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The Audacity to Mope

I don’t feel strong and I don’t feel brave.

I do, however, feel a healthy dose of self-loathing and selfishness. It wasn’t easy to write that post, but it felt sort of whiney and I’m not sure I really articulated what I’m feeling, what I’m struggling with some days.

It’s not so much about babies anymore. I realize that now. Well, sometimes it’s a little about babies. I won’t lie about that. But I’m almost 40 years old, my husband is careening toward 55, and even if I badgered my husband we could agree to adopt, by the time we got through that long process, God knows how old we’ll be and I don’t think it’s fair to bring a baby into a home where his father may not be around to see him or her graduate from high school. That’s one thing we agree on. That’s important to my husband and it’s important to me.

Honestly, at this point, I think it’s more about me looking at my life and wondering what my legacy will be. More to the point: What have I done? What do I have to show for my life? How have I mattered? I know it sounds sort of grandiose or self-serving but I’d like to to think I’ve done more with my life than amass a fabulous shoe collection (it is fabulous, though!).

I selfishly also wonder sometimes because my husband is 15 years older than I am, who will be around when I get old? Who will take care of me? Will it be his boys? I don’t know. They have their own mothers and they will have their own families to take care of. Procreate to have someone take care of me? Not exactly a good reason to have kids.

But there’s still more to it than that. (I’m not that shallow.)

Let’s face it, there is a little bit of a stigma about women who don’t have children. People wonder, Why doesn’t she? What’s wrong with her? It’s as if you have a sign stamped on your forehead saying that you’re not a nurturing, loving human being. Other women have asked me how I could possibly be fulfilled without a child. I admit, since I have some of my own issues with this, I’m sure I’m projecting a little bit. But not a lot. It’s been easier over the years to let people assume that I can’t have children. Asking a woman about having kids, especially if she’s over 35, is a big taboo. I’ve gladly hidden behind that.

But being a women without kids, whether by circumstance or choice, can be a little isolating sometimes. I’ve been to parties and events for my husband’s job over the years and have been ignored or “shunned” (for lack of a better word) by women whose lives have revolved around their children, whether they’ve worked or not. There are some wives who just have no idea how to have a conversation with me. What do you talk about with a woman who hasn’t raised kids? Apparently, the answer to that is: Nothing. I know that’s their problem and not mine, but it gets under my skin. It works on me like a scab I have to pick.

And that’s when I have meltdowns. That’s when I’m mean and angry and wanna kick some ass.

Marriage is full of negotiation and compromise. I’ve done my share of both, but so has my husband. I knew what I was getting into when I got married. I knew what the circumstances were and I know my husband well enough to know that I can’t bully him into doing something he doesn’t want to do. I’ve tried, though! And I know he’s come close to caving. And I know he would resent me if he did.

Yes, I’ve grown up and am a different person now than when I met my husband. My priorities have changed, but I also know that if I really felt compelled to choose—husband or baby?—I would have left years ago. That’s important for my husband to know (I know you’re reading!)

What I need to figure out now is what is my life about? Right now? Not much. I haven’t been a great wife in some ways. I work a lot and go home and flop in the couch and watch Rock of Love Bus (and American Idol, Lost, Brothers & Sisters, etc.). I don’t even go to the gym often anymore, something that I used to love doing if for no reason than I could blow off the stress of the day.

I think of people like Debra who actively go out and look for ways to volunteer in their community. I think of Lesley, who went on a quest to find a home for a stray dog she found. These are not small things. I’m not saying my life is a waste, but I don’t feel like I’m doing all that I can. I’m working on being a better wife. I’m trying to be a better friend, and I’m trying to find ways to make a difference.

I don’t know if this makes any sense—even to me. I’m sounding it out and feeling my way.

For all I know, this is something women feel regardless of whether or not they have children? I dunno. But I’d be curious to find out.

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6 Responses

  1. Before your last paragraph I was already thinking – hey this is exactly what goes through my head every so often: what have I done with my life? what have I contributed? i have a kid, but I’m not going to put the pressure of defining my life as well as her own on her. I still have to feel fulfilled in my own right. I won’ t pretend that my daughter hasn’t made a huge impact on my life. Things would be totally different if I hadn’t had her. I have no idea where I’d be right now. Anyway, I can see both your and Bill’s side of this. There are plenty of ways you can make a difference in a child’s life without adopting or giving birth. You can be a Big Sister – that can be a lifelong relationship and very fulfilling (ask Newsguy Bob – one of my commenters. He’s the only father figure his “little brother” has ever known. The guy’s a grown man now, just got married and Bob is still very much part of his life – just like a dad). Or if that’s too much of a commitment, you can “adopt” a child in a developing country. My brother did that and has gone to visit a few times, they correspond, etc. He’s grown quite attached.

    Don’t ever apologize for your feelings whatever you do. They’re valid and need to be dealt with.

  2. Maureen, you aren’t alone, there are many men and women out there that are feeling the same way. As a gay man, I also went through the process that you went through, regarding legacy, etc etc. Since I never thought children can be an option for me. But in reality you have made a mark and have already left a legacy, with the people you touched and the kids that you have raised (even though they are not biologically yours) and having a kid or not will not define what you have left to this world.

    Have you looked into foster care? There are so many kids that are in need of loving homes that are in the foster care system. The process to be a foster family home is not a long one. I know most people think that the foster kids are only for broken kids, but they are not. We got Anthony when he was 11 months and he has been a joy. Look into the fost/adopt program in your local county agency. Our process took only 2 months and within two months from that we received Anthony. You don’t have to commit to adopt but if that is something you want to do, then it’s an option.

    40 is not too old. Please more and more families are starting later in life. If this is something you really want to do than you have to talk about it with your husband and put it out there. Ross did not want kids and I told him to consider it and look what happened.

    Your feelings are valid and thank you for sharing them, but also know that there are people you can talk to and will totally understand.

  3. I’ve been having this same conversation with myself… even with my 3 boys. Definitely don’t want my life to be defined by my children – even if my whole world revolves around them.

    This is a tough one for you and your hubby – I totally get where both of you are coming from. And being that marriage IS compromise, what’s the compromise here?

    I can see how much consideration you’ve put into understanding your husband’s point of view… but I wasn’t sure if he’s been able to do the same for you? Maybe he has, or tried…. And I understand the importance of having both parents around for graduation… though none of us truly know when we’re going, right?

    I hope you’re both able to look at this from all angles before making your final decision. It’s NOT too late to have your own baby, and there IS time for adoption. Foster parenting and CASA (Child Advocates) are options, too… but what is it that’s pulling your heart strings?

    Don’t be afraid to reach out for help – this is a biggie, for sure – and there’s no shame in getting a referee to help you both decide what’s best for you and your marriage.

    I had to reach out myself a few years back… and if we hadn’t, I can pretty much guarantee you that I wouldn’t have celebrated my 10th anniversary last month.

    We’re here for you *hugs*

  4. Thanks for the honesty. I think these exact thoughts all the time. I think I could have written this post. It’s good to know that there are people who share even your innermost thoughts!

  5. I know many women who have not had children and I plan to be one of them. There is always more you can do than amass a great shoe collection but what would be important to you? What would make the difference? Finding a good home for a stray dog?

    Just because some of us have children, doesn’t mean we are any more fulfilled. Being a great mother is one thing, feeling what you do matters is another.

    You are um, a good friend (even when you are snarky). You have a marriage that has lasted longer than most and you are still in love. Find something that matters to you, continue to be a loving wife. Be selfish and passionate about what you love.

  6. Dette: I do know he’s been considering my point of view, especially now that I’m talking to him about it more. It’s been such a taboo subject around here for so long, but a lot of that has been me just trying to keep it to myself and deal on my own. Which is never a good ingredient for a successful marriage no matter the issue. I’m certainly not above doing whatever I have to do to make sure we make this work.

    Percy: After reading your comments, we’re considering all of the options, things that we haven’t really thought about before. Fostering children is such a great thing to do and I’m sure there aren’t enough foster parents out there. I don’t know if I’d be able to take a child in and then turn him or her over. What a selfless act (and as I’ve proven here, I’m kinda selfish!). But I’m interested in looking in to it.

    I was looking at Anthony’s photos and he’s such a happy little boy. I’m sure you feel just as lucky as he does! Thanks for the links. We will definitely check them out.

    XUP, Noel and Amy: It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one feeling this. I don’t believe that having a child is the only way I can feel fulfilled, but sometimes it does feel like I’m missing something—like I’ve got more love to give (I’m sure that sounds corny). On the flip side, I love my life, I love my husband and I’ve got a great family full of family-family and friends who have become my family.

    So….stay tuned.

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