Wednesday, June 24, 2015

When hormones outtalk common sense

I've been thinking about Monday's "Bachelorette" TV show. Did you see it? Kaitlyn, the bachelorette, and Nick, one of her suitors, made out all over Dublin, even in a church. It was embarrassing to watch. I kept yelling at the screen, "Nick get your hands out of her dress!" but he didn't hear me. Then they went back to her hotel suite and had sex. We didn't see it, but we heard the sound effects, and it was all over the news on Tuesday. Shooting in Charleston, Kaitlyn does Nick. It could all have been staged, but clearly those two were in that zone where common sense goes out the window. I've been there. Have you?

In her voiceovers, Kaitlin kept saying that when she gets together with Nick, she forgets the cameras, the other guys and everything else. I know the feeling. Maybe you do, too. You have just discovered this person. Your hormones are going crazy. Suddenly nothing else matters. You will do or say anything to keep the relationship going. You'll move, you'll quit your job, you'll shut out the advice of everyone in your world, and you'll ignore that little voice in your head that says, "Hey, wait a minute."

Then the initial fire cools. You look around and think, wait, I don't want to change my whole life. I like my job. I like my home. He's not as cute as I thought he was. Suddenly he or she says, "About those babies . . . I'm not so sure." Now you're committed and in a jam.

That's where most of the folks here, including me, end up. I hear it over and over. Yesterday, an anonymous writer sent a four-part comment about her situation. She's 38, he's 40. She's sure he's the love of her life. She moved in with him a while ago. He was okay with baby thing before, but now he's saying he doesn't want to have a baby. She's freaking out, she's starting counseling, she's not sure if they can stay together. What do I think she should do?

I never know what to tell people in this situation. The old lady in me misses the days when people didn't jump into bed or move in together so quickly, when you had to commit to marriage before doing the horizontal polka. Or maybe people were just sneakier about it. We all do it. I slept with Fred early on and moved in with him before we got married. Luckily, I got a good man and I have no regrets, except for not having children, but it doesn't always work out that well. I could have skipped my whole first marriage if I had listened to the wiser woman in my head.

Don't ignore that little voice. It's like when I quit my excellent job and gave up my apartment in 1983 to sing with a band that had a contract to tour the U.S. All I ever wanted was to sing in a band, and here was my chance. We were going to be rich and famous. Our sponsors went bankrupt in two months. There I was with no home and no job. I moved back in with my parents and started over. Wiser members of the band had kept their jobs and had something to go back to, but me, I jumped headfirst.

It's the same with relationships. I know how it feels to be crazy in love. The rest of the world just disappears, but don't let it. Do whatever you can to get a clear head, whether it's prayer, a hiking trip, or a long talk with a friend. Listen to your loved ones, listen to that voice in your head. Don't burn any bridges until you're sure it's going to work because sometimes it's perfect, and sometimes it turns into a disaster.

Have you been in similar situations? Have you dumped everything for a man or woman and then regretted it? I would love to hear your comments.



Wednesday, June 17, 2015

12 Things Childless by Marriage People Don't Dare Say Out Loud



Political correctness touches all areas of life, including childlessness. Friends and relatives who know we’re touchy about not having kids may struggle to say the “right thing” or avoid the subject altogether. Some just say stupid things that make us want to strike them.“Guess you don’t like kids, huh?” “Lucky you, free to do whatever you want.” “You can always adopt.” “Dump the bum and marry someone else.” “You don’t know; you never had a baby.” Know what I mean?

But there are some things we childless folks also avoid saying, things that we think and feel but don’t dare say out loud because then it would look like we’re selfish, we don’t really want kids, or we’re just nasty, trivial people. Have you ever felt like saying any of these?

* I hate you for having children and grandchildren when I don’t get to have them.

* I hate my husband (wife) for not giving me kids.

* My body looks better than yours, ha ha.

* Thank God we didn’t pass on his nose or my butt.

* I'm glad I don't have to worry about having a child with a birth defect.

* I hate being around whiny kids.

* I have no idea how to take care of a baby.

* Thank God I didn’t have children with HIM.

* My mom had no life; I don't want that.

* I’m terrified of pregnancy and childbirth.

* Sometimes I’m glad I don’t have children.

* My God, that baby is ugly.

I’m sure I will think of more. Can you add some unexpressed thoughts of your own to the list? Please don't anyone take offense. We can be honest here, right? Has anyone not thought some of these things?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Don't hide your childless tears from your partner


"My god, I cried and cried reading your post as I sit here in the dark outside grieving for what will never be. I love my partner and I hate him a little too because he doesn't want children and I am left bound by that decision. I feel my time running out and wish every single day he would change his mind but he is unwavering in his decision. And at the same time I can barely acknowledge this pain and grief to myself because I am terrified of it consuming me. This is the first time I have ever really sat down and let it all wash over me. I can't stop crying. I don't know how I am going to walk inside and pretend I'm okay because he doesn't understand."

One of my earliest posts, "Are Your Grieving Over Your Lack of Children," published Nov. 7, 2007, still draws more comments than any other. The comment above is the most recent. It brings back memories for me. I too hid my grief from my husband. I cried in the bathtub, in the car, or in the garage, but not in front of Fred. Oh no. Mustn't make him feel bad or risk making him mad. But looking back, I think that was wrong. I should have showed how I felt instead of hiding my feelings and hoping some kind of miracle would occur.

I am also bothered by her statement, "I am left bound by that decision." Is she? It's so hard to see a situation clearly when we're in the middle of it. We can't see any way out, we think we have no options, but we do. To Anonymous, I say reopen the conversation. You can agree to disagree, but don't hide your feelings. They count as much as his.

I don't cry all the time anymore. Sometimes I just curse and kick things, but when you're at the time of life when you see your chances of parenthood disappearing with every passing day, it hurts like hell. Losing your chance to have children is a big loss, and we don't need to hide it. If people don't like it, too bad.

I'd love to hear your comments.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What will we do if we become “Elder Orphans?”



An elderly cancer patient in North Carolina called 911 recently to ask someone to buy him some food. He’s what a new study is calling an “elder orphan,” one of more and more older people who have no kids, no spouse, and no one to take care of them.

The study by Maria Torroella Carney, MD, shows that nearly one-quarter of Americans over age 65 are currently or at risk to become “Elder orphans.” It’s a growing population that is often invisible to the people around them, alone in their houses struggling to survive. One-third of older Americans are single, a 50 percent increase since 1980. The latest census figures show 19 percent of American women are ending their childbearing years without children. Thus they wind up alone.

I’m very much in danger of being one of those people. I live alone in the woods with no husband and no kids. My family is small and far away. I do have friends and helpful neighbors, but I have a hard time calling on them for help.

Just like my dad. My father is 93 years old and has lived alone in the house in San Jose where I grew up since my mom died in 2002. My brother and I do our best to help, but neither one of us lives nearby. Dad has heart problems, struggles to walk since he broke his hip last year, and falls way too often. He puts off going to the doctor or renewing his many medications because, although he can still drive, he doesn’t understand the medical system very well and the Kaiser Hospital where he goes is so crowded there’s no nearby parking. His house is falling apart around him because he can’t do the maintenance anymore, and his cooking is . . . interesting.

I just returned from San Jose (Did you miss me?). I had planned for a vacation-type visit, but the day before I left, Dad’s doctor decided he needed to have his pacemaker replaced immediately. So I took him to the hospital, interacted with doctors and nurses, picked up his prescriptions, and played caregiver again. He's fine. But what if I wasn’t there?

Have I told you about Dad’s fall last August? He went down in the backyard. Broke his hip. Crawled all the way across the yard, through the garage and out to the driveway, where he lay waving his hat until a neighbor saw him. This took hours. Thank God the garage door was open. I could not have stopped him from falling, but I could have prevented the torture that followed. I spent a month taking care of him, but then I had to come home. feel so guilty, but he wants me to live my life, and he wants to live his. He’s proud of being independent. He’d rather die alone in his backyard than in some senior facility.

Let me tell you about Dick and Ann. They’re in their late 80s. Ann is nearly blind. Dick, a burly guy with a strong Massachusetts accent, has been suffering from all kinds of health problems, including pneumonia, heart disease, and legs that just don’t want to work. Ann has a son somewhere, but he’s not around. Their neighbors, friends from our church, take care of them. They drive them around, make sure they have food, and take them to their doctors’ appointments. They do the same for an old woman on their block who lives alone. My friend Cathy even manages her finances because she can’t do them anymore, and the one time her son took over the checkbook, she wound up missing $5,000.

What I’m saying is having kids does not guarantee you won’t become an elder orphan. My brother and I call Dad every week. When something happens with him, we both get there as quickly as we can, but that may not be quickly enough. And we’re not there for the day-to-day needs, the cooking, cleaning, shopping, and just keeping him company. When I visit Dad, he talks and talks, like he’s been saving it up for years. When I leave, I feel incredibly guilty.

My friend Terry, who is about 60, has a plan. She has three grown children and a husband with some serious health issues, but she expects to be alone eventually. Her plan is to rent out her extra bedrooms to other women and create a “Golden Girls” household where they share the house and watch over each other. It sounds good to me. I think I’ll be “Dorothy,” the sensible one.

What I’m saying is that kids or no kids, we’re in danger of ending up alone in our elder years. But if we don’t have children, it’s more likely to happen. We need to make plans. Set up an advance directive and power of attorney. Choose someone who will manage things for us if we can’t. Reach out to other people who can help. It’s hard. I’m not good at asking for help, and I want to control everything. But I know who to call, and I’ve got in writing. You should do the same. Someday I’m hoping to move someplace less isolated, but meanwhile, since I don’t think my dog can dial 911, I have to take care of myself. So should you.


I’d love to hear your comments on this.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dear friends,

I'm on the road this week, plus I have a migraine headache, so I am going to share one of the first posts I wrote here in 2007. Your comments are welcome. 


Where was the Nursery in My Dream House?

"Dream House," the slender file was labeled. I remember it well, a 1968 home economics assignment filed away in a cabinet covered with bumper stickers for PBS, ecology groups, and local newspapers.
It was a great house, done up in bright red, green and yellow. I had an office, a darkroom, a craft room and a gallery, lots of bathrooms, a living room, kitchen, and bedroom, everything except a nursery. At 16, it never occurred to me to allot space for children. My home was a glorified office complex with living quarters attached.
The rest of the folder includes plans for a build-it-yourself desk and craft ideas for the kitchen and den. No nurseries or bunk beds.
Why didn't I think about a place for children? I couldn't have known that 35 years later I'd enter menopause without giving birth, that the equipment that caused me killer cramps every 28 days would never serve any purpose, that I would be married twice to men who wouldn't or couldn't have kids, that my only mothering experiences would be dog-mothering or step-mothering. I couldn't possible have known all that. I was not one of those teens who decide early that she doesn't even want to have children. And, although I claim a bit of ESP, I don't think that was involved here.
Perhaps I was just innocent. There's no space for a husband in that house either. A late bloomer, I didn't start dating until I was in college. By the time a man showed up at the door to take me on a date, my parents were so relieved they didn't even consider imposing a curfew or giving him the third degree. But I daydreamed like every other teen of boys and men falling in love with me, wanting to marry me. Did I not realize that relationships with men usually led to children, or at least they did back in the '60s? Love, marriage, baby carriage. I didn't know much about sex, but I think I knew that much.
So why at 16 didn't I leave space in my dream house for children? Why did I just seek work space?
I was a kid who "mothered" baby dolls, toddler dolls, Barbie dolls, stuffed animal dolls, enough dolls to cover my entire double bed. I gave them all names, carried them around with me, made them clothes, talked to them all the time, and grieved when they got torn or bent. I called myself their Mommy.
At the same time, I was in full wife and mother training. I learned how to cook and sew and clean. Mom had me washing, drying and ironing clothes by the hamper-full. By the time I was 10, I could copy her famous chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. By 15, I could prepare a full dinner. I could also knit, crochet, embroider and sew. Whatever other career I might pursue, my main life's work would be the same as my mother's: caring for a husband, home and children.
So why didn't I put a nursery in my dream house? 

Had I already decided that since I had had no dates at 16, nobody would ever ask me out, so I might as well plan life as a creative spinster? I don't think so. As a 30-year-old divorcee whose life was all about work, I thought that, but not when I was in high school. I had crushes on several boys and at least one teacher, and I was berserk over Paul McCartney. But a nursery? Babies? I wasn't thinking about that. Do most 16-year-olds think about babies in that window between playing with dolls and real-life pregnancy? Maybe that's why so many teens get pregnant by accident. They don't see it as something that might really happen to them.
I have always wanted a terrific office. Nurseries are pretty and soft and warm and smell of baby powder, but I have never seen myself belonging in one. I wanted to fit in; babies are God's most amazing creation, but maybe I always knew he had another plan for me, a plan that required an office.
They say that the way you envision your life is the way it will turn out. If I had drawn a nursery into my dream house, would I be a mother and grandmother now? I'll never know because it never occurred to me at 16. 
Just as most of my classmates never thought about including an office in their dream houses. What for?
Perhaps this pencil diagram in an old folder in an old file cabinet contains the key to why I never became a mother. I could blame husband number one for not wanting them or husband number two for not wanting any more than the ones he already had. I could attribute my childless state to persistent use of birth control. But the truth, somehow, is that I always wanted an office, not a nursery. And that's what I got. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How Did Your Mother’s Day Without Children Go?



Mother’s Day is over, hallelujah. How did you do?

One reader told me she had a nice get-away day and was able to ignore the mom’s day hysteria. Another attended a family gathering. When her godchild wished her a happy Mother’s Day, her niece corrected her with “She’s not a mother.” Ugh. One of the guests handed a rose to every woman in honor of her motherhood. Awkward.

Mother’s Day is tough, and not just for those of us who are childless. People whose mothers have died or who have difficult relationships with their mothers struggle through the day. People who don’t get along with their children, whose children have died, or whose stepchildren fail to recognize them as mothers all have a hard time with Mother’s Day.

I don’t think anybody has the kind of Mother’s Day we see in the TV commercials. First, the mothers are pictured as gorgeous young women. Whose mom looks like that? Second, the family drops everything to honor her. Third, they buy her gifts that cost hundreds of dollars, like jewelry and iPads. It was never like that in my family.

I did pretty well on the actual holiday this year, although I had a meltdown the night before. A friend had been complaining that her children didn’t honor her properly, so she hated Mother’s Day. She wanted me to comfort her by taking her to brunch. No freaking way. Then she posted a picture on Facebook of the gorgeous roses her husband bought her. Hello? No kids, dead mother AND no husband over here. Yes, I was a weepy mess.

I played piano at the Saturday evening Mass. Our pastor really tried to be inclusive, offering his blessing to “all women who serve the role of mothers.” He didn’t pass out flowers to the mothers or make them stand while those of us without kids sat in shame, but it was still painful.

I stayed too long on Facebook. After the third friend in a row posted pictures of her Mother’s Day flowers, I got offline and stayed off until Monday. I didn’t miss anything except endless Mother’s Day posts.

On Sunday, I stayed home from church and piddled around the house until time to join friends for a music jam. We had a small group. Some were absent because of Mother’s Day, but that gave the rest of us more chances to sing and play. We had guitars, fiddles, a mandolin, harmonicas and three great female voices to harmonize. It was so much fun I forgot to feel bad.

Afterward, I watched a rerun of the movie “The Bucket List.” Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. So good.

That’s how I survived. How about you? What will you do differently next year?