Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About Angels October 30, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

My friend Deedy is the gentleperson who visits old souls in nursing homes. She sends flowers for no particular reason, writes cards to simply say “Thinking of you!”, calls regularly just to chat and reminisce. Now in her 80s, she has a driver take her on her rounds, otherwise she hasn’t slowed much in her efforts. She’s a champion conversationalist, a goodwill ambassador, a messenger of cheer, an angel on Earth.

Long ago she recognized that friends were slowly dying of loneliness because their own extended families were too busy with jobs, children, and other important responsibilities to tend to their elders, so Deedy picked up the slack. She doesn’t do any of this because she expects anything in return, but because she has a good heart. And she’s able to do this with such vigor because she is not married and doesn’t have children of her own. Ironic, isn’t it?

I’m often asked who my childfree role models were. To be honest, it wasn’t until last year, when we did the series on cheros (heros who happen to be childfree), that was I able to I think of any. For some women it’s an inspiring aunt, teacher, or boss. I can’t recall one childfree woman who was part of my growing-up years. Then there was Deedy, who came along in my late 30s, just as I needed someone to shine a light and show me a different path. Deedy is my personal chero. I hope I have learned well from her, for I intend on following her example and becoming a chero to others.

Look around you and share with us: Who is your personal chero?

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.

 

Growing Up Together September 21, 2012

Last weekend I got to spend the day with one of my oldest and dearest friends. I’ve mentioned her before; she’s the friend I’ve known since I was about four, have remained in touch with over the years, and who reached out across the 6,000 miles that now separate us to make plans to reconnect in person. In the past year, we’ve managed to get together somewhere in the world on four different occasions.

As we walked around San Francisco last weekend, she hooked her arm in mine and said, “I’m so glad we get to grow up together.”

I laughed at first. We’re both 42 (and a half.) Surely we’re done growing up. We’ve shared so many life experiences over the years and we’ve traveled together through relationship ups and downs and major life upheavals. We’ve each dealt with health issues that have changed the course of our lives, and both of us have families of two. Over the years we’ve shared stories and laughs, and we’ve shopped, eaten, tested cocktails, and hiked. We’ve been through so much together and there is still so much more ahead of us. We are still growing up and I am very glad that we get to do it together, even if not always in the same corner of the world.

Who are you growing up with? Who do you sometimes take for granted, but who is always there, growing up alongside you? Give that person a shout-out today and let them know how glad you are to have them in your life.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Common Courtesies September 18, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Is it just me, or has the world gone rude? I am so over boorish behavior, when it is really so easy to be polite with each other—not measure-the-distance-between-forks etiquette, but simple common courtesies we can employ to be kind and respectful of each other. Here are some of my suggestions, based on recent experiences, for how we might start:

        • If someone takes the time to determine, shop for, and give you a thoughtful gift, you can spend five minutes writing a thank you note. (A text message does not count.)
        • If a driver slows and allows you to change lanes in front of him, give a courtesy wave. (Better yet, start the exchange by first turning on your turn signal.)
        • If someone nearby—a stranger or friend—sneezes, say “Bless you.” If someone—a stranger or friend—holds a door open for you, say “Thank you.”
        • If your phone rings at the dinner table (or at the gym, in the library, during a meeting), apologize to the people around you for the interruption. If it’s urgent, excuse yourself and take it outside where your conversation won’t bother anyone else. If not, turn the dang thing off and check your messages later.
        • If you ask someone “Do you have children?” and s/he says, “No,” change the subject.

Feel free to add your suggestions in comments, and let’s all make an extra effort to be kinder to each other today.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is adamant that she will never give her baby names to her dogs.

 

Meeting Other Childfree People August 27, 2012

Life Without Baby is taking a short hiatus. Please enjoy some favorite posts from the last two-and-a-half years. We’ll be back to normal next week.

This post was originally published on April 19, 2011

Recently, a reader posted this comment:

“Do you have any tips on how to find people without kids? I went to a RESOLVE meeting once and made friends with a fellow infertile… who got pregnant the next month.”

I suspect we’ve all had that feeling of being cheated on by someone we hoped would be an ally, while at the same time being glad the person got what she really wanted. So how do you find other childless people to spend time with?

Here are a few of the ways I’ve found kindred spirits:

Activities at non-kid-friendly times

I go to an early morning exercise boot camp three days a week. It starts at the ungodly hour of 6:00 a.m. which is a tough time for anyone, but especially for people with very young or school-age kids. Most of the people in the group don’t have children and I’ve been going for long enough that I’ve made a small circle of childless friends. What’s great is that our primary connection is exercise, not childlessness.

Stealing or borrowing other friends’ childless friends

Quite a few of my friendships have come about through mutual friends. I’ve been invited to a dinner or barbecue, made my way around the room, making polite conversation, until I’ve met someone I’ve clicked with and discovered they don’t have children either. I have several childless friends who were introduced to me by mutual friends with children. In some cases the original friend has drifted away and the new friend and I have grown closer.

Groups and clubs

Just getting out and meeting people in general is a really good way to ultimately meet other childless people. Joining a group or club relating to your interests or hobbies means you automatically have something in common. I’ve been in book clubs, running clubs, and various classes. Over time, I’ve attached to certain members of the group, and just because of schedules alone, the childless members have ultimately gravitated to one another.

Childless and child-free groups

I haven’t actually tried this yet, but I’ve considered it. No Kidding! is an international social network for people without children. They have chapters all over the country and arrange social events regularly. If there’s one near you, this seems like a great way to meet people.

Another idea is using Meetup.com. You can sign up and state your interest in meeting other childfree people in your area.

We also have a Groups page on this site. Try starting a group for your local area and see if other people join. Hopefully you’ll find at least one other person who lives close enough to meet in person, and our membership is growing daily.

If anyone else has ideas on how to meet other childless singles or couples, please post them. I know that there are several other members who would love to find people they can connect with in person as well as just here online.

 

Guest Post: Just Enjoy Your Life August 23, 2012

This post was originally published on April 12, 2012.

By Iris D

“Just enjoy your life.”

These were the words one of my mom friends shared with me not too long ago.  I had not seen her since she had her second baby, and we got to talking about kids and I opened up to her and told her that my husband and I were unable to have biological children, and how difficult this was for me.  That evening I learned that her older son, now about 5 or 6, had been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.  She told me that when she and her husband married they had agreed to remain childfree, but that after some time she changed her mind and really pushed him to reconsider, and so their first son was born.  I guessed by our conversation that they had decided to have a second child largely out of concern for their firstborn.  My friend is an older mom and her husband is quite a bit older than she is. Although her son seems pretty high functioning, she worries mostly about the potential for social isolation that children with Asperger syndrome might experience.

Lately, I’ve thought a bit about my friends and family who have special needs kids.  I have a little cousin (now 15) who has Down Syndrome and another cousin who has a significant learning/developmental disability, this latter case is even more difficult because the young man in question looks physically very strong and people do not understand that he actually has a problem and cannot help some of his behavior.  In both cases, the people in question have siblings that will hopefully step in and take charge if and when their parents are unable to do so, but I know that not everyone is as fortunate to have an immediate or extended family that can help. I recall reading an article a few years back about an older woman who was looking for someone who could step in and care for her adult disabled son, as her health no longer allowed her to do so.

These stories get me thinking about the many needs that are out there and the opportunities that I might have to volunteer my time and of course about the positive emotional (and physical) benefits of volunteering, but they also remind me of one of my favorite quotes, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

When I allow myself to think about my childlessness, mostly I just feel sad, and so lately I really try to remind myself to feel grateful for the life I have right now, and sometimes I hear my friend’s voice reminding me to just enjoy my life.

Iris lives in Florida with her husband and best friend of many years. Five years ago infertility and other life stressors really messed with her head, but she’s gradually regaining her Self and her passion for life.

 

How Does Your Company Define Family? August 9, 2012

This post was originally published on May 3, 2012.

By Maybe Lady Liz

In my B.B. life (Before Blog), I worked in Human Resources for a Fortune 500 company. Part of my job was communicating our benefits package to employees, prospective employees, and surveys like the Top 100 Companies to Work For. The magic words to get ourselves on that Top 100 list and snag potential new hires? Family friendly.

Sounds nice, huh? Brings to mind things like flex time, telecommuting, and additional days off. And these are all true. For parents. Flex time means you can leave early to pick your kids up from school. Telecommuting means it’s not a problem for you to work from home when your child has a runny nose. And additional days off means two days off each year for employees to attend their child’s school-related activities.

Of course, there’s nothing in the fine print that says these benefits are exclusive to parents. But try asking your boss to stay home because your husband has a sore throat, or to leave early for a romantic dinner out and compare that to the reaction a mom receives when she asks to come in late to attend her kid’s award ceremony. Parents who take time off for these activities are revered for their family values – and typically aren’t expected to make it up. Those without kids who try to access the same perks are dubbed lazy and irresponsible, despite the fact they spend much of their time covering the workload for (some, not all) missing-in-action parents.

So why do they call these benefits family friendly when they don’t encompass all types of families? The nice snappy sound of alliteration? People do love alliteration. But no, I think it’s that people don’t really associate the word family with a childless/free couple. With 20% of women aged 45 not having kids, isn’t it time we re-evaluate the definition of that word and start structuring our benefits programs accordingly?

Most of us work pretty hard at some pretty stressful jobs. Those of us with only one or two weeks of vacation could really use an additional day off now and then to feel like our jobs haven’t completely consumed our lives. Parents take that opportunity on a regular basis, to say nothing of the six weeks – several months mothers take off for the birth of each child. Childfree/less women have a special challenge to ensure they find meaning in their lives through something other than the built-in mission of motherhood. Some find it through their careers, but for those who don’t, shouldn’t they be afforded the same rights as parents to pursue the things most meaningful to them?

It’s not all bad news – there are some progressive companies out there offering ala carte benefits options to employees that ensure single or childfree/less employees get an equal slice of the benefits pie, and aren’t stuck subsidizing the cost of other people’s children’s insurance. But I imagine we’re still a long ways away from the Fortune 500 shifting their views on the definition of a real family.

Maybe Lady Liz is blogging her way through the decision of whether to create her own Cheerio-encrusted ankle-biters, or remain Childfree. You can follow her through the ups and downs at Maybe Baby, Maybe Not.

 

Laughter: The Best Medicine August 6, 2012

This post was originally published on September 26, 2011

When was the last time you laughed? I mean really laughed. I’m talking deep, belly rumbling, side aching, snorting, laughter. Odds are, it’s been a while.

Last weekend I laughed longer and harder than I’ve laughed in a long, long time, and it felt SO GOOD!

The first bout came as my husband was telling our friends a funny and embarrassing story about his 21st birthday. I’ll spare the details, but think boys, bar, beer, waitress – use your imagination and you’ll be close. I’d heard the story before, but forgot the punch line, and for some reason it hit me right on the funny bone this time. I laughed so hard I had to excuse myself from the room to avoid snorting my adult beverage down my nose.

The second time happened when I rode a rollercoaster – something I haven’t done in absolutely YEARS! I certainly didn’t do anything so wild and outrageous during my TTC years (just in case, you know) and the opportunity hasn’t presented itself since. So, last weekend I rode The Roller Coaster at the New York-New York Hotel in Las Vegas.

Let me tell you, I laughed! I whooped down the first drop, howled through the corkscrew, screamed in delight around the spiral and laughed so hard my legs shook. And do you know what? I felt great!

Something loosened up when I laughed like that. Some lump of built up tension released in me, and the weight that’s been dragging me down for so long lifted. Maybe it’s only a temporary reprieve, but I’ll take it. Laughter really is an excellent medicine.

So, if you could use a laugh, here’s a good article about the health benefits of laughter, including some tips for adding laughter to your life. (I’m adding “ride a rollercoaster to the list.)

I know that when life doesn’t go as planned it’s hard to find any humor at all, and when you’re healing from loss and dealing with grief, nothing’s funny. I know. But finding something to smile about, even just a giggle, can do you a world of good, and when the time is right, a great big belly laugh can help put your whole life back into perspective.

So, my challenge to you this week: Find something to laugh about. If nothing’s funny, just force yourself to smile until it turns into a giggle, and then let the laughter follow. I promise you, you’ll feel so much better.

 

Whiny Wednesday: Baby Ads August 1, 2012

This post was originally published on December 7, 2011

During my TTC years I bought a couple of magazine subscriptions, one for Conceive and the other (rather optimistically) for American Baby. I can’t prove this, but I’m pretty sure that one of them sold my name to a marketing company, because not long after that, I started getting baby related mailings. I received samples of formula and diapers, and ads for baby photographers and maternity wear. It was awful, but it didn’t stop there.

The marketing company seems to have got the impression that a baby arrived in our house at some point and so sent age-appropriate marketing as the years ticked on. It’s been five or six years now and the mailing have definitely slowed down. This year I only got a few catalogs for educational toys and mommy clothes, and brochures for a pre-school and a Disney cruise. But come the holidays, it all fires up again.

As if my mailbox isn’t already crammed with sufficient junk, I’m now getting fliers for family photos cards, and photographers who seem to think that the ideal gift is a portrait of my little brood. Little do they know that it consists of me, Mr. Fab, and a cat, and only two of the three would be willing to wear silly Santa hats.

It’s Whiny Wednesday, there are only 18 shopping days left ‘til Christmas, and I’ve already got my Bah Humbug on already.

 

Fabulous Friday: Finding the Fun Again July 20, 2012

courtesy: iStockphoto

Trying to make a baby is supposed to be fun, and for a while it can be. But if you’ve been trying for some time, maybe even years, odds are it’s lost its luster.

What’s worse, the stress of infertility or the specter of a rapidly closing fertility window, plus the constant conversations of why you don’t have kids, can color your entire life. After a while, it’s easy to forget what you used to do for fun or even that you’re still supposed to have fun.

It’s been well over three years since Mr. Fab and I decided to get off the baby train, and let me tell you, it’s been hard to reignite our passion for the fun things in life.

We talked about it recently and realized it’s time to find that fun again. We made a list of things to do around town and we’re checking them off.

So far, we’ve taken a (rather exciting) canoe trip, been back to our favorite museum, and seen Gone With the Wind on the big screen. Here’s our list of what’s to come:

Go to an L.A. Galaxy Game

Play Mahjong at the Skirball Center

Have Dim Sum in Chinatown

Go to the Griffith Observatory

Kayak around Naples Island

Take a Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tour of Hollywood

Go on a day sail

What about you? Are you remembering to have some fun? What’s on your list?

P.S. For those of you who get to be an auntie to nieces, nephews, and children of friends, happy Auntie’s Day for Sunday.

 

Father’s Day June 15, 2012

Sunday is Father’s Day here and, to be honest, it had barely entered my mind until my brother mentioned that he was looking forward to some extra presents in addition to the ones he got for his birthday earlier this week.

Maybe it slipped my mind because Father’s Day doesn’t come with same folderol as Mother’s Day. Or maybe it’s because Mr. Fab has grown children, so he doesn’t feel quite the same loss I do on Mother’s Day. Or perhaps, it didn’t occur to me because most of the readers of this blog (at least the participating ones) are women. All the same, I feel remiss that I almost let the day go by without mention.

There are (theoretically) just as many childless men as there are women, and you probably know at least one. Maybe he’s not making a big fuss about the coming day, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be feeling any pain. He may just be being “manly” and keeping his emotions close.

So, if you happen to know a non-dad, check in on him this weekend and make sure he’s doing okay. And let us know what you plan to do to get him through the day.

 

 
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