Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About Holiday Help December 11, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I don’t know what’s different about this year, but I’ve found myself capital-D Dreading the coming holiday season. I think I’m okay with my childfree status, I think I’m ready to create meaningful traditions that embrace my little family of two, I think I’ll be just fine at all the “family” sing-alongs, tree trimming parties, open houses, etc. Problem is, I don’t feel fine.

For so many years, I anticipated what holidays in my home would look like, and it’s just not that easy transitioning away from those dreams. So many of the activities I loved participating in as a child and young adult involved children, so what’s a childfree gal to do?

I turned to one of my favorite cheros (a heroine who happens to be childfree) for advice. Melanie Notkin is the founder of Savvy Auntie and the author of a book by the same title. (If you haven’t already, check out her fab Web site here.) In the “Holidays” section (page 124) she reminds me that “with the parents so often extrabusy…an auntie can actually help by making herself available to her nieces and nephews.” I know how being with my nieces and nephews takes me completely out of my head and gives me so much joy, so after perusing suggestions from Melanie and some of her readers, I started thinking about what I could do to creating some merriment and childlike wonderment for myself in the next several weeks. I could:

  • Offer to take the nieces out to shop for gifts for their parents.
  • Invite friends and their kids over for a cookie decorating (and eating) party.
  • Over Skype, read a classic holiday story—’Twas the Night Before Christmas or The Polar Express—to the children of faraway friends.
  • Bundle up my nephews and take them out to view the decorative lights in their neighborhood.
  • Host a hot chocolate tasting party (peppermint, cinnamon, and boozy for the big kids).
  • Invite other childfree friends over for Game Night—Charades, Celebrity, all those lively group games my family used to play when we got together.

I’m also thinking about spending extra time in the gym, reading a big juicy book, and watching all of the Harry Potter movies on DVD. I think these distraction options are healthier than fudge (which I’m still considering), and I’m also open to suggestions. I’d love to hear from you. How are you planning to face the holiday season this year?

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

 

My Annual Test December 10, 2012

Christmas secretThere are several annual tests I take every year to monitor my physical health—eye test, teeth examination, PAP, blood sugar—but now that December is upon us, I’m preparing myself for the annual test of my emotional health—a visit from Santa.

Every year, the city where I live sends a noisy police escort to accompany a large motorized sleigh and the jolly old man in red himself. Every December, around this time, we hear the commotion of sirens and horns and assume there’s a criminal on the loose in the neighborhood, then one of us remembers, “Oh right, it’s Santa,” and dash outside to give him a wave.

I used to dread these visits. Even though there are approximately two children living on my block, hundreds (it seemed to me) would flood out of the woodwork to get a photo with Santa. I would hover on my doorstep, wanting to appear as if I was in the Christmas spirit, but finding myself slammed by the stark reality of my childlessness. I had no one to take to visit Santa, no excited hand to hold, and no commemorative photo for the scrapbook. I’d clutch my cat and kid myself that she was excited to see Santa (she was terrified) and I wouldn’t say anything at all to Mr. Fab in case he heard the crack in my voice or spotted one of the tears I was dripping into my poor kitty’s fur. Even just recalling those times makes the color drain from my face.

One year, my neighbor (in her 50’s) skipped up my front steps and said, “I want to have my picture taken with Santa; will you take me?” I did. She hopped up into the sleigh and grinned next to Santa. I have a copy of the photo and the sheer, unadulterated joy in her face makes me smile every time. My friend helped me to find a different kind of joy in this otherwise trying event.

Every year since then Santa’s annual visit has become easier and I’ve started using it as a gauge to see how I’m doing. It’s my annual test of my emotional wellbeing and my healing progress.

It’s December 10th already, so I’m expecting to take the test any day now. The good news is that this year I think I’m going to pass with flying colors.

 

Truth and Hope December 7, 2012

Crossed fingersThe “hope” discussion surfaced again this week, when Pamela at Silent Sorority wrote an eloquent post about the dangers of misinformation regarding infertility.

Pamela brought to light the writings of another infertility awareness advocate, Julie, who criticized celebrity infertiles (now celebrity parents) Guiliana and Bill Rancic for publicly telling infertile couples, “If you stick with it and never quit, it will pay off.”

You can read what both Pamela and Julie have to say on the topic here.

I heartily agree that this kind of blind encouragement gives people a false sense of hope that infertility is always surmountable. There are enough of us here to shout that belief soundly down to the ground. I’ve written about this kind of “don’t give up hope” comment on this blog in the past and how paralyzing it can be to someone who doesn’t want to keep hoping for a miracle.

But what do you say instead?

I remember working with a young woman who was planning to start trying for a family. I can well remember calling on the wisdom of my experience and offering her my unsolicited, yet sage, warning that getting pregnant might not happen immediately. She got knocked up the next month and I ate crow. I hated that I hadn’t been more positive and could only paint for her the most dire of pictures.

But experience comes hard-earned and I bet Guiliana and Bill know that. It’s one thing to be positive and encouraging, but a little truth and reality can go a long way. Perhaps Guiliana and Bill would have done better to say, “Yes it worked out for us, and yes, we are among the lucky ones.”

 

Whiny Wednesday: Small Annoyances December 5, 2012

Isn’t it amazing what the human spirit can endure? Every day the news is filled with stories of triumph over adversity. Even among ourselves, we’ve been through a lot and yet we’re making our way through it, and we’ll come out the other side intact.

And yet sometimes I think it’s the small annoyances that are going to kill me: The incorrect bill that takes an hour-long phone call to rectify; the imperceptible leak in the water cooler that slowly floods the kitchen; the cell phone/computer/car that stops working for no good reason, then suddenly decides to work again after you’ve already missed the call/deadline/appointment you were supposed to make.

In the big scheme of things, these inconveniences are nothing. They’ll be gone and forgotten in no time and won’t make much difference to the overall scheme of my life. But when they back up one behind the other, I swear it’s enough to raise my blood pressure to dangerous levels.

Luckily, we have Whiny Wednesday, our weekly release valve for all that’s wrong in our worlds. My whines are many but minor this week. How about yours?

 

Whiny Wednesday November 28, 2012

Thumbing through last month’s Real Simple magazine, I came across an interesting snippet of information. According to research led by Carnegie Mellon University, adults with children are 52 percent less likely to catch colds than childfree adults.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t the news of my inferior immune system that got my goat. It wasn’t even the article’s suggestion of my overall inferiority in its closing line: “Yet further proof that parents are superhuman.” (Um, no. They’re just exposed to more viruses that their kids bring home from school, so they build more resistance. Basic biology.)

No, the thing that’s prompting my whine this week is that yet another magazine that started out as a magazine for women, is drifting more and more towards being a magazine for moms. Is nowhere sacred?

It’s Whiny Wednesday. What’s needling you today?

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving November 22, 2012

For those of you celebrating the holiday today, Happy Thanksgiving.

In keeping with my campaign to start my own new traditions, I’ll be starting the day by plodding around my local 3-mile Turkey Trot, then Mr. Fab and I are taking Thanksgiving to the beach for a very non-traditional picnic dinner.

How about you? Are you testing any new traditions this year?

 

Whiny Wednesday: Politics November 21, 2012

Now that the election is but a mere distant memory, it’s safe to come out and have a whine.

According to a pre-election article in the Huffington Post, Kansas House of Representatives candidate, Brandon Whipple was denounced by the Tea Party for not having children.

Literature distributed in Wichita, read: “Can someone with no children really understand your family’s needs?”

In defense of the campaign, the head of Kansas for Liberty said, “If you have no experience in an area, it is hard for you to make informed decisions in an area.”

It’s this kind of small-minded thinking that makes me despair for the future of this country, however, there is hope. The people of Kansas apparently didn’t think much of this pathetic personal attack either. Whipple won the seat easily.

So, now that’s off my chest, over to you. It’s Whiny Wednesday. What’s got your knickers in a twist today?

 

Whiny Wednesday November 14, 2012

Some weeks Whiny Wednesday is my favorite day of the week and some weeks I have not a care in the world to whine about.

This week I have a list…and it’s long…but I’m too darn tired, crabby, and hormonal to even get started.

But don’t let me get in the way of your whine this week. It is Whiny Wednesday after all, so knock yourself out.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About My Letter to the President November 13, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Dear Mr. Obama,

I voted for you. Twice. And last night I stayed up well past my bedtime in anticipation of hearing your acceptance speech. I was glued to the TV, watched the projections on several channels, and toasted the success of your campaign. Finally you came on and addressed us all. Or so I thought.

You shared a story about meeting a family in Mentor, Ohio, that risked losing everything to provide for their 8-year-old daughter who was fighting leukemia. Fortunately, health care reform allowed for their insurance coverage to continue. (Amen, by the way.) “I had an opportunity to not just talk to the father, but meet this incredible daughter of his,” you said, “and when he spoke to the crowd listening to that father’s story, every parent in that room had tears in their eyes.”

Mr. President, when did compassion become the domain of parents? I am a childless woman, yet I had tears in my eyes when I heard about this family because I have walked this walk with friends, coworkers, and family members. Just because I haven’t birthed or adopted a child doesn’t mean I have no heart. In fact, quite often when a friend has been in crisis, I and other childless friends have been the ones to step up and help—financially, emotionally, physically—because we do not have the responsibilities and time commitments of people who have chosen to be parents.

In a campaign, I know how easy it is to fall into preaching to your constituents, and I suppose that’s why we hear so much about family values. It certainly was a hot topic throughout this last campaign season. Yet I ask you to consider that families come in many sizes and descriptions: mixed race, two moms, two dads, single parents, childless, and single people who create family among friends. We are all compassionate, not because we are parents, but because we are human. And guess what else, we all vote.

Wishing you much success in your new term. God bless all of America!

Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status, but sometimes she gets a little riled up.

 

Whiny Wednesday: Cell Phones November 7, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

A local yoga teacher got fired for asking a student to turn off her cell phone in class. (Read the full article here.) The class was held at Facebook offices, so the argument was made that constantly checking her phone was part of the student’s job responsibilities, but others jumped into the fray and pointed out that she wasn’t saving the world. President Obama may need to be on call 24/7, but the rest of us can tune out for 50 minutes without serious repercussions. Seriously. Or, if it is that important, step outside and take the call where it won’t disrupt others.

Everyone I know who practices yoga does it for the physical benefits and for the calming effects, and they have the right to expect both. I go to the gym to exercise, clear my head, take care of myself, and I’ve been subjected to other gym-goers’ loud one-sided conversations about inappropriate topics including toe-nail fungus, a daughter’s STD, a string of cuss words that would make Howard Stern blush (still not sure what the actual topic was for that one). I’m so over selfish people who feel they have the right to subject everyone else to their boorish behavior. My whine this week: Turn off the damn phone!

What’s yours?