In last week’s edition, I published an email from Aharon, a 47-year-old man who thinks he has met his bashert in Sharon, a divorced mother of three still in her 30s. According to Aharon, he has been advised by a rav whom he is close with that he must have children of his own. Aharon feels very strongly about this, as well, mainly because his rav has ingrained this into him for years. Usually, Aharon does have the discussion of children with a woman he dates, and if the answer is a “no,” he moves on. Aharon mistakenly thought that because Sharon is still in her 30s, having a child would not be an issue, so he never brought up the subject. It was only recently that Sharon herself brought the issue up, telling Aharon that she knows that he wants to have a child of his own, but she doesn’t want to have any more children. She even went so far as to say that she did not want to adopt an infant either at this stage in her life. Aharon is now invested in this relationship. He loves Sharon and really likes her children. He is wondering what my thoughts are on the subject. Aharon said that he has spoken with his therapist all about this. He just wants my take on this. Below is my response:
I think I actually do remember you. Were you the one who told me the Groucho Marx joke? I think it was because you told me that you had heard me speak in “The Granit.”
Getting to your question, I see your dilemma very clearly here. You never thought a woman in her 30s wouldn’t want to have more children, so you never brought up the topic of having babies. Wrong. I always say that communication is key! Now that you have come to love Sharon and can see yourself building a life with her, you will not be following your rav’s advice or your dream of having a child. You are standing at a crossroads of life, if you will. No matter what you choose at this time, you don’t think that you could ever be truly happy, because something would always be missing: either Sharon or the child.
Many will not like what I am about to write, but I will do it anyway, because you asked for my opinion. Here goes: I don’t think that a rabbi is always the right person to ask every type of sh’eilah. Yes, he is the perfect person to seek out if you have questions regarding hilchos Shabbos, taharas ha’mishpachah, kashrus, etc. – but not necessarily relating to dating or marriage, unless that is something he specializes in and knows about matters of the heart. Having s’michah doesn’t mean you have a PhD in all people ask you about. Aharon, is your rebbe one who really understands about human emotion, life, love, and, most of all, reality? For him to insist that you continue to have your own child when he knows your age and what it’s really like in the dating world isn’t the right thing to do – in my own opinion. Plain and simple, I feel that your mother is 100 percent right. Your rebbe is doing you a disservice by telling you to only date women willing to have your child.
Yes, it is important for a man to have a child of his own; I am not denying that. But I also live in reality. You are a man of 47 years who has had a hard time in the shidduch parshah. You wrote that you were engaged once before, but you never made it to the chupah, and you feel as if you have dated “everyone” out there. Here, you have Sharon, a mother of three, who is 39 years old. She did not let the fact that you are almost a decade older than her matter, because many would, as your mother said. I also give Sharon much credit that she didn’t think anything was “wrong” with you because you had never been married before.
As I’ve written a time or two, I have heard from a few that they “would never set up an older single because it’s just too much work. They are too set in their ways.” To them I say: Step aside, there are many willing to set up the “older single.” Don’t generalize what may be true for a few “mature singles” who are set in their ways and not try to help anyone over the age of 40 or 45. No one is set in his or her ways enough to live a life alone without love and companionship. What if their child was single at 45 or 50? Would they not want others to try to help their child find happiness?
I can’t even imagine how it would feel to face the reality that a realistic lifelong dream will never come true – that your dream of being Abba (or Tatty or Dad or Pops) will just remain a dream. I can’t imagine how you are mourning that. Yes, I think mourning is the appropriate word to use here. You are grieving over never having a child who carries your blood, who may look like you or one of your parents.
Aharon, you have found your needle in the haystack: Sharon. For your rav to give you a guilt trip about marrying Sharon is, in my opinion, out of line and wrong. I find myself agreeing with your wise and practical mother again. Your rebbe goes home to his family. Yes, he may think about you and daven for you to find your bashert, but to dismiss Sharon as not being your bashert because she won’t have a child with you, and to say that he will grieve for what you won’t have if you do end up marrying her? How dare he?! He doesn’t live your life or feel your exact pain or see the look in your eyes when you attend the weddings of your nieces and nephews (you mentioned that you passed my book onto them when they were in the parshah). He doesn’t know what it feels like to be invited to the simchahs that your friends are making for their children, while you come alone, and drive home alone to an empty house after celebrating with loved ones and wondering when your time will come.
I don’t want to get harsh and force you to look at the facts, but you wanted my opinion and here it is. Not to get technical about it, but who says that you would be able to have children of your own? I have written articles where infertility isn’t the fault of the female, but the male. I have done some reading on that subject, as well. That is neither here nor there, but don’t let your rebbe lead you to believe that nine months after your wedding you will be welcoming a newborn. So much goes into conception, pregnancy, delivery. I give you permission to print out the studies and hand them to your rebbe to read. You can marry a 22-year-old, but there is no guarantee that you will have a child together and the issue may be yours. I’m sorry, but it’s true. (Print out the research study: Trends of male factor infertility, an important cause of infertility: A review of literature written by Naina Kumar and Amit Kant Singh, which can be found at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4691969.)
In short: You found someone who makes you happy. She told you that she loves you. Her children seem to like you and vice versa. And you want to end it because your rebbe is pressuring you to only marry someone who will bear your children? I disagree. You got the girl! That’s more than half the battle. Aharon, I am not making light of having your own children. I understand how big of a mitzvah that is, but sometimes we don’t get our cake and eat it, too. Life is full of compromise and disappointments. But we must deal with the cards we are dealt. You will kick yourself every day if you end things with Sharon. Yes, you may find someone around the corner who is 30, loves you, and wants to have your children, but be realistic.
The choice is yours, but if it were me, I’d choose the person who has told me that she loves me and wants to share her life with me. I know that being even the greatest stepfather isn’t the same as being a father, but sometimes we need to settle and compromise. If you follow my advice, you get to experience sharing your life with someone who loves you and whom you love, and that is a wonderful thing to experience. You can truly be happy. It is possible. It’s all within your grasp. But if you want to follow your rebbe’s advice, I can’t stop you, but I can’t tell you that another thirtysomething will fall in love with you and want to have your child. It’s the truth of how I see it. But I think you knew what I was going to say if your claim about being a fan of mine is true. I hope I am confirming your thoughts and your therapist’s advice, but in this column I write not as a therapist but rather a practical-minded individual.
Aharon, to you and everyone else, I truly wish you all hatzlachah.
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