Childless couples

This is a hard one for me to post. For the last couple of weeks my method of dealing with this issue has been not to think about it very much.

My wife and I have been unable to have any kids after 7 years of marriage. There are still some medical steps that could be taken to increase our chances but now my wife isn’t so sure she wants to pursue the matter. I think a lot of it is nervousness about the operation she would have to undergo. Another part of it is that she trully likes our independence and freedom.

I would never pressure her to do something that she doesn’t want to do. Yet I am worried that later in life I will deeply regret never having kids. I feel I will miss out on so much. So I wanted to hear opinions from any childless couples out there. Is life good? Sad? Lonely?

I can’t really speak from your exact perspective, as Mr. Scarlett and I have chosen not to have children. (We have dogs instead.) However, this does not mean our life is without children. Most of our friends have kids, and they’re included in many of our get-togethers. And we “borrow” the daughter of one of our friends from time to time and take her along to concerts and special events, because she’s an exceptionally intelligent and mature kid, and we can afford to give her experiences that her single mother can’t.

Are there any kids you can include in your life? Nieces, nephews, neighbors, your friends’ children? I remember, when I was a child, being impressed that my Aunt Joy, who did not have children at the time, still had a toy cabinet with stuff to amuse me when I came over. And Mr. Scarlett and I do the same.

Believe me, you can enrich a child’s life (and your own, in the process) without being a parent. You could be a Big Brother/Big Sister, volunteer in scouting and other kid organizations, and probably lots of other ideas that I haven’t thought of. (I’m sure some helpful Dopers will be along shortly to fill in my gaps.)

Your life will be sad and lonely only if you allow it to be – whether you have children of your own (born or adopted) or not.

I hope I’ve helped.

Why not adopt? Surely there’s a kid out there who needs parents more than you need kids.

Adoption isn’t that easy, Montfort. There are a lot more childless parents who want kids than there are infants who need parents. There are the hard-to-adopt kids, but you need a very special personality to deal with some of the issues involved there.

I have my kids, so I can’t offer a first hand perspective, Blackclaw, however, I can tell you that my sister never had kids - and not by choice - but she says that being the best aunt in the world has taken care of her need to nurture. She is very involved with my kids, and even lives with us. Another adult in the house has helped us a lot, and she is at peace about not having kids of her own. I think that Scarlett67 offered some really good advice.

Why does he have to adopt an infant then?

I agree with the wonderful point made by Scarlett67. I have kid, but the majority of my (maternal) siblings do not, and will not. Out of six surviving kids (of seven), I’ll be surprised if more the two of us have offspring (me and my brother). The rest… well, the oldest had a child who died in infancy, and never had another. She certainly seems happy. The next knew she’d be a terrible mother (and we pretty much agree), but then married a guy who has not only kids but grandkids, and has found grandmothering suits her fine. The next oldest hasn’t had a stable relationship in ages, and doesn’t want to do a solo parenting thing, on the grounds that she thinks it better to at least TRY for two parents for a kid (though she might eventually consider adopting, her chances are fairly slim). The last childless set might consider it someday, but worry that they are not good parenting material, and also enjoy their life the way it is (and are running out of time, frankly).

All of them are happy, by and large. All of them take their aunt/uncle roles pretty seriously. There’s even one who seems determined to be voted auntie of the year, by sending the BEST presents…

It might be hard to let go of the dream, and I’m sure there has been plenty of greiving involved already, and more to come if you have to change what had been your perceived life path. If it is important enough to pursue it past the hurdles you face, you’ll probably know. But don’t fear you will have no lasting influence on the world for lack of technical progeny. You can change a child’s life immensely, regardless, and make the world a better place. I can’t count the number of people who influenced me as a child - many of them childless. If you place yourselves in a position to be there for a kid (or kids), you will find that the love you have to give will indeed come back to you. And you may find yourselves called to adopt an older child, even. You never know.

Good luck.

Without saying that this is something you should do, I will point out that adopting an older or minority child is much easier than adopting a white infant. I know a couple who has now adopted three minority children and is very happy with their large, multiethnic family.

I have chosen not to have children and at 35, I have no regrets whatsoever. I have become extremely selfish (well, okay, I’ve always been selfish) and couldn’t imagine having to feel “tied down” by not being able to pack up and take off for a weekend on a minute’s notice. (Although I do admit to fleeting moments of “baby lust” sometimes when I see a cute, non-crying tot)

Don’t get me wrong, I admire people who have children; you have to be very giving and have a lot of patience and I certainly could not give a child the attention they need or deserve. Hell, I can’t even keep a plant alive, imagine me with a child. Sheesh.

The only concern I do have, however, is what’s going to happen to me when I get old and have to be taken care of. Mr. Golf is 18 years older than me and so its pretty much a given he will die before I do (unless, God forbid, some awful accident or disease takes me first). I worry about who is going to put me in a nursing home when they find me sitting in my living room (with my 23 cats), peeing all over myself and not eating for days on end. I’ll end up in some state run hospital with no one to come visit me. Yep, this is my future.

Back to the original OP. As stated above, there are a lot of children out there waiting to be adopted and you might want to give that some serious consideration. There’s a special place in heaven for people who adopt older children, as well as handicapped ones, and think about how wonderful it would be to be able to change someone’s future who others had given up on.

I too encourage you to look into adoption. There is more to being a family than just genetics. In particular, investigate open adoption, which many consider beneficial to birthparents, adoptive parents, and the child. Here are some links that talk about open adoption:
http://www.adoption.about.com/parenting/adoption/cs/openlearn/

Blackclaw, you don’t say how old you & Mrs Blackclaw are. My sister & her husband are unable to have kids (his plumbing), and have adopted a beautiful boy from Romania. Though they are exhausted being first time parents at almost 40 years old, they would not trade it for a minute & are planning on adopting another child. However, they’ve both been steadfast in their desire to have children for many many years.

I have at this point decided to remain childless (I’m 43.) In my mid-30’s, I really struggled with the whole biological urge to have a child. I wasn’t in the position to give a child a “proper” home & family, and finally came to the decision not to. I am very happy with the decision, now. I have an SO who has two children from a previous marriage with whom I’m close. I have two nieces & a nephew. I have friends with children. And I have dogs & cats :). I really feel like I have the best of both worlds, though I know that being a mother is something I’ll never experience. Life is good, & I’m not sad or lonely. There are many things in life I’ll never experience; being a mother is but one.

Adoption is a wonderful choice. If you’re both relatively young, you have time to think & plan for it. If you are not both absolutely dedicated to having children at this time, you can wait & see if Mrs Blackclaw’s biological urges kick in! I’m sorry you’re going through this, it’s a tough thing.

Thanks for all your replies.

Adoption certainly is an option. The ethnic background or exact age of the child isn’t that much of a concern to me. My concerns with adoption lie in it’s high cost, the fear that the biological parents may change their minds, and the really big question of whether we really want kids are not. I’m not sure my wife does. It’s a big decision and I simply wanted some more perspective which you all have graciously provided. If we do decide that we want a child, I will certainly research adoption.

Scarlett67,

You have helped. I do have a niece who lives just down the road. For the past year the child simply cried at my mere presence, but now knows my name and grins with glee at the sight of me… until mom leaves then there’s crying and whinning. Ah the joys of babysitting. But once the tragedy of my sister leaving is past, the niece and I have a lot of fun. It’s my niece that has really made me wonder if I want a child of my own or if I should continue living the easy life of being the fun uncle.

Another echo of Scarlett67. Mrs. Angel and I are childfree by choice. We both have demanding careers and like the freedom of not having kids. There’s also the fact that she wasn’t exposed to small children much when she was one (very precocious kid as I understand it, doesn’t really have a frame of reference for them and doesn’t particularly like them as a species.)

For my part, when I was 14, my sister had a son. His dad was never in the picture. As he was a very cool kid (even as a baby) and my sister had a host of her own issues to deal with, I was pretty much put in charge of tending to him from the time I got out of school in the afternoon until I went to bed.

He’s turned into an amazing kid. At 16 he’s involved in lots of activities with school, getting good grades, has a sweetheart of a girlfriend, is both tough AND sensitive and is pretty well adjusted. I think a lot of it is his inherent personality, but I know I had a pretty strong contributing effect to making him into the person he is today.

As a result of my experiences with raising him, I don’t have the urge to have my own child. It was incredibly rewarding, but I don’t think I could do better.

Believe me, the fun uncle who is there for backstop support whenever needed is not a bad way to go.

This has been the most rewarding part of our relationship with my friend’s daughter (let’s call her Bobbi). Her previous experiences with men (her father, her sister’s father, her grandfather) have not been good, and hard as her mother tries to prevent it, it’s hard for Bobbi not to perpetuate a bad attitude about men in general. (One exception is her uncle, Mom’s brother, but he lives too far away to be a steady influence.)

Enter Mr. Scarlett and several of the other nice married guys/dads in our circle of friends. When Bobbi stays overnight or comes along on an outing, she sees them being decent men who are involved with their families and in love with their wives, and she learns that not all men are jerks. She gets a male perspective from men she can trust, and bear hugs to boot. From me she gets an adult female influence, without the baggage that a mother’s viewpoint brings, and one that’s different from her mother’s yet still valuable (I hope!). And when she’s at our house she gets peace and quiet to pursue activities with us, without being disrupted by her toddler sister, for whom she does quite a bit of caretaking, much as FallenAngel did for his nephew. (When the sister is older, I imagine we’ll take her occasionally as well. She’s a great kid, but we just can’t handle toddlers by ourselves!)

I’m also hoping that we can do the same someday for my sister’s infant daughter, whose father, while still in the picture, is rather a lump. 'Nuff said.

FallenAngel’s right – Fun Uncle/Auntie is a great job!

Another childless person checking in. Mr. Pug and I never really wanted children, and yet at 44, I am a happy and fulfilled woman. I’m one of those who was never around small kids when I was growing up (I was the baby myself), so I guess the “baby lust” germ never got planted in me. Although, like you, GolfWidow, I’m probably going to be the last of my immediate family left alive, so you and I will both probably be at the mercy of some future nursing home staff. The other disadvantage, especially for women: you get excluded from a lot of women’s conversations because you have no baby stories to contribute.

Really, besides being a good aunt and uncle to your niece, it’s time to think of the other good things you are able to do because you are childless: in other words, to make lemonade out of that lemon. Here’s a short list:

You can travel whenever you want.
You can salt more away for retirement and retire earlier.
Your rugs, furniture, appliances, etc., will last more than 6 months.
Being childless may open career opportunities for you that are closed to others with kids.
If necessary, you can move to a new city to take advantage of a career opportunity that much more easily.
Your hair won’t turn grey so early.