Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Attention Vancouver childless women

If you are childless and live in the Lower Mainland/Vancouver area of British Columbia, Emily Koert would like to talk to you. She is working on her doctorate in counselling psychology at the University of British Columbia and is researching childlessness after postponement or delay of motherhood. She is most interested in women who expected to become mothers but have run out of fertile years for various reasons, including reluctant partners.

Emily writes, "I am exploring the lived experience of chldlessness for these women, including examining how they construct their lives and identities as childless women." She wants to do interviews in person.

If you are interested, contact her at eckoert@yahoo.com or contact me (here in comments or suelick@charter.net) and I'll relay the message. Thanks.
I've been blog-hopping lately and have some sites to recommend.

TheNotMom, published by Karen Malone Wright, is a colorful collection of information and wisdom about childlessness. She was kind enough to reprint one of my postings on June 27. I'm enjoying this site and think you might, too. Find it at http://TheNotMom.tumblr.com.

While you're exploring, check out Have Children or Not, http://childrenornot.blogspot.com.

You might also want to visit The Savvy Auntie, http://www.savvyauntie.com.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fertility doesn't last forever

I spent the weekend with family, including some young male relatives who are in their 30s and not yet married. One just ended a long relationship because his girlfriend wanted a commitment to eventually getting married. He said he was too busy building his career and resented her pushing him.

The other, almost 40, has been with the same woman for many years, but apparently they aren't going to get married until/unless he figures out what he wants to be when he grows up. Another young man at the party, mid-30s, has also kept himself uncommitted. When I look around the family, most of the men in their late 20s and early to late 30s have not yet committed to either a relationship or parenthood.

Now, I don't want to see anyone rush into a bad marriage just to be married, but I feel for the women who love them and would like to have children with them. The men say they want kids, but not anytime in the foreseeable future. They bristle when their women push for a commitment, but our eggs don't last forever. I fear that many couples in their childbearing years will end up without ever having children even though they wanted them. Being childless by mutual agreement is fine, but this kind of childlessness by delay makes me nuts.

Have you seen this happening among the people you know? As a woman old enough to be a grandmother, I want to shake these guys sometimes and tell them to grow up.

I'd love to hear your comments.

P.S. I've been on the road for almost a week and it's brutally hot here. I'm tired and cranky, but I mean what I say.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Childless widow is not helpless

I just finished reading a book called Widow to Widow by the late Genevieve Davis Ginsburg, M.S., who traded her therapy practice to lead Widowed to Widowed, a Tucson support group for widows. Overall, it’s an easy read, often comforting and informative, but this book was published in 1995,and times have changed.

Ginsburg portrays most of us new widows as helpless housewives. So not true. She also assumes that we have children. She goes on and on about dealing with the kids’ attempts to help “Mom”, effectively communicating your needs, and easing each other through your shared grief.

She does note in one brief passage that not everyone has children. She writes, “Too often women are made to feel that widowhood would be less painful had they had children. One of the first questions widows ask each other on first meeting is, 'Do you have children?' Then 'How many?' and 'Where do they live?'—as though their blessings can be counted by those answers.” In the next paragraph she tells how parents often go on to complain about the things their children do or don’t do. And finally, she says, children can be an important link in a widow's transition to singleness but not the only one. Ultimately she has to find her own way.

If we have stepchildren, as I do, there’s no guarantee they’ll be around. So far, now that the services are over, they’re not. Would adult biological children of my own be calling every day to check on me, or would they be buried in their own grief and the demands of their own lives? I’ll never know.

If Fred and I had kids together, they might still be teenagers living at home. That would change the picture completely because I’d have to behave like a mom at a time when I might not feel like it. So many unknowns. Does it matter? What is, is. I share my house with my dog Annie, and neither one of us is helpless. We’re sad sometimes but perfectly capable of figuring out the rest of our lives without a husband and without children--if we have to.

Side note to young women considering marrying men who don't want children: Consider what it might be like years from now if he dies and you find yourself back where you started, only older. Is he worth it? Can you live with it? Something to think about.

Monday, June 6, 2011

What am I to my stepchildren now that my husband has died?

You marry the man who doesn’t want to have children with you; he already has children from a previous marriage. Sometimes his children live with you; sometimes you have partial custody or visitation, but they are definitely part of your life now.

Maybe it’s a close and wonderful relationship in which the word “step” disappears. Or maybe it’s a mess, and you can barely be in the same room with each other. For most of us, it’s somewhere in-between. You inevitably connect because you have their father in common. They grow up, they marry, they have children, and you become a step-parent-in-law and step-grandmother. Again, you may be close or distant, but there is a connection.

Then the worst happens, and your husband, their father, dies. Regular readers know that I’m living this reality right now, but let’s stay hypothetical for a minute. Your husband, the link to those children, is gone. You all grieve the loss, but now the question arises and sits out there like a hippopotamus in the front yard. What is your relationship now?

A web search turns up lots of legalities, mostly concerns about custody and inheritance. In both cases, let’s hope you’ve got something in writing. If you and your husband had custody of his children, and somebody wants to take the kids away from you, that’s a big issue that I’m not going to address here. Better find a good attorney.

When it comes to his estate, what happens if his wishes are not stated in his will depends on where you live. In some states, his kids are entitled to half of what he owned, and you get the other half. I don’t know about you, but giving up 50 percent would leave me homeless and bankrupt. In some places, as his spouse, you get it all, but it varies and you should know what the law says. You should also both have wills, even if you're young and healthy.

You should also know that in most states, stepchildren are not your legal heirs. When you die, they will not automatically receive anything from your estate unless you specifically leave it to them in your will.

So, if they’re not your legal heirs, we come back to what is your relationship now? I’m reminded of an aunt by marriage who has been widowed for several years. No one ever considered that she was no longer a member of the family when my uncle died. Of course, her kids are blood relatives . . .

It’s different with stepparents. We don’t share one drop of blood. Our only familial link is our spouse, and when he’s gone, then what? I guess it depends on what kind of relationship you’ve established over the years. If you have developed a close-knit family, you will remain in each other’s lives. If not, you may drift apart. In my case, we’ll see, but I fear it’s going to be the latter.

I’d like to offer some resources, but I find everything for stepparents is either legalities or young stepmothers complaining about their young stepchildren and their evil biological mothers. I’m not finding anything for older spouses with grown stepchildren. I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions on the subject. And of course, if you’re a childless stepfather, just reverse the genders and the same questions apply to you, too.