Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Forgetting Our Dreams October 31, 2011

I love this post, Forty, Single, and Childless from Jody Day at Gateway Women. I applaud her for having the guts to look inside herself and really think about why she wanted children. How many of us really do that?

So much of what she wrote in her post resonated with me. She writes:

“What would things have been like for me if instead of neglecting my dreams, my passions, my friends, my work, my finances (and, quite often, my common sense) during that time I’d focused on creating a life without children, whilst still remaining open and excited about the possibility that one day I might become a mother? Why did I get stuck on this one outcome, mostly out of my control, rather than take a saner, broader view of things?”

Why indeed? I often think how much I changed over the five or so years I spent trying to conceive and the past three years since. I’m more introverted, less likely to be spontaneous, more likely to just stay home. I’m not as daring as I was, perhaps not quite so “devil-may-care” about my choices. But the former me is still in there and I’m working on dragging her back out again.

But what if I’d had a different attitude to motherhood and accepted is as something that might happen for me instead of something that had to happen, or else? I wonder, with the benefit of hindsight, if I could. It certainly would have made for a different story now.

We lament the loss of our dreams, especially when our dreams include motherhood, but I wonder how many other dreams we let fall by the wayside while we’re questing for that ideal life?

Jody ends her post with a quote:

“There’s nothing as attractive as someone who respects their dreams enough to follow them.  Children are indeed a blessing, but they are here to fulfill their dreams, not ours.”

How easy it is to forget that.

 

Congratulations! October 28, 2011

Tomorrow is a big day.

My dear friend and writing buddy, Kathleen, is getting married. She is marrying a wonderful man (we’ll call him Thor – not his real name, merely his alter-ego) and I couldn’t be happier for her.

You’ll know Kathleen from her weekly “It Got Me Thinking…” column, and I hope you’ll join me in congratulating her and sending her off on her new adventure.

But don’t panic! She’s not leaving us. In fact she’ll be back next week as usual, just as Kathleen Guthrie Woods.

Congratulations, Kathleen. Wishing you much love.

 

Guest Post: Mom Friends October 27, 2011

By Iris

Coming to terms with childlessness can be a very lonely process, especially when most of our friends, those we’ve reached out to over the years for support over things little and big, become difficult to be around.  Women who are consumed by motherhood and their children, and women who are preoccupied by the inability to have them, can sometimes make for a painful combination.

The bond of love between a mother and her child must and should be amazingly strong. I have been known to brag about my niece and nephew and to smother them each with hugs and kisses, probably more than their own mother does. So, I do not resent my mom friends for being less available to me than they were before having children, and I don’t mind listening to their concerns and stories about their kids, some of which I’m pretty fond of myself. It’s a different story, however, when a friend’s appreciation of her new role as a mother seems to translate into a devaluation of your own life’s worth because you have not given birth.

Much of what I read on childlessness and motherhood seems to enhance rather than reduce this divide between Moms and non-Moms, which made me really happy to come across Lisa Rankin’s tribute to her childless friends on that most difficult day for many of us, Mother’s Day.

And that got me feeling very grateful to those mom friends who help me hold on to perspective. The ones who remind me that there is more to life than motherhood, who know of my circumstances and encourage me to stay positive and enjoy my life, who remind me that happiness comes from within and that the grass is not always greener.  I’m grateful for their words and the sentiments of love and friendship they express.

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.

 

Whiny Wednesday: World’s most insensitive comment October 26, 2011

During my random Internet rambles I came across a community called Widows Too Young, an amazing group of women who have lost spouses. (Can I just say at this point that I love how we women come together to support one another. We rock.) However one of the forums deals with women who are childfree, and I think this one wins the prize for “most insensitive comment ever.”

SusieBear posted that for years she and her husband dealt with prying questions and insensitive remarks about their decision to be childfree. Now that her husband is gone, people are actually commenting to her about what a comfort children would have been to her, and suggesting that she must now be regretting her decision to not have kids.

Really, people? Is there any chance you could engage your brains before opening your mouths? Can you please explain what it is about these statements you think is actually going to be helpful?!!

 

I’ve complained plenty here about the things people sometimes say to “help,” but I think that this really takes the cake. My heart goes out to SusieBear, and I’m glad she’s found a supportive community that gets it.

It’s Whiny Wednesday, and while it’s hard to top Susie’s whine, feel free to have a grumble and get your gripes out.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Old Girls and New Tricks October 25, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

I trained for and completed my first triathlon when I was 43. A good friend earned her black belt at 47. A gal I know picked up a paintbrush for the first time after retiring from a decades-long career and became a successful landscape artist in her 70s. Recently, another brave friend and her classmates showed a gathering of a few hundred guests how real women (with curves) dance traditional hula.*

I think our youth-obsessed society is under the misconception that courage is the domain of people under 30. They party, they experiment, they go on reality TV shows. But I disagree. I think real daring rears its beautiful head around the age of 39. I see it in so many of my friends, as they finally pursue long-held dreams or take new risks, whether it be diving out of a plane or going back to school and changing careers. I think it’s a combination of finally letting go of caring what other people think about us, along with renewed desire to try new things and a dash of fatalism—life is too short, let’s do this now!

I also believe we childfree women have a huge advantage. We don’t have to worry about what will happen to the kids if we end up in a cast and pretty much useless for 6 weeks. We don’t worry about embarrassing our teenagers. We have time on our hands and money not earmarked for someone else’s college education. We can’t use sleep deprivation and PTA commitments as excuses for not chasing our dreams.

If you’re looking for inspiration, read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love or Julia Child’s My Life in France, both memoirs of childfree women who took big chances and dramatically reinvented their lives while their peers were shopping for strollers. Or watch Under the Tuscan Sun, Julie & Julia (based in part on Child’s book), or Last Holiday starring Queen Latifah for more stories about childfree women who dedicate their free time and passion to creating beautiful homes, beautiful foods, and beautiful lives.

Get creative, follow your bliss, explore what makes you curious, discover the blessings of a childfree life. This week, I have three words for you: Go For It!

*I want to note that these women took classes three times a week for two years to prepare for their debut. Their performance was beautiful, and I am in awe of these women and their devotion to the artistry of hula.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s signing up for gardening and French classes.

 

Childproofing your home…for other people’s kids October 24, 2011

When I saw this article about how to childproof your home for a visiting friend’s child, I had an instant and visceral reaction.

On the one hand, I would never want anything untoward to happen to a child in my home (or anyone else’s home for that matter) and I consider myself an accommodating host, but on the other hand I thought, “Childproof my home? Is she flippin’ kidding me?”

The article offers suggestions to plug electrical outlets and invest in some toys and books, as well as other inexpensive items, such as a highchair, play yard (aka fence), and baby tub. I tried to imagine buying these things to accommodate a visitor, and frankly, I couldn’t. Again, not because I wouldn’t want a houseguest to feel welcome, but because I couldn’t imagine having these items in my home – for someone else’s baby.

I had an experience a couple of years ago where Mr. Fab had guests with a baby stay for a few days when I was out of town. I returned to my home to find plastic plugs in all my outlets, baby wash and baby shampoo in my bathroom cabinet, and a portable highchair in my closet. There were baby wipes under my kitchen sink and a baby cutlery in with my knives and forks.

I remember feeling, not exactly violated, but certainly intruded upon. It was a strong and surprising reaction, and when I remember it, I try to figure out why I had responded that way. It was more than just having baby items in my home, because they’ve since been removed one way or another. I’m not even sure it was about feeling disrespected that my obviously childfree home was changed to suit someone else.  I’ve even wondered if was just plain jealousy.

I wish I could put my finger on it, because I felt that same reaction again when I saw this article, and I still don’t fully understand why. Any suggestions?

 

Great Expectations October 21, 2011

As young women (or men) we set our expectations and created a vision of how our lives would turn out.

My life was going to include college, a fantastically successful career traveling the world as an engineering consultant, and eventually a life with Mr. Right, in a large English country house with a circular driveway, and four children (including twins.) Sounds like a pretty good life, doesn’t it?

Well, I made it to college, then graduate school, and launched my engineering career, and that’s about as far as my expectations took me. I fell in love with Mr. Romance (who really wasn’t Mr. Right), fell out of love with engineering, and never even got a sniff of anything resembling my four children.

But…

I found my true vocation and now do work that I love. I picked my way through the minefield of potential spouses until I found, not simply Mr. Right, but Mr. Fabulous. These two areas of my life didn’t meet my expectations; they exceeded them.

When I look back at my expectations I realize that I probably wouldn’t have been happy in that life. I’ll never know for sure, but because I made some mistakes and some poor choices, and because things didn’t go as planned, I’ve had opportunities I would never have had, and I have a life that is, overall, better than it might have been.

So often we set expectations for ourselves and when they don’t work out we lament our misfortune or beat ourselves up for not achieving what we set out to do. But I’m coming to believe that life isn’t supposed to go as planned. And sometimes out of those disappointments comes an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

This may all sound a little Pollyanna to those of you who are trying to make some sense of the hand you’ve been dealt, but I really do believe that each of us will someday be able to look back and say, “Wow, this great thing that I have now could never have happened if I’d had kids.” Yes, it’s Pollyanna, but for now, I’m hanging my hat on it.