Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…“The Good and the Brutal” December 18, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

“Aunt Kath….” My four-year-old nephew looked up at me with his big brown eyes, my sister’s eyes.

“Yes, love.”

“You know what I’m doing right now?”

“Nope. Tell me.”

“I’m pretending you’re my mommy.”

My heart swelled to three times its size before I felt like it was then ripped out of my chest. Choking back a sob, I said, “That’s so sweet. Thank you. Tell me….” But before I could ask him about this imaginary family of his, where he got the idea, what kind of mommy I was (funny, strict, a lot like his real mommy), he had moved on to a new topic, something to do with a game he likes to play at his preschool. Hours later, alone with my thoughts, I revisited this exchange and struggled to come to terms with what it did to me.

I’m not new to this conversation. This sweet boy is the youngest of six nieces and nephews, and each has gone through this phase of wanting to pretend I’m their mommy. Out to lunch or shopping with a niece (“Let’s pretend you’re my mom.”), playing in the park with a nephew (“Maybe they think you’re my mom.”). They’re all great kids, so I’m flattered and touched by their game. And they’re all great kids, so it also slays me emotionally. I would have loved being their mom.

I expected to grieve my losses, feel left out, and wrestle with difficult choices in the coming-to-terms-with-being-childfree dance. I just didn’t think that the same moments that fill my soul with unanticipated joy could also send me into new cycles of depression. Brutal, right?

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

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8 Responses to “It Got Me Thinking…“The Good and the Brutal””

  1. Quasi-Momma Says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how eloquent you can be in so few words. Wrestling with my own heartbreak right now. This resonates.

  2. Andrea Says:

    Oh, how I can relate to this..! This past Summer, I figured I’d been doing so much better in terms of acceptance and moving on, that I figured it wouldn’t hurt to return to work at the daycare center where I worked for ten years prior to getting married. For the most part I did fairly well, but, as my assignment involved photographing children and several of the older classes, after a couple of days there I became “the camera lady” to many little angels there. On my third day there, an entire pre-kindergarten class saw me with eyes wide open and big grins, and proceeded to run toward me to give me hugs. It was my little piece of Heaven… what a joy, and yet what a pitiful scene this must’ve been to those who know of my barren condition. I was on cloud nine and felt worthy of pity that day.

    Hang in there.

  3. Mali Says:

    Brutal, yes. But I think one day, in time, you’ll just feel the pure joy of having someone little in your life, someone who loves you (just like they love their mother) and sees you as a very important part of their life. I actually envy you – my nieces and nephews all live so far away, I rarely see them.

  4. jthorne Says:

    I had that same experience with my niece and nephew when they stayed with me recently. There is so much pride in knowing they trust and love you. Having children in my life ( I also work with children) helps me immensely and yet, ironically, sometimes it makes it harder to know that I cannot have what so many others take for granted.

  5. Amel Says:

    I feel so much emotion reading this post. I can imagine the paradox: getting joy from your interactions with those kids, yet the same joy keeps on reminding you of the things that IF has robbed from you. I find that in good days nothing much can upset me, but when I’m PMS-ing I feel more than I normally do.

  6. Deanna Says:

    I have a family member whom is visiting soon with a baby. I’m kinda nervous because I have not gone public with my CNBC yet so I fear the tears will well up. I have been explaining this struggle of sadness with my therapist for a year now and it worsens during the holidays. She gave good advice I’m trying out -it is not to focus on the sadness but to focus on the joy of being able to spend time with other family member’s children.

  7. […] And I come across different blogs, from people who are far more eloquent than I. To posts like this. The posts that are so familiar, so heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. They are the […]


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