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Claire Thinking
A Different Kind
of Empty Nest

Got Kids?

Maybe some people are put on this earth to love other people's children. We don't have our own, due to some odd circumstance or another, and are therefore endowed with the capacity to fall in love with every child that crosses our path.

This is a wonderful gift but it can also lead you into trouble. Raise your hand if you have ever dated a man because you liked his kids.

Why didn't I have kids of my own? I was married for 10 years so this question comes up a lot. There are many reasons, none of which I want to lay claim to and most of which stem from bad judgment on my part.

I made one particularly dreadful decision and that set into motion a chain of events that would eventually suck up my childbearing years. It's kind of embarrassing to admit even today.

What did I do? I married a man who had a vasectomy! I know, I know! Stupid, stupid girl! In my defense he did say that he would have it reversed. We even talked about how nice it would be to have a daughter, since he had two boys from his first marriage.

I should have known that a man who would let a knife come anywhere near his private parts in the first place was someone who REALLY didn't want more kids.

I was 34 when I got divorced. There was still time to make a family. All I had to do was:

  • Find my soul mate
  • Fall in love
  • Get married
  • Get pregnant
  • Give birth
  • Live happily ever after
Unfortunately, my soul mate never shopped at the jewelry kiosk at the mall, brought his children to story times, attended Sunday classes, or showed up anywhere else I happened to be.

So here I am at the upper edge of childbearing years. The time when having kids generally involves medical intervention or adoption. Most days, it's not an issue. I've accepted that I'm an Auntie, not a Mommy. That is, until someone points out that I'm living a life that is not the norm.

If you are a woman over 30 people assume you have kids and treat you accordingly. This works for me. When people talk about those funny things kids do, I can nod my head and smile and get away undiscovered. But every now and then an unsuspecting mother will ask, "Do you have kids?" and then I'm exposed.

You may think that this is a yes or no question, but you would be wrong. The only acceptable answer is yes. No is a conversation stopper. No confuses people. It makes them uncomfortable. All camaraderie suddenly disappears and you are left in barren woman pity limbo.

What comes next is worse, and always starts with "you're lucky" and is followed by some variation of the rotten teenager story along with appropriate facial expressions.

I don't mind the stories anymore; substitute "husband" for "rotten teenager" and you'll get the same story I hear when I tell people I'm not married. What I do mind is that I'm treated differently once my secret is out.

It's like being kicked out of a club that you never belonged to in the first place. I haven't paid my child-rearing dues and I don't know the secret handshake so out I go! (There is a secret handshake, isn't there?)

It would be nice if I could think of a better way to answer and thus avoid the trauma for us both. Something pithy yet humorous that would show that I'm OK with my childless state and that would let the inquirer off the hook.

I imagine that in a few years I'll get "outed" as not being a grandmother as well, so a good response would come in handy.

It seems unlikely that I'll become a parent at this point in my life. While my friends are anticipating (and dreading) their children leaving the nest, I'm reflecting on why my nest has remained empty.

What I have realized is that it hasn't been empty after all. I was a stepmother for 10 years to two wonderful boys, and I am an Auntie and Great Aunt many times over.

Motherhood may have escaped me, but that doesn't mean I haven't made a difference in the life of a child, which is all I wanted anyway.


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