memoir about caring for my husband with Alzheimer’s disease. In describing where we were back then, I needed to look back at how we got there and the choices we made. One of the biggest for me was choosing to marry a man who would not give me children. Fifteen years older than I was, Fred already had three children from wife #1, followed by a vasectomy. He made it clear he did not want to deal with babies again.

So why did I marry him when I had always expected to have children? Was it simply that the demise of my first marriage had left me feeling that I would always be alone and that I had already missed my chance? Maybe. Was it that my career was always more important than the children I might have had? I wonder.

I wish I could be anonymous today, but let’s dive into the reasons I committed my life to this man and gave up motherhood. As they say on American Idol, in no particular order. . .

  1. He had three children who could become my children. Instant family, two boys and a girl, no labor pains, no stretch marks. We didn’t exactly become the Brady Bunch, but they were kids and they were kind of mine. I got a partial membership to the Mom Club.
  2. I love, love, loved Fred. Still do. And he loved me.
  3. Men weren’t exactly lining up to be with me. After the divorce and a few more failed relationships, I thought I would be alone forever. Being married with no children beat not being married at all.
  4. My last relationship before I met Fred had exploded, leaving me a wreck. The man was verbally and sexually abusive and threatened to dump me every time I tried to stand up for myself. Fred was kind, smart, respectful and loving. He treated me like a princess.
  5. He brought love, family, and financial stability. I was not a “golddigger.” I did not marry Fred for money–he wasn’t rich–but I was aware that being with him would raise me out of poverty and let me pursue my writing and music dreams.
  6. Fred was a freaking catch.

I didn’t analyze it at the time. I didn’t make a list of pros and cons. We were ridiculously in love. Period. We both had been hurt in previous relationships and were happy to find love again. We had a lot in common. We fit. I have never regretted that choice.

Not that he was perfect. He had his quirks, but I’m kind of a pain in the ass, so I think I lucked out.

Until today, I never thought hard about why Fred chose me. I was his friend Mike’s sister. He found me pretty, talented, sexy and available. But I wondered at the time if he was ready for a new relationship. I had been single for four years, but he and his first wife had split less than a year earlier. Their divorce wasn’t final yet. Was I the rebound girl? Was it just that Fred couldn’t stand to be alone? I have seen men marry younger women to fluff their egos, take care of their kids, and cook their meals. I have seen men hook up with women with well-paid jobs to share their money. But Fred was doing fine on his own. He was perfectly capable of taking care of himself. He’s here not to ask, so let’s just say I appeared at the right time and place and it was good for both of us. Or, as I tell my religious friends, God put us together, one of his miracles.

Enough about me. More than enough. Hindsight is always 20-20, as the tiresome saying goes. If you’re in the midst of a potentially childless by marriage situation, don’t wait for hindsight. Go somewhere by yourself and analyze your choices while you have time to change your mind—or decide that you don’t want to change a thing. Just know why you’re doing it.

I welcome your comments.

NOTE: This is the 750th post at the Childless by Marriage blog. It started in 2007, years before the Childless by Marriage book was published. I’m amazed. I brag that I could write 500 words on any subject, but still…

If you would like to contribute a guest post, follow the guidelines on this page and go for it.

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Do You Have to Read This Blog in Secret?

Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova on Pexels.com

Last week on a whim, I asked whether Childless by Marriage readers felt they needed to hide their participation in the blog, Facebook page, books, etc. I had just had a vision of a spouse looking at the computer and asking, “Why are you reading this crap?” or “Aren’t you over that yet?”

It turns out some of the folks here do have to hide their participation in Childless by Marriage and anything else related to their childlessness. Anon S said it’s her “dirty secret.” Jo, another frequent commenter, said she shares a laptop computer with her husband and can only read Childless by Marriage when he’s not around. She can’t join the Facebook page without him knowing about it.

Holy cow. I don’t know why it took me 738 posts to think of this. I guess I have had the luxury of a private office for so long I forgot that most people don’t have that. I am so sorry.

I have always had my own computer, and my late husband Fred took little interest in what I was doing on it. If I wanted to share something, I called him in or handed him a printed copy. I didn’t start the blog until he was well into Alzheimer’s, so he had no idea. But I’m sure I was journaling and reading about childlessness throughout our marriage. My annual Mother’s Day tantrums were not invisible. I remember him saying “Oh, babe.” That’s all. No further discussion. But I hid most of my tears from him. I didn’t talk much about it with anyone. What good would it do?

Anon S, featured quite a bit in the Love or Children book made from the blog, said she was worried about being found out. She won’t be. Even I don’t know her name or where she lives. With the exception of a few friends from other parts of my life, I don’t know who anybody here really is. All I know is what you tell me, and that’s fine. I want this to be a safe space.

Last week, I attended the first Childless Collective Summit. Most of the speakers talked about infertility. Our main focus here is on our problems with partners who can’t or won’t make babies with us. I feel bad for those with both kinds of problems. I can’t imagine your pain.

Some aspects of childlessness are common to us all—grief, feeling left out, dealing with rude questions, worrying about our future, etc. I wonder how many women attending the Summit, which lasted for four whole days, felt they had to hide what they were doing. If so, it took real courage just to be there, even on Zoom. And God bless Katy Seppi of Chasing Creation who organized the whole thing.

I hate that some (many?) of you have to join us in secret. If we’re ever going to find peace, we need to be able to talk about our situations, admit to our grief and claim our efforts to make sense of life without children. To put it in psych talk, we need to “own our stories.”

In Jody Day’s keynote speech at the Summit, she said that 10 percent of people without children are childless by choice, 10 percent by infertility, and 80 percent by circumstance. That’s us. We need to be free to talk about it and to support each other. Childlessness for whatever reason should not be seen as a dirty secret we need to hide under the mattress like porn magazines. 

Relationships are difficult, especially when you disagree about children. In addition to your partner, you may have stepchildren looking over your shoulder. I can hear them saying, “You’re not childless; you have me.” We all know that’s not the same. We also have parents, siblings, co-workers and friends who just don’t get it. But we have every right to say, “This is my situation. I’m trying to deal with it. I hope someday you will understand.”

It makes me sad to realize you have to hide your reading about childlessness. I pray you can all find space and your own computers, tablets or phones to read whatever you want and the courage to declare, “This is important to me, so I’m going to read it.”

How is it for you? Do you feel free to read and comment or is this something you need to hide? What can we do to change the situation? I look forward to your comments.

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Should She Marry Him if His Kids Hate Her?

Some posts just go on and on. Back on Oct. 23, 2021, I posted “Stepchildren Add Stress to Childless Marriages.” Clearly that was an understatement because the comments flooded in, and they keep coming. The one I received last week from “The Struggle is Real,” in response to a Jan. 10, 2017 comment by Struggling Stepmom, was so passionate, I decided to feature it this week. The comment has been edited for length.

To StrugglingStepmom,

This response may only come in four years too late and so I don’t know what situation you are in now, but I am in your situation right now (more or less) . . . and it is pretty painful.

I have been in a seven-year relationship with my partner, and he has two daughters from his previous marriage. The children live with their mother but come to our home every second weekend and during school holidays. His ex has disliked me from the start and has always called me names. I thought that would fade over time, but it hasn’t. I never knew why she hated me. I met my partner about a year after they broke up. Her hatred towards me continues, and she has always tried to influence the kids by saying things like, “Your father prefers his girlfriend over you.”

Lately the youngest daughter, a teenager, is going through a rebellious phase. She acts rudely towards her father and me. I once disciplined her, and it did not go down well (I never laid hands on her, I just lost my patience and started raising my voice and putting her stuff that was thrown all around the floor into the bin because she wouldn’t clean up her room). In hindsight, I probably should have left this task to my partner, as she is not my child. But my partner is so relaxed and he always takes the backseat in this whole parenting game. He is not great at communicating (like most men), and he always just ends up telling her off and yelling at her instead of trying to explain things to her. It’s like he almost doesn’t know when to explain and talk to the child calmly and when to get angry and set boundaries. This really frustrates me at times.

I have set some house rules for when they are here, but they continually try to test our boundaries and break these rules. Because the whole disciplining thing did not go down well that other time, I have tried to get my partner to be more proactive at disciplining them. The kids of course still don’t like it, and they test their father all the time. I think they feel that their father would be more chilled and relaxed if I wasn’t in the picture.

Their father is really busy at work, and given COVID, I have been working from home. He is more than happy to leave the children under my care when he is at work. I feel that if I’m in charge of them, then perhaps I should be entitled to disciplining them to a degree. After all, if they act rude or say rude things to me, and all I can do is shut my mouth and wait until my partner comes home, then they have even less respect for me. They see that I can’t even fight my own battles. That is the logic that I thought of, anyway.

Because of what happened when I tried to discipline her, his daughter hates me. She tries to ignore me when she’s here. She only talks to me when she wants something. She’s not interested in having conversations or chitchats and she seems to always be in a bad mood (maybe she’s going through puberty as well. Not sure). She also doesn’t talk to her dad as much and resists hugs and kisses from him.

I have never overstepped the boundaries or treated her in a rude and selfish manner. I organize everything, from Father’s Day to the children’s birthdays to Christmas. But like a lot of people here have said, they just don’t appreciate it and they don’t see you as someone that they want in their lives. A lot of things go by without thank you’s, and I certainly would never get a happy Mother’s Day card.

My partner and I are now engaged, and we are planning our wedding. However, deep in my heart I have doubts about the future. I feel that his daughters are forever trying to tear us apart, and that all they ever want is to have their father all to themselves and for me to be out of the picture. This is of course supported by their mother, who hates me beyond anything and therefore encourages them to behave even worse. I feel really disheartened and afraid of what’s next. I also worry about whether I should marry a man when his children do not like me. I feel incomplete, and I feel like I should only marry him if his children and I get along beautifully, but that is probably never ever going to happen. I love my partner to bits, but I don’t want a dysfunctional family where everyone pretends everything is great on the surface but hates each other deep down. As I’m planning the wedding, these questions and concerns are becoming more concrete in my head. I always thought I’d stay with him in the long haul, with or without the marriage. But now it is becoming a real concern. Maybe I am just channeling my bridezilla? I don’t really know anymore. What do I do? Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.

Well readers, what do you say? Things might get better as the kids get older, but they might not? I welcome your comments.

***

Guess what? The Kindle version of Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both will be on sale for only 99 cents next week. Visit the Childless by Marriage Facebook page after March 6 for details.

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Childless? “Here’s What You Should Do”

Dear friends,

I have been working on the “best of the blog” book I’m putting together and decided to put together a section titled, “Why Don’t You . . .” with posts about the various things people suggest we do to ease our childless angst. For example:

  • Who hasn’t heard, “Why don’t you just adopt?” Or “You could become a foster parent.” We all have. Of course, that totally ignores the fact that if your partner doesn’t want your own children, why would he want someone else’s. Also, adoption and fostering are not easy, and not everyone can meet the requirements. Sure, we have all heard beautiful adoption stories where everything worked well, but we have also known people who waited years through one disappointment after another or who got turned down flat for some reason.
  • Most childless women with reluctant husbands have also been urged to accidentally-on-purpose forget to use their birth control and surprise their mates with, “Oops, I’m pregnant.” I don’t think that’s a fair thing to do to someone you love, but well-meaning people told me that, and I know others have heard it, too.
  • “You should look into IVF, donor eggs or sperm, or fertility treatments of some sort.” As if you never thought of that. Maybe you’re already doing it and prefer not to talk about it. Unfortunately, all the science in the world cannot guarantee a baby, and it costs a fortune. Think one Mercedes for each procedure.
  • “Oh, he can just get that vasectomy reversed.” Well, sometimes. It doesn’t always work, especially if the original surgery was performed years earlier, and if he doesn’t want to get the vasectomy reversed, you’re stuck.
  • “Just relax. God will send you a baby in due time. Look at Abraham and Sarah in the Bible.” Yeah, they were a bazillion years old, and there was an angel involved.
  • “Volunteer to work with kids. Become a Big Brother or Big Sister. Tutor, mentor, babysit.” Not the same. Sometimes it just makes you feel worse.
  • “Just enjoy your stepchildren. That’s all the kids you need.” Um, no.

That’s what I have come up with so far. I welcome you to add to the list of “Why don’t you . . .” comments you have gotten from friends, family, and well-meaning strangers.

 

 

The parent/nonparent divide grows wider

Certain occasions emphasize the divide between parents and non-parents. I guess it’s unavoidable. At the reception after my father’s funeral, his Iranian neighbors were trying to figure out which of the young adults were my children. I had to tell them, “I don’t have any children.” They seemed confused and shocked. It was like I’d told them I had just been released from prison or maybe that I used to be a man. They clearly didn’t know what to say. I excused myself to get some more food.

They were probably talking about me that night. Poor thing, no children, no grandchildren.

I’m sorry to keep talking about my dead father, but his passing has brought up all kinds of feelings about being childless. At the church, I sat at the end of the row by myself next to my brother’s family. Even my father, my “date” for most family events in recent years, was gone. When my niece carried her sleeping one-year-old up to the altar to do one of the readings, I wished with all my heart that I could do that. I’m well into menopause, but the longing hasn’t gone away.

Did I want to deal with her poopy diaper later? No, but I’d take the smelly with the sweet.

I kind of hoped at least one of my stepchildren would come. No.

Now my father’s house is being cleaned out for sale. It’s the house where we grew up, and this feels like another big loss, even though it’s unavoidable–unless I want to move back to San Jose and live in it, which I don’t. There’s so much stuff! I have brought home many treasures, and I’m glad for the things that my brother’s kids are inheriting. But I feel sad that my own children and grandchildren aren’t here to share the memories and keepsakes. Then I look around at my own house and think where will all this stuff go?

When you don’t have a child, you don’t lose just one person. You lose that child’s partner, in-laws, children and grandchildren, too. Think about it.

Forgive me for being gloomy. I’m grieving. I need you carry the conversation this week.

  1. Have you had moments when people were shocked to find out you didn’t have children? What did they say? How did you deal with it?
  2. Have you felt like the odd duck at family affairs?
  3. Can you tell me something to make me smile?

This morning I received a comment on an old post that was sexist, racist and just plain mean. I’m not sure whether or not the guy was serious. I think he was, which is horrifying. I did not approve that comment. We are not having that here. But I am happy to hear from anyone who does not spew hate and stupidity. Or those who try to sell products, especially magic potions and spells to get us pregnant. So many of you have written wonderful comments, and I look forward to reading more. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Interview with Kate Kaufmann

Kate Kaufmann

I promised last week to tell you more about Kate Kaufmann’s book, Do You Have Kids: Life When the Answer is No. It won’t officially come out until April 2, but you can pre-order now. I highly recommend this book. Most books on childlessness sound pretty much the same, but this one gets past the why you don’t have kids and dives into how our lives are different without them. Examples: We can live anywhere we want, with no need to worry about schools and places for kids to play, so how do we decide where to live?  Without children who might take care of us, how do we cope in old age? With no biological heirs, what do we leave behind when we die and whom do we leave it to? What do we say to those nosy people who ask dumb questions or who think they understand what we need better than we do? Kate offers some great answers.

Kate agreed to be interviewed for Childless by Marriage. My questions and her answers follow. Feel free to join the discussion in the comments.

SFL: As you probably know, our focus here is on partnerships where one is unable or unwilling to have children while the other wants them or is not sure. In many cases, including mine, the unwilling partner already has children from a previous relationship and does not want any more. Did you meet many women who were childless because their partners didn’t want to be parents? What are your general thoughts on this situation?

KK: In my own marriage, I was the one who advocated for children, then went through years of infertility treatments. I called it quits when IVF was the next step. While I know it’s worked for many, I wasn’t prepared to take that step. Part of that comes from my former husband’s reluctance to try for kids in the first place. He was never comfortable around kids; I believe he was more than a little afraid of them.

One woman I interviewed was so sure she didn’t want children, she ended a deeply committed relationship so her former partner could go on to have them (which he did). I also interviewed several women whose partners had previously had vasectomies after having children with other partners. In one case the attempted reversal surgery was botched, effectively ending their chance to conceive a biological child. When I met her, they were still trying to decide whether to try for adoption.

SFL: Many of my Childless By Marriage blog readers are struggling to decide whether to stay in a childless relationship or take their eggs and hope to find someone else. They fear they will regret it if they never have children but don’t know if it’s worth leaving the person they love. Do you have advice for them?

KK: That is such a challenging situation. A dear friend of mine is in the midst of this no-win angst. I think when we visualize being a mom, the good stuff is front and center, and the less positive fades into the background. Same with relationships. What’s guaranteed, though, is that whatever the decision, in tough times there will be misgivings, in good times delight, and most of the time will hopefully be spent in the in-between. Not very helpful, I know, but there’s no good or right answer for this dilemma.

SFL: Many childless women find themselves dealing with stepchildren. It can be a tough situation where you get all the responsibility and none of the privileges of motherhood. What have you learned in your research about these situations? Can stepchildren be a true substitute for your own children? What advice do you have for our stepparent readers?

KK: I was sad to learn that only about 20 percent of young adult stepchildren feel they have a close relationship with their stepmother.

Both my knowledge and my advice come from the stepmoms I’ve interviewed. The best advice seems to be to take time to decide who you want to be as a stepmother. Define your desired role and talk it over with your partner in an open way. One of the women in the book describes a tense interaction she had with her new husband. “I don’t want to be their mother!” she said. “That’s good,” he replied, “because they already have a mother.” That reinforced her desire to be the kind of stepmom she wanted to be and let her husband know what her goals were.

Step-grandmothers have told me that their partner’s children are just that. But especially as they get older, they consider any grandkids as really their grandchildren, because the kids don’t know anything different.

SFL: If a couple disagrees on having children, how can they avoid poisoning the relationship with grief and resentment?

KK: I’d suggest something from a mediator’s toolkit. Listen to each other’s point of view carefully, repeat back to your partner what you heard, and keep doing that until your partner gets it just right. That helps with resentment, since from the outset you know what’s of concern to the other. In a perfect world, the couple would look at ways to work with the other’s concerns. Like Mother’s Day used to be very hard for me. My ex would be extra kind to me (usually :-)) when the second Sunday in May rolled around. It helped a lot to be acknowledged.

SFL: Your section on elder orphans is wonderful and unnerving for me because I worry all the time about my 96-year-old father and about my own future now that I’m in my late 60s. I notice you don’t say much in your book about husbands and other partners. Are you assuming that we will end up alone? What is the most important thing we can do now to prepare for our elder years?

KK: You’re right! When it comes to aging, I try to be pragmatic. If you’re partnered, someone will probably go first. I think single people, especially those without kids, benefit because we know for sure our kids won’t be watching out for us. Parents can go into denial and discover too late that their kids either aren’t well-suited to the task or they live far away.

What we do is gradually shift from being so independent (at which most of us are excellent) and layer in interdependent actions and choices. Ask for help, even when it feels like you’re a bother or can do it yourself. Make a pact with other friends who don’t have kids and support each other when someone needs a ride to the doctor or the airport. Start looking at retirement housing options before you need them.

SFL: You talk about the legacies childless women can leave. We may not all have money to leave behind for charities, scholarships, and such. What else besides money can we leave behind?

KK: Agreed about the money part. That’s what most of us think of first when we hear the word “legacy.” I think about legacy differently now. It’s rare we hear the ways we’ve impacted other people’s lives, so I like to make it a point to tell others when they’re still alive. Sometimes it comes my way, but even if it doesn’t, I take comfort knowing there are people who have benefited from me having walked this earth. I can’t know how much a child I helped learn to read enjoys books, but I know they’re out there. I try to develop friendships with people of all ages and consciously share what’s important to me with them—ideas, material stuff, experiences.

SFL: I love your collection of responses and conversation starters for childless women talking to parents or other non-moms. What is your response when people ask why you wrote a book on this subject?

KK: Thanks for mentioning the Afterword. Once I finished the book, I realized people might well want to talk to others and exchange ideas and experiences. But since most of us don’t pursue these topics very often, I thought it might be helpful to offer suggestions. I’ve gotten great feedback on this section.

I wrote the book to address the stigmas and stereotypes that many people hold about those without children. A recent study found there’s been no perceptible change since first studied back in the 1970s. That’s crazy! We’re part of our communities, we add value. Always have, always will. There’s plenty of room for us all to coexist, in fact to thrive, by including the full range of adulthood.

SFL: What will you write next?

My goal right now is to continue opening doors to conversations and understanding by speaking in most any venue that will have me. I’ve been surprised at the warm reception and frankness exhibited by many men when they find out about my project. If no man steps up to write the male perspective, I guess I might have to.

SFL: Thank you!

You’re so welcome, Sue. Thanks for asking.

There you have it. Readers, please add your comments and keep the conversation going.

Have you ever pretended to be a Mom?

“Our kids.” “My son.” “Being a mom . . .”

I have been going through old writings from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Most are columns or essays, some of them published in the community newspapers where I worked or sent out as freelance pieces to various magazines and newspapers. In addition to being embarrassed—I really thought that was good?—I’m surprised to read frequent phrases like the above that implied I had children. Did I really consider myself a mom or was I trying to fit in with the rest of the world?

I had three stepchildren. The older two, in their teens when Fred and I got married, did not live with us. The youngest, only 7 when we met, lived with us from age 12 to 20, flying to Texas to spend time with his mom for holidays and summer vacation. Sure, I was doing full-time mom duty for a while, but did I really think of myself that way? Certainly not on Mother’s Day when the honors went to Fred’s ex. Certainly not when it came to decisions about “our son’s” religion, extracurricular activities, or his future. Certainly not when other women talked about their children’s birth and younger years. Certainly not when I tried to hug my stepson and he backed away.

I was kind of a mom, but in my writing, I seemed to imply that I was a full-fledged just-like-everybody-else mom. So why did my “son” call me “Sue?” Maybe it was just too complicated to explain that these were stepchildren, that I had not given birth to them. Or was I embarrassed, feeling that I had failed?

Who was to know different? Not the photographer who kept calling me “Mom” as he posed us for a family portrait. Not the school secretary who called to tell me young Mr. Lick had not shown up for class. Not the Boy Scout leader who wanted me to bring two dozen cookies. Not the other moms who sent their kids to our house to play. In most cases, I did not set them straight.

It’s as difficult to put myself back in that head space as it is to fit into the skinny clothes I wore then. I know I wanted desperately to be a mom. I guess I claimed as much of that status as I could, aware that it could be taken away at any minute.

These days, with Fred gone and no contact with the kids beyond Facebook, I just tell people I never had any children. That’s not quite true either, is it? I still love Fred’s kids and pray for them every day. But they’ve got a mom. I’m just Sue.

This seems like an odd post. Things have been odd lately for me, going through all these old writings, dealing with some worrisome medical issues, and slogging through the rainy days of winter. But maybe you have experienced some of this, too.

My questions for today: Have you ever pretended to be a mom or dad when you’re not? If you have stepchildren, do you feel like their parent? Do you claim that status among other people? Please comment. I want to know what you think. Tell me I’m not the only one.

Younger wife + older husband with kids = trouble

Dear readers,
Happy 2019. A continuing theme here is the dilemma that occurs when your partner has been married before and already has children. In many cases, they don’t want to have any more. That was my story. So where does that leave you? In response to a comment on my October post on the subject, “Younger Wives, Older Husbands, No Babies,” I received this comment from NH. I want to share it with you and get your reactions.
MDOE37 said: Song and verse….second marriage for both, he was 6 years older with custody of a 13-year-old son. Decided a couple years into the marriage that he was done. Raise mine, none for you.

NH responded:

Interesting. I’m in a similar position. Second marriage for both. He is 50, I’m 43. He has three kids from a previous marriage (12, 17, 20), I’m childless NOT by choice. First husband didn’t want them. Made damn sure I would never get pregnant. It was awful. Fast forward 15 years and now I’m remarried. He’s a wonderful man. Initially, he did not want kids and told me so while dating. At that time, I was still brainwashed into thinking I would be a terrible mom anyway (and I was 38), so I didn’t think twice when he asked me to marry him.

Turns out I’m a great momma, even better than Bio Mom (say the 12- and 17-year-olds, plus Dad). The 20-year-old hates me, because Mom has made up all kinds of lies to cover her mistakes. Bio Mom cheated on Dad, many times. Dad had enough and filed for divorce. She didn’t want the kids to find out so brainwashed them into crazy stories, INCLUDING telling them I caused their divorce even though I wasn’t in their life until years later. She was so convincing it took the youngest until this year to realize the timelines didn’t add up. Not joking. Two weeks ago, she told us that of all her friends with divorced parents, she has the most awesome stepmom and a dad that is still around and loves them. She said her mom is the problem. She sees, and doesn’t like what she sees. Eldest still believes the mom, and is pretty mean to the younger two if they don’t fall in line with her lies.

Anyway, my desire to have children kicked into overdrive once I realized I didn’t suck and got closer with the children. DH conceded. We went to a lecture for older adults about fertility. Spoke for 15 minutes with a doctor who told us IVF was the only way. Possibly donor eggs/sperm. That scared the husband, and now he doesn’t want kids anymore. He’s worried about my health, as I’m older, and worried he’ll have a nervous breakdown dealing with his ex, current kids and a new baby. Especially a baby that isn’t his and can’t guarantee if they’ll be healthy because the genetics are not ours. At one point, he told me he loved me so much that he thought we should get divorced so that I could go have a baby on my own, or with a younger man. I lost it.

THAT, on top of the grief and insane depression I’ve had over not being a mother, just crushed me. I went from being really sad, to really sad and angry. I know a lot of it is tied to my first husband and the mind games he used to pull on this subject. I’ve been in therapy and started taking antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds. I was a healthy, thriving, happy single person until coming into this life. I fell in love with someone who does love me, and wants to take care of me for the long haul . . . but he comes with all this baggage (much of which I’m not sharing here). A lot of this came out after we got married, and if I say anything to anyone their first comment is “you should have known.” Ummm, I’m not able to predict the future so how would I have known?

I’ve never married a guy with kids before. Waited a year into our relationship before meeting the kids because I wanted to be sure it was for real. They were very pleasant, until we got engaged. Once the ex found out we were serious, she got to work trying to wreck our relationship, and ruin me. At that time, we had moved in together, were building a house and planning to get married. OMG! Never had to deal with a high conflict ex, never moved somewhere because someone else made the decision and we just had to follow. Lots of “nevers,” and it’s been really hard. He promised me it would get better, and we have made progress, but I think all the bad stuff, and the hormones, and the depression/anxiety have just broken me. I’ve lost myself, feel completely mental, and am so far away from friends and family. I’m alone. There is no one to give me a hug if I’m sad (my husband travels a lot). Now, I feel like I’m giving up my chance to have children.

These kids will never have a mother/child relationship with me. They are grateful I’ve taught them so many things their mother hasn’t (well, the younger two), but they’ll always be terrified to show their appreciation because of how Mom will behave if she finds out. Eldest is a tattletale, Mom’s spy. She should be in college, elsewhere, but dropped out. Things were getting so much better, and now are reverting because she moved back home. I’m the evil step-mom again because eldest says so, so my depression is getting worse. My anger is getting worse. I feel like I don’t have any control over my own life. I can’t even control my professional life, because we live in the sticks (not by choice . . . because Mom ran off her with the kids and he followed), so there are no jobs in my field. Thankfully, I was able to obtain a work-from-home position, but it’s entry level and I’m an executive. I have always made things work, my entire life. Adjusted to whatever situation I was in to make it work. This is the first time I feel like I’m constantly fighting to make it work, and it’s not.

In short, I don’t know if LOVE is enough. He is a strong, caring, kind, funny, provider. I love him dearly. He tells me they consider me family, and everyone really does care about me. I do not love dealing with the baggage and how he has chosen not to stand up to his ex’s dumb decisions. My mother-in-law told me he never would AFTER we got married, and said “good luck dealing with that evil B****” . . . and laughed. If I ever complained about not having kids or what I had to deal with, she would just say “You knew, and is nothing ever good enough for you? Can’t you just be happy with my grandkids?” What? Has a childless women EVER received that comment from their MIL before?

I wish I knew how crazy the ex was before we were married. I wish I knew my MIL wasn’t really the funny, kind person she portrayed. I wish I knew I wouldn’t be strong enough to deal with it all, and how it would change me.

Now, I feel broken. My anger towards dealing with all of this pain has turned me into a very unhappy, negative person. I don’t even recognize myself anymore. I don’t even know how to look at my days in a positive light. It’s just all gray and cloudy. I didn’t know trying to be a decent stepparent would mean I would get treated like crap for years. I feel lied to and taken advantage of, and now cash-strapped because I’ve paid for so much in this household it’s not even funny. No, we don’t share financial accounts. We’ve dealt with too many court/money situations and I don’t want his ex knowing what I do, how much I make and how much I have saved. It’s none of her business. She’s constantly having the kids ask me how much I make. Awesome, huh?

Guess I should have done my research. Now I feel really ignorant. The honeymoon has worn off and we’ve only been together five years, married for three. I’ve heard it takes seven to work out most of the kinks. I don’t know if I can make it to seven years at this rate. But then, I’ll feel like a failure. Divorced again because I made a bad decision and didn’t know what this life would be like.

Does anyone have any advice? Is this what it is like? Does it get better? How do you stay sane when you don’t have a support network near you?

Please help.

Thank you, and terribly sorry for the long note. I happened to stumble across this and felt connected in some way, I guess.

So there it is. Heartbreaking. What advice do you have for NH? Does her story strike familiar chords with you? Please comment. 

 

 

 

 

Should she leave her childless marriage?

Dear readers,

In response to last week’s post regarding regret if we choose our mate over having children, Heavy Heart wrote:

“First of all, thank you for posting this as I would like to hear advice from the ladies who remained childless past their child bearing age. I am going to be 36 years old very soon, married to a man who has a 10 year old son. We agreed on having our own child when we first started our serious relationship five years ago. Fast forward five years. Now married for 3 years, bio mom drama subsided, financials are more stable. My husband says his life is finally ‘good.’ um…can we now start planning for our child?? My husband has been avoiding the conversation as much as he can. Excuses, excuses, and excuses. I am very close to asking him “YES or NO” and if the NO is the final answer, leaving him, but I can’t get to that final answer and I don’t want to hear that final answer. He says he is on the fence because of the financial burden of having two children because he has to take care of his son first before having his second. He knows it’s ‘unfair’ if he said no and he knows that I will probably leave him so he is avoiding the conversation altogether.”

In responding to Heavy Heart, something suddenly clicked in my head. If they had the kind of relationship meant to last forever, she wouldn’t think about leaving. I know that for me, leaving Fred was not an option. He was my person, period.

So I ask you: Is the marriage already too shaky to last if one of the partners is thinking about leaving for any reason, especially if they’re giving their spouse an ultimatum: Say yes, I stay; say no, and I’m gone? And what about the husband in this case? People do change their minds, but they had a deal. Does he not love her enough to stick with that deal?

Heavy Heart, if you’re reading this, I hope it’s okay that I’m sharing your comment more widely. You are not alone in this situation. I hear variations of the same story all the time. One of the partners balks at having children, despite having agreed to them earlier, and now the other is thinking about leaving, wondering if they can find someone else who is more willing before it’s too late.

Me, I want to scream at Heavy Heart’s husband, and I want to go back to simpler times. I have asked my father about deciding to have children. His answer is always that, “You just did.” In those years shortly after World War II before birth control was easy to get, people got married and had babies, period.

So what do you think? What is your advice for Heavy Heart?

***

My dog Annie had her knee surgery last Thursday. I have been in full caregiver mode since then, doling out pills, watching to make sure she doesn’t tear up her incision, taking her on short, careful walks, and just sitting with her. Right now, she’s snoring beside my desk. You can read more about her situation at my Unleashed in Oregon blog.

 

 

 

How Much Would You Give to Have Children?

How far would you go to have children? What would you be willing to sacrifice? A reader who is calling himself Anonymous Max has commented several times on my Sept. 27 post “Are You Ready to Accept Childlessness?”  Clearly there are no limits to how far he’ll go to be a father.

AMax has two stepchildren, but he does not feel like a father to them.  He has tried mentoring and working with other people’s kids, but it’s the not same. He will not be happy until he has his own biological child. Following a miscarriage and years of trying, he and his wife have realized they won’t be able to have children in the usual way, but he’s not giving up. He plans to hire a surrogate to bear their child, implanting sperm and egg into another woman’s body. To afford it, he is working three jobs and investing as much money as he can.

The cost of surrogacy varies. Estimates online range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Insurance is unlikely to cover it. A lot of emotions become involved when you’re asking someone else to carry your baby and give it up when the pregnancy is over. AMax says his wife was hesitant at first, but is “on board” now. It’s a difficult path, but they’re determined to take it. I hope AMax will keep us informed about what happens.

Most often here, people ask about whether or not to leave their partner to find someone who will have children with them. Leaving someone you love is a huge sacrifice and an equally huge risk. What if you never find a new partner? What if it’s too late to get pregnant when you do?

“Lifeasitisbyme” reported recently  that her husband is divorcing her so she can go have children with someone else. She says, “I’m completely heartbroken as I still love him. He doesn’t feel it’s fair that he’s holding me back on having a family and doesn’t feel he’s been fair to me. At this point I’m confused. I love him dearly and I’ve started to wonder if having children is more important than losing my soulmate.”

What if your spouse or partner suddenly said, “I’m letting you go. You need to have children and I can’t give them to you.” What would you do?

Is your need to have children so strong that you will sacrifice anything to be a mom or dad? Do you want it as bad as AMax? Do you feel guilty if a voice inside says, “I’m not sure.”

Think about it, friends. Perhaps it will answer some questions for you.

***

In the wake of the NotMom Summit, I have added some new books and websites to the resource page. Clink on the link at the top of this page to check it out.