Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Childless during Halloween and Hurricanes

Dear friends,
I was going to write about Halloween today and how seeing all those little kids in their costumes makes it harder to be childless. Well, it does, and without kids, Halloween isn't much fun, but I’m having a hard time concentrating in the midst of the disasters happening in the eastern United States in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The extent of the damage is unbelievable, and my prayers go out to those suffering from the floods and wind damage.

We have our own storm happening right now on the Oregon Coast with plenty of rain and wind, but it’s nothing compared to what has happened in places like New Jersey and New York. My yard is soggy and my roof is leaking in the laundry room, but Annie and I are safe, my house is not flooded, the walls and windows are intact, and my car is not floating away. If the power goes out, I’m ready with my flashlights and candles.

Now how does this fit with being childless by marriage? I guess we simply have fewer people to worry about keeping safe or keeping entertained in a protracted power failure. Without children, we can offer our time, energy and money to help others whose lives are more complicated. Yes, we are sad that we don’t have children, but instead of focusing on our sadness, let’s reach out to others as much as we can. 

What do you think? How do you feel about being childless when a disaster strikes? 

Oh, this feels so tacky in view of current events, but I have to tell you that tomorrow is the last day the Kindle e-book version of Childless by Marriage will be available for free. Click here. After Halloween, it goes back to $2.99, which still is pretty darned inexpensive. My novel Azorean Dreams is also a free e-book through Halloween. It’s something to read by candlelight or between trips to the door to give candy to trick-or-treaters.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Stepparenting: A Bummer and a Blessing

In the Childfree community, there’s a lot of talk about how having children can mess up a marriage. Check out the new book Being FruitfulWithout Multiplying or any “childfree” website for lots of testimony from writers who cite that as one of the reasons they didn’t want to have children. There’s no question that having a baby can lead to sleepless nights, attention going to the child instead of each other, endless expenses, and physical and emotional changes.

But what happens when a child from one of the spouse’s previous marriages is thrown into a childless marriage, especially when the other biological parent is still involved in their lives?

1) You find yourself helping to raise a child who has been formed by someone else. Not only do they have the ex’s genes, but they spent their critical early years learning how to walk, talk and think from somebody whose values may be very different from yours.

2) You find yourself responsible for a child you barely know without any experience at being a parent.

3) When conflicts arise, your spouse’s loyalties are divided between the two of you, and sometimes you lose.

4) A serious amount of your money is being used to raise somebody else’s child.

5) The children know you are not the “real” mom or dad and may decide they don’t need to do what you say or worry about your feelings. You and your partner may, no, probably will, quarrel over discipline.

6) On major occasions, such as graduations, weddings and court dates, both biological parents are likely to be there, making you feel left out and barren.

These are just a few of the things that happen. I’ll bet you can add to the list.

But I can make another list of the good things about marrying someone who comes with children from a previous relationship.

1) You go from being single to feeling like part of a real family.

2) You have someone to complain about and brag about when everybody’s talking about their children.

3) Coming in without the baggage of their early years, sometimes you can become a special friend and confidant, a mother without so many rules.

4) You might get to be a grandmother without ever giving birth.

5) You have an opportunity to love and be part of the life of a young person who shares many of the qualities you love about your partner.

6) They might even friend you and send you baby pictures on Facebook.

If for some reason, their biological parent is not in the picture, having died or gotten sick or abandoned them, you may find yourself taking care of these kids full-time and loving them every bit as if they were your own.

I know this is a big issue for a lot of us. We don't have children mostly because our partners already have these other children. So that’s my list. I’d love to hear what’s on your list.


You’re probably sick of hearing about it, but if you haven’t gotten my Childless by Marriage book yet, the Kindle e-book version will be available for free Oct. 28-31. That’s this Sunday through Halloween. You don’t have to have a Kindle reader to read it. You can download the free Kindle reading program onto your computer, iPad or whatever.

I can’t afford to give away the paperback for free, but if you promise to post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or elsewhere, I can send you a free copy. Just email me at sufalick@gmail.com.

Also, my novel Azorean Dreams, which is a Portuguese-American romance with a lot of suspense, will also be available as a free Kindle e-book Oct. 28-31.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Stepchildren add stress to childless marriages

In last Friday's post, I asked whether having stepchildren made you a mother. For me, it's part yes, part no. Fred's kids have been in my life for almost 30 years, but their biological mother is the one they think of as Mom. And that makes sense. If my father remarried, his new wife might be the most wonderful woman in the world, and we might love her very much, but she could never take the place of our real mother. That's just biology, plus family history.

If your partner has children from a previous marriage, he will always have a connection to them that you can never have. They are his kids, not yours. When a conflict arises between you and the kids, who is he going to side with? The new wife may find herself competing for her husband's time and attention, as well as his money. This can put a real damper on a marriage.

When he (or she) has kids and you don't, that can add to the stress. As several readers have commented here, it gets even worse when his children grow up and have babies of their own. Now he gets to be a grandparent and you don't.

Now some couples have no problem with any of this. They and the kids become one happy family, and they don't even think the word "step." They're all "our kids." They are blessed. I hear from plenty of people for whom having stepchildren makes a painful situation even more difficult.

How is it for you? Does your partner have kids from a previous marriage? Do they live with you or with their other parents? Do you get along? Does having them make your childlessness more difficult? Let's talk about it.

NOTE: THIS BLOG HAS MOVED TO ANOTHER SITE. PLEASE COMMENT AT  https://childlessbymarriageblog.com/2012/10/23/stepchildren-add-stress-to-childless-marriages/

Friday, October 19, 2012

Does having stepchildren make you a mother?

I'm sharing an excerpt from my book today. In many cases, people who are childless by marriage find themselves becoming stepparents to their spouses' children from previous marriages. Sometimes it can really ease the pain of not having your own children, but at other times, it just makes the pain of childlessness worse.

A waiter in a restaurant I frequented during my Saratoga News days asked me one day if I was a mother. I gave my standard answer: "I don't have any children of my own, but I have three stepchildren."

He rolled his eyes. "Oh, then you got kids."

Well, yes and no. A stepmother is a lot like a substitute teacher. The kids know she's not the real teacher, so they don't have to listen to her or do what she says. She has all the responsibility without the love and respect. If she sticks around long enough, they might get to like each other, but when the real teacher pokes her head in the door, they'll all abandon their desks, screaming, "Mrs. Smith, you're back!"

It also feels like being the babysitter or the nanny. When the folks come home, the dad gets out his wallet, hands you some money and says, "Thank you very much. We'll take over now." 

Have you experienced this? It's a big issue for a lot of us. Let's talk about it for the next few posts. Do you have stepchildren? Do you feel like a real mother or father to them?

You can read a lot more about stepparenting in my book Childless by Marriage. If you have a Kindle and haven't paid the crazy low price for the e-book yet, the e-book will be available for free Oct. 28-31. Just click here for the page to download it. You can buy the paperback from Amazon.com or directly from me at http://www.suelick.com/Childless.html.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

New Book: Being Fruitful without Multiplying

Do you call yourself childless or childfree? I just finished reading a book called Being Fruitful Without Multiplying, which is an anthology of stories by women and a few men from all over the world who have chosen to be childfree. Not childless, no.A few struggled with infertility and decided to embrace life without children, but most simply chose not to have children. Many say they knew from early childhood that they would not be mothers or fathers.

The stories are neatly arranged by age, from 20 to 61. Although I can't personally identify with never wanting children, I think we can all identify with the incessant questions--when are you going to have a baby? Why don't you have children?--the comments that we must be selfish or strange, the warning that we'll change our minds, and with feeling left out when our friends all seem to be obsessed with their children or grandchildren.

While I have trouble understanding how so many people can believe that having children will ruin their lives and I wish we had more examples of how they are "being fruitful," readers without children will certainly find that we are far from alone and may find comfort in these stories of lives being lived well without offspring.You can find information about the book at http://www.beingfruitfulwithoutmultiplying.com.

How about you? Childless or childfree? If you are not voluntarily childless, how do you feel around couples who say they never wanted children?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sounds like motherhood to me

Once upon a time, what seems like a lifetime ago, but actually only 4 1/2 years, I had a husband with Alzheimer’s disease and two 7-week-old puppies named Chico and Annie. This was an insane combination. I have been reading my old journals lately, and I have to tell you, this sounds exactly like someone trying to take care of twin human babies while caring for an older person with dementia. Why did we adopt these dogs? Our old dog had died, and we missed having a dog around the house. Neighbors advertised a litter of Lab-terrier pups, and they were so cute Fred suggested we get two, the black male for him, the tan female for me. It was insane and wonderful at the same time.

My journal entries are all about the pups peeing, chewing, crying and needing to be held and loved and about how Fred needed pretty much the same thing, minus the chewing of furniture and shoes. I’d put one pup in the crate, and the other would pop out. I’d leave them alone for a minute and find them fighting, one pup trapped behind the water heater, her ear bloody. I had the vet’s phone on speed dial. I’d clean up one mess and turn around to see the other dog squatting on the carpet. I bought absorbent pads by the ton and my hands always smelled like urine. If I needed to leave, I had to find someone to care for the dogs or take them with me in the car. Fred couldn't dog-sit. I’d say, “Put them in the laundry room,” and he would respond, “What’s the laundry room?” It was that bad.

This went on for weeks, then months. I took the dogs to training classes, doing an hour with one, then putting that one back in the car and doing it all again with the other dog. As my husband deteriorated, I had paid caregivers coming in and left them lengthy notes about what needed to be done for both the husband and the dogs. If I couldn’t get a sitter or they didn’t show up, I couldn’t go. I worried every minute until I got home, usually to a disaster of some sort. Although I tried to pretend otherwise, my work suffered. I tried to write when the husband was busy or asleep and the dogs finally conked out at night, but I was always listening for them to get up or cry out. I write about eating a pancake breakfast at church and wanting to cry because finally I could eat in peace and someone actually served my food to me.

It sounds an awful lot like being a mother. So what if I was mothering dogs and a 71-year-old husband? I did everything but give birth and breastfeed. And yes, I had already helped raise my youngest stepson, too. He lived with us from age 11 to 20. I didn’t do motherhood in the normal way, but I feel justified in claiming the title of “mom.”

How about you? Many of us weep over our loss of babies, but are there ways in which you feel you have been a mother, even though you never gave birth? 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Being childless around other people’s kids

We may not have our own kids, but the world is full of other people’s children. Does it make you feel better or worse to be around them?

There was a time when I avoided children. If someone brought a baby to the office, I suddenly got very busy at my desk. I just couldn’t share in the admiration and baby talk or in all the sharing of motherhood experiences. “When my xxx was that age . . .” I didn’t feel that I belonged, and it hurt too much to know I’d never have a baby. During church baptisms, I couldn’t join in the benevolent smiles of all the moms and dads remembering when their own little one was christened. I could only think, “That will never happen for me.” Know what I mean?

It was the same with older kids. I didn’t feel as if I knew how to relate. I couldn’t be one of those grownups who talks to the kids or gets involved in their lives.

But I have learned a couple things along the way. It’s not the children that make me uncomfortable. Even if I never gave birth to a child, I WAS a child myself. We all were, and we can relate to kids on that basis. No, it’s the gloating parents and grandparents that make me squirm.

I still don't exactly surround myself with other people’s children, but I do talk to them now. I sing with the kids in our religious education program and I have discovered that kids are pretty great. It’s amazing to watch them grow and learn and turn into people. And sometimes, wonderful times, I can channel my inner child and laugh and play and sing with them and not worry about the fact that all I have at home is a dog.

In the thick of grieving about the children you may never have, it may be painful, but try to enjoy the children around you if you can. They’re pretty cool. If you can’t, I understand. It will get easier.

I have new Childless by Marriage Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/ChildlessByMarriage. Drop by there, give it a “like” and keep up with all things related to the book, this blog, and the world of childlessness.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

If you marry someone older, does that mean no kids?

A comment on a recent post--Will he change his mind? Sept. 18--made me wonder how many of us are married to people who are substantially older than we are. The woman who commented yesterday said her husband was 20 years older. He had been married twice before and had one daughter. Now, a few years into the marriage, they're not only not having children, but they're not having sex either. She's thinking about leaving him in the hope she can find someone else and become a mom.

You might want to take another look at the link I posted Wednesday to that great article about how if we marry an older man, we'll end up childless, sex starved and cutting his toenails. It's funny, but the author makes some serious points.

My first husband was only 3 1/2 years older, but that marriage didn't last. Fred was 15 years older. I admit in my book that he was sometimes kind of a father figure. He had three kids from his first marriage and didn't want any more, but he was still a fabulous husband, and I'm not sorry I married him. However, in the end, I did give up children and wound up taking care of him.

Does marrying an older man (or woman) mean you won't have kids? Not necessarily. Two of my older male friends married substantially younger women and both couples had babies together.

It's a risk. If you marry someone who is more than a decade older, he may not seem old now, but he will always be at a different place in his life than you are, and he will become a senior citizen, with retirement and possible health problems, long before you do. He may well not want to be still parenting in his 50s, 60s or 70s.

So what's the answer? I think it varies with every couple. What do you think? Does hooking up with an older partner make it likely you'll never have children?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

New book Being Fruitful Without Multiplying is out now

A new book called Being Fruitful Without Multiplying has just been released in paperback and e-book formats. It’s a collaboration of several authors who write about their fulfilling lives without children. My copy is on the way. Help them out and order a copy. (While you’re at it, buy a copy of Childless by Marriage, too). They’ve got a Facebook group you might want to visit. Just look for "Being Fruitful without Multiplying." I haven't read the book yet, but I think it will help us all feel better about not having children.

Here are a couple of other fun links to click on. 
Try this new piece titled "Single and Childless: Can We Just Move On?" by "Savvy Auntie" Melanie Notkin at the Huffington Post.

The headline alone on this one cracked me up. "Never Marry an Older Man. You'll End Up Childless, Sex-Starved and Cutting his Toenails." I don't want to insult my late husband, but um, yes, that might happen. :-) If you marry an older man, it might be fine when you're both in the prime of life, but somebody he might get old. On the other hand, there are benefits to marrying an actual grownup. 


Monday, October 1, 2012

Choosing childlessness for God or art

A woman at church came flaunting her eight-month-old granddaughter yesterday. She brought her right up to me and another childless woman in the choir, apparently thinking that because we’re female, of course we want to see the baby. The child is beautiful, a blue-eyed doll who stared at me the whole time. I was appropriately complimentary, even as I felt that familiar squeeze of pain. Put simply, I want one of those and I’ll never have one.

But anyway . . . We’ve been talking about religion and how we might feel especially left out at church. Let’s look at another aspect, which I suppose is particular to the Catholic church. Priests and nuns take vows of chastity. They agree to never marry or have children. They sacrifice parenthood for a life devoted to God. In essence, they take God as their spouse. Although occasionally someone leaves the religious life to marry and have a family, I have never heard any religious people who stayed with it complain about not being able to have children.

The reasoning in the church is that one cannot be fully committed to the religious life with the distractions of a human family. In other churches where marriage and parenthood is allowed, the ministers seem to make it work, but not always. For example, one Episcopal priest I know decided not to get married because she felt she couldn’t do both effectively.

It’s not only priests and nuns who decide they can’t be parents and do their life’s work at the same time. Many artists of all sorts choose a life without children. Although I always thought I could write and be a mom, too, I often wonder how I would have had time to do my writing and music while raising a family. Perhaps I would have had to wait until now, when my children would be grown and living elsewhere, to dive into my career. All those years not raising children gave me the freedom to pursue my dreams. If I were the one showing off the baby grandchild, I would not have been able to concentrate on playing the piano at church, a job I love.

I’m just saying that sometimes people choose a life without children because it fulfills them in other ways. Maybe we didn’t choose that life. Maybe it chose us, but maybe we’re meant to do something else, something we couldn’t do it we had kids. Think about it.