Wednesday, January 28, 2015

TMI? How Much Should We Tell People?

A male friend of mine is reading my Childless by Marriage book. Once planning to be a priest, he has never married or had children. He’s still very religious, and I expected him to be shocked. I mean, the man is shocked when I say something as innocuous as “That sucks,” and he won’t watch movies with cursing or sex in them. 

The early chapters of the book are quite open about my sex life, about losing my virginity to my future husband, my experiences with birth control, and my post-divorce experiences with other men. Maybe, after reading all that, he would not want to be my friend anymore. So, the next time we talked after he started reading it, I held my breath.

“Well,” he said the first day, “You’ve had quite a lot of experiences, haven’t you?” Um, yes.  “I can’t believe how open you are.” I guess. “You’ve been through so much.” It’s just life.

I told him I was worried about him not liking me anymore, but he said, “Nothing you could do would change how I feel about you.” Now that’s a friend.

The second day, he talked about feeling left behind. He didn’t become a priest because he wanted to marry and have children, but he never found the right person, “the one who rang my bell.” Now, in his 60s, facing open heart surgery in the near future, he knows he can never get those years back.

That “wasted years” feeling is one many of us share. What did we do with those years when we might have been with someone we loved and/or with those years when we might have been raising children? What do we tell people when they ask, “Why?”

Do we give them all the gory details about infertility, birth control, miscarriages and misgivings? Do we talk about how our partners don’t want kids—or we don’t, how the stepchildren have messed up our own chances, how we fear passing on mental illness, addictions and other problems, or how we just don’t have enough money? What do we say? How much should say?

In casual conversation, I usually just tell people, “God had other plans for me.” I believe that, but there’s so much more to the story. Just saying I don’t have kids tends to bring conversation to a halt. No kids? No grandkids? What? How much should I share?

What do you think? How much information do you need to give when people ask why you don’t have children? Do you tell all, give a vague answer, or change the subject? Is it none of their business? Do you turn it around and ask why they DO have children?

Please share in the comments. And, if you’ve read my book, did I say too much?

Thank you all for being here.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Book shows how people can change their minds about having kids

Sometimes it seems like every woman over 30 has kids, right? Well, not always. I'm reading a wonderful true story called Wild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family by Melissa Hart. An Oregon writer and teacher, she was the guest at our local Nye Beach Writers Series last weekend. She is a wonderful writer, performer and teacher, one of those people who just sparkles with life.

Melissa grew up not wanting children. Her childhood, profiled in her earlier book Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood, was more than a little unusual and she saw traits she did not want to pass on to another generation. Plus, despite years of babysitting, she didn't really like babies. Her first marriage a bust, she raised cats and dogs instead. One day at the dog park, she met Jonathan, and a romance blossomed. Now Jonathan didn't want babies either. Perfect, right?

Jonathan was a volunteer at a raptor rescue center that cared for injured and orphaned owls, hawks, eagles, kestrels and other wild predatory birds. He was going to school and planned to be a photographer, but the raptors were the center of his life. He soon lured Melissa in to volunteer, too. They fell in love, moved in together, and eventually got married. Together they poured their love and nurturing energies into the birds and their four-legged children. They agreed they didn't want to have babies. Jonathan, plagued infections in his testicles, had a vasectomy. Still perfect, yes?

Well, it was perfect until Melissa met Jonathan's sister's adopted daughter and realized she wanted to have a daughter, too. Nervous about how her new husband would respond, she told him she wanted to adopt a child, not an infant but a girl a few years old who needed a home. He said yes. Now I'm at the place in the book where they're trying to adopt. I can't spoil the rest of the story for you because I haven't read it yet.

But here's the thing. People change their minds, and that's okay. We're human. So many of the people who comment here have experienced that change of mind, either themselves or in their partners, sometimes to wanting a baby, sometimes to not. Problems arise when only one person wants to change the terms of their relationship. Ideally, if you both really love each other, someone gives in and the other accepts the decision. That's so hard. Sometimes it's impossible. But we need to try to be open to each other's changing needs and desires.

And read this book. It's encouraging. Besides, if you don't end up having babies, maybe you could take care of owls or dogs or salamanders . . .

Have a wonderful week, and send me some comments besides the spam I keep getting about magic spells and potions, house remodels and website development.

Time to go walk my dog child before she starts eating the furniture.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Should I feel bad that I don’t feel bad about not having kids?

Okay, let me state that I did want children and if I could go back and change things, I would have  a house full of kids and grandkids yelling “Mom!” and “Grandma!” “I’d take over my mother-in-law’s title as “Grandma Lick.” Maybe even “GG” as she asked her great-grandchildren to call her. I could spend my days making things for them all, saving keepsakes and pictures and family stories—aw rats, I do feel bad.

But not always. That’s the thing I want to communicate. Most of the time, I enjoy my uncomplicated life. I don’t go to a store, restaurant, church or anywhere else, see people with their kids and feel pain or sadness. I used to, but I don’t anymore. I’m content most of the time. I know many of you hurt when people in your lives have babies. I do, too. I even cry when characters on TV shows have babies. But when a friend welcomed a new granddaughter recently, I felt only happiness for her.

My life now is about other things, my writing, my music, my dog, my friends, my family. It's about food, books, travel, art, and faith in a God who had a reason for making me childless.

I did do some weeping during the holiday season, but it wasn’t over my lack of children. I miss my husband, who died 3 ½ years ago. I feel his loss in everything. I ache when I see other women with their husbands. I hurt bad when I see couples kissing or holding hands. I go to a concert alone and realize most of the audience is grouped in twos. I look under the Christmas tree and there isn't much there because most of the gifts used to be the ones Fred and I gave to each other.

It hurt more this last Christmas because the friends I usually spend the holidays with were all busy with their kids and grandkids. I didn’t want to be them; I just missed being able to spend time with them.

Do I wish I had kids? Yes, but I don’t feel bad most of the time. I have moved on.

So many of you are stuck in the don’t-know-what-to-do place. Stay with the mate who doesn't want children or look for someone else before it's too late? It’s a decision no one should ever have to make. But consider this. When you’re in your 60s during the holidays, which would you miss more, the children you might have had or the partner/spouse who is with you right now? 

Congratulations on surviving the holiday season with all its many challenges. Now we move on. I promise it will get easier.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Are you afraid to demand what you need?

Dear readers,

Happy New Year! I suspect that you're as glad as I am that the holidays are finally over and we can get back to normal. The holidays build up so many expectations which usually result in disappointment. Right? So, let's just move on.

I have decided to feature some of the comments I receive here on the blog from time to time. They often come on old posts that you might not see. One of the posts that draws the most comments is "If You Disagree About Children, Is Your Relationship Doomed?" from Jan. 4, 2013. Most readers can't answer the question, but they're hoping somebody else can. Check out this comment from Miranda:

I'm 30 he's 38. He has seven yes 7 kids from previous relationships. Ages 10-22... We've been together just under ten years. We finally got married in 2014. I had been so excited to finally have the wedding and then his mother died the week of the wedding unexpectedly. They used our reception hall the day after the wedding for the funeral. :-( the week after the wedding I collapsed and a CT scan showed a tumor, a rare fibroid in my uterus causing chaos in my body and also not allowing an egg to ever attach. It's going to be removed next month. Up until this year I loved kids but my bio clock wasn't ticking or anything. Now it's ticking. Up until now he said he wasn't getting a vasectomy because it wouldn't be fair to expect me to help raise all his kids and then tell me I can't have one. Except that's exactly what's happening. He doesn't want more kids. He's worn out. He will have another but not because he wants to. It's a totally different story to raise other people's kids. His youngest is ten and We've had full custody since he was two. It's still not the same. I want my own child. I won't leave over this matter but I'm heartbroken. It seems like everything I've ever looked forward to is being destroyed. I can't feasibly get pregnant and feel good about it if it's just going to chase him off because he's tired of kids. I doubt he'd leave but I don't want to do it alone either.. 

Seven kids and he can't handle one more? Now he's getting a vasectomy? My reaction is that she should insist on having the child. It's not fair to say yes and then say no, especially in a situation where the woman has only a short time to get pregnant. I know all the reasons why it might not work, but the thing is, I think too often we're afraid to demand what we need, to say, "I want a baby, and we're going to have one." We're afraid it will destroy the relationship, that our mate will resent us, that he won't love the baby. But we might be mistaken about that. We're afraid to even mention it for fear he or she will get upset. I suggest that we all make 2015 the year we speak up for our needs. If it goes bad, it goes bad, but at least we didn't suffer in silence.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments. I'm sure Miranda would like more opinions than mine.