Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Paradise, Piece by Piece

I just finished reading a book by poet Molly Peacock called Paradise, Piece by Piece. Her first foray into prose, it tells the story of why she decided not to have children and how that decision has played out in her life. It offers some touching insights, plus it's a wonderfully written memoir about a child who had a terrible childhood and struggled to find her way as an adult. I had a hard time putting it down. It has been out since 1998, so you can probably find a used copy. Highly recommended. Read more about Peacock at www.mollypeacock.org.

Peacock maintains that although women who don't have children do seem to miss a stage in growing up, other life experiences, such as the deaths of their parents, will bring them to full maturity in time.

She also notes that several other famous female authors, including Louisa May Alcott, have been childless. She raises the question of whether one can be dedicated to both one's art and the many challenges of being a parent. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

We've got to talk about it

I wound up childless because I didn't have THE CONVERSATION with my husbands-to-be before we got married. I did not tell them I definitely wanted children and make sure they wanted them, too. I just assumed. It's always a bad idea to assume anything. You might be wrong.

I get lots of e-mails these days from women, and a few men, who are in the same position. They thought they'd have children. They married or entered long-time partnerships, discovering later that their mates did not share their desire for offspring. I have heard stories of hidden vasectomies, forced abortions, and, most often, partners who just refused to discuss having children. My friends, if they refuse to talk about it, they are probably also going to refuse to parent--or maybe they have concerns that can be worked out. You'll never know for sure if you don't put it in words.

In my own situation, I have come to realize that if I had communicated how important it was for me to have children, my husband would have cooperated. Yes, he said he didn't want more children, and I know he meant it, but I also know after all these years, that he loved me enough to do it to make me happy. I didn't say the words. I was afraid I'd lose him.

We also need to talk about it with our friends and relatives. One man recently told me he's afraid to say anything to his childless friends about the fact that he has children and they don't. That's how friendships end and the world divides into parents and non-parents. Sometimes it hurts not to have children. Let your friends know that, but know they don't have to hide their kids from you either. Talk about it. It will make life a lot easier.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Few Men Finally Get It

...Recently in the gynecology waiting room, I seemed to be the only one who wasn't pregnant or accompanied by children. When one new mom was called in, her husband took over care of their baby. Oh, how tenderly he touched that soft skin, how gently he lifted his daughter out of her carrier and cradled her in his arm. Why did I not marry a man like that, I thought. A few minutes later, I was in the examining room answering questions: How many children? None. How many pregnancies? None. Post-menopausal? Yes.

This is the final paragraph of a section of my Childless by Marriage book that I read at an open mic last night. The audience was so silent I thought I had bombed, but afterward, many people came up to tell me how moved they were by what I had written. Most of them were men. In fact, one began by asking, "Are you all right?" My words had been so emotional he thought I must be in terrible pain. I assured him I was fine. The men, all about the right age to be my husband if I weren't already married to Fred, said they admired me for saying such private things out loud, that they didn't realize how a woman might feel about not having children, and that most people are afraid to talk about the subject with their childless friends and relatives.

It was encouraging and enlightening. I have always thought my main audience was women. But perhaps men will read more to find out what we haven't told them.