Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About $25,000 January 31, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Two of my close friends are preschool shopping. In both cases, they submitted multiple applications shortly after the births of their children, because public schools are not an option (a topic for another post or a Whiny Wednesday) and getting into San Francisco’s private schools is very competitive. This is insane enough, in my mind, but here’s the kicker: Tuition for one child, for one year, is a whopping $25,000. “But it’s $35,000 in New York City,” one friend told me, as if that would make Californians seem frugal by comparison.

Twenty-five thousand dollars! That’s 250 $100 bills or 100,000 quarters! And that got me thinking…. If I had that amount of money to spare, how might I spend it? Here are a few options:

  • With parking at $2 an hour here, I could feed meters (with my 100,000 quarters) while running 12,500 hours of errands. Let’s do some math: At 3 hours each week, I’d be set for 4,167 weeks, or 80 years!
  • A new car! compiled a list of the best cars under $25,000. I’m eyeing the Mini Cooper with a stick shift.
  • Six friends and I could stay in “Premiere Inns” while on Backroads’ multisport adventure in Costa Rica—biking, hiking, and soaking in hot springs in a forest setting. Sweet!
  • Since I could buy in bulk and get a discount, I’d order 468 12-packs of my favorite 82% cacao extra dark chocolate bars from Scharffenberger. At 210 calories per bar, that works out to….oh, screw that! I’ll…
  • …hire a personal trainer! The going rate is $75 an hour, so I’d get 333 hours of crunching abs and burning fat, roughly 6 hours of training each week for one year. Hmmm…I could get in shape for the Boston Marathon…or American’s Next Top Model!
  • 833 mani/pedis ($30) at the little spa down the street. If I visited once a week, I could indulge in 16 years of pampering!

With the exception of the car, all of the above seem extravagant—if not ludicrous—to me. But it is fun to think about. If you won $25,000 in the lottery today, how might you spend it?

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. Right now, she’s thinking about running out to the store to buy a bar of chocolate.


Friends January 30, 2012

Yesterday I had lunch with two friends, Kathleen and Pamela.

Kathleen writes the fabulous “It Got Me Thinking…” column here on LWB. We first met five or six years ago in a writing class. Back then, both of us planned to become mothers someday, although looking back, it’s now apparent that we were both on the path to being permanently childfree, even then. We connected because we appreciated one another’s writing, and over the years, we found other things in common and became better friends. It just so happens that neither of us got our dream of motherhood, and our childlessness has become another bond that ties us to one another.

My friendship with Pamela, on the other hand, developed on a completely different trajectory. Our paths might never have crossed had I not found myself childless-not-by-choice. Although we live in the same state, we lived 400 miles apart with little in our lives to ever bring us together. But Pamela is the author of Silent Sorority, and I got to know her through her blog. Eventually, we met in person last year, and we soon discovered that our childlessness was only one of many things we have in common, and in fact, one of the least interesting. Our childlessness brought us together, but it won’t be what sustains our friendship. More likely, it will be wine, food, and travel.

It’s funny how life twists and turns, how connections are made and paths laid out. We meet people and we lose people. Some friends stick, some fall to the wayside. Friends change and move in different directions, and new friends come along and fill the void. Our plans change and our lives spin in directions we could never have foreseen. And yet, when the dust settles and we regain our balance, we often see that we are walking the path we were always meant to be on after all. And it’s encouraging to look around and discover that we have friends walking beside us.

In two weeks time, I’ll get the chance to meet some more wonderful women, when the San Francisco Group does lunch. I’m looking forward to finding things in common, and maybe making new friends.


What’s Going on in Your Head? January 27, 2012

I’ve been spending more time than usual alone lately and it’s not good for my head. I’m beginning to talk to myself and some of those conversations aren’t good.

When I’m busy working, my brain and I get along just fine, but in the evenings, when I’m padding around the kitchen making dinner, doing dishes, or folding laundry, the conversations start.

You know the ones I mean. I pick up an issue that’s been bothering me, something someone said that stung, or some other injustice or conflict that’s gone unresolved. Then I set about solving the problem, confronting the offender, and getting into a big fight in my head. (Please tell me I’m not the only person that does this.)

Usually I gravitate towards the worst case scenario. I end up working myself into a lather over something that hasn’t happened, and may never happen.

Finally, I have to remind myself that my body can’t tell the difference between real conflict and imagined, and so it’s busy pumping all those stress hormones out into my blood stream, which isn’t doing my health any good. That’s usually enough to stop the arguments – at least for a while.

I used to do this a lot when I was busy beating myself up over infertility, trying to figure out why it happened – or more to the point, what I had done to make it happen to me. I’d think of all the choices I’d made along the way and imagine if I’d started earlier and had children with someone who wasn’t right for me, instead of waiting so long for Mr. Fab. Does any of this sound familiar?

Once you get that negative self-talk going, it’s easy to convince yourself of all kinds of things that aren’t true. And is that really going to help the healing process? Probably not. More likely it’s just going to create more stress and give you wrinkles.

So today, as you’re going about your business, listen to what you’re telling yourself. We all have plenty of real conflict in our lives; let’s not add to it by creating more in our heads.


My Inner Child on Time Out January 26, 2012

In my “real life” as a freelance writer, I’m hard at work writing a guidebook to California’s Wine Country, where I’m lucky enough to live part-time. It’s a fun project, I’ve been enjoying doing the research, and I’m now down to the serious task of compiling all my information and committing it to paper.

It has been fun to learn about the region in which I live and I now have a whole list of activities I’d like to try, restaurants I’d like to eat at, and places I want to visit, once the book is done.

On my travels, I’ve come across some great kid-friendly place I’d love to try. Safari West is a wildlife preserve where you can camp out over night and do a dawn animal patrol. How cool is that? Pee Wee Golf is an old-fashioned miniature golf course that’s supposed to be a blast. And then there’s Train Town, where you can take a 20-minute train ride on a quarter-scale train though tunnels, over trestle bridges, and through miniature towns. I want to do that.

If I had kids, I’d have the perfect excuse to do all these silly things. But I don’t have kids, so what am I supposed to do, go to Train Town alone? Can you see me in my striped engineers hat, woot-wooting in the tunnels, surrounded by 6-year olds who are terrified of the weird lady?

My inner child is alive and well, but without kids as a cover, I’m not sure how it gets to come out to play.


Whiny Wednesday: Water Baby January 25, 2012

My water cooler has sprung a leak. I put a black plastic bowl underneath to catch the drips.

The next morning the water had formed a perfect sonogram-like fetus-shaped pool.

I hate that something so stupid can still cause such a sharp reaction in me, and that I’m still thinking about that peanut shape days later.

It’s Whiny Wednesday. What’s making you want to kick something today?

P.S. The following day, the “water baby” had changed into a heart. Interpret that as you will.


It Got Me Thinking…About Fleas January 24, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

According to an ad for Advantage®II, a mama flea can lay 2,000 eggs during her lifetime.

I realize that statistic is meant to scare me into buying their flea-killing product for my pets, but all I can think is, “That is so friggin’ unfair!”

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She shares her office with two big dogs.


It Got Me Thinking…About Puzzles

 By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I took a week off over the recent holiday season, something I haven’t done in many years, and I planned all sorts of fun things for myself…of which I did, well, two. At the top of my list was to pull out the old card table and complete a jigsaw puzzle. It brought back memories of cozy holidays by the fireplace and lazy vacations in a remote cabin. I could hardly wait to get to the museum store and select a puzzle (I chose a painting depicting San Francisco landmarks), and I looked forward to indulging in some quiet while the picture was revealed before me.

What was I thinking?! That darn thing—1,000 pieces of a blurry friggin’ watercolor—was hard! It took me three-plus days to put the frame together and a couple of weeks post-holiday of a piece here, a piece there. There were times when I just wanted to sweep all the pieces into the box and move on with my life, but when the last piece slipped into place (Ta-da!), I did experience a gratifying sense of accomplishment.

Overall, I enjoyed my puzzling experience, and it was interesting to look back and realize I’d learned a life lesson in the process. You see, there were nights when I would stare at it and not see a single hook-up. Then, the next morning, I’d glance at it and instantly see where a huge chunk, when tilted slightly to the left, fit perfectly into a section that previously looked unrelated.

This got me thinking about how I can better face challenges in life. Instead of obsessing over it, stressing over it, banging my head against the wall, trying to cram pieces into sections that don’t fit, I need to walk away for a bit. If I take a step back and look at it from a new angle, if I allow myself a rest and return to it refreshed, I’ll be better able to see that all the pieces will come together perfectly—different than what I’d originally envisioned, but indeed perfectly.

It’s like the whole childfree thing. Years spent wanting, waiting, praying, trying to make my life fit the picture in my head. Then one day, a friend said, “Let’s start a blog,” and a whole new world opened up. I became part of a community of women who inspired, challenged, amazed, and comforted me. I found a place to share my stories and learn from others. And I look back at the pieces of my life and see how they’ve come together to reveal a beautiful new picture, one that might never have happened if I’d stayed frustrated, if I’d given up and thrown all the pieces back into the box.

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


Marking Time January 23, 2012

Just recently, I seem to have lost my ability to keep track of time. I was always so good at remembering things like how many years ago we visited such-and-such a place, or where we spent Christmas four years ago. But the last several years of my life have suddenly blurred into one big event. I can no longer accurately mark time.

Last week I had lunch with a good friend who inadvertently brought my lack of time tracking to my attention. Over lunch, we were talking about her daughter and we both expressed our shock that she is already in 5th grade. How the years fly! We talked about another friend who has since moved away and how vividly we remember going to see her new baby so many years ago. I realized that I have no idea how old this little boy is now. I imagine that he’s probably somewhere between 7 and 10, but I can guarantee that my friend knows exactly how old this little boy is. I have lost track of that time.

Walking home after lunch, it dawned on me that my time amnesia might have a lot to do with not having children. My friend is reminded on a daily basis of how old her children are. She marks the passing of time with birthday parties, school grades, and childhood milestones. She knows how long ago something happened, because she knows how old her kids were, or what grade they were in at the time. I don’t have that marker and so I have to try to fill in the gaps with other events, or news headlines to mark time in my memory.

Without children to mark time and propel my life forward, I can see how easy it could be to drift through the years. Children create milestones and new direction and, while I’m not in any danger of falling into a rut yet, I can see how easily my life could lose direction.

Maybe I’ve just hit by a patch of melancholy again, so does anyone else see this? Do any of you feel as if your life is drifting by?


Three Things to Love About You January 20, 2012

Filed under: Fun Stuff,The Childfree Life: Issues and Attitudes — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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“What are three things you love about yourself?”

A friend asked me this recently, and I was shocked to find myself stumbling over my answer. I couldn’t even name one thing.

I think many us (especially we women) were raised to be modest, not boastful. We often have no problem telling someone else what we admire in them, but can’t then turn the spotlight on ourselves. And even when we do, we can so often point out all the areas for improvement rather than the good things we see in ourselves.

Fortunately for me, my friend is persistent, and she wouldn’t let me off the hook. So here are three things I love about myself:

      1. I’m honest.
      2. I will always stick up for the underdog.
      3. I am not a quitter.

So I challenge you now. What are three things you love about yourself?


Transformations January 19, 2012

I’ve been following La Belette Rouge on and off for a while now. It’s been interesting to watch her progress.

In the early days, she blogged frequently about her infertility. As she began coming to terms with being childless-not-by-choice, she talked more about her run-ins with her therapist, and the cracks that began to appear in her marriage.

I haven’t checked in on her for a while, so when she blipped onto my radar last week, I was taken aback, but pleased to see this post, Not the Mama/ You Can’t Always Get What You Want.

What a transformation. Here’s a woman who tried almost everything imaginable to get the child she so desperately wanted, and here she is now, standing up and having the courage to say this:

“I feel crazy grateful for how everything worked out so very perfectly. And I think about how if I had gotten what I hoped and prayed and paid Reproductive Endocrinologists for that I would now be a very unhappy gal who likely would not have had the courage to do what I did in March (leave) and how I certainly would not be in this new relationship with this wonderful man who makes me ridiculously happy.”

I know how long it took her to get to this point, and she is the first to admit that there are still days when she is “punched in the ovaries” by a reminder of what she doesn’t have. But, oh, the progress she’s made.

She includes a quote from Truman Capote in her post:

“More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.”

I know for me, there are days, that I can see clearly how my life is better just the way it turned out. And those days are increasing in number all the time.