Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Is the Problem More Than Him Just Not Wanting Children?

If your male partner is not agreeing to have children, even though you want them, is there more to your disagreement then just the baby question? That's what Beth Follini of the Have Children or Not blog suggests in a recent post. Although they may have valid reasons for not wanting kids, in some cases, they might have issues with commitment, attachment and even narcissism, she says. It's an interesting thought. I see lots of red flags in the comments here that make me think the man's reluctance to have children is only one of many problems in the relationship. Know what I mean? Of course, the situation can be reversed, with the woman being the one who doesn't want to have children. See what Beth says about.

I'm kind of struggling through this week, so please visit this link and let me know what you think. Beth, who counsels clients struggling with the baby decision, also recommends a book called Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find-and Keep-Love by Amir Levine for more on this subject.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ever feel like you’re from another country, the land of no babies?

At the local post office, one of the workers brings her baby every day. I have seen her grow from newborn to just starting to walk and talk. She’s a cute, smiley child. I watch her and her mom with curiosity, but I don’t know how to interact with them. Yesterday as I was collecting my mail, I watched a white-haired man having so much fun talking nonsense to the baby that he couldn’t seem to tear himself away. Clearly he’s had years of practice talking to babies, his own, his grandchildren, perhaps nieces and nephews. I have never been around babies, and I don’t have the vocabulary for it.

At the library, I encounter a group blocking the stairs, two young mothers and three little kids, so busy talking they don’t notice me trying to get to the ground floor to sit alone and write for a while. I edge around them. The children’s room, occupied by more moms and babies, sits at the bottom of the stairs. I feel as if I am not allowed to step into that room.

A friend is hosting a series of parenting classes. She keeps sending emails asking us to help, but I am no more qualified to teaching parenting that I would be to give surfing lessons or teach Mandarin.

Many of my friends have children and grandchildren. When we work on common interests, such as music or writing, we connect. But then they suddenly start talking Mommy, and our connection fades away. It’s a lot like when I walk into the chapel during the Spanish choir rehearsal. I know some Spanish, but they talk too fast and use words I just don’t understand. They look at me like I don’t belong in their world, that no matter how many Spanish classes I take, I never will.

I often feel that I’m from a country that has no children, only dogs and cats. One is not better than the other, just different. Does any of this sound familiar to you? As childless people, are there situations where you feel like you come from another country? Please share. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What If Couples Signed a Baby Contract?

I have never been a fan of prenuptial agreements. It seems as if the couples signing them are already planning for the marriage to fail. But it occurs to me that maybe something in writing could help when it comes to deciding whether or not to have children. A lot of the people who comment at this blog tell me their mates said one thing when they were courting and another when they started getting serious about making babies. Either they led their partner to believe they would be happy to procreate or they told them they weren't interested. Then they did a complete 180 and changed their minds. People change their minds. God knows I can't even make a firm decision on what to eat at a restaurant until I'm forced to choose one thing or the other.

But what if part of getting legally married included a written agreement about having children. Yes, I solemnly promise to make babies with you or no, we both agree that our marriage will not include children. What do you think? What could be done to make it binding?

Let me tell you a story. My first husband and I got married in the Catholic church. We were required to attend classes for a few months at St. Lucy's. At some point, we signed a lot of papers. I'm certain one of those papers included a statement that we would gladly accept children as a gift from God and raise them in the Catholic faith. For me, that was the plan all along. For my ex, who went to church maybe twice in the eight years we were together, if it got us closer to getting these classes over with, why not? It turned out he didn't want children and threatened to leave me if I got pregnant. That written promise meant nothing.

When our marriage fell apart for other reasons, I was able to obtain an annulment from the church on the basis of his refusal to have children. It wasn't the only grounds I submitted. I may have told them he was nuts. But they went with the no-babies clause. The annulment freed me to get married again in the church. Wouldn't you know my next husband would be a divorced Presbyterian, but that's another story.

Most prenuptial agreements focus on money and what happens to it if the couple splits up. The laws differ in every state and country, and maybe whether or not to have children falls outside the realm of a prenup, but what if couples did agree about children, in writing? What if violation were grounds for divorce? What if the party who changed his/her mind had to pay the other person a large sum of money? I'm just thinking out loud, but join me in thinking about this. What if you had to make a decision and not turn back? I'm not talking about when someone proves to be physically unable to have children, just about people who change their minds, leaving their spouses in a mess of heartbreak?

What do you think? I really want your comments on this.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Remembering “Gramma” Rachel

Rachel and Clarence Fagalde at my wedding in 1985
Today my step-grandmother would have been 109 years old. Mind-boggling. My father’s mother, Clara, died when I was 2, so I don’t really remember her. I remember Grandma Rachel, who married my grandfather a year or two later. She had been married before, but she never had children. I never asked her why. 

Grandma Rachel was the one who encouraged me as a fledgling writer. She gave me countless books, all inscribed to “My dear little Susie” from “Gramma” Rachel. She always put the “Gramma” in quotes, as if she felt she didn’t deserve the title. But she did. She was as much a grandmother as any woman ever was. She showered me, my brother, and my five cousins with love, support and gifts until the day she died. Longer, in fact. A cassette tape she sent me arrived a few days after cancer took her away in 1991.

Now I don’t think Grandma Rachel was much good with babies. I can’t picture her changing a diaper. She was a terrible cook, her housekeeping was iffy, and the grownups tended to roll their eyes at the way she talked. But we kids didn’t care about any of that. She cared about us. She wanted to know about our friends, our schoolwork, and the boys we had crushes on. She wanted to see what we had made and was always eager to read what I had written. She was never too busy doing grownup things to spend time with us.

Perhaps not having children freed her to do these things, or maybe that’s just how she was. I don’t know if she ever grieved her lack of children, or if she quietly celebrated her childfree life. Perhaps with two stepsons, seven grandchildren, and a nephew and three nieces whom she adored, she didn’t have time to think about it.

Perhaps she had enough to deal with in marrying Clarence Fagalde. For most of his life, he worked as foreman of the Dorrance ranch in San Jose, California. When they married, Rachel moved to the ranch, where life revolved around the prune and cherry crops. The work never ended. When Clarence retired, they moved to a small house at Seacliff Beach, a little ways south of Santa Cruz. Grandpa fished and puttered around the yard, tending his “Garden of Eden,” while Rachel painted, read, and wrote poetry and copious letters to everyone, including me. I treasure those letters, and I treasure the memories of our many visits.

Not every step-family works as well as Grandma Rachel’s did. We’ve all heard horror stories about kids who hate the new wife, battles with the ex, and husbands who favor the kids over the wife. My own situation was far less amiable. But Rachel made it work, and so can we. 

On this, her 109th birthday, let her be a reminder that we can have happy lives even if we never give birth.