Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Being without children is not always a bad thing

I sat alone at a table at Georgie's restaurant yesterday reading a book and occasionally looking out at the ocean as the waves roared and crashed not far away. My salmon sandwich on focaccia bread was delicious. I didn't mind the mayonnaise-pesto sauce running down my fingers. The iced tea was crisp and cold, and my waiter was handsome and helpful.

At the two big tables nearby, mothers and grandmothers wrangled children under age four, talking them through the menu, then entertaining them as they waited for their food. The men admired the view or talked about sports while the women played 20 questions with the kids. "Shall we color a picture?" "What color do you want? Red? Blue?" "Do you want French fries with your hot dog?" "After we eat, do you want to go look at boats or go play on the beach?"

At one table, the kids were pretty well behaved, but at the other with one infant and two high-chair kids, it got a little noisy. One boy screamed as he was lowered into the high chair. As soon as he quieted down, his brother or cousin started screeching "I want! I want!" every 30 seconds. Nobody shushed him or suggested he say, "Please." Meanwhile, I enjoyed my lunch and my book and my ocean view. I did not wish for one second that one of those kids was mine.

After lunch, I drove to the nearby Yaquina Bay State Park, where I settled with my notebook at a warm picnic table overlooking the beach and wrote for a while. I could see a large family having a picnic at another table. All ages, lots of food. I do miss family picnics. But I was glad to have my quiet time in the sun.

Sometimes I wonder if I ever had the patience to do the mom thing. I'm sure I would have figured out how to handle my children's needs along with my own, and I know kids don't remain toddlers forever. With luck they grow up into self-sufficient adults with their own children, and they go live in their own houses. But maybe God knew what he was doing.

I cried a lot about not having children back in my 30s and 40s, the ages of most of you who write to me here. It hurt. Still does sometimes. But I can assure you from the perspective of almost a decade past menopause, that it's okay. Life without children can be good, especially if you have other interests that keep you happy and busy. And there are other ways to mother.

If you're in a decision-making mode, go with your gut. Great life partners are not that easy to find. If you have one and all is well except for not agreeing about babies, consider that life can be all right even if you don't have children. But if the relationship is not good, for God's sake, get out of it and look for someone who will make you happy and, with luck, also have children with you.

I welcome your comments. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What Should This Childless Woman Do?

Dear friends, 
Every day I receive comments from readers about their childless situations. More than 230 people, mostly anonymous, have responded to a 2007 post titled "Are You Grieving Over Your Lack of Children?" It is the most popular post on this blog, and there's an ocean of tears behind these comments. Sometimes the comments are so troubling I don't know what to say, and I hate to see them buried in the comments of a seven-year-old post. Today I'm offering this comment and my response. I hope that you readers will chime in with your own experiences and advice.
Anonymous said...
I've just turned 35 and have been with my partner for 13 years. I always knew he didn't want children, and I always said that I did (although in practice I feel like I've never really decided either way, because my opinion has never mattered). We talked about it, on and off, for years, never finding a solution to our different wishes, but staying together anyway.

Then last year I met a wonderful (but emotionally damaged) man who I fell in love with, much to my distress. I felt strongly that I wanted to have children with him (despite some really obvious, serious flaws in his suitability as a partner!) and although he says he couldn't have a relationship with me while he's so emotionally messed up, we did once have a quiet, nervous conversation about how we would both like to have children and... maybe... together.

I haven't started a relationship with this man, although I still long to, however misguided I know it would be. But the feelings have overwhelmed me and the relationship I have with my partner. I've talked to my partner again this weekend about the long-term issues in our relationship, including children. He's adamant he doesn't want them and is prepared for me to leave him if I feel I have to. I'm left with trying to decide whether to stay in a good but definitely imperfect relationship with a man who I love, without children, forever, whether to leave him and pursue the man I know will break my heart, but who *might* just give me children in the meantime, or whether to give up on all of it and live in a little house on my own with a cat. I have time left, but not much, and the pressure is making me insane. If anyone has tips on making childlessness feel like your own decision... those would be very welcome.
Sue Fagalde Lick said...
Anonymous June 15, it sounds like the relationship you have and the one you are considering are both unhealthy and destined to give you lots of heartache. I know you want children, but I wouldn't advise pursuing a relationship with a man who says himself that he's too messed up just because you might have a child together. As for making childlessness feel like your own decision, you can't force that. Either it is your decision or you do your best to accept that circumstances didn't work out for you.
I'm feeling old and cranky this morning. Anybody else have more encouraging advice?

Dear readers, what do you think?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Take a Lesson from Dolly Parton

Today while I'm busy with other things, I just want to share this article with you. It's about country star Dolly Parton, who puts a happy spin on not having children. "Dolly Parton is Aunt Granny to her Nieces and Nephews."  She's living proof that even if you don't have biological children, if you reach out to others who do have kids you can have children and grandchildren in your life. I know it's not easy. I spend plenty of time whining about being alone. But it is possible. Enjoy.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

We childless do not have to end up alone

We’re taking photos this week for our church directory. I volunteered yesterday afternoon to check people in. That gave me a front row seat to watch people getting their pictures taken.

In past directories, I have always been painfully aware of my lone face sticking out among the family pictures. Some were just couples, but others had so many kids crammed into the shot that they barely fit in the little square.

This year’s directory will be no different, except for one thing. I am much more aware of the individuals who get photographed alone. Men and women. Widowed, divorced, never married. Some have grown children and grandchildren, but they don’t live here. The men were pretty matter of fact about flying solo, but the women would say, “Just me” and sigh. Busy filling out forms, I would nod and say, “Me too.”

Ending up alone is not unusual, whether you have 10 children or none. But the beautiful thing was the way friends connected while they waited for their turns in front of the camera. Some people have been going to this church for 50 years. Our parish is like a big family. Once you enter, you don’t have to be alone.

I know everyone is not religious, and I’m not here to convert anybody. But people can create family relationships in all kinds of groups. For many, their co-workers become a family. But you can also get involved in whatever interests you. Here on the Oregon Coast, people volunteer at the aquarium. They join the therapy dog group. They sing with Sweet Adelines or volunteer at the homeless shelter. They help with programs for kids at schools, churches, and sports organizations. I’ll bet there are plenty of opportunities wherever you live.

I know one of our biggest fears is ending up alone if we don’t have children. And we might. It’s just me and the dog at my house, and sometimes I hate it. But we don’t have to be alone. When somebody needs help, be the one who says, “I’ll do it.”

What do you think about this? I welcome your comments.