Children or no children?
by Kani Comstock —
A major issue for both men and women in finding the right relationship is whether or not children will become a part of it. If your vision centers on creating a family with children, as mine did, learning that a potential partner cannot conceive or has chosen not to have children (childfree) –– or being that person –– can seem an insurmountable obstacle. It seemed to be the case in my life, but I found it was not so.
The prevailing cultural expectation is that a woman will have a child. Being childless by choice is gaining acceptance for both women and men, and postponing motherhood until later in life has resulted in more women becoming childless by circumstance.
When I was 26, I was married to a man whom I adored and who treasured me. Children were central to our vision. We talked about names, how to raise them and what our values were. Then after surgery, my husband and I heard the doctor tell us, “I am sorry, but you cannot ever have children of your own.” We were stunned.
Suddenly, life did not seem worth living. After a time, we could barely talk to each other. I considered suicide but came to realize that life on any terms was more attractive than death. Burdened by my husband’s pain, I suggested we divorce so he could find a wife who could give him children. At first, he was horrified by the idea. In the end, he agreed.
I walked away from everything I thought was vital to my happiness. Amazingly, I experienced a lightness and spaciousness from being freed from limitation. I had the possibility of creating a completely different future for myself. By realizing that it would be a life that would not have been possible if I had children, I opened a vast field of opportunity that had previously been beyond my imagination.
By the second year, I had a steady partner who was charming, creative, sexy, committed, years younger and did not care if he had kids. I loved him, and I felt loved by him and supported in my lifestyle. I was delighted with my choices and happy with my life as a single woman without children. I had miraculously found my way out of the depths of despair into joy.
Over and over, events developed that have demonstrated to me that we cannot know what the future will bring. When we are willing to live in the present and walk bravely into the mystery that unfolds before us, we can create and recognize opportunities that were beyond our imagination.
Through the healing work I did and now teach in the Hoffman process, I learned how experiences in our early years, especially birth through puberty, create false beliefs, mostly unconsciously and without our consent, about how we have to behave and what we must have to belong, be loved, worthy, safe and successful. Finally, I came to understand why my ex-husband could not release his belief that he needed his own biological children and why I could. The irony is that he never got over losing our relationship, even though he did end up having children.
Since children or no children can be such a critical issue in a relationship, it is important to consider how and when to discuss the topic. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Know yourself and acknowledge the limits of your situation. If infertility is your issue, would you be open to having children through adoption, surrogacy or marriage (step-children)? If you have chosen to be childfree, how firm is your resolve? If a potential partner is infertile or chooses to be childfree, is that a barrier to the relationship? Is it a preference or an absolute?
I have friends who ended loving, supportive relationships because their partner did not want children and then later chose to be childfree or found themselves childless, regretting the relationship they ended. Others gave up their dreams and always regretted it. Only you can make the choice about what is best for you.
2. Recognize what you want from the relationship. Take the time to consider what kind of relationship you are looking for. Do you want a long-term commitment or are you more interested in living in the moment and seeing where it will lead?
3. Bring it up early and be truthful. A great question to introduce the topic on an early date is either, “What is your dream?” or “What is your vision for your life?” And be ready to answer the question truthfully yourself. If children or no children are critical to the vision for either of you, it will become part of the conversation. Listen closely, be open to exploring and respect each other’s point of view.
At one time I wanted children desperately, but now I cannot imagine motherhood ever being a part of my life. My life took another path. I moved through the maze of what were, at times, conflicting and confusing options to create a life of adventure, creativity, satisfaction and passion. It just was not at all the life I imagined it would be. In some ways, it has turned out better.
Kani Comstock, M.S., is the author of Honoring Missed Motherhood, director of coaching programs and a process teacher for The Hoffman Institute. She speaks and holds monthly workshops on missed motherhood all around the country. missedmotherhood.com.
Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 33, Number 4, August/September 2014.