DEAR AMY: I am a 55-year-old married woman with a very good life, friends and family.
I wanted children, but a long list of life events and illnesses led to that not happening. I have learned to live with it, but find that at this age I am particularly saddened by the loss.
I watch the children of my friends and siblings graduate, get married and have babies. I joyfully buy gifts and attend their events, but I can't help feeling robbed, left out and lonely.
In my heart, I feel I don't have value in the world without my own children, even though my head tells me that's not so. Any ideas for how others have dealt with this?
— Going Solo
DEAR GOING SOLO: Loss is part of the human condition, and one element of modern life is that we tell ourselves that it is possible to bypass grief or loss when actually what we have to do is learn to live with it.
You sound like a balanced person who has faced the reality of childlessness with grace. At the middle stage of life, many realities and regrets take on new resonance, and your burden now is to experience these losses and regrets — and still choose to live well.
Of course it is not too late for you and your husband to have children in your life — through mentoring, fostering, adopting or maintaining close relationships with young friends or family members.
However, raising a child might not put a stopper in that sense of loss you feel. Parenting is not all birthday parties and graduation ceremonies. It does not offer any guarantees for fulfillment. Any parent who is being completely honest will say that being a parent is much different than they expected, and many parents, while loving their children, have regrets about their own choices.
A book I like that you would find helpful is "Complete Without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance," by Ellen Walker (2011, Greenleaf Book Group).
DEAR AMY: I know this doesn't seem like such a "problem," but it seems big in our house.
My daughter just graduated from high school and is enjoying her summer (she does have a part-time job). We seem to disagree about curfew. We think 11:30 on a weeknight is late enough (given that others in a household my daughter might be visiting might have to get up early).
We've agreed on 12:30 on a weekend. She has said that everyone else gets to stay out until 12:30 weeknights. I think this might be true, but it doesn't mean it's OK.
Do you think 11:30 is unreasonable? She's about to go off to college, so soon she'll get her freedom anyway. Are we holding her back when we shouldn't be?
She pulled the "I'm an adult now" argument, but we shut that one right down.
— Puzzled Parents
DEAR PUZZLED: Your daughter has succeeded in promoting this as a problem in your household to the extent that she has you worried about when people she is visiting might need to go to bed. That is none of your concern.
Having a curfew of 11:30 on a weeknight sounds very reasonable to me, but this shouldn't really be about what I (or other parents) think.
In my household, we set a curfew based on how late we parents are willing to stay awake on a work night, waiting to hear the footfall of our various offspring, treading up the steps.
Your daughter will definitely be able to set her own schedule at college. That's something for all of you to look forward to. When she's home, she'll have to adjust to your schedule.
DEAR AMY: You suggested that "Peeved Paralegal" should leverage an offer at another firm into a raise.
A better approach would be to sit down with the managing partner and explain why a raise is appropriate.
In over 40 years of running a law firm, I have never denied a raise to any employee who could justify one, but I have replaced a few malcontents whose attitude was "me first."
— Experienced Attorney
DEAR ATTORNEY: Thank you for this advice.
Send questions via email to email@example.com. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.