Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Halloween Blues: No Kid to Dress Up

So often in life the grass seems greener on the other side of the septic tank (that was Erma Bombeck’s line, not mine). I’m sitting here right now totally envious of my single girlfriend who just jetted off to the Caribbean to go scuba diving. She can do that stuff—she’s not tied down by miniature people. Then again, how many times has she showed up to David and Katherine’s Christmas pageant wishing she had a kid of her own singing “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer” on stage? Possibly more times than I’ve wanted to go scuba diving south of Florida.
Moreover, just as postpartum issues and the stress of raising children can compound mood disorders, the sadness of not having children—and especially not being able to have them–can also trigger depression in middle-aged and older women. As Peter Rabins explained in Friday’s interview, women tend to define themselves more in terms of their role as a family member and as part of a social network than men, who, more often than women, attach their self-esteem to their workplace. It’s not surprising, then, when some women encounter fertility problems, they feel as though they have failed on a very basic level. And our culture—given its fascination with celebrity pregnancies and births, as evidenced by all the tabloids filled with perfectly round bellies and Gerber babies in tow–certainly doesn’t help.


I try to be as sensitive to this type of pain as I can. Because so many of my friends have had trouble conceiving. And I thought I’d bring it up today, the day before Halloween, because sometimes this holiday can be rough for those without kids to dress up.
Here is a heart-breaking comment from reader Suzanne that was on the message board of my “16 Ways Depression Is Like a Pumpkin” post:

Halloween has ALWAYS been my favorite holiday; I used to dress up (as an adult!) and hand out candies and check fingers for plumpness for the “oven,” as a witch (a beautiful one, at that!). But now, I live in a gated condo; children are NOT allowed to come in and go trick-or-treating. But I haven’t let that stop me! I dress up as Elvira (yes, I spent BIG money on the costume and wig!), and carve a pumpkin with my boyfriend (who never carved one before, and he’s 63!), and we take pictures and pretend we’re having fun. But – I miss the kids. I’m 59, with bipolar disorder, and I’ve NEVER been able to have kids. There is an emptiness in my womb that will never disappear, and it seems Halloween only makes it emptier. When I’m “ill,” it’s always the “manic” side; but reading your blog, and the others, I feel a sort of melancholy that won’t break.
Please, SOMEONE, write a BRIGHT lesson on this blog; I need some sunshine today before I turn into a blinking, snarly jack-o-lantern, and cover my head with my blanket!!
HAPPY HALLOWEEN – don’t let the bedbugs bite…

  • DonnaY

    Suzanne, my heart breaks for you as I myself have had problems with fertility. Every holiday(christmas, easter, halloween) was like a big punch in the gut, a neon sign that said ” This is for people with CHILDREN ONLY.” The thing I came to understand was that yeah, my womb wasn’t working, but that didn’t stop me from having children. I became involved in my niece’s and nephew’s lives more, and my friend’s kids too. I took that whole “it takes a village to raise a child” thing to heart. I became the person they turned to if they had questions that they couldn’t talk to their parents about, or when their parents couldn’t get a point across (no, it is NOT safe to go play hide and seek in the forest preserve at night/ you can’t live on candy) I was the “cooler” adult that understood. And although it didn’t make the ache go away, it made the pain easier to bear.(When my nephew was ten he wrote an essay on me as The Most Important person in his life.) There are so many children out there that have parents that are struggling to make ends meet that they can’t provide the most valuble thing that children need: Time and Attention.
    Now, I have two little ones of my own and sometimes I think it’s wrong, wrong because they have to watch me struggle through this illness. It affects them, it shapes them. I have a person in my life that is “the other mom” for them, and I’m so grateful that she can be the things I can’t when I’m ill.
    Can you go to a children’s hospital and entertain or give out candy? Or how about a homeless shelter or women’s shelter? That way you can enjoy the holiday too.
    I hope in my rambling way I was able to help make your holiday brighter.

  • Nancy

    I, at 45, never had children and have decided not to at this point.
    What I have found though is that most men I date have young children and I have become a big sister to 2 other girls through the big sister program. Also, due to circumstances I became a “granddaughter” to a 90 year old woman because her children have all passed away and the grandchildren live to far away to visit.
    There are SO many children that don’t have grandparents….try talking with your beautician (how I got my grandma-grandma needed a cat sitter) or someone else or even running an ad in a local paper stating your looking to become an adopted grandma to young children. You can even state no fee required.
    Just have to start asking and mentioning your looking to emotionally adopt some grandchildren and God will help make it happen.

  • Lynn

    I am going to dress myself up, hand out candy to the little ones and try not to scare them all to death. I am putting spiders and spider webs all over my face and neck. do my hair black and white and do my face like elvira.I always dressed everyone else every year , it is our favorite holiday, we never missed trick or treat. I don’t care if everyone thinks I am crazy( I am) this year I am dressing up. spooooooky :)

  • Anonymous

    What about CBC (childless by choice) women who become depressed due to the lack of societal validation they receive b/c they have decided not to contribute to the world’s overpopulation problem.

  • Larry Parker

    I wouldn’t go that far on a day when we should think about all the women who want children and can’t.
    But …
    There is also a subset of women (and men) who think they don’t want kids … then they’re sure they want them, desperately so … then they change their minds … then they change their minds back again.
    I was married to one of them.
    And it led inexorably to our divorce — not least of which because, as someone who wanted to have kids before my first bipolar attack, and then was trying to figure out the meaning of my diagnosis before considering fatherhood, her own indecisiveness made me wonder if I WANTED her to be the mother of my kids. Which is kind of the deathknell for a marriage, if you think about it.

  • cathy

    Would it be wrong, in the comments section of a blog written by a sensitive and talented Catholic writer, to suggest that some pagan ideas about Halloween might cheer or energize people who might to be sad about not having kids around on such a child-centric holiday?
    Samhain is a pagan, Wiccan, Celtic word for this holiday — the important harvest holiday for many pagan traditions. It’s the end and the beginning of the wheel of the year, when the veils between the living and the dead (or between the physical and the spiritual) are most thin.
    For agrarian people, it’s a time for taking stock and celebrating what the world has given them for the year. It’s a time of saying thanks and looking forward with positive feelings in one’s heart toward a creative and healthy future.
    From this perspective, there is so much for an adult to celebrate at this time of the year. Whether we have young children now, have children who have flown off into their own lives, are childless by choice or by painful circumstances… the inner child that has survived and the creative spirit deep in one’s heart deserves the chance to play, celebrate, and feel the life that crackles in the air as we greet a new year.
    Just thoughts here tonight. I mean no disrespect to anyone here or anyone’s tradition by sharing this other perspective. Mostly, what I mean to say is that Halloween belongs to all of us who live and think and dream — even gray-haired adults (like me) who are sad and kinda wiggy (like me) and so are trying to stay away from simple sugars of all kinds (like you wouldn’t believe).

  • Rose

    Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I’m missing it again, because I’m a flight attendant and have flown two years in a row on my favorite imaginative day. I’m at the age (38) where children aren’t so much an option as they used to be. Yes, I am regretful, mostly because I did not find the right person to marry and did not want to raise a child solely by myself. Although throughout my years did so much childcare as a nanny that I feel I cared for children and gave love and got love and appreciation back. I think if you are feeling a loss, you should go out in the community and give to children (maybe homeless, maybe with cancer, whatever compells you.) I feel that love should be spread around and you don’t have to have your own kids to have that. You can’t imagine the smile it will put on someones’s face in a nursing home whose children don’t come to see them if you bring them all a gift ( something as small as a pair of pantyhose).
    I guess I feel like you should feel lucky to be alive, celebrate what you have don’t regret what you don’t have and also continue your Halloween celebration and maybe come up with something creative for others that will bring you full circle.
    I’m not one to give advice, but as I get older I realize the more I give someone a compliment or a good laugh the more I feel better about my day. Small gestures reap huge benefits. If you feel a loss because you didn’t have children then reach out to those in need of an adult. I think that would be amazing and who knows what relationships you could build as a friend, mentor, maybe even adopt?
    There are many ways to have children in your life. Get creative and see how you feel…
    Good luck and happy Halloween!

  • Margaret Balyeat

    Re:Rose, October 31, 2007.
    You are SO right! “mothering/fathering’ or “grandmothering/grandfathering” other people’s children can be an IMMENSELY sarisfying substitute for not having children/grandchildren of your own.And sadly, in today’s society, there are MANY children who don’t have biological parents/grandparents who are supportive and involved in their lives. Even for those who do, an “extra’ set are usually welcomed with open arms as long as the “fosters” or “honoraries’ or whatever you want to call them don’y undermine rhe belief system within which they’re raising their children.i’ve discovered this to be as true of “regular” families as well as those we see as “needy” due to ecconomic situations or other family difficulties. It doesn’t take poverty or terminal illness to make a family respond to the willingness of others to be a part of their inner circle.

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