Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Feeling Directionless July 9, 2012

“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice:   I don’t much care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.

Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.

The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”

~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Being a goal-oriented kind of person, I have an illustration that includes this quote in my office. It reminds me that writing out goals, creating strategies, and checking off accomplishments doesn’t matter a hill of beans if I don’t have a clear vision of where I’m trying to go.

Despite this reminder, I often find myself overcome with a feeling of being directionless. Yes, I have things I want to accomplish, but I don’t really have a big picture vision of how I want my life to unfold. I don’t have a long-term view of what my life will look like in 5, 10, or 20 years, and beyond. It’s not that I’m looking to plan out my path to the last detail – I know that’s impossible – but I can barely see beyond the end of the year. It’s a strange feeling for someone who, 20 years ago, had her entire life mapped out. Or at least she thought she did.

The trouble is, that life had always included children, and even as I made twists and turns in career, relationships, and geographical location, the expectation of someday becoming a mother was always a constant. Once it became a possibility, it also became the focus of my life.

Now that motherhood is no longer a realistic prospect, my vision of how my life will unfold is missing a big and important piece of the puzzle, and I’m finding it hard to see the future clearly. I have career goals and travel goals, but the vision of who I will be in the future is blurry.

Maybe learning firsthand that plans don’t always work out as we’d imagined has softened my need to make them. It’s also possible that I never really had a vision for my life, but instead adopted the cultural expectation of motherhood and called it my own. Regardless, now it’s gone, I feel like an early explorer who can see my world only as far as the horizon, with no idea of what might lie beyond.


11 Responses to “Feeling Directionless”

  1. kris Says:

    It’s honestly eery the way your posts are exactly what I’m thinking and experiencing. Thank you so much for being brave enough to voice them!

  2. Jenny Says:

    Having children was also a huge part of my goals in life. I was raised on the periphery of the quiverfull movement so for a long time motherhood was the only goal. Once I grasped that it wasn’t likely to happen I was tempted to panic. What on earth was I going to do with myself???? I’ve had to do a lot of redefining of who I am and where I am headed but I see that as one of the blessings that has come out of our decision to live childfree.

  3. j thorne Says:

    I’ve always had a vague picture in my mind for a future that included children. Since it is now almost certain that our lives will not include a child, I am trying to redefine the future not only as an individual but also as a couple. Without the “hope” of children looming in the future, there is an undeniable feeling of being directionless even with a great career and wonderful husband.

  4. T Summers Says:

    I too have always saw the “recipe of life”‘ to include children, as I saw all of my sisters just have another one when they were ready to do so. Maybe I left it too late, maybe I have egg quality issues, but it really does not matter anymore. I will be childless and I need to redefine myself and plot out the next 5, 10, 20 years and work out what life will be like. It is a daunting task, I am still struggling with this, as this diagnosis is still quite fresh for me, but nevertheless, a challenge that my sisters can help with or would understand. Maybe life will be happier, maybe there will be more travel, and maybe I can retire earlier. The pros and cons are weighty options for us all.

  5. Maria Says:

    I think it can be somewhat self destructive to create an idea of your future. The reality is that we only have so much control over our lives and I think it’s better to let life unfold, and watch where it takes you. When I was young, I was very aggressive and driven. I set goals for myself – college, law school, lawyer, marriage, baby. But if you expect everything to go as you plan you always end up feeling disappointed. I didn’t have the money to go to the college of my choice, I didn’t get into the law school of my choice, I didn’t get jobs at the lawfirms I really wanted, I didn’t make partner, I didn’t get married as quickly as I wanted, so I was always feeling angry and disappointed with what I did get. I started studying buddhism and practicing living mindfully in the moment. When you are fully present – that is when you are experiencing and living your life. When you are alwasy focused on the future, you can’t live in the moment and appreciate all the beautiful things around you. So I am happy to say that I am currently without long term goals and direction. And I am the happiest I have ever been with myself, my life, my job and my marriage. I learned that I have everything I need right now to be happy as long, I just need to be fully present to see them.

  6. CiCi Says:

    It’s funny because even though becoming a mother was always in my plans, and now it’s not…I look back and think about the fact that becoming a mother was at the end of my destination I think. School, work, marry, kids….that was it. And now, now that I no longer have that option, I feel like the door is wide open to anything and everything. While, I see where you are coming from because I’m the same in the sense that I can’t really see where I’m going anymore or put my finger on where this life will take me, I’m finally starting to just accept that, as they say, “life isn’t a destination but a journey”…and I’m totally down for a journey 🙂

  7. Angela Says:

    I always appreciate the realization that I am not alone in these emotions. After realizing that we could not have children, my husband and I decided to add onto our house – to have the space for friends and family to visit. Now that construction is just about done, now what?

    I agree with Maria that we should all live in the moment and not plan so far in the future. But it’s still hard to let go of the need to control.

  8. loribeth Says:

    Shortly after I lost my daughter, I found a fridge magnet with a quote from John Lennon (a line from his song “Beautiful Boy”): “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” I’ve adopted it as my personal motto. : ) Which is not to say you shouldn’t make plans or have some goals in mind — but we also have to learn to be flexible and roll with the punches.

    I know I sort of floundered my way through my 40s, once it became clear that motherhood was not going to be in the picture. My current goal has now become early retirement. ; ) But I keep thinking there has to be more to the picture than that…

  9. Elena Says:

    so with you there. I love the explorer bit.

  10. Jodykat Says:

    Hi Lisa

    Yes, it’s a strange place, the future, when you don’t have a roadmap for it anymore!

    I went through a similar blank phase which I now understand was part of the grieving process for the family I was never going to have.
    It took me a while to start ‘dreaming’ and ‘day-dreaming’ about the future again… I’d got out of the habit… it was as if I felt that by dreaming of anything other than a family I was somehow being ‘unfaithful’ to that dream and it would therefore undermine it. Not logical, I know, but emotions aren’t!

    I’m running a workshop in London on 28.29 July called “Reignite?” (which is about creating a new plan for your life, and getting your mojo back after circumstantial childlessness). If you know anyone it might benefit, the link is here There are only a couple of place left.

    With a hug, as always, from London. If you’re ever planning a visit over here, please know that you are welcome to come and stay – I reckon we’ve got a fair bit in common!

    Jody x

  11. Klara Says:

    dear Lisa,
    it was lovely to read your lines. It is exactly how I feel!

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