Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

With Eyes of Faith…Charity and Social Justice May 31, 2012

By Dorothy Williams


 

“But when you give alms,

do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,

so that your almsgiving may be secret.

And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

 

~ Jesus

Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, verses 3 & 4

 

The virtue of charity is about more than writing a check to a dachshund rescue group.  As I wished friends at church a “Happy Mother’s Day” this year, I realized that this too was a form of charity and a gift worth giving.  Because I gave from my poverty — my lack of children — the gift felt more sacrificial than inking over alms in the form of cash, so that’s why I almost overlooked it as a practice of virtue.

 

Why are these gifts so hard to give?  Maybe it’s because we look for immediate reward from people rather than God; maybe it’s because we get tied up in knots trying to achieve social justice.  A Chinese proverb says: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Charity is the initial gift of fish, while social justice changes the man’s behavior, to cure the problem requiring charity in the first place.  When I first grappled with the fact that I was childless, all I wanted was social justice.  If I could just change society’s perception of my status, I would not have to be so understanding, so charitable, in the face of such monumental ignorance and insensitivity.  But in a child-centric culture, I was in over my head. Opportunities for social justice seemed to be around every corner and it frustrated me as I tried to correct problems that sometimes didn’t even exist!  I eventually learned that charity is something I could give until I had the opportunity to cure the problem at its root.

 

Nowadays, when I enter a troubling situation where I do not have the capacity or motivation to teach, I give an inward glance to the Lord, secretly communicating my need for grace in dealing with the person who has just crossed a mental boundary. Sometimes my gift of charity is humor, like when I brush off an insensitive comment with a joke.  Sometimes the gift is sacrificial, like when I wish someone a “Happy Mother’s Day”.  Finding balance between charitable and teachable moments is worth the struggle we go through to find it. The reward that comes from God alone is priceless.

 

Dorothy Williams lives near Chicago.  Her favorite pet rescue group is Midwest Dachshund Rescue. You can find them at:   www.mwdr.org.

Editor’s Note: This will be Dorothy’s last “With Eyes of Faith…” column. Please join me in thanking her for sharing her words these past months and wishing her well on her new writing ventures. Thanks Dorothy.

 

 

Whiny Wednesday May 30, 2012

It’s Whiny Wednesday, your chance to really say what’s ticking you off.

This week, my whine is that I could really use a good whine about a couple of things that are rubbing me the wrong way this week, but because I don’t blog under a nickname, I can’t, in case the whinees recognize themselves. So, “harumph!” is all I have to say this week.

You, on the other hand, are free to whine to your hearts’ content. So, please, have a whine for me, too, will you?

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Tantrum-Free Vacations May 29, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Bonjour! I am back from a bon voyage to the City of Light and I am here to report that it was lovely. I walked, cycled, toured, explored, drank wine, ate pastries, and people-watched till I almost missed my over-extended “real” life.

Among the people I watched were the children. Earlier this year a woman released a book about her observations that French children are better behaved than British (and American, I assume) children. French Children Don’t Throw Food claims the author. Oh, really? Now I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know what she observed, but based on my own completely unscientific research I can report: They most definitely do.

During our brief visit to Paris and a few surrounding cities, I witnessed red-faced, shoe-tossing, hair-pulling, sibling-hitting, throwing-themselves-on-the-ground-while screaming hissy fits in several languages. I watched German mothers, Chinese fathers, and French grandparents try to calm their foaming little monsters into submission, all while my husband and I blissfully enjoyed our childfree vacation.

And the best news is, once we returned stateside, we continued to enjoy the relative calm of our normal life because we are childfree. The only food throwing in this house happens when we’re making pizza dough from scratch.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. Her memoir about her journey to childfreeness is in the works.

 

Rekindling Old Passions and Finding New May 25, 2012

I have a new passion: bird spotting.

Okay, so it’s not exactly new, nor is it the kind of passion that has me twitching in a hide in the middle of a field every weekend, so let’s call it a rekindled interest instead.

When I was young, I knew the names of hundreds of birds. Since then, I’ve moved to another continent with new birds and I’ve forgotten so much of what I once knew.  But on a recent trip to the coast, after squinting at a flock of birds nesting on a cliff face and having no clue what they were, I invested in a pair of binoculars and a copy of Sibley’s Field Guide to Birds of Western North America.

In all honesty, I stink at bird identification, and I’m stumped by more birds that I identify, but I’ve added several species to my scorecard, from the tiny Oak Titmouse that visits the “Bird Café” outside my office window, to the magnificent Bald Eagle that circled above me in the San Juan Islands. I even managed to identify a Western Screech-Owl after an in-depth search for recordings of its call. But most of all, I’m having fun rekindling an old hobby and learning something new.

So here’s my challenge to you on this fabulous (pre-holiday weekend) Friday: What can you learn about next week? Maybe it’s an old passion you can rekindle or a new pleasure you’d like to investigate. Find something new to learn and report back on what you’ve learned, even if it’s just a bit of trivia on your topic.

For now, I’ll leave with a very poor quality iPhone photo of a pair of Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser) that I spotted on the creek in my neighborhood. Happy holiday weekend to those of you stateside, and have fun learning something new!

P.S. Thanks to Kathleen for her suggestion for this post and for her excitement over my very common Common Merganser.

 

I am Exactly Where I Want to Be May 24, 2012

by Tofy

So I’m outside enjoying what is going to be the start of a stunningly beautiful spring morning. As I look all around me, at my home, the beautiful pond with the ducks quacking away, and my dog by my side…  it dawns on me – I AM EXACTLY WHERE I WANT TO BE.  I am experiencing a moment in life when all my successes and all my failures are coming together to afford me this wonderfully serene spring morning.  And I wonder – would I have experienced this moment had I chosen to have children? Could it be that my life is “right” without children?

In the past, I used to wonder; what went wrong in my life, why me? Why did God decide I shouldn’t have children?  

As a rule I am a simple person. I have a very nonchalant laissez faire type personality.  I never truly longed for children, never fretted when at the peak of my fertility I chose to divorce a man I didn’t love, drive across the country to attend university to take up a new career in design. Then when most of my friends were popping out babies, I was popping out logos and print ads for design agencies.  Why?  Because at that specific moment in my life, I was right where I wanted to be.

I can’t say I entered my late thirties without a little angst about being childless.  I had finally found a man that I loved, that had the same outlook on life that I had. And for one short moment in life…we tried.  We tried to get pregnant that is.  But at forty-three, (yes, we started a little late) it was not to be.  There was no reason to look into why we weren’t getting pregnant; after all, I was premenopausal.  Looking back it was probably just because it was the right outcome for both of us.

I can’t recall exactly when it was that I chose to let go, but what I do recall is what it was that I said to myself that sealed the deal.  “What was it about being pregnant that I really wanted?”  And in that very question came the answer.  BEING PREGNANT.  I didn’t want the months of morning sickness, the sore backs and irritable moods.  I didn’t want to change a million diapers, watch my children grow out of all those designer kid clothes, or see them when they had their first heart broken by an unworthy girlfriend or boyfriend.  It wasn’t all that that I wanted, awful as that may sound.  What I wanted, at the ripe ol’ age of 44, was that moment you realize you are pregnant.  I’ve taken numerous pregnancy tests in my lifetime, just once I wanted that darn thing-a-ma-jig stick to have a plus sign!  I wanted it so badly that I even photographed the one single “ovulation stick” I ever peed on. It was so unreal to see a stick that I peed on have a big red plus sign.  It was the closest feeling I ever had to being pregnant.  But as I said, it was not to be. That’s when I realized having children was probably not for me.

So here I sit, writing this article, the ducks are still quacking in the pond and yes, my dog is still lying by my side.  Life is pretty good today. And yes, I can honestly say – I AM EXACTLY WHERE I WANT TO BE.

Tofy is a Freelance Graphic Designer. You can read more about Tofy where she writes about her passion for dogs and design.

 

Whiny Wednesday: Haters Gonna Hate May 23, 2012

According to Urban Dictionary, “Haters gonna hate” is:

“A phrase used to acknowledge individual superiority in the face of negative external accusations. Can be repeated twice for emphasis. Often accompanied by a strutting walk away from offending party.”

I’m adopting this attitude towards the rare negative commenters who find their way to this blog. I’m not talking about those who offer an alternative point-of-view or simply disagree with an idea I post; I’m referring to the random people who drop by once, pick and fight, and then never come back again.

In the interest of creating a positive and supportive community here, I’m now practicing my “haters gonna hate” strut and the judicial use of the “Unapprove” button. I may even adopt this attitude in the real world.

It’s Whiny Wednesday. What do you wish came with a “Delete” button?

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Traditional Families May 22, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I grew up in a Norman Rockwell painting. White, upper-middle-class, staunchly Republican. Parents still married to each other (celebrating 50 years this summer). Dad worked for the same company for 47 years; Mom stayed home to raise three all-American kids. Look at a snapshot of any holiday celebration, and you’ll see us gathered around the dining room table, with flowers from Mom’s garden in the centerpiece, a golden turkey nesting in a great-grandmother’s platter, and everyone dressed with a smile. Picture-perfect.

The flowers, turkey, and smiles are the same in contemporary photos, but we’ve added a few new players. My brother married his college sweetheart and they introduced four beautiful daughters. My sister went off to college and came home a Democrat. Then she went off to graduate school and finally figured out she was a lesbian. A few years later, she joined her partner in a commitment ceremony, and they welcomed two boys with contributions from a sperm donor, a “donor daddy.” I was the lone ranger for many years, the only single person at the table, till I met and married my husband in my mid-40s. He is African-American, and we are childfree.

While growing up and well into adulthood, I never imagined there was any other kind of family for me outside of the traditional model that raised me. I had every expectation that I would follow in my mother’s footsteps and create a home and family in her image. I held tightly to that illusion, through many unfulfilling relationships and socially awkward encounters (“Why aren’t you married?” “Don’t you like children?”). I think it’s a miracle that my “right” family was revealed to me and that I am able to embrace it.

I would argue that our society’s definition of a “traditional” family is flawed. Certainly census statistics show that single-parent homes, adults living alone, and mixed-race families are more the norm than marketing directors would have us believe. I look down our street here in San Francisco (and, admittedly, we are a liberal and open community), and I see this reflected back to me through our neighbors’ homes where multiple generations, languages, races, and genders commingle without special notice.

Here in the childfree community, we’re often made to feel that our families are “nontraditional,” which translates to “less than” or “incomplete.” This way of thinking is so judgmental, so hurtful, and so unnecessary. If you’re single, you can create your own family among close and supportive friends. If you’re married or in a committed relationship, you know that it takes only two to make your family. Other people expand their families to include caretaking of nieces and nephews, elderly relatives and friends, or beloved pets.

The “nontraditional” extended family I am part of today is a beautiful thing, defined by love, acceptance, and respect. In my own home, I feel blessed to be one of a family of two, which we augment by sharing our table with friends who have become family. This is my family, this is my new traditional, and I think it’s perfect.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is working on a memoir about her journey to embracing life without baby.