Friday, August 31, 2012

People without children vote, too

Has anybody noticed how much every speaker at the Republican National Convention seemed to focus on moms, children and grandchildren? It seems to be a persistent theme. They're doing their darndest to appeal to women voters, saying things like women should have as much say as men and be encouraged to succeed, yada yada, but it always seemed to be coupled with motherhood. Did anyone hear any of them say anything about women who are not mothers? Or men who are not fathers?

Mitt Romney comes from a big family, and that's great, although I squirmed when he said his wife "could have" succeeded at anything she wanted to be. Can't she still? Is motherhood and being the smiling wife of a politician her only role? Come on, Mitt.

Pamela Tsigdinos, author of Silent Sorority, a book about infertility, wrote a great piece this week after Ann Romney's speech that I think you will enjoy. It's called "Enough with the Mom Pandering, Ann Romney." 

Wherever one stands politically, I think it's important for our leaders to understand that we don't all follow the same path: ivy league college, marriage, children, grandchildren. We're here. We don't have kids, but we vote.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Is your family pushing you to have children?

A few years into my first marriage, family pressure for me to have a child was growing. My mother had my back, as you can see in this excerpt from the Childless by Marriage book.

Perhaps the baby showers got to me, or maybe my ovaries were feeling neglected, but I did start thinking more seriously about children. My cousin Marian, whose mother had just died, clasped my hand as she met me in the aisle after the funeral. She was finally pregnant after years of trying. "Susie, don't wait too long. Don't wait until your mother passes away to have a baby." I knew she was right.

But not yet, Jim always said. And indeed it did not seem like the right time. Wait until I have my degree and we have a house, he said. That made sense. When grandparents and nosy aunts wondered aloud when Susie was going to have children, my mother ran interference. "Oh, they're not ready yet." "Yes, of course she wants them." "They will." God bless my mother.

And God bless Jim's mother, who went to her grave without grandchildren. Much as she tried to micro-manage every other aspect of our marriage, she kept her mouth shut about babies.

I was lucky to have parents who didn't push too hard, who didn't harass me about having children. I've heard horror stories about other families where parents and other relatives have made the situation more difficult than it already is. I'd love to hear your experiences with baby-pushing relatives and how you have handled them.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Some people just don't get it

       A few weeks ago, Complete without Kids author Ellen Walker published an interview about my Childless by Marriage book at her blog on Psychology You can click the links to refresh your memory. Well, the comments have been coming in. Many are kind, but the anger has started. The first nasty one, which I read yesterday afternoon, made me so uncomfortable I abandoned the computer and started a massive cleanup of my garage. (Anybody got a truck I can take to the dump?) The next one was almost as bad, but that first one hangs on me, like spider webs. I want so much to defend myself, but I know it would not help.
       I can't quote the whole thing for fear of violating copyright, but here's the opening passage:
"This sounds like 'Oh the sadness of not being part of the Mommy club because
of my husband'. Cry me a river, why did you marry him if you weren't compatible in one of the most important ways possible?"
       She goes on to say nobody's going to want to read my book, and she is grateful she doesn't have children. She doesn't understand why anybody would want to.
       A sample from the second response: "Boo hoo. So you can't have a biological child. Ever heard of adoption?...And really, the 'should we have kids or shouldn't we' conversation should be
raised way before marriage. Like, on the first date. Seriously. Are people
really this stupid?"
       Well, yes, I guess we are. If you're screaming by now, join the club, but lots of people think this way. You've probably heard comments like this before. The people who make them don't understand how it feels to love someone and know you're meant to be with him or her but not know what to do about that desire to have children. They don't understand the grief and pain that come with infertility or that adoption is not easy or even always possible. It's all not as simple as they make it out to be.
        I admit that not my not having children was at least half my fault, that in some ways every one of their comments is valid. That's why they make me so uncomfortable. But I hope people can try to exercise a little compassion for people whose situations are different from their own.
        What do you think? Go ahead and be honest. I have a lot more work to do in the garage.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Childless cheer-ups from the web

Feeling a little down about your situation? I think these posts will make you feel a lot better. Enjoy.

"What the hell am I going to do with my life if I don't have a baby?" That's the question posed in today's Gateway-Woman post. I think you will enjoy reading the answers. And from me, the short answer is: a lot.

Try this Slate article, too. "Do We Secretly Envy the Childfree?"

Finally, here's a beautiful post by "savvy auntie" Melanie Notkin called "Childless So Far: Why I Choose Love Over Motherhood."

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I don't have children, but I do have . . .

My dear friends,
I stayed up late last night reading and responding to a comment on one of my earliest posts, one that seems to strike a chord in so many people that it has more comments than any other. As you can read here (scroll up a couple to Anonymous Aug. 18), this commenter felt so depressed about her lack of children that she felt she couldn't go on. She has a husband and three live-in stepchildren. Her husband is reluctantly willing to have more children, but her pregnancies have all ended in miscarriages. Now her doctor is telling her she's too old.

It's a sad situation. I get quite a few comments and emails like this, and I'm not sure how to help other than to offer condolences and prayers and suggest they seek counseling. I'm not a psychologist or psychiatrist, just a childless writer who has lived through some hard things. I have also been in counseling for years. There is no shame in it. If the first person you see isn't helping, find someone else.

I have days when I don't want to go on either. Yesterday was one of them, but this morning, despite the drippy fog outside, I feel good again. I slept well and had a nice dream, it's Saturday, and I have a cinnamon roll waiting for my breakfast. When all else fails, please count the big and little blessings in your life. Can you walk, talk, see, hear? Some people can't, and they go on. Do you have a husband or partner who loves you? A home? Work? Enough money to buy groceries? Some don't, and they go on. Even the smallest blessing can help: the taste of a cup of hot coffee or a sandwich or a piece of cake, the smell of a rose, a favorite TV show, a song, a new pair of shoes, sunset over the ocean . . .

A few days ago, I asked if you could say, "I'm never going to be a mother." Some can, some can't. But now I challenge you to finish this sentence: "I don't have children, but I do have ____________________.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

"I'm Never Going to Be a Mother"

Can you say "I'm never going to be a mother?" Calmly? Without tears? You're a stronger woman than I am.

Back when Fred and I were engaged but not yet married, he told me on a camping trip that he really didn't want to have any more children. I was upset, but I never really accepted the situation as permanent, and I married him anyway. As I say in my Childless by Marriage book,

"Despite Fred's declaration in the woods, I honestly believed that somehow I would still have children. But how did I expect that to happen? Immaculate conception? One stubborn sperm that survived the vasectomy? I was 50 before I could say, 'I am never going to be a mother' and mean it. I have asked dozens of childless women if they could say it out loud. Most had no problem with it. But just as I delude myself that I can lose weight while eating muffins for breakfast every morning, I held on to the idea that I might still have a baby."

Crazy? Perhaps. When it began to dawn on me that it really might never happen, I felt sorry for myself, as if this terrible fate had been placed upon me. It took a long time to understand that I consciously married a man who neither wanted nor was able to make me pregnant. That situation was not going to change. I chose Fred over children.

So, I am never going to be a mother.

How about you? Can you say this? Do you foresee being able to say it? If not and there's still time, you may need to take drastic steps to make it happen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Is a childless writer handicapped?

Is a writer--or any artist--without children lacking an important component for her art? Can she ever portray a complete human experience without having experienced giving birth and raising children? On the other hand, can a mother ever be free to fully pursue her art?

This discussion, which never ends, came up recently after the death of bestselling Irish author Maeve Binchy. Most of the news articles mentioned her childlessness. In an essay in the Daily Telegraph, writer Amanda Craig argued that Binchy would have been a better writer if she had been a mother, giving her a "deeper understanding of human nature." Binchy, who struggled with infertility, had written about how much she wanted children but was unable to have them. It wasn't a choice for her. But did it make her less of a writer? Many famous authors of the past, including Virginia Woolf, the Bronte sisters, and Jane Austen, were childless. In their day, it was believed you couldn't be both a successful writer and a mother. Which argument is right?

For me, I admit I have some gaps in my knowledge. At a meeting last night, things moved into talk about doing a program at the local schools. Suddenly the parents in our group had all these suggestions that obviously came from their experiences with their kids. I felt like a guy must feel in a discussion about makeup: clueless.

Although I haven't had the same experiences, I have been a child, growing up with other children. I have been a stepmother, and I have been around other people's kids and families all my life. That has to count for something. If I wanted to volunteer at the school, I could learn what those people at the meeting know. I have also raised dogs--which makes parents of humans roll their eyes--but this week, as I'm treating Annie's third ear infection this year, I feel pretty darned motherly. (It's getting much better, thank you.)

Let's look at the other side of the equation. Because I live alone with my dog, I have been able to spend my day like this: I got up when I felt like it, did a little accounting before eating a leisurely breakfast with no one else to feed, spent over an hour playing the piano and starting to write a new song before going to a doctor's appointment, decided on the spur of the moment to take myself to lunch at a wonderful restaurant overlooking the ocean, then came home and spent the next three hours finishing the song. Even without children, I have never had so much uninterrupted time. For songwriting, I need complete concentration. I need to be able to keep going over the song, smoothing out the bumps until I can sing and play it with confidence, and that takes hours.

Whether it's writing, music, art or whatever our passion, it is easier without children. Of course, when we're done, we wish we had somebody to share it with, but let's be honest. A childless woman has a lot more freedom to create. Whatever grief or loss we might feel, that is a blessing for which we should be grateful.

Your thoughts? 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Tasty tidbits about childlessness

Today I'm heading off to play music at a funeral and then to a church picnic, so I'm sharing some tasty links you may want to check out.

"Dear Mariella," a columnist at in the UK's Guardian newspaper, tackles the problem of a wife wanting kids and a husband who doesn't at

Here's another one from the Guardian, "Why Japan Prefers Pets to Parenthood". Show of hands, how many of us couldn't get our mates to have children but had no problem getting him/her to accept a dog or cat?

"Childless or Childfree?" The tackles this never-ending debate at

Finally, does fatherhood make men happier? "Dads are happier than their childless peers" discusses that question.

Your thoughts are welcome.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

"If you're pregnant, I'm leaving."

We’ve been talking about husbands not wanting children for various reasons. Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my Childless by Marriage book. This comes early in the book, during my first marriage.

         Perhaps the baby showers got to me, or maybe my ovaries were feeling neglected, but I did start thinking more seriously about children. My cousin Marian, whose mother had just died, clasped my hand as she met me in the aisle after the funeral. She was finally pregnant after years of trying. “Susie, don’t wait too long. Don’t wait until your mother passes away to have a baby.” I knew she was right.
         But not yet, Jim always said. And indeed it did not seem like the right time. Wait until I have my degree and we have a house, he said. That made sense. When grandparents and nosy aunts wondered aloud when Susie was going to have children, my mother ran interference. “Oh, they’re not ready yet.” “Yes, of course she wants them.” “They will.” God bless my mother.
          And God bless Jim’s mother, who went to her grave without grandchildren. Much as she tried to micro-manage every other aspect of our marriage, she kept her mouth shut about babies.
       In 1979, I started babysitting the next door neighbors’ infant. Remembering my previous babysitting failures, I hesitated to take on this tiny diapered screaming machine, but I hoped Jim would help. Wrong. When I brought the crying baby back to our apartment, he instantly raised a fuss. “Shut her up. I can’t stand that noise.”
“I’m trying. She’s just a baby. Maybe she’s hungry.”
“Well, I don’t want her here.” He sniffed. “God, she stinks.” He lit a cigarette, grabbed his keys, and walked out the front door while I stared into the infant’s red face. If he couldn’t stand this one, who was only here for a couple of hours, how would he handle a baby of our own? 
 When they got home, I told the neighbors I was sorry but I didn’t have time to take care of their baby anymore.
Shortly after that, I thought I might be pregnant: late period, fat belly, nausea, weariness, all the symptoms I had seen on TV. Jim was not happy. “If you’re pregnant, I’m leaving,” he said.
            Surely he didn’t mean it, I thought, but I’ll never know because my period started a few days later. We continued to use the diaphragm. In the early years, we had occasionally used condoms on camping trips and wilderness outings, but now we rarely went anywhere together.
            By 1980, it was over.

What happened next? Get the book by visiting
See you Saturday.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

'We can't afford a baby'

Over the years of writing and talking about childlessness, I have heard lots of reasons why people decide not to have children. Often it's the man saying, "We can't afford it." The couple may be short on cash. They may fear that if one stops working, even for a short time, they'll go under. God knows it costs money to bear and raise children (remember this chart?), but most people find a way. Sometimes I wonder if saying, "We can't afford it" is just a way of putting off babies indefinitely. I can certainly see the validity of planning and saving money to prepare for parenthood, but many times, I don't see these naysayers doing anything to improve their financial situation.They just keep saying, "We can't afford it."

What do you think? Is money a valid reason to not have children? Have you been told, "We can't afford it?"

Did you know more babies are born in August than any other month? Must be the holidays and cold weather that come nine months before. Anyway, it's babies, babies, babies around here. Everywhere I look, despite the cost of having a child, I see more babies. At the farmers' market the other day, I found myself dodging moms and and dads and strollers all along the way. My friends all seem to be welcoming grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I'm truly happy for them, but I'm starting to feel kind of lonely. How about you?

See you Thursday.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

He Might Have Been a Bad Dad

On Thursday, we talked about the situation in which one never finds that special someone they want to spend their lives with. Some people end up both single and childless. Well-meaning friends suggest they find a sperm donor, adopt or take in a foster child, but those options are not as easy as they sound, especially if you're doing them alone.

But what if you have that special someone, a life partner who is wonderful in many ways, but you don't think they'd make a good parent? I have talked to women who held off on motherhood because their husbands had problems with drugs or alcohol or anger. Others worried about mental illness that ran in their families. Maybe there were physical problems that would make parenting difficult. In some cases, the marriage was shaky, and they didn't want to bring children into an unstable situation.

In my first marriage, we had some of these problems. My ex was a sweet and gentle man, but he drank and he cheated on me. Should I have done as one relative suggested and secretly stopped using birth control so I could have the baby I longed for? No. Bad idea. As much as I know now that that was the time in my life when I should have become a mother, I also know that my husband would not have miraculously changed when I handed him a baby. I suspect he would have run away. I wish I'd had a child, but I know it was probably a blessing that I didn't.

What about you? Have you been in or observed couples where both parties might have been willing to have children, but it's just not a good situation and they wouldn't have been good parents? Let's talk about it.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

What if you never find that special someone?

We often talk here about having found a partner who is great in every way except for being unable or unwilling to have children. But what about those people who don't find that special someone? I just read an article by Mandy Appleyard from the UK that talks about her experience with this. I really recommend you read "The Love I'll Never Know." Appleyard talks about the cruel comments people make. They assume that she chose career over family and that's why she has neither husband nor children. But her relationships never worked out. She was even married for a while and had two miscarriages before that marriage failed. People don't understand. She talks about how she copes by enjoying her career and transferring her love to her godchildren. I think we can all identify with a lot of what she says. Read the comments, too. It's unbelievable how thick-headed some people can be.

Most of us somehow find a partner along the way, but not everyone does. Among the people I interviewed for my book was a nurse named Barbara who had never married. Yes, she had a career, but that career didn't fill the empty place in her heart. For a while she worked in the maternity ward and she would weep as she delivered newborns from the nursery to their mothers. Would she have liked to have a family? Yes. But it just didn't happen.

I was lucky enough to be married twice to men I loved. At least on the surface, I had the beginnings of a family. If we had agreed to have children, we could have. The problem was that we didn't agree.

There's no guarantee in this world that we're going to find that special someone. I'm amazed that most of us do end up getting married at least once. But what if it never happens? What if every relationship goes bad and we're still alone as our fertility dries up? Use a sperm donor or adopt, some people suggest, as if those are easy options. They're not, and I don't think we can blame anyone who decides not to try single parenting.

For those of us who don't have children but do have partners or spouses whom we love, I think we should give them a big hug and thank them for being there. It could be worse.

What do you think about all this?