While I'm away, readers give the advice:
Ideas for childless parents — and, oh, those dumb comments
• I wanted children so badly but never had any. I raised three of my four stepchildren in their teen years, but we struggled! Then after the marriage went south, I felt so alone with no children.
So I became a foster mother to a girl who wanted me. She is 28 now and we are still close. If one spouse doesn't want to be a foster parent, the other could sign up with a number of volunteer groups, to read at homeless shelters, or help guide children caught in the court system, etc.
These activities have helped me feel better and part of raising "our" children. Because I am free of any child care personally, I am free to help in the community — it's a real gift to realize this freedom.
• My wife and I cannot have children and have tried to adopt (with lots of time, money and heartache wasted on it). My wife then volunteered to host great kids from all around the world who want to come to the States as a high school student for 10 to 11 months. We are now about to get our 11th one, and have found it to be very, very rewarding — what with going on trips to see them, to a wedding in Japan and one in Germany, and by even hosting a wedding here, by encouraging our kids about colleges and careers, and even getting pictures of our "grandchildren." We have found this to be a powerful alternative for us, and we also feel that it does a lot of good for the world where these kids return to.
• As a childless woman, and bereaved mother of a stillborn baby, I have heard these painful questions about one's parental status:
Why don't you have kids?
When are you going to have kids?
Have you ever thought of having a baby?
Have you considered adoption?
These all belong in the category: None of your business.
These questions have made me consider the questioner ignorant of my feelings and disrespectful of my privacy.
But I am too polite to say that.
Can't people learn, like most people have learned not to use objectionable racial terms, not to ask about salary, not to push religious views in social conversation; can't we get to a place where people learn that those questions should not be asked or tolerated? Can we teach that?
On a subpoint: There are so many times I have wondered, "And why did YOU have children?" when I see how a certain person does not seem to find much joy in his/her role as a parent. I may wonder, but I would never ask.
Can't we advance to a place in society where those questions are just not asked? Where we don't ask everything we wonder about our friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances?
• Here's my "shut their mouths for good" reply when folks would ask why we didn't have children. The people I said it to would always crack up — and never ask again:
Person: "So why don't you and Joe have children?"
Me: "We don't have sex."