Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Airline bans first class babies June 30, 2011

Malaysian Airlines announced this week that they would ban babies from flying first class and that their new fleet of airbus A380s would not be equipped with bassinets in the first class compartment.

According to a related article in the Britain’s The Globe and Mail, a recent poll showed that 70% of first class travelers cited crying babies as the number one annoyance when flying. I think this is true for passengers in all classes, but tossing the babies back into the cheap seats is a bit like the king emptying his chamber pot on the peasants. Nobody wants to spend 10 hours cooped up next to a screaming infant or a belligerent toddler – not even the parents!

I don’t think banning babies from any part of the aircraft (except the cockpit, of course) is the solution. Most parents I’ve seen wrestling with young children on flights want some peace and quiet just as much as the people around them and most are doing the best they can to make that happen.

Wouldn’t a better solution be to create a “kid zone” where children can have a little more flexibility to be children, without being glared at by the other passengers?

I think I will put this out to some of my mom friends and get their opinion. I just don’t think that a baby ban is the solution.

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Whiny Wednesday: Busy trying to relax June 29, 2011

Filed under: Family and Friends,Uncategorized,Whiny Wednesdays — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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My husband passed this comic strip across the breakfast table to me earlier this week.

 

This is me.

We really need a vacation. I am long overdue to go home to see my mum. We just planned a weekend away that turned into a business trip and had to be planned and replannned and replanned and rescheduled so many times that I feel as if we’ve spent the past three weeks planning a vacation we’re not actually going to get.

I’m almost ready to throw some clothes in a suitcase, go to the airport with a credit card and get on the next flight to anywhere. Right now, I can’t think of anywhere I wouldn’t want to go.

It’s Whiny Wednesday. What’s your whine?

 

The “Do You Have Kids?” Conversation June 28, 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how “Do you have kids?” is such a natural part of polite, “ice-breaking” conversation, and yet it’s such a loaded question for so many of us.

When we meet new people, we’re looking for something in common to talk about. People with kids know that when they talk to someone else with kids, they automatically have a topic of conversation – their kids. And asking this question is presumed to be okay because the answer is usually anticipated to be either “Yes” or “Not yet.” People just aren’t prepared to hear “No.”

So, imagine you’re at a function, wandering around with a glass of wine in one hand and a shrimp on a skewer in the other and you strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know. You talk about the weather, she asks where you’re from or what you do for a living, and then she asks, “Do you have kids?” Assuming this is someone you don’t want to offend, you resist a snarky answer and instead say a simple “No.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that this response is usually met with a horrified silence (although occasionally I’ll get, “You’re lucky,” or “You can have mine.”) People just don’t know what to say when I tell them I don’t have kids, and in order to fill the silence I find myself explaining why I don’t kids, and imparting some very personal information about myself.

So, let’s help these poor people out. No, seriously. Instead of the stunned silence, what do you wish people would say? Do you want them to ask if you’re childfree by choice? Do you want them to ask if you’re ok with not having kids? Or would you prefer them to change the subject to someone or something else so you don’t have to talk about you anymore? Assuming someone opens this conversation, what would you want her to say next?

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Telling Friends June 27, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

“I’m leaving my husband.”

It was girls night out, and my small group of gal-pals was catching up over wine when Jen* dropped this bombshell on us.

“What?!” After twenty years and three kids together, their marriage was one I held up as a role model for making things work. How did it suddenly come to this?

That night I learned she’d been going to counseling for years, trying to make it work, trying to overlook her husband’s shortcomings for the sake of keeping their family together. She’d wanted to leave him months earlier, but the timing wasn’t right, and now she was ready to take the leap and begin to build a better life for her and her children.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” I asked, as I reached over to touch her hand.

“Because you are so happy and in love, and I didn’t want to take away from any of your pre-wedding romantic bliss.”

I quickly replayed our recent visits in my mind and looked for clues that things were amiss, some hint of her pain that I hadn’t picked up on, some expression or comment that gave an opening for my to check in with her, to ask her deeper questions, to see how she was doing. Had I said anything that made her feel worse? Had she felt I was rubbing her face in my happiness? Had my joy in my new role as bride-to-be added to her hurt? I hated that I had not been a good friend to her in her time of need.

I respected her choice to hide her situation from me, yet it also broke my heart. “I wish you’d told me. I want to know so that I can be there for you.”

“But you have so much else on your plate with all the wedding stuff.”

“I’ll always have stuff on my plate, but my priorities include taking care of my friends.”

As I mulled over this in the ensuing week, it reminded me of our conversations—on LWB—about talking to our friends and families about our struggles with infertility and childfreeness. When do you tell them? What and how much do you tell? It’s not dissimilar from Jen’s decision to not tell her friends what was going down in her marriage, and I found it interesting to be on the other side of the conversation for a change.

And here’s what I learned: It’s important that we share our pain so that we can allow our friends to support us. Allow them to be better listeners, to learn how to help you with a hug or by knowing when it’s better to ignore the elephant in the room. Once you open up to a close friend, you also have an ally in groups. Moving forward, when the dynamic shifts to all things pregnancy and mommydom, and you feel yourself being pushed to the periphery, your informed and sensitive friend can help steer the group back to more inclusive topics before you have a meltdown.

Please share. How else will I know what you need? I want to help. I want to be there for you. I say to Jen, as I say to you, “Please let me know how I can best support you.”

*Not her real name, of course.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s mostly at peace with her decision to be childfree.

 

Going Meatless June 25, 2011

Filed under: Fun Stuff,Health — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

Over the past several months, I’ve been watching my weight slowly drift upwards. Well, more accurately, I’ve been completely ignoring the fact that my “fat jeans” are now tight and that I wear the same three outfits because nothing else fits.

I have a million reasons and excuses for this, but I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say, two weeks ago I decided to take the bull by the horns. I set myself a goal and made a plan for how to accomplish it.

It’s not going to be anything surprising here, ladies. I need to eat more veggies and less chocolate, and I need to get away from this desk and move my chair-shaped posterior more than just to the fridge and back. I know what to do; I just need to do it.

Oh, and I’m also going meatless.

Now I realize that three readers in Texas just fainted at the idea of giving up meat, but it’s not such a big deal in our house. I was a vegetarian for 15 years and Mr. Fab is happy to eat my veggie creations most of the time. I started eating meat again about 10 years ago and I’ve noticed a direct correlation between the amount of meat I eat and the size of my thighs. So out she goes.

I’m in no way trying to convert anyone here, merely informing (and hopefully entertaining) but if you’re thinking that a little less meat in the diet may do you a world of good, check out the Meatless Monday campaign for information and recipes to get you started, and Vegetarian Times for more inspiration.

Tomorrow night I’m making Cuban Stuffed Peppers. I’ll be sure to report back and post the recipe, once it’s passed the Mr. Fab test.

And one more random fun item for today. I just stumbled on this recipe to make your own Goldfish crackers, including instructions for a miniature goldfish-shaped cutter! Love it!

 

Census data show childfree households are majority June 24, 2011

Courtesy: LA Times

Yesterday morning I shuffled out to my front porch to pick up the newspapers. My sleepy curiosity jumped to attention when I saw the cover headline of the LA Times:

“Data show state families changing.”

Above the headline was a row of pie charts showing that, according to the 2010 U.S. census figures, 26.0% of California households are married couples with no children, up 4% since 2000. Surprising, but not shocking until you compare this with the data on nuclear families (defined as a household with a married couple of the opposite sex, and children). These families make up only 23.4% of households, down a whopping 10% since 2000.

This means that, as a childfree couple, Mr. Fab and I are in the majority around here. As the article says: “Today, California is a stark reflection of a new dynamic; the traditional Hallmark card image is hardly obsolete, but it is the minority.”

I hope this means that, as this trend continues (and I predict it will), we childfree people will come to be seen as the norm and no longer the odd, misunderstood creatures we are now.

 

Interview with author, Dr. Ellen Walker June 23, 2011

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Ellen Walker, author of Complete Without Kids: An Insider’s Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance. Ellen is childfree by choice, and even though I am childfree by chance, we had plenty to talk about on the subjects of friendship and community, the drive for motherhood, and what to do when life doesn’t go as planned. Here’s our conversation:

Life Without Baby: How did you make the decision to be childfree?

Ellen Walker: I never spent a lot of time thinking about motherhood. I was busy with work, travel, and hobbies, and I always had partners that never wanted a family.

My current husband already had grown children, and I never felt pressure from him, this was the first time I’d really been close to a father-son relationship, and when I’d hear him on the phone, telling his son he loved him, it tugged at my heartstrings. For the first time, I began to question my decision not to have children, and suddenly I wanted a baby of my own.

After many tearful discussions and weeks of writing, talking, and contemplating, I was able to step back and analyze. I realized that if I really wanted children, I would have made it happen before.

LWB: What do you think triggered that urge?

EW: I think it’s a basic biological drive to create a child, especially in a relationship with a man. You have a primitive urge to have his baby. It’s also about not wanting to be left out of a group. When friends are having babies and people are bringing photos of children into work, you have nothing to talk about with them.

LWB: Do you find that most of your friends are also childfree?

EW: Yes. My female friends tend to be 10-20 years older because the women my own age didn’t have time for friends without kids. Their friends went to soccer games and connected because of their kids. I did seek out childfree people, but most came about through chance meetings.

LWB: How important is it to find your own community?

EW: Really important. I never thought about it until I started meeting people and got really excited when they didn’t have children. I began to seek out others. I found a childfree Meetup group and went to a few meetings. It was fun, but I realized that just being childfree does not make someone a good candidate for friendship. Now, I look for people with interests in common, and if they happen to be childfree, I nurture those relationships.

LWB: Do you ever regret your decision?

EW: Sometimes. In a way I feel as if I’ve missed a big life stage. I’ve been career driven for a long time, and I’m feeling as if I’m ready to do something else. Many women my age with children are now focusing on their careers, and I’m ready to retire. I’m trying to figure out the next stage.

If I’d been raising kids, I wouldn’t have had the energy I’ve had for other things. I’m glad I made the choice and pursued my career. I’ve had the opportunity to impact people’s lives and I’ve written a book. I wouldn’t have been able to do those things. Everyone has regrets, but luckily mine are fleeting. Mother’s Day is always hard. I recently wrote an article about it for Psychology Today, asking people to be careful about saying “Happy Mother’s Day” to every woman and to be aware that it can be a very painful day for some women, and not a happy day.

LWB: What advice would you give to someone struggling with being childfree?

EW: Let yourself go through a real grieving process, preferably with a therapist. A dream is something you’d hoped to have as a part of your identity and most likely wanted it your whole life. Losing that dream is like a death, and a formal grieving process has to include acceptance. Only then can you make a decision about where you’re going to put your energy. Then you can create a new dream, picture your future, and figure out how to make that happen.

While writing my book, I interviewed a woman in her 90s. She had never talked about her childlessness. Decades later, she still hadn’t reconciled and come-to-terms with it. She had so many strengths and talents, and had she dealt with her grief and loss, she could have embraced a new life.

LWB: It was a pleasure talking to you about your choices and hearing your insight.

EW: This is a really important issue for women of the world. We are peers for the next generation of women who may experience pressure from mothers to have grandchildren. We need to talk about this topic and be good role models for young women.

LWB: I couldn’t agree more.

To learn more about Ellen Walker, please visit her website, CompleteWithoutKids.com