Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

LWB Mentorship Program September 28, 2012

Next Thursday marks the official end of the four-month mentorship program I’ve been facilitating. It’s been truly inspirational to watch this group of 15 women pull together to help one another through one of the most significant experiences of their lives. It’s like a super-concentrated version of what I witness on this site every day, only we get to talk in person, too, which adds a deeply personal dimension.

 

I’m planning to start offering the final version of the program in the New Year, but I want to do one more beta test with a slightly different format and some new material before then. If you’re interested in joining a small group of women for an eight-week program, beginning October 9th, I’d love the chance to work with you.

 

You can find all the details here, or drop me an email if you have more questions.

 

Guest Post: The Pretend Mommy September 27, 2012

By Quasi-Momma

It’s been mentioned here before, but I want to reiterate that Facebook just may be one of the worst forums for a woman who is trying to come to terms with being childless.   It’s all been discussed before:  the deluge of sonograms and cute baby pictures, the over-sharing over every detail, and the annoying mommy memes are enough to drive any struggling woman to tears, pulling out her hair, or both.

Perhaps, the best revenge would be to flaunt a more desirable status update about lazy weekend mornings spent lingering over coffee without a child to cart around to practices and recitals.   But not me, I am in the middle – I am stepparent, which makes me childless, but not childfree.

The strange in-between status finds me posting what I refer to as “pretend mommy” posts.  Case in point, in the swing of “Back to School” season  Mommies everywhere were posting pictures of kids sporting brand new backpacks or commenting on first day milestones.  I was not immune.  “I can’t believe that [enter Skid’s name here] is entering high school tomorrow,” my post read.  It was met with a handful of “likes” and good luck messages from family members, but to be honest the whole thing rang false with me.  Not that I underestimate my role as a stepmom, but I thought to myself, “I’ve contributed very little to this deal, why am I claiming it?”

“Pretend mommy” behaviors typify for me the yearning I harbor inside for some connection to motherhood. While I do perform parental duties, I seldom get the recognition for this role. And since I will never be able to tell the story of how I choose my child’s name or participate in the Groom/mother dance, I grab these little moments even if they are not completely mine.  They’re like a costume – a way to quickly try on what it might be like to be the one called “Mom.”

I’m not sure if doing this is necessarily good or bad.  Like most things that just “give you a taste,” it is never 100% satisfying.  I suppose there will come a time when I will grow to the point where I won’t feel as compelled to say or do such things, my relationship with skid will progress to the point where the behavior feels more natural, or both.  For now, I’ll take these little moments for what they are until they no longer serve me or something more authentic takes it place.

How about you?  What behaviors are you finding or have you found doing to try to make it through your transition?

Quasi-Momma is living a childless, but not childfree, life as a stepmom.  Her blog,Quasi-Momma, is a collection of her reflections on pregnancy loss, childlessness not by choice, and not-so-blended family life sprinkled with a little gratitude and lot of heart.  

 

Whiny Wednesday: Small Talk September 26, 2012

Yesterday I accompanied my friend as she underwent a very unpleasant test for a big, scary health issue. My friend is a lot like me: she has no children and her family is many miles away. No one should go through something like this alone, so I volunteered to be, what she good-naturedly called, her “Biopsy Buddy.”

I’m sure the medical center staff has been highly trained in putting nervous patients at ease, and the nurse who prepped my friend for her procedure did a good job of making safe small-talk. Unfortunately, she latched onto the topic of Halloween, her big plans to go to Disneyland for the evening, and the problems of trying to find a Halloween costume to fit a 7-year-old with extra-long legs. If she was looking to get a conversation started to ease the tension, she picked the wrong, darn subject.

I don’t blame her for going with what she assumed to be a safe bet. I just wish the topic of children wasn’t always the go-to conversation starter.

It’s Whiny Wednesday. What do you wish was different today?

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Kids on Planes (part II) September 25, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

A second airline has added a childfree “Quiet Zone” and the debate continues! Read the news here.

Asia Air has announced this new service, available for a fee in 2013, and I learned of it in a “mommy” column in my city’s newspaper’s online site. Normally I wouldn’t read anything with “mommy” in it, and I almost never read the comments (usually so snarky), but I couldn’t resist seeing how this cause was faring. And guess what? It’s getting more support!

What do you think? How much extra would you pay for a seat in the Quiet Zone?

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.

 

The Antidote to Shame: Empathy September 24, 2012

I recently watched this TED talk by Brené Brown, who is a “vulnerability researcher.” She speaks on the topic of shame, something we’ve talked about many times here.

The talk is about 20 minutes long and worth watching. The part that struck me most comes right at the end, when she has this to say:

“If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: Secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.”

This idea resonated with me so deeply and it felt like the crux of what this community is all about. So many of us feel shame because we can’t or didn’t or won’t have children. We stay quiet about it, working through our complex emotions alone and in silence, and feeling judged by a culture that prizes family and reveres motherhood. And our shame grows.

But find an empathetic ear­—someone who’s walked a mile in your shoes, who’s run the same emotional gauntlet, and who really understands what you’re going through—and that shame starts to wither. As Brown says in her talk:  “The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle are ‘Me too.’”

How many of you are living with feelings of shame? I encourage you to reach out to this community. Talking about your experience with others can help break your silence and secrecy, and I can promise that you’ll find empathy here.

 

Growing Up Together September 21, 2012

Last weekend I got to spend the day with one of my oldest and dearest friends. I’ve mentioned her before; she’s the friend I’ve known since I was about four, have remained in touch with over the years, and who reached out across the 6,000 miles that now separate us to make plans to reconnect in person. In the past year, we’ve managed to get together somewhere in the world on four different occasions.

As we walked around San Francisco last weekend, she hooked her arm in mine and said, “I’m so glad we get to grow up together.”

I laughed at first. We’re both 42 (and a half.) Surely we’re done growing up. We’ve shared so many life experiences over the years and we’ve traveled together through relationship ups and downs and major life upheavals. We’ve each dealt with health issues that have changed the course of our lives, and both of us have families of two. Over the years we’ve shared stories and laughs, and we’ve shopped, eaten, tested cocktails, and hiked. We’ve been through so much together and there is still so much more ahead of us. We are still growing up and I am very glad that we get to do it together, even if not always in the same corner of the world.

Who are you growing up with? Who do you sometimes take for granted, but who is always there, growing up alongside you? Give that person a shout-out today and let them know how glad you are to have them in your life.

 

From a Man’s Point-of-View September 20, 2012

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to speak to a group of businesspeople on the topic of blogging. Given the personal subject matter of my blog, I was a little nervous as to how it would be received. It’s one thing to talk about this topic to an audience who understands this experience, but something else altogether to speak to an unknown group of men and women.

As it turned out, they were a generous and accommodating group and were genuinely interested in learning about this topic. And of course, I was happy to share.

What surprised me most of all, though, is that it was the men in the group who sought me out after my presentation to tell me their personal stories and to discuss the issues they’d clearly not had the opportunity to talk about before. Our conversations really opened my eyes.

Several of you have commented in the past that your partner/spouse doesn’t seem to be feeling the same depth of loss, doesn’t want to talk about it, or doesn’t seem supportive of your process. From talking to these men, I realized that many men don’t know who to talk to, don’t know how to talk to someone, or don’t even realize that they can or should talk to someone about their loss. And if there are few resources out there for we women to find an understanding community, there are even fewer resources for men.

I’ll be honest that the male psyche is still something of a mystery to me and I wouldn’t dream of trying to write about this topic from a man’s point-of-view, but I’d really like to understand more. I would love to hear from men about some of the issues they’ve faced when children aren’t part of their future. I’d love to hear how they’ve dealt with coming-to-terms with not being a father. Who have they talked to? What do they wish their spouse/partner/family/friends had said or done that would have helped?

If you’re a man lurking around this blog, thinking that it’s only for women, I’d love to hear from you. If your spouse/partner/brother/friend is dealing with being childfree-not-by-choice and would love to have an outlet, please encourage him to get in touch. I’d love to be able to publish some guest posts from men, or even an (anonymous) interview, and I think the women in this community, as well as the men who are quietly looking for help, would really benefit from hearing the man’s point-of-view.

You can contact me through the About Lisa page or directly at editor [at] lifewithoutbaby [dot] com. I look forward to hearing from you.