Dear Readers: All week, we’ve been hearing responses to my unscientific poll, inspired by a similar poll by Ann Landers in the 1970s: “If you had to do it all over again, would you have kids?”
First I published responses from the most common group (77 percent): parents who would gladly have children again. Next, we heard from people who didn’t have children and would choose the same way if given a do-over (12 percent).
Yesterday I published responses from parents who said that no, they would not have children if given the chance to do it over again (9 percent).
Today we’ll hear from the final (and smallest) group: people who didn’t have children but would if given another chance (2 percent).
On My Own in Georgia: I am in my early 70s and have never had any children of my own. I was an only child and therefore never had any nieces or nephews.
I was blessed to have three great stepsons from my former husband’s first marriage. We were always close; they considered me their second mother. We watched them graduate, serve in the military, and marry and have families of their own.
Thirty years later, my husband fell in love with another woman and wanted a divorce. My stepsons were shocked and upset in the beginning but eventually learned to accept the new woman in their dad’s life. Needless to say, I did not take the divorce well, and it was a rough two or three years, but I have moved on and established a new life.
Although I have remained on good terms with the “boys” and their families through texts, emails and occasional phone calls, it saddens me that things are no longer the same. I am no longer included in family events, even though I now get along with their dad and his wife, and I rarely get to see them when they come to visit their dad, who lives nearby. Often, I don’t know that they were in the area until they are already home, and I am hurt that they never bothered to get in touch with me.
I only have one living blood relative, with whom I’m not close, so I truly feel that I no longer have a family. So do I regret not having children of my own? Absolutely! As the old saying goes, “if I knew then what I know now …”
Nancy: I am in my 70s, and I regret not having children. If I could do it all over again, I would.
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Dear Annie: This is in response to “Can’t Give Away Gifts,” who finds herself unable to part with things people have given to her, even if she doesn’t wear or use them. I had storage problems with my collection of children’s science projects, vacation and concert T-shirts, and all manner of other collectibles.
Our beyond-her-years-wise daughter suggested that I take photos of my excess treasures and then donate, recycle, reuse or discard them. What an awesome space-saving idea! It works; my treasures are as close as my cellphone.
— Listened to My Daughter
Dear Listened: Wise indeed! This is a bright idea that I’ll recommend in the future. Here’s another letter expanding on that same idea.
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Dear Annie: I started taking photos of items that were gifts from friends and family. Then I labeled each photo with who gave me the gift and why and put the photos in my scrapbook. I also did this with handcrafted doilies and lace my grandmother made, which would not keep well.
Dear Audrey: I love the idea of creating a scrapbook to catalog such items. With gifts, it really is the thought, not the thing, that counts, and you’ve found a way to hold on to the thoughts without the things.
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— A native Californian, Annie Lane writes her Dear Annie advice columns from her home outside New York City, where she lives with her husband, two kids and two dogs. Her debut book, Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie, features favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette. Email your Dear Annie questions to email@example.com. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.