Q. For the last 20 years or so I have been very focused on my business. I am doing quite well now and am slowly feeling confident about my skills. My wife and I have been together almost 17 years and given some medical complications, we cannot have kids. She has a chronic illness and therefore we have decided not to adopt either. I spend a lot of time working and my focus in life seems to be my business. My sister and father have suggested I “get a life.” I hear what they mean, but honestly, I don’t know how to do that. I feel awkward being in my forties and not having any kids. Most of my friends are parents and absorbed in their immediate families. I don’t know how to find a place in life with my circumstances.
A. For some people, not being able to have children is indeed a significant loss. You want to take time to acknowledge how life is different for you in knowing you can’t have children. It will indeed evoke a range of feelings—for example sadness, shame, anger, loss and emptiness. These are to be expected and part of the process of moving towards acceptance, trust and creative solutions. For many couples adopting children has worked out quite well. It is complex, but, it can be extremely rewarding. Talking to a few parents who have adopted children is a good way to get a realistic picture of their experience. Other people without children also become god-parents to their nieces, nephews or friends’ children. This is a fun way to participate in a child’s life, especially today, as parents are often so busy with careers that children welcome more adult engagement in their lives. Have you considered something like this?
Our work lives, no matter how successful can only give us a certain amount of fulfillment, value and joy. Being with people for social connection, sharing activities and getting support is invaluable. Humans have always lived in communities and participated in large family gathering and community rituals to belong and enjoy contact. Living in private dwellings and having independent lives gives us a lot of choice, however, without balancing that with community experiences feels empty and lonely for a lot of people. Taking classes, joining an organization that you care about, doing civic projects and the like are modern ways of being in community. Taking a risk and venturing out to explore these possibilities is a step worth taking.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist of Indian descent in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com