Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

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?


18 Responses to “Marking Time”

  1. Angela Says:

    Yes, I can totally relate to this. I sometimes feel like I’m in a sort of NeverNeverland where everything just keeps staying the same. I don’t really even realize my own age because once I hit about 29 I never really felt any different as the years passed. Especially since I’ve had the same house/husband/job/dog for the last 7 years. It is a pretty weird feeling. I’ve felt like I was in a rut for about 5 years now, so I’m going back for my master’s in the fall, I guess I’ll use that for a landmark. I can’t even believe I’ll be FORTY when I get done with that!! OMG!!

    • Kate B Says:

      I feel the same way. Without kids to mark the changing of times, i still feel like I did 10-15 years ago. I look at other woman my age and wonder why I don’t feel as old as they do. I think it’s because I never “graduated” to mother status. I’m still in the young married mode.

      • Kathleen Guthrie Woods Says:

        Love this! I wanna be one of those old married couples who is still in love with each other –maybe b/c we didn’t have to divide our affections with children.

    • Kathleen Guthrie Woods Says:

      This is awesome! So excited for you and who knows what kinds of doors this will open for you. (BTW, life after 40 really rocks.)

      • Elena Says:

        Can you tell me how life after 40 is going to rock??
        I will turn 40 this year, with no children and no partner, 7 years in the same job, no idea what i want to do with my life. I’ve accomplished a lot already except for – really having my own family. I’m lacking perspective and I’m very scared it’s not gonna rock at all.
        Oh – this isn’t Whiny Wednesday, is it? Sorry – 🙂

  2. Klara Says:

    dear Lisa,
    yes, I can totally relate to this as well.
    I have had exactly the same job for the whole decade. So when we talk about something about the past – about when something happened, there is often a coworker that corrects my statement in a way – no, no…. that year I was pregnant with the little one, so it happened x years ago and not y. And I feel such a looser…. being without milestones.

    But I learned something – I do not guess what happened when. I just say that I can not remember. Without being corrected I feel less of a looser. I have already a million tricks how to defend myself..

  3. Know not nothing Says:

    I know the feeling all too well, the same job for eight years, same house for 11 years, married 16 years. Sometimes it feels like a scene from a movie where everything stops and the camera pans around taking in every angle, but nothing moves. I find it quite suffocating. I can’t imagine what it feels like for people who find themselves alone after their children have left and they have to try and remember who they were before being parents. I have been thinking lately how important it is to create milestones, the year I took up guitar, the year I decided to go on that bush walk I have been thinking about forever, something, anything different, new. Like the saying, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” I’m not suggesting we all go thrill seeking or exploring the dark side of our personalities,(Although…), but challenges, variation, exposing our minds to possibilities. I guess if nothing else it could help distract us, me, from thinking too much about the things we can not change.
    Forgive my waffle, it was just a timely stumble across this post coinciding with thoughts I have been having about how time can seem to both fly and crawl at the same time depending on your frame of mind.

  4. loribeth Says:

    I feel this way too sometimes, particularly the feeling that everyone else has moved on in their lives while ours has stayed very much the same. BIL was teasing dh & me this weekend about “joining the 21st century” & getting some techno gadget or other. We don’t have kids, so we don’t feel the same pressure to keep up with the latest & greatest stuff… which can, of course, be a good thing ; ) but sometimes i do feel hopelessly out of the loop. :p

  5. Colleen Says:

    That is exactly what it feels like to me. I struggle with trying to figure out what I really have to look forward to since most of the key milestones are done for me. And I feel a bit guilty and ungrateful for feeling like that, but it is true. And now I have a song stuck my head that has the lyric “I feel like life is passing me by… “

  6. Dorothy Says:

    Angela– congrats on going for your master’s degree!!! It is a lot of work, but I hope it gives you a new perspective on your profession as well as life in general. Good luck!

  7. Lois Says:

    I feel the same way too.. no big milestones since getting married. My thirties seem a blur. I worry the rest of my life will be that way too.

  8. Mali Says:

    I think there are advantages and disadvantages with this. On the positive side, I have a friend who is a grandmother, and I can’t IMAGINE being a grandmother, as I certainly don’t feel old enough! (I’m sure she doesn’t either – but I think in ways it helps keep us young).

    I find that I mark things by other events in my life – including lost pregnancies but mostly trips or jobs. Just not kids.

    And I don’t think losing track of time means you’re in a rut. I know plenty of parents who don’t do anything new or different year after year because they’re stuck in “parent mode” and don’t ever think about reinventing themselves. Look what you’re doing here! Built an internet community, published a book. That’s hardly being in a rut!

  9. Elena Says:

    I can see what you mean since i often feel that having children would mean experiencing something new and changing nearly every day… they grow up so fast.
    But I think this is not a “fate” we’re not able to escape. People who have children invest SO much in those “time markers”. Family fotographs, hanging the childrens paintings on the walls/fridge, or these obnoxious “annual reports” i get from families with kids around the new year (do you get them over there? I’ve some notion thei’re an “American” thing but maybe not).
    Well it’s our own choice wether we want to keep “track” by leaving markers of our own life. Wether we live our lives so that there is something important to remember, if not from every month, then from every year. It’s up to us to go on trips, so we can say “oh that was the year we went to xy”, or as someone else here said “the year i took up the guitar”. We can do this the same way people with children do: Take the photographs, label them with a date, put them in a file on your computer or create a nice book…. Keep those notebooks you use for your guitar exercises, label them with dates…. Stick this poster of a great concert you went to hear up on your fridge and leave it there… etc.
    I myself am very bad at this, but I know it’s a choice i have, if it’s so important to me, I can do something about it.
    And i have heard of enough mothers to whom a stressful life with children became just one big huge blur of nappies, driving, cooking etc… when suddenly, they are gone, grown up, left the house and leaving parents behind who are wondering how the heck the last 20 years passed and what have they done with their lives.

    • IrisD Says:

      Elena, I think we sometimes focus so much on our own situation with childlessness that we assume things that are not necessarily true (at least I do this frequently). I asked my sister-in-law if she loses track of time, forgets when major things happened… and she said… “Are you kidding?”… because of course, I know she does. And my brother responds, “I don’t know what she would do if I get dementia.” I think your last paragraph is very accurate for many… not just the nappies, the running around after work being chauffer for the kids to ballet, piano lessons, little league soccer, baseball, etc.

      • Elena Says:

        as a matter of fact, discussing this here and on another internet forum made me start my own “annual report” for my own life. I’m not going to send this to anyone but just keep it to myself. Starting with the year 2010 when my relationship broke up and with it went the certainty that there would be children.
        To be honest, i haven’t really done it thoroughly yet (photographs and all) but just jotting down a few thoughts for the years 2010 and 2011 made me realize that I’ve experienced so many things in these years which were really great. For example even after the split from my Ex i went on two short holidays which were both great…. there was the concert of a rock band (friends of mine) in early 2011 which was such an amazing experience… In spring 2011 i went to a Renaissance Fair to play music and I’ve experienced the most amazing spontaneous music session there with the other musicians… I’ve spent an entire summer on sabbatical (3 months) last year which sure is something worth marking, specially since I lost my camera and there are no photographs but lots of memories… all these great experiences are already getting lost in the blur of everyday life, photographs (these days) are scattered all over the place, my computer, facebook etc…. but I think it’s a great idea to “summarize” all this once a year.

  10. Laura Says:

    Yes, suddenly months turn into years and then one day you realize $*&*(#, a lot of time has passed. Thanks for this and all of the posts. Just found your blog. My partner & I started our parenting quest 7 years ago === and it has been a “on and off” effort. Yes, lesbians, so the trying is really a deliberate effort, thus even easier for time “off” to pass, for the weeks to turn into months and into years.

    We always saw 2 great paths in our life – parenting or not parenting. But now that we are in the throes of deciding whether to give parenting (pregnancy or adoption) one more effort or to just permanently embrace our childfree life, the choices don’t seem so clearly equal. And as you (and all you other readers) know, it isn’t a clear or easy decision but do I wish for some clarity. In some ways as a lesbian couple we face a different public/community impact — less assumption that we’d have kids, but also less recognition of our struggles with miscarriages, infertility and the struggle to achieve parenthood and much more of a push to “just’ foster or adopt.

    We went through a mourning period once already, when my partner decided to stop pursuing pregnancy — when we decided that wasn’t going to be our route to parenthood. But somehow, that hasn’t exactly prepared us for this next phase of the process.

    Tonight, I found your blog after sliding down a chute, after hearing a young (26yo) customer/colleague/friend announce her pregnancy to others. My partner had anticipated this one, but it hit me hard. I’ll be happy for them…once I get over my jealousy/judgement.

    Thanks for the sharing and forum.

  11. […] nowhere–I’ve been thinking about it a lot since my last post. It also made me think of this post by Lisa at Life Without Baby, my favorite blog about living child free: “Without children […]

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