Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Happy Leap Day February 29, 2012

It’s Leap Day, the day when tradition states that a woman can propose to a man…and he has to accept. If I wasn’t already married to Mr. Fab, I would snag him today. We’re going on for eight years (a record relationship for me, I might add) and despite his numerous flaws, I wouldn’t swap him for anyone, not even Leonardo DiCaprio (although I’d give it serious consideration before turning Leo down.)

We talked recently about how things might have worked out differently if we’d met sooner. Perhaps we might have been able to have children, then again, perhaps we wouldn’t. I’ll never know. But the time we spent before we met has made us the people we are today, and maybe if we’d met when we were younger, we wouldn’t have been ready for one another. Again, we’ll never know.

But my husband also acknowledges that if we’d met in a different time and place he wouldn’t have had his two children, and he wouldn’t change that for anything. So, I guess my whine for today is that I can’t begrudge him that…even if I really want to.

It is Whiny Wednesday. What’s irking you today?


It Got Me Thinking…About Basketball February 28, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

In my mind, there are two kinds of people: those who hate the sound of shoes squeaking on the basketball court (“It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard!”) and those who think it is one of the sweetest sounds on Earth. I am in the latter group. In fact, just thinking about it now has me rolling my eyes in ecstasy.

We have season tickets to watch a local college team, and as we head toward the playoffs, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve missed…and what I might have missed. On the one hand, I’m envious of the mom of one of our seniors. He has had a phenomenal record-breaking career, and she must be so proud. I used to think I’d be a mom like her, the one who would humbly accept praise from the other fans in between screaming her head off as she cheered her kid to victory. I would have been a great basketball mom.

But in reality, if I were a mom now, I’d be missing all this. I’d be the one at home breastfeeding or helping with homework or taking care of the kid with a cough while my husband went out and had all the fun. For the better part of a decade (depending on the number of kids I was mothering), I might catch highlights on the evening news, but most likely I’d fall into an exhausted sleep while listening to my husband deliver his play-by-play account. I would have missed the thrilling one-point wins, the bad calls, the game-winning steals, the Hail Mary shots. I would have missed the camaraderie, the strategy talks with the coach, the high-fives across the rows of devoted fans. I. Love. Basketball.

I know, I know, there are other rewards in being a mom. But in celebration of being childfree, I have to say I’d rather be sitting courtside on the home court than sidelined at home.

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


Family Support February 27, 2012

I talked to some of my family back in the UK this weekend, as I often do, and it struck me after I’d hung up how lucky I am to have the family I have.

I have two older brothers, both of whom have kids­­–my fabulous nieces and nephews. My mum is a good grandma, but I know she would have enjoyed playing the grandma role to the children of her only daughter.

I think there’s a bond that happens between a mother and daughter when the elder woman gets to pass along her knowledge and experience.  My mum didn’t get to do that, and it saddens me, even though I think she’s ok with the situation. My mother is nothing, if not pragmatic about the things life hands out.

I’m lucky because I’ve never felt pressure from my family with regards to children. I’ve heard the occasional insensitive comment, but I know those weren’t meant to hurt me, and probably said because of an uncomfortable situation where there really wasn’t anything better that could have been said.

But I know that other people aren’t so lucky, and that their families don’t understand at all why they don’t just keep trying to have a baby, why they can’t just put the failed attempts and losses behind them and try again.  It’s hard to explain to someone that you have to stop trying for the sake of your own sanity and that making the decision doesn’t lessen the desire for children.

So, I’m curious to hear how your families have handled your situation. Have they been supportive? Do they understand what you’ve been through and the decisions you’ve made? Or has your not having children caused a fissure in your family?  And how have you handled that? Let me know.


Chero: Juliette Gordon Low’s Fifty Million Daughters February 24, 2012

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

If Girl Scout badges had been available in the late 1800s, Juliette Gordon Low would have a sash full. She would have earned Drawing and Painting, Swimming, Pet Care, Theatre, Traveler, Books, and even a badge for humor. She would certainly have earned a badge for Citizenship and Caring for Children. But those badges hadn’t been invented then, because Juliette hadn’t yet founded the organization that awarded them.

Born Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon in Savannah Georgia in 1860, “Daisy,” as she was affectionately called by her family, was known for her love of the arts, her sense of humor and her athletic stunts. Her favorite trick was standing on her head, which she performed at parties, and once a year on her birthday, just to prove she still could.

Juliette had suffered chronic ear infections as a child and had lost most of her hearing in one ear. On the day of her wedding to William Mackay Low in 1886, a grain of “good luck” rice became lodged in Juliette’s good ear. It punctured her eardrum and she suffered total hearing loss in that ear. It didn’t seem to slow her down much.

Shortly after the wedding, the newlyweds moved England, and Juliette continued her passion for travel, visiting Europe, Egypt and India, as well as returning to Savannah for her annual visit. Juliette and William never had children. William died in 1905 and Juliette remained in England, forging a life for herself. It was there that she met Sir Robert Baden-Powell, former Lieutenant General of the British Army and founder of the Scout Movement. Inspired by B-P, as he was known, Juliette poured her energies into the fledgling youth movement.

The following year, when she returned to Savannah, Juliette made an historic phone call. “Come right over,” she told her friend, Nina Anderson Pape. “I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we’re going to start it tonight!”

On March 12, 1912, Juliette gathered 18 girls from Savannah, and the American Girl Guides was born. Juliette’s niece and namesake, Margaret “Daisy Doots” Gordon, was the first registered member. In the spirit of self-reliance and resourcefulness encouraged by Juliette, the girls voted the following year to change the name of the organization to The Girl Scouts.

A century later, with 3.7 million members, the organization still embraces the values Juliette supported. She encouraged the girls to pursue non-traditional careers in the arts, science, and business, and to embrace environmental and community citizenship.

Juliette has been honored numerous times for her work. In 1948, President Truman authorized a stamp in her honor; a Liberty Ship, the SS Juliette Low was named for her, and in 1979 she was inducted into the national Women’s Hall of Fame. Prior to her death in 1927, she helped found the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, which now boasts more than 10 million members in 145 countries.

In the U.S. alone, an estimated 50 million girls have been impacted by the work of a childfree woman with a passion for life…Juliette Gordon Low.


It Got Me Thinking…About Girl Scout Cookies February 23, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

It’s Girl Scout Cookie Season, when aunts and uncles around the world break out their checkbooks and overspend on “treats” that taste like cardboard.

I am more than happy to support the Girl Scouts, an organization that broadened the horizons of my childhood and that I think has done a great job of growing with the times. (Girls now work for badges that encourage them to learn about stress management and career options, leaps forward from the housewifery badges I earned back in the day.) But, oy, between my husband and me, we have seven nieces of Girl Scouting age, plus the daughters of friends and colleagues, plus those sweet little things who hang out in front of the grocery store. At $4 a box, for cookies I don’t even eat (they go straight to the break room at my husband’s office), that adds up!

So I have to give a shout out to my brilliant sister-in-law who came up with a new plan this year. Instead of getting sales pitches from each of the four girls in her family, they’re on a rotation plan. This year the oldest niece is hitting us up; next year, niece #3 gets her shot at sweet-talking us into contributing, and so on. I love it! I’ve already placed my order and mailed my check.

As always, I cheerfully support the fund-raising efforts of the kids in our lives, from the walk-a-thons to the wrapping paper drives to the raffles. And I am especially grateful that the parents in our family are opening their eyes and not taking undue advantage of us. Wouldn’t it be nice if all parents could be more sensitive to their childfree friends and family members when asking us to contribute to the rearing of their children?

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’ll be baking real shortbread cookies this weekend.

Editor’s Note: Did you know that the founder of the Girl Scouts never had children of her own? More about her tomorrow. 


Whiny Wednesday February 22, 2012

Forgive me for the sketchy details of this whine, but I’m trying to smudge the lines so that the guilty party doesn’t recognize herself is she passes this way.

When I tell people I don’t have children, why do some of them automatically assume that I never wanted kids, don’t like kids, and am therefore just not a very nice person? And why do they then go on to “educate” me about related subjects that it’s clear they know absolutely nothing about?

Perhaps it’s my fault for not spelling out my infertility for them, but frankly, that’s none of their business.

It’s Whiny Wednesday. Let it all hang out, sisters.


It Got Me Thinking…About Waiting February 21, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

As I’m having my teeth cleaned, the hygienist (early 30s, getting married this summer, knows I recently got married) asks, “So are you planning to have kids right away or are you going to wait?”

Um…wait for what?

When I was clear of dental tools, I reminded her that I am 45.

That ship has sailed, sister.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. Most days she finds the absurdities in life very amusing.


The Power of Community February 20, 2012

I just got back from the San Francisco Writer’s Conference (hence the silence here for the past few days.) It proved to be an enlightening experience in so many ways, as well as in ways I hadn’t anticipated.

I went with the intention of pitching an idea for a new book and generating interest. That happened, but not in the way I’d expected. I had hoped to spark interest with agents and was looking for a champion to take on the book. I got a lukewarm response, at best. However, I found my spark and excitement elsewhere…in potential readers, which turned out to be far for exciting and valuable.

I spent much of the weekend telling strangers that I am childfree-not-by-choice, which is a little odd in of itself, but I ended up meeting and talking to an incredible community of women, some mothers, and many not, but most of whom understood me, my situation, and my message.

Why am I telling you this? Because the experience solidified something that I already knew. In the broad scope of our society, and particularly in the media and commerce, those of us who don’t have children are hugely misunderstood. People make assumptions about our reasons and motivations, not to mention our personalities. And even though 1-in-5 women will not become mothers, we are still a marginalized and overlooked corner of the market.

However, my one-on-one interactions with other women gave me encouragement. Almost every woman I talked too was in some way supportive. I spoke to many women who were also childfree and they all had different reasons and different paths. But I also talked to mothers (including a mother of four and a mother of six) who were just as supportive of my project, and of me.

Ultimately, I left the conference encouraged, not necessarily by the future of the publishing industry, but by the power of community and the wonderful things that can happen when women stand together, no matter the paths that brought them together.


Uncovering Grief February 16, 2012

This week, I’m very pleased to introduce a new Guest Blogger.

Shannon Calder is a psychotherapist, specializing in grief and loss. In this, her new column, she’ll be addressing some of the issues many of us are facing as we look towards a life without children. I hope you’ll find her guidance helpful.

Uncovering Grief

By Shannon Calder

“If we carry our storms like actors pretending to be brave, each swallowed tear will fill our hearts like a bag of stones.”

– Alison Asher

Grief is a sacred time, a sacred act and it is the way we honor the importance of what we lost. The amount of grief we feel is in direct proportion to the importance of the person or idea we have lost. It is an honor to grieve.

My name is Shannon and I am a psychotherapist and a survivor of grief. I phrase it that way because surviving something indicates that it is still with you, in you, but that you pulled through and gained strength and meaning from it. I am here to remind you that grief does not evaporate, but like the wind, it breezes in and then recedes, leaving you to respond in its wake. How fast it recedes and how much havoc it wreaks on your life is the result of how you respond to it. I am here to help you with that and to listen, because grief is with us no matter how long ago we lost something or someone.

I am all for moving on, moving up, moving around, being positive and letting go. Every now and then I may discuss these very ideas. However, my purpose, whether it is on this blog or in my profession, is to address where people are in the moment and to speak to who lives and breathes underneath the persona that we show the world. I think we can agree that we don’t always feel like moving on, letting go or being positive.

Frankly, I don’t think putting happy pants on everyone and sending them back out into the world does them, their spouses, or the drivers next to them any good. It leads to repressed, angry, sad, grief-filled folks running into or running over each other unconsciously.

Do not misunderstand me. In your life, away from this discussion, it is a brilliant idea to have a stiff upper lip in most situations. But in this discussion with me, or anyone else on this blog, and hopefully with the people you trust the most, invest in the emotions that come with grief and give them the attention they deserve. If you are honest with yourself and others about what you feel, they can give you what you deeply need.

This is my not so subtle call to arms to those of you who are grappling with grief. If you are having trouble deciding what you feel, figuring out if you’re grieving, then that is completely valid and we can address that. I want to encourage you to do as Alison Asher says and “soar straight into the storm,” but only do this if you have a lifeboat. I hope that this column, the resources discussed here and the exercises we try can be your lifeboat, along with the friends and family you find here on this blog and in your life. Rally your resources and bring them close to you.

Please write to me with questions and/or your stories. I will attempt to address many of them in this column.

Be well,


Contact me at: Shannon [AT] lifewithoutbaby [DOT] com


Alison Asher wrote Soaring into the Storm, a lovely book about anyone facing adversity. She interviewed people of all ages and backgrounds who endured tragedy and came out strong. She is an artist and a poet and she survived the loss of a child.


Whiny Wednesday: Parenting Radar February 15, 2012

I’m whining at myself today and the bad attitude I’ve developed towards parents, or more precisely, towards parenting.

Listening to the radio on Sunday morning, I heard an interview with a author who’d written a book about parenting in France. She was saying how “amazed” she was to see French children sitting quietly at the dining room table, eating what was put in front of them, and entertaining themselves for hours with a simple toy.

In a second, my mind flashed through all the times I’d witnessed “bad American parents” and their out-of-control offspring, and before I knew it I was off, stomping around the house spitting vitriol at the radio and the poor unsuspecting author (who, fortunately couldn’t hear me.)

But my husband heard me, and gave me one of his, “Oh, no, where can I hide before she turns on me” looks. It was enough to cool my jets, stop for a while and listen quietly to what the (very nice) author had to say.

I apologized to my husband, and skulked off to have a talk with myself and try to figure out where this ire comes from, when it comes. It doesn’t come often, not any more, but it does come, boy, does it come with a vengeance.

I don’t hate parents (I’ve had two of my own and they were great) and I don’t resent parents, I don’t think, but this anger is hiding inside me somewhere, and when it bubbles up, it scares the heck out of me…not to  mention my poor husband.

Anyway, it’s Whiny Wednesday today, so now’s a good time to let your anger out to play for a while.