Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Little Less Alone… and a Little More

First, I need to thank you all for your comments. It's amazing to know there are others out there and it helps more than you know. Still, I'm finding myself in the midst of a bout of depression that I've had a hard time shaking and this time, for the first time, I'm choosing not to find myself a new therapist.

This was a hard decision for me, but when I've spoken to therapists in the past they've always — ALWAYS without fail — felt the need to pathologize my desire to remain childfree. It's because my mother was a cold workaholic who didn't hug me enough. It's because of my low self-esteem. It's because my marriage is somehow unhealthy. It's because of my father's alcoholism. It's never simply because having children is not for me. It's always a symptom of some greater mental illness and I can't even begin to cope with that right now. Sure, these things may have contributed to my decision in that they've contributed to who I am, but I hate approaching the topic as if something's wrong with me.

The cruel irony is that a big part of my current depression is wrestling with my choice and coming to terms with it being my forever choice. This in the midst of all my closest friends having children or, in the case of the latest friend, going through the process of adoption. It's about my desire to fit in, my guilt for not liking children outside of a controlled setting, and not wanting that life for myself. Of course, if I wish I wanted children I must secretly want them, so why am I denying myself this? I don't need a therapist to make me feel even more like there's something wrong with me.

Additionally, I feel, more now than ever, that my femininity is part of what's being judged. It isn't friends but family in this case. As a women entering my late 30s, what am I if I'm not a mother? I see the discomfort in peoples' eyes when I tell them I have no children as they presume some sort of catastrophe or infertility problem. I can feel them deflate and become uncomfortable in a way they really didn't do before. I stay chipper, I talk about my niece or my friends' kids who I'm close with. But there's always an air of "oh, you poor thing…"

This is, of course, my childfree blog, so I'm focusing on the childfree component in my current bout with depression. The childfree issue isn't the only one contributing here; I've been stressed about starting my own business and my dying father, his dying brother, and my tense relationship with my in-laws all contribute to me being less than 100% happy 100% of the time, and that's not taking into consideration my Seasonal Affective Disorder and general brain chemistry. There's a lot there, but I can just see, as has happened in the past, my therapist focusing on the kids issue to the exclusion of all else. Or my weight… that was a fun round with *that* therapist, who blamed my fat for every thing that ever went on in my life. But I digress…

I can't deal with a therapist doing that again. I can't spend an hour each week talking about how broken I am while ignoring the elephant in the room, which is awful because I'm in a situation where I feel like I might need to go back on medication to break free from this funk. But for now, journaling helps. Hearing from all of you who say my story strikes a chord: that helps. I'll make it through this.

16 comments:

Charlotte Pahline said...

Oh kindred spirt, I feel your pain. Why isn't it enough that having warped parents make us not want to become parents? Even if it is only just a factor, isn't it a HUGE factor? The assurances of "Oh, you'll be different" seem so empty. If I'm not and I take that chance, whose fault will it be when I damage another generation? I thought of you the other day. Anyone can have a baby, medical issues not withstanding, teenagers crank them out at an astonishing rate, my friends have them, everyone at the grocery store has them. Becoming a parent is not some sacred right of passage, it's biology! Why is having a good marriage or picking the right partner not as valued as the natural outcome of unprotected sex!? Hope you find some balance in the weeks ahead, if nothing else I always suggest a little self help book indulgence. Nothing is more satisfying that beig your own therapist.

olivia said...

I relate to this too, having had my own contented childlessness pathologised by a therapist too. It takes a lot of courage to go against the grain. You hang in there. You're absolutely not alone.

Vee said...

I'm going through some similar things right now. The tail-end of winter is always a tough time for me mentally because of SAD, but I'm also dealing with how the decision not to have children never seems final, so how can I go ahead and mourn the "path not taken" in a healthy way and truly put it to rest. Like you, I wish I wanted children, so I didn't feel like the "other" all the time. I don't fit in with family or friends because I don't want the same fundamental things they want.

Johnson Matthew said...

Hi your blog has been extremely helpful to me... As a male contemplating a vasectomy i have been going through the process of putting into words the tensions I am feeling... I hope they resonate and support...

The male dilemma as I see it…

• Deep down I probably want children and at 32 this a salient issue.
• I don’t want to raise a child by myself.
• I am open to the future possibility of adoption.
• I feel the conditions that I have for a mother to my children are set so high that the amount of people who could satisfy the conditions is small and my chances seem so slim that I have come to an emotional point where I can accept that I very likely will not find that person. However, I will never know for sure if I don’t go out there and get the sense of whether a woman has the kind of love a child would be looking for. But the time implied by getting to know a person well enough to know for sure whether that love is possible is becoming unrealistic. As time goes by I the likelihood decreases that I will ever find that person and i doubt that i can even satisfy my own conditions.
• Words cannot describe how petrified I am of the prospect of having an unwanted child with a woman who cannot satisfy my conditions, and who chooses to have the baby anyway. Essentially, I would rather have no child ever then a child with the ‘wrong’ person in the ‘wrong’ conditions.
• Because women hold all the cards with regard to reproductive rights I have a responsibility to make sure that I don’t accidentally get a woman pregnant.
• Therefore, I want a vasectomy. Essentially, the balance point between being able to accept that I may not ever find a ‘good mother’ and being fearful of having an unwanted baby with the ‘wrong person’ has recently won over the need to have children at all.

signed,

Recently off the fence

Maybe Lady Liz said...

Oh, I'm so sorry to hear you're going through such a tough time! I agree with Olivia that it's always difficult to go against the grain. And it's certainly no fun thinking that people are feeling sorry for you for not having kids. I've always found that making a joke about it makes it easier (like, I'm way too much of a child to have a child myself), but perhaps that's just a way of brushing it under the rug.

I suppose the best way to not feel that way is to make sure that you're living such a fabulous life that no one would dare think that you're missing out on something. Easier said than done with Seasonal Affect Disorder, I know. My suggestion for that: move to California. I've been ecstatically happy since coming here from Indiana 7 years ago! And when you don't have kids, it's easier to afford the crazy prices out here. :)

Nicole said...

Hugs.

I have never had a therapist try to analyze my choice of parenting, and I can see why you wouldn't want to go back - I wouldn't like that either.

I can also understand the mixed emotions over to be a parent or not. I agree with everyone above, it can be really hard to go against the grain sometime.

Since becoming infertile, I've decided to not try to adopt or anything and I feel a lot of pressure to do otherwise. So, I can only imagine the older I get and the more friends whom have children - the more of that pressure I will feel.

BUT, you still have to do what is best for you and your husband. You do have an awesome group of followers here, and definitely sound off when needed!

Take care of yourself. Do some nice things for you. Treat yourself. Get some quiet, relaxing time. Rest. Travel.

Hugs to you.

Lynn T said...

You are certainly not alone, I just think it takes time and effort to find those who feel the same. I can identify with a lot of what you are saying. I suffer from depression which a therapist would no doubt say was caused by my ambivalence about the decision to have children or not. But my doctor and psychiatrist (I don't see a therapist) believe that my depression is simply a chemical imbalance and that the issue plays on my mind more BECAUSE I'm depressed. Myself and a couple of others who have already commented here are in a closed facebook group called The Childless by Choice Project Group. I think you might find it useful to join. There are a variety of people who are childless by choice for various different reasons and some are on the fence still. We have interesting discussion regarding childfreedom and many other issues, which can't be seen by anyone other than those in the group. Some members dislike children and want nothing to do with them but everyone respect everyone's elses views.
Just a thought.
Lynn T

Anonymous said...

I strongly relate to the feeling of *wishing* that I wanted a child. I often things would be so much easier if I had that desire that every one of my friends and family member seems to have - to be a mother, a parent, above all other things. I take comfort in the fact that Laura C.'s book Families of Two quotes some couples as saying their only regret is that they weren't born with that desire to be parents. But that doesn't mean they regret being childfree!!

Crafty Blueberry said...

Recently I too have been wishing I had the drive to have children; seeing all my friends getting pregnant,having kids and being over joyed about is makes me feel outside of something because they have this natural drive and I just havn't. Like I'm doomed to miss out on this special experience - everyone else has been invited and I havn't! But, whilst I think it is a very special thing for those who want it, I believe that as child free people we're at the mercy of mountains of daily pro - parent propaganda. The amount of references in everyday life to the miracle of childbirth, how fulfilling parenting is, how children complete your life and how normal it is is absolutely overwhelming, so it's no wonder that many of us end up doubting our decision. For my part on low days I find myself in the mind set of "Everyone says it's the best thing that can happen to you...all my friends want children...I'm getting older...what if I'm wrong about this?" Yet when I really reach down and feel what I want, and when I picture my life with a baby in it it just feels totally wrong, not me at all. I reason that if I'm meant to have a child I'll know, it will be an overwhelming feeling and not a case of 'should I or shouldn't I?'. Chances are that unless I feel certain about it it's not meant to be and I'm doing the right thing.

Mrs. Viking said...

THIS so very much THIS!

I have no desire to be a mom, but I wish I did because I feel so very outside alot of the time. Especially because I've come to realize that my friends just don't even acknowledge my decision as valid or well thought out. I've had people I once thought I could talk to tell me everything from "accidents happen" to "you know we'd help you out with parenting" to "I'm offended that you feel that way because it's an insult to moms" to "if you get pregnant despite your 3 forms of birthcontrol, you'll know it was meant to be" to "You can't get sterilized, you WANT babies!". It makes me feel like I'm more alone than I ever realized, like the people I thought I was so close to don't know me at all.

The bright side of this however is that it has underlined and highlighted the friendships I have with people who don't say these things to me. I just which there were more of them than the other. The best thing I can do is surround myself with the supportive friends and read tons of childfree blogs. It makes me feel less alone, and less like a freak.

CF-PC Me! said...

You may be depressed now, but think: how much MORE depressed would you be if you had kids and utterly hated it? You are just you. And other people's approval is irrelevant. I know that it's hard, but stay strong. I support you and your decisions 100%. You are a beautiful person, and I wish you luck. Also, if you ever want to read another CF blog (I like reading lots of them), you can come over to mine at kidsareoptional.blogspot.com I just set it up!

Claire said...

Many of my friends are pregnant or already parents. As one of the few hold-outs, I see your pain in how lonely it can be to not be a member of their exclusive club.

But we are in a club too. There is so much work that needs to be done by people who are not tethered to their kids.

I too almost wish I wanted kids, but can't bring myself to actually want them. Maybe I will change my mind, but I highly doubt it. There is so much else to do and absorb ourselves with that babies just won't allow.

You're not alone!

msfullroller said...

I'll be 46 in a couple of weeks and would you believe I'm still having folks saying to me, "Oh you'd be a great mom. It's not to late". Oh heck no! I'm sure I knew it was too late when I was born!!

If more folks would have taken the time to really think about all that goes into raising children, there would not be so much child abuse.

You certainly not alone! I've been following your blog since discovering it in 2005 and have been very comforted by it. It's the first time I've posted a comment on your blog and I wanted to pay back if only a little of the inspiration you've put out here.

falfie said...

As a therapist, who is also a childfree 34 year old, I am so sad to read that therapists have tried to pathologize your desire to be childfree. I know where my choice stems from (a combination of personality, career choice and abusive childhood experiences), but it doesn't change the fact that the desire to be a parent just isn't there. And, understanding why I don't want children doesn't change my desire or choice.

But, I can really relate to a lot of what you have written about feeling isolated in this choice. I agree, that it can lead to depression, especially if you are already prone to it. I'm glad to hear that you have found some comfort in the online support. I did too! Feeling validated can go a long way to improve one's emotional state. You are not alone!

Anonymous said...

I just found this blog when someone posted 10 things to never say to childless couple. Wow! It is refreshing, yet, I always wish I had an answer...Crafty Blueberry took the words right out of my mouth! If everyone is so darn happy and wouldn't change it for the world, then what are we missing? Why do we have this feeling to not have children if it is so wonderful? Thank you crafty for sharing your thoughts and thank you stasha for this blog.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you. I wish I wanted children. But I don't think it means I REALLY want them. I just get sad about being the oddball in the room and because motherhood is such a HUGE role, I wish I could experience something that HUGE alongside my friends. I think it would bond us further. I mean, I CAN join the Mommy Team, I just don't want to. I WISH I wanted to though!

I also wish I wanted to be a nurse or a special education teacher... for the good pay and benefits. But I don't have the desire for those occupations and I would be terrible at them. I just wish I wanted them because the field I'm in, although I love it, doesn't pay much.

In either situation, its for all the wrong reasons that I wish I wanted them.

By the way, I'm in Wisconsin and I get SAD in the winters too. This winter hasn't been as bad though... I've been taking lots of vitamins.