Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Guest Blogger: Kathleen Guthrie April 24, 2010

The latest relationship-with-potential had ended, and I was again lamenting the fact that I was nowhere near realizing my dreams of love, marriage, and having a child. “Maybe you’re supposed to birth a book instead,” my friend suggested.

I should what?! Like that was supposed to fill the aching hole in my heart?

A decade later, and I still can’t come up with a witty response.

As I breezed through my 30s and early 40s, other friends (and their mothers, and my mother’s friends, and women I’d just met at mutual friends’ baby showers) offered up alternate ways I might satisfy my desire to have a child of my own: Become a preschool/Sunday school teacher. Open a day care center. Volunteer to hold sick babies in a NICU. Become the world’s best aunt ever.

I embraced the last suggestion while I built a successful business, nurtured friendships, traveled, and eventually entered into a loving, built-to-last relationship with a wonderful man. In time, I made my peace with the childless role Mother Nature had planned for me.

Still… I wonder. What am I supposed to do with the rest of my life? I spent the first half of it longing to be pregnant, to experience my body operating at its highest function, to create the miracle of life. I had daydreamed about soccer games, Girl Scout meetings, and family game nights. I had looked forward to raising good humans and sharing them with the world. While I consider my life today “full” and blessed and very happy, I wonder if there’s anything out there for me to do that will be as fulfilling as being a mother.

And so, sister-mentors, I ask for your wisdom and guidance. What other paths have you explored or chosen? What gives your life-without-children meaning? Have you found fulfillment by creating works of art, expanding your definition of “family,” doing volunteer work, or embracing your many freedoms? And what do you say to friends or strangers who unintentionally hurt you with their suggestions for how to make the most of a childfree life?

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. Her articles have appeared in AAA’s Westways, GRIT, Real Simple, and 805 Living magazines. Read “How to Be the World’s Best Aunt Ever” on


7 Responses to “Guest Blogger: Kathleen Guthrie”

  1. Amy Says:

    That’s a really tough question, especially as I find myself very near where you are in life. The things that give my life the most meaning are my friends and family, and nurturing those relationships has become very important to me over the years. I pour the love that I would have given to my child into those around me.

    I’ve also discovered that gardening has a very healing effect on my soul. Being able to raise something from a seed to fruition… well it’s not difficult to see the parallels. Again, by pouring the love I would have given a child into the soil, I feel somewhat fulfilled.

  2. m hope Says:

    I totally understand your predicament. I am a decade older than you and my biggest disappointment is that I haven’t found my ‘soulmate/husband’ (as you say, built-to-last relationship). While others were hooking up quickly to follow the conventional cookie-cutter lifestyle and having babies, I was seeking a higher dimensional relationship and from that special bonding, a child of love would be created. As an artist and writer, I have always had great fulfillment in my artistic expressions. It is only now at fiftysomething that I feel the emptiness of not having that deep soul-bonding with a child who would now probably be an adult. (Many of my peers all have grown-up-or college aged kids and are very, very close.) Now is the hardest part because for many their bonds with their children are deeper than their relationships with their spouses. For the unlucky ones who have problem kids, that’s another story all together. I believe the key is to connect with the highest source of love from within and create intimacy and meaningful relationships, especially with your higher self. You already have the the blessed relationship with a great partner, a great career and life, so why not now expect a miracle? You just did it in a different time frame!

  3. gina mckuen Says:

    Oh, man. Kathy, Kathy, Kathy….same thing going on here. Although I am married, I feel deeply affected by this issue. I’m 43, I’ve had two myomectomies, and I have endometriosis. If we actually got pregnant, it would be miraculous, but I’ll tell you this: I don’t think I am a woman who can go through whatever it takes—emotionally, financially, reproductively—to have a child. I am simultaneously preparing myself for life without the children that I thought I’d have, and hoping that it still may happen. I also have to distance myself from friends that consistently say thoughtless comments. They are not bad friends, but they break my heart at the moment

    So where am I finding solace? In performing, in teaching, in helping my students. I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in a theater group called Playback Theater that is socially and artistically rewarding. Other friends who are in the same position…I need more of them, frankly.

    Okay, that’s it. Crying now.

  4. Kathleen Guthrie Says:

    Oh, Gina! I didn’t mean to make you cry. But that’s part of the experience, isn’t it?

    Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful comments here and outside of LWB. It’s a discussion that needs to happen, this being child-free in a mommy-focused world.

    Several people wrote back asking “Why don’t you just adopt?” On some level, I appreciate the thought (especially since it was frequently followed up with “…because you’d be such a great mom.”), however, I also felt that it missed the point. Aside from all the adoption horror stories I’ve heard, I came to the decision to be child-free for medical, age-related, and other reasons, such as wanting to be able to nurture the many relationships in my life. (M Hope, I believe the soul-bonding partner you seek is worth waiting for and am living proof that it can happen at any age. I wish you luck in finding him soon.)

    Amy, I love the idea of gardening, of nurturing something from seed to blossoming abundance. Another friend, who has kids, says she wishes she had more time to be creative in the kitchen, something I take for granted. I suppose the message is I need to experiment and discover alternative ways for me to “pro-create.”

    I’m so grateful we’ve found this supportive community, and I hope other women will join this conversation and keep the suggestions coming.

  5. lmanterfield Says:

    Ladies, thank you for sharing your stories and ideas. I am overcome with a real sense of calm after reading your comments. Choosing not to do whatever it takes or making a conscious decision to not have a child alone, or even with that perfect partner, takes courage, and knowing that there are other women out there who truly “get it” gives me peace with my own decision. Thank you.

  6. Betsy Says:

    Greetings, Kathy!

    I did read your blog. You’re right, I may not be the target audience for the site, but I can sympathize with women who may have wanted children and for whatever chance or circumstance it just didn’t happen. Motherhood does add a dimension to my life that I never would have known otherwise. Conversely, you have the opportunity to add dimensions to your life that I will never know. I guess it’s just figuring out what you want those dimensions to be. The world is at your doorstep anytime you want. No one’s time to manage but your own. Proactive as opposed to reactive. Cool.

    One response to your blog mentioned gardening, a worthy idea. Here’s another – cooking. If I had time to be proactive with cooking instead of reactive, I would aspire to be a more creative cook. I’m being encouraged to eat as ‘clean’ as possible: organic choices, foods in their original form, clean vitamin supplements. There may some truth to all that – less junk in the body, the better the body works and feels. If I had the time I might grow a garden and cook those foods. To proactively create meals from earth to table as opposed to reactively ‘getting dinner on the table’ – that sounds appealing. about a little cooking with the gardening?

    I must say I’m a little sad to see the Un-Mother’s Day mentioned on the site. I would hope that you, and others, would always remember that even though you may not be somebody’s mother, you will always be somebody’s child. You may not give life to another, but you were given life by another. Even if one’s mother is deceased, or not in one’s life for whatever reason, being given life is still something to celebrate. So, after you wish your mother Happy Mother’s Day, go celebrate your life and everything you’ve done with it in a way that suits you! I guess it’s Be Your Own Mother’s Day too 🙂 . I like that better than Un-Mother’s Day.

    Be Well,


  7. Kathleen Guthrie Says:

    Great suggestions, Betsy! Thanks for adding your thoughts to the conversation.

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