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.