Whenever I tell someone I am going through a divorce, one of the first ways they try to console me is, "well, at least you didn't have kids." I 99% agree with this, but not entirely.

When I was young, I just assumed I'd be married by 25, and have a couple of kids when I was around 30. I bought into (what used to be) the typical American story. Then when I was in my mid-twenties, I dated someone who did not want kids. It made me question why I assumed I'd have kids, and whether or not I actually wanted to. I've never had the driving need to have kids, and for a time, that was my answer. Why bring a kid into the world unless you can't imagine life without them.

When that relationship ended, I went back and forth about how I felt. In the end, I figured I would wait to see who I married and we'd figure it out together.

J and I delayed the decision to have kids for a long time. Most all of our friends and family already had kids, so there was the thin cloud of pressure to "join the club". When talking with friends about kids, we always talked about our "hypothetical kid" and the decisions we would make. It became a running joke, and our hypothetical kid was "practically perfect in every way" due to our incredible parenting skills. But beyond the joke, it seemed we were on the same page in our beliefs about raising children, at least on paper.

But we weren't getting any younger, so we had to decide whether or not we wanted a child. During our "hypothetical" stage, we had agreed that we wanted only one child. It just seemed right to both of us. Though I had not previously had the driving urge to have a child, once J and I started talking more seriously about it, my views began to change. I had never been drawn to children (nor they to me), but once we started moving past hypothetical, I started seeing children everywhere and in a new light.

Financially, it made the most sense for me to stay home with the child, at least initially. My job in real estate and lending offered me some flexibility, and J had the larger, more dependable salary. I had not envisioned myself as a Mr. Mom, but the more I thought about it, I was starting to look forward to it.

We started talking about it seriously in early 2008 and made the decision to have a child that summer. Not long after that, whatever thread was holding the marriage together for J unraveled.

Over the past couple of years, as thoughts of children started to take shape, I grew really close to the two kids of some close friends. They were so excited to see their "uncle", and it was a whole new world for me to spend time with them. We all went on a camping trip over the Labor Day weekend with a couple other friends. It was there that I finally opened up to the friends there, sharing all that had gone on while we stood around the fire. It was one of the first times I was able to talk about the divorce and all the feelings surrounding it without feeling overwhelmed emotionally. It was a nice moment and made me feel like I was starting to get my feet underneath me again.

When we were packing up to leave, I was sitting on a picnic table talking to my friend. Then her daughter came up to me with a flower and said, "Give this to J for me." It was so sweet, but it cut right through me, and I had to stop talking for a bit to try to keep it together. Later, when the cars were packed and it was time to leave, I was talking with these friends in front of their car. At some point, their daughter leaned out her car window and shouted, "say hello to J for me." Then her brother leaned out the other window and shouted the same thing. It soon became a chorus, and it broke through whatever facade of strength I had that weekend. Before it all spilled over, I mumbled a quick goodbye and jumped in my truck.

And now I am facing the reality that I will likely never have a child. I will be 43 this year, and though the clock doesn't tick as loudly biologically for a man, time is still running short. And I am coming to terms with what that means. And what I have been struggling with isn't that "I" won't have a child, it is that J and I won't have one. That unique person that would be more than a sum of our parts will never exist.

As I was intentionally on the fence until I met the woman I would marry, I am back to feeling unsure of what I want. I cannot think in the hypothetical anymore, and imagining a child without first knowing the mother makes no sense for me. Now that J is gone, I no longer have a clear picture of that life in my head.

So yeah, it is (mostly) for the best that we didn't have children. I can't imagine how difficult the divorce would be with children involved. But there is still that sense of loss, of what/who could have been, and I don't know if that will ever go away entirely. I don't know if our child would have brought us back from the brink to see love in an entirely new way, or the added stress would have accelerated the unraveling.

And as a strange twist on things, both J and I are living with other people's children right now. There are still wistful thoughts occasionally, but those are mostly taken over by the joy of the moment. For the time being, I will try to be the best "uncle" I can be.


matt said...

Annie loves her uncle Day!

Me said...

This post was heart wrenching for me. Your second paragraph had me written all over it. Because you are a man and as you stated, though the clock doesn't tick as loudly biologically for a man, it aint over until its over...

Holly Linden said...

You ARE being the best Unca Day!

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