Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Have you lost friends because you don't have children?

Yesterday I received the welcome news that an essay I wrote about losing a close friend when she became obsessed with her babies will be published in an upcoming anthology about women and lost friendships. They're calling it My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends. I like the title. For me and I suspect for many other women, my best friend growing up was like a spouse. We did everything together, spent all our time together, called each other on the phone five minutes after we got home. In many ways, our relationship was as intimate as a marriage. But sometimes when we grow up, life takes us in other directions.

Actually, my childhood best friend, Sherri, is still my best friend, even though she had the audacity to move to Texas. Whenever we call, we pick up right where we left off. The fact that she has a daughter has done nothing to interrupt that friendship.

It was different with the woman I wrote about for the anthology. We met as young adults. We worked together and we hung out together in our spare time. We looked so much alike people thought we were sisters. When we met, she was married but didn't have any children. I was recently divorced. We were so close that I asked her to be my matron of honor for my second wedding. But then she started having babies. She quit her job to become a full-time mommy. Suddenly we didn't speak the same language. We tried for a while, but our friendship faded away. I hate that.

These days I have other friends who have children. On Memorial Day, a friend invited me to her house for a potluck. All afternoon, the center of attention was a six-month-old baby girl, and much of the conversation focused on the other women's children. I didn't have much to say. Nobody asked about my children, which is good because then I'd have to say I didn't have any and there'd be that awkward thud in the conversation. Luckily we also talked about a lot of other things, but it always came back to that baby. And why not? She was fascinating. I like all these people and I plan to continue hanging out with them, sharing our love of music, dogs, and life in Oregon. But I'm older and wiser than I was when my lost friend was having her baby boys. I know that sometimes we are not going to connect because I don't have any experience with babies, and we just have to work around it.

Interestingly, another woman wrote an essay for the anthology from the other point of view. She was the one who had a baby and lost her friend because of it. I'm looking forward to reading what she wrote.

The book is coming out in September. For information, visit

Meanwhile, I have a question for you. Have you lost friends because one of you had children and the other didn't? Please share your stories in the comments.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Should you gamble on a partner who says he or she doesn't want children?

Back in my grandmother's day, things were pretty simple. You grew up, got married and had babies. Period. No birth control. No legal abortions. No vasectomies or tube-tieing. The only people who didn't have children, aside from priests and nuns, were the ones who were physically unable. And everyone pitied them. "Oh poor Aunt Martha, she couldn't have children."

There was no choice, no changing of minds, no "do you want to have children?" "Let's wait until we have more money" or "I don't think I want to have children." People just had babies, and if it made their lives more difficult, if taking care of the kids meant sacrificing something else you would have liked to do, tough.

Sometimes I wish we were still back in those days. With all the sex my first husband and I had, I'd have at least three children now, maybe more because we might not have gotten divorced. I'd still be attached to a husband who drank too much and didn't believe in monogamy. Instead, we split up, and I married Fred, who was the best husband ever, except for not wanting to have children with me. Did it turn out for the best? I think so.

Every day I receive comments from readers struggling with the baby question. In many cases, they and their partners completely agreed when they got together about having or not having children. Then either one of them changed their minds or one of them proved to be unable to make babies. And now they don't know what to do. They're broken-hearted. They're talking about breaking up, but they're still in love and don't know if they'll ever find a better mate. I don't know what to tell them. Things happen. People turn out to be infertile. People who said they didn't care about having children suddenly realize that they can't bear living their entire lives without experiencing motherhood or fatherhood. People who thought they wanted children discover they really don't.

What it comes down to, I think, is making a commitment to another person and sticking to it, no matter what. Relationships are a gamble. Marriage is a gamble. He/she might die, might get sick, might get fired, might not be able to get pregnant, might decide he'd rather have a puppy. People change their minds. If you truly love that person, you don't leave when things get tough. You talk it through and find the best solution for both of you. When it comes to having children, if one wants them and one doesn't, somebody's going to get hurt. So the question it always comes down to is: Is this person worth taking a chance?

What do you think? Please post your comments. I'm running out of answers. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

We Made It Through Another Mother's Day!

We survived Mother’s Day. Congratulations to all of us. I was all set to cruise through this one by keeping busy and not thinking about it. But I don’t live in the desert or alone on an island, and neither do you. All the prayers for moms at church, the moms being taken out to brunch by their loving families, the Facebook posts, the TV shows, and the friends talking about visiting their mothers and bragging about what their children had done for them took their toll. I didn’t weep. I wished a few friends happy Mother’s Day, and I had a good time playing music with friends in the afternoon, but by bedtime, I felt profoundly sad. I missed my mother, my husband, my stepchildren and the biological children I never had. I lay awake in bed, watching the digital clock tick through the numbers until midnight, then breathed a sigh of relief. Mother’s Day was over. Thank God.

I don’t think other people understand how we feel, especially on days like Mother’s Day or at baby showers or when our friends obsess about their children. It’s like we come from another country and speak another language. The thing to try to remember is that there’s nothing wrong with our country and our language. They’re different but just as good.Our lives just took a different path.

I need your help with something. In the last week, several people have posted comments about situations where one partner wants children and the other doesn’t, and they’re considering breaking up. They love each other and don’t know if they’ll ever find someone else as good, but the baby issue has come between them. It’s hard to know what to say except I’m sorry and I hope they make the right decision. If you have a minute, visit the post If You Disagree About Children, Is Your Relationship Doomed? and add your two cents.

How did you do on Mother’s Day? Tell us how it went.  

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Duck! Mother's Day is Coming Again

If we're to believe the images we see in the TV commercials, Mother's Day is a joy to all women. Their children shower them with gifts, Hallmark cards, and breakfast in bed, and the whole family gathers to honor the grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Picture little girls in frilly dresses hugging their moms and grand-moms. Picture big picnics, feasts at a big dining room table, or gatherings at a favorite restaurant. Picture flowers and cards, and the whole world wishing you a happy Mother's Day because you, the mother, deserve it.

Yeah. Now picture what it's really like for many of us. First, our mothers may be dead or terminally ill or we don't get along. The holiday emphasizes the fact that we don't have a mother to honor. Second, we don't all have children. We go to church and feel left out when special prayers are said for the mothers. We go out to eat, and the waiter assumes we're mothers, but we're not. We go to a family gathering and feel left out because we're the only ones without kids. We wait all day for some kind of acknowledgement from our stepchildren, and it doesn't happen. Everywhere we look, people are talking about Mother's Day, and it makes us feel like crap.

For those who are mothers, congratulations. Enjoy your day. For the rest of us, if we can focus on the moms in our lives, that's a great thing to do. If you just can't, run away until it's over. It's a good day to turn off the TV, stay away from Facebook, and avoid going to restaurants. How about a hike, a walk on the beach, or a movie instead?

I'll be playing music for two Masses at church and then going to my monthly song circle. In between, I'll probably have lunch with a friend who hates Mother's Day as much as I do. Her mother, like mine, has died. She has adult children, but their relationship is rocky. So I'll pretty much do what I usually do on Sundays, and I'll enjoy it.

Over the years, Mother's Day has gotten easier for me. It will for you, too, I promise. Try not to get yourself all upset about it. If you need a good cry, go ahead and cry. Then move on. It's just one day.