Thursday, October 30, 2008

Glad I Don't Live in Chad

An interesting Newsweek article talks about how badly infertile women are treated in some third-world countries. It's quite horrible. In "What It Means to Be a Woman," Karen Springen wrote about a Mumbai woman who was ostracized for 13 years before fertility treatments allowed her to become a mother. But it gets worse than that. Quoting various experts from around the globe, she talks of how infertile women are shunned from gatherings such as weddings because they are believed to carry a curse that might be contagious.

In Chad, if woman doesn't bear children, her husband has the right to leave her or take a new wife. Springen's story also reports that in the Hindu religion women without children can't go to heaven because they have no sons to perform the death rituals. Some Chinese and Vietnamese believe the souls of childless people can't rest after they die, and in Muslim cultures women without children sometimes aren't allowed to be buried in graveyards or sacred grounds.

Compared to that, our situation is easy. We can even joke about it because we have choices. We can choose whether or not we want to be mothers. If we are infertile, we can try medical treatments or adopt. Either way, we aren't punished, well, except perhaps for the mothers who can't get past not becoming grandmothers. At worst, we feel left out of the Mom Club and lonely in our old age. Of course those who want children and can't have them grieve the loss of the babies they never had, but thank God nobody says they can't go to heaven or be buried wherever they want.

In discussing our childless state, we need to remember different cultures have different ways of looking at it and do our best to promote understanding. Let's hope that as the world grows smaller, more tolerant ways will spread and women who don't happen to be mothers will be honored for their value as individuals.

Do you like the new layout? Suddenly the old one seemed too . . . something. Enjoy.
My November newsletter will be out today, too. See

Friday, October 24, 2008

No Heirs?

A childless Washington couple recently left 1.1 million to the children's hospital in Portland, OR. They had lived a frugal life and managed to save enough to give $5,000 each to a nephew, three nieces and four non-relatives. The money from their house and everything else went to the hospital. Hospital officials told the Columbian newspaper it's not unusual to receive bequests from childless donors. It's certainly a worthy cause.

If you don't have children—or you do and you don't like them--you're free to leave your worldly goods to whomever you choose. In my case, there probably won't be much money. I have already named libraries for the books and needy music students for the instruments and sheet music. But it's fun to think about where you might spread your life savings. Favorite relatives or friends? The humane society? The Friday-night-beer-and-Pizza-Group? I made that one up.

Think about it. Nobody wants to ponder their inevitable death, but if you've got to go and you can't take it with you, who should have it? It's your money. You can be as generous or as selfish as you choose. Maybe you want to blow it all on the grandest funeral the world has ever seen. Go for it. Or maybe you want to help the homeless, victims of abuse, or folks with incurable illnesses. It's your choice.

Whatever you decide, just make sure you put it in writing or the government will dole it out to the closest relatives they can find.

Friday, October 10, 2008

That baby's a real doll!

Readers may or may not remember how I explored the toy section at Wal-Mart to find out what dolls girls were playing with these days. I'll admit that I wanted to play with some of those dolls. The baby dolls were so realistic I wanted to free them from their wrappers and hug them against my barren breasts. But I didn't. It's a small town and I don't want people to think I'm nuts.

However, it seems some women actually do buy baby dolls as substitutes for real babies. They're calling them "reborn" babies or "memory" babies. For the whole story, read "Fake babies ease women's anxiety, sadness," published last week at Author Dr. Gail Saltz explains the therapeutic value of dolls for empty-nesters, women whose babies have died, and childless women. Unlike real babies, dolls never cry or need clean diapers, but in some odd way they provide some of the same positive feelings as real infants. "It fills a place in your heart," doll-maker Lynn Katsaris told Lauer.

The link will lead you to a seven-minute video from the Today Show about a British documentary called "My Fake Baby: New Life with Reborn Dolls." Matt Lauer interviewed three women holding their dolls, which each cost more than $1,000. A clip from the film shows a woman carrying her "baby" around a grocery store. People who stop to admire it are amazed to discover it isn't real.

Now, I'm ready to call this just plain nuts, but then again after my dog Sadie died, I purchased a dog statue made of stone. It's about a foot and a half high and sits on my hearth gazing up at Sadie's picture. I call him Stoney and make jokes about how he's such an easy dog to care for. The idea was to purchase a memorial to my beloved pet, but before we got the new puppies (agh, wild mudballs!), I sometimes talked to Stoney and thought of him as my dog.

So who am I to say we're too old for dolls, especially as Chatty Cathy looks down on me while I type?

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Male Point of View

My youngest stepson says he will never have children. He's been pretty consistent about that, although he doesn't give reasons.

Last weekend in Georgia, I talked to two men who were very open about their reasons. Alek, who runs a bookstore, is 40, unmarried and childless. He doesn't want kids because he doesn't like them, he says. I asked him what he'd do if he hooked up with a woman who wanted to be a mom. He replied that no woman who wanted children would want him. "I'm married to my work and I'm difficult," he said. Okay.

Then I ended up in a cab driven by Massoud, with his wife Puran riding shotgun. They're from Iran. Massoud has two daughters from a previous marriage and had a vasectomy eight years ago. Puran, who wanted children, had to have a hysterectomy four years ago, so they are childless, but seem very happy together. Why no more kids, I asked Massoud. "They take all your money and they're nothing but trouble," he said. I wonder what his daughters would think if they heard that. Anyway, biology has sealed the deal for them.

I know men who have agreed to fatherhood despite age differences, offspring from another marriage or misgivings about the whole deal, but I'm always surprised when a man states so definitely that he is not having any children, period, end of discussion.

On the heels of these conversations, I was thrilled to discover a new book, Nobody's Father: Life Witout Kids, has been published in Canada. This collection of essays, edited by Lynne Van Luven and Bruce Gillespie, is a followup to Nobody's Mother. Amazon has it for $16.95. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Childless men out there, I just have one question? Why?