Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About Self-Awareness October 23, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

My friend Kim* is an amazing pediatric dentist. Not only is she highly skilled, but she is passionate about what she feels is her calling. I have always admired her and, quite honestly, have at times been envious as I see her in action, see how her patients l-o-v-e her, see how energized she is by her work. In fact, it doesn’t seem appropriate to call it “work” because she glows when she is in her element and even outside when she talks about it.

So I was stunned during a recent catching-up phone call when she announced she was letting go of her practice.

“What?! Why?”

“It sucks the life out of me, it’s just takes too much energy, I’m exhausted,” she said.

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” I said, but that wasn’t entirely what I was thinking. See, Kim now also has a one-year-old daughter. Her job hadn’t changed. She’d never found it life-sucking before, quite the contrary. No, it is being a parent that is sapping her energy and making her too tired to continue to enjoy her job. I was saddened to hear that she was choosing to sacrifice her first great love, and also to hear that she was misplacing the blame.

But while I was quick to judge, once I took a step back and looked at the big picture, what I felt was compassion. I realized this was perhaps her way—consciously or unconsciously—of making peace with her sacrifice in her own mind. I do the same thing when people ask me why I don’t want kids and I respond by joking that my dogs take all the parenting urges out of me. Oh, I wanted kids, but I didn’t get to have them, and rather than have a complete meltdown in public, I deliver a half-baked “excuse.” I could easily imagine myself telling one of those strangers, “I just don’t have the energy to be a parent” versus revealing the real and painful reasons for my childfreeness.

When I think about it from my heart, I realize Kim and I aren’t all that different. We’ve both lost something we wanted, we’ve both sacrificed big dreams, and we’ve both lied to ourselves in an effort to salve the wounds. It makes me think that if we could be more honest with ourselves, and if we could then better communicate our real feelings with each other, there would be a smaller divide between the moms and non-moms.

We’re all women, doing the best we can with the paths we’ve been given. I hope that by being aware of this, the next time I am at the receiving end of a half-truth, I will bypass judgment and instead model understanding and compassion.

*Her name and details have been changed to protect her privacy.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s mostly at peace with her decision to be childfree.

 

Leaving Behind the Old Life October 8, 2012

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves;

we must die to one life before we can enter another.”

~ Anatole France

I saw this quote recently in a book about writing, but it struck a chord with me. It relates to so many things in life, including making peace with a life with out children.

One of the hardest stretches of my journey was the space between realizing that our options for building a family were running out, and the point where we made the decision to stop trying. I knew there were options still open, but they were beyond the scope of what Mr. Fab and I were willing to do. At some point we had to make a decision that we would not have children and that we would find a way to be okay with that. It was one of the hardest (and perhaps longest) decisions I’ve ever had to make.

I’m sure you’ve found yourself in this kind of situation in other areas of life, too. You know that you have to take a new direction, that ultimately it will be the right decision, but as France says, in order to do that, we have to leave a part of ourselves behind. Sometime the hardest part is listening to ourselves and not being afraid to make the wrong choice.

My first career was in engineering. I’ve made several career changes since then, trying to find the place in the world where I’d be happy. I’ve found it in writing, but it took me a long time to get here.

Many people can’t understand why, after all those years of college and graduate school, I would abandon a perfectly good and respectable career. I’ll be the first to admit that if I’d just stuck to engineering, I would probably have been more “successful” and definitely would be making more money, maybe own a home and live comfortably, but I know I wouldn’t have been happy. I might have been successful by the conventional definition, but the cost of sticking to a career that didn’t make me happy, just because it’s what was expected of me, didn’t make any sense. But it wasn’t easy to let go of that life and take a risk of finding happiness in another life.

Part of finding happiness is letting go of that which doesn’t make us happy. Although I believed that having children would make me happy, I was miserably unhappy running in circles trying to produce a baby that my body had no interest in creating. I could have gone on trying forever, but the cost to my mental and physical wellbeing would have been enormous. Letting go of that part of my life enabled me to find peace with my new life, even if it’s a life I wasn’t sure I wanted.

 

P.S. Letting go of the dream and the imagined life with children is the first topic we cover in the Finding Peace program. There are still some places available in the new session, which begins tomorrow. You can find all the details here.

 

How Does Your Company Define Family? August 9, 2012

This post was originally published on May 3, 2012.

By Maybe Lady Liz

In my B.B. life (Before Blog), I worked in Human Resources for a Fortune 500 company. Part of my job was communicating our benefits package to employees, prospective employees, and surveys like the Top 100 Companies to Work For. The magic words to get ourselves on that Top 100 list and snag potential new hires? Family friendly.

Sounds nice, huh? Brings to mind things like flex time, telecommuting, and additional days off. And these are all true. For parents. Flex time means you can leave early to pick your kids up from school. Telecommuting means it’s not a problem for you to work from home when your child has a runny nose. And additional days off means two days off each year for employees to attend their child’s school-related activities.

Of course, there’s nothing in the fine print that says these benefits are exclusive to parents. But try asking your boss to stay home because your husband has a sore throat, or to leave early for a romantic dinner out and compare that to the reaction a mom receives when she asks to come in late to attend her kid’s award ceremony. Parents who take time off for these activities are revered for their family values – and typically aren’t expected to make it up. Those without kids who try to access the same perks are dubbed lazy and irresponsible, despite the fact they spend much of their time covering the workload for (some, not all) missing-in-action parents.

So why do they call these benefits family friendly when they don’t encompass all types of families? The nice snappy sound of alliteration? People do love alliteration. But no, I think it’s that people don’t really associate the word family with a childless/free couple. With 20% of women aged 45 not having kids, isn’t it time we re-evaluate the definition of that word and start structuring our benefits programs accordingly?

Most of us work pretty hard at some pretty stressful jobs. Those of us with only one or two weeks of vacation could really use an additional day off now and then to feel like our jobs haven’t completely consumed our lives. Parents take that opportunity on a regular basis, to say nothing of the six weeks – several months mothers take off for the birth of each child. Childfree/less women have a special challenge to ensure they find meaning in their lives through something other than the built-in mission of motherhood. Some find it through their careers, but for those who don’t, shouldn’t they be afforded the same rights as parents to pursue the things most meaningful to them?

It’s not all bad news – there are some progressive companies out there offering ala carte benefits options to employees that ensure single or childfree/less employees get an equal slice of the benefits pie, and aren’t stuck subsidizing the cost of other people’s children’s insurance. But I imagine we’re still a long ways away from the Fortune 500 shifting their views on the definition of a real family.

Maybe Lady Liz is blogging her way through the decision of whether to create her own Cheerio-encrusted ankle-biters, or remain Childfree. You can follow her through the ups and downs at Maybe Baby, Maybe Not.

 

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.

 

How Does Your Company Define Family? May 3, 2012

By Maybe Lady Liz

In my B.B. life (Before Blog), I worked in Human Resources for a Fortune 500 company. Part of my job was communicating our benefits package to employees, prospective employees, and surveys like the Top 100 Companies to Work For. The magic words to get ourselves on that Top 100 list and snag potential new hires? Family friendly.

Sounds nice, huh? Brings to mind things like flex time, telecommuting, and additional days off. And these are all true. For parents. Flex time means you can leave early to pick your kids up from school. Telecommuting means it’s not a problem for you to work from home when your child has a runny nose. And additional days off means two days off each year for employees to attend their child’s school-related activities.

Of course, there’s nothing in the fine print that says these benefits are exclusive to parents. But try asking your boss to stay home because your husband has a sore throat, or to leave early for a romantic dinner out and compare that to the reaction a mom receives when she asks to come in late to attend her kid’s award ceremony. Parents who take time off for these activities are revered for their family values – and typically aren’t expected to make it up. Those without kids who try to access the same perks are dubbed lazy and irresponsible, despite the fact they spend much of their time covering the workload for (some, not all) missing-in-action parents.

So why do they call these benefits family friendly when they don’t encompass all types of families? The nice snappy sound of alliteration? People do love alliteration. But no, I think it’s that people don’t really associate the word family with a childless/free couple. With 20% of women aged 45 not having kids, isn’t it time we re-evaluate the definition of that word and start structuring our benefits programs accordingly?

Most of us work pretty hard at some pretty stressful jobs. Those of us with only one or two weeks of vacation could really use an additional day off now and then to feel like our jobs haven’t completely consumed our lives. Parents take that opportunity on a regular basis, to say nothing of the six weeks – several months mothers take off for the birth of each child. Childfree/less women have a special challenge to ensure they find meaning in their lives through something other than the built-in mission of motherhood. Some find it through their careers, but for those who don’t, shouldn’t they be afforded the same rights as parents to pursue the things most meaningful to them?

It’s not all bad news – there are some progressive companies out there offering ala carte benefits options to employees that ensure single or childfree/less employees get an equal slice of the benefits pie, and aren’t stuck subsidizing the cost of other people’s children’s insurance. But I imagine we’re still a long ways away from the Fortune 500 shifting their views on the definition of a real family.

Maybe Lady Liz is blogging her way through the decision of whether to create her own Cheerio-encrusted ankle-biters, or remain Childfree. You can follow her through the ups and downs at Maybe Baby, Maybe Not.

 

Freedom April 27, 2012

A few years ago I decided to make the leap from the corporate world to a career as a freelance writer. It was definitely a leap of faith and I’d be lying if I told you the transition wasn’t rocky. But leap I did and I haven’t looked back more than a few hundred times since. (I say this with my tongue firmly in my cheek, as there have definitely been days I’ve considered chucking in this crazy dream and going back to the safety and dependability of corporate life.)

When I made the decision to follow my heart, there was also an idea in the back of my mind that working from home would fit so much better with my other plans of raising children. I even bought a book called Writer Mama in preparation for my dual role. It turned out be a great resource for a writer, as long as I skipped over the “mama” bits of information.

Fast forward a couple of years and not only do I realize how naïve I was to think I could easily mix babies and books, but it turns out I also spend much of my time writing about not having children. Who knew? But the thing is, my life is pretty good regardless. In fact, most days it’s better than pretty good.

In the past, I’ve written somewhat flippantly about the benefits of not having kids, but the reality is that I have the freedom to be more creative, to experiment in my writing, and try new things, while still having time to do the not-so-creative work that actually pays the bills. And I really value that freedom.

I didn’t get the life I wanted and planned for myself, but I may well be getting the life I needed and I think, when all is said and done, it’s going to turn out be a pretty good life after all.

 

Great Expectations October 21, 2011

As young women (or men) we set our expectations and created a vision of how our lives would turn out.

My life was going to include college, a fantastically successful career traveling the world as an engineering consultant, and eventually a life with Mr. Right, in a large English country house with a circular driveway, and four children (including twins.) Sounds like a pretty good life, doesn’t it?

Well, I made it to college, then graduate school, and launched my engineering career, and that’s about as far as my expectations took me. I fell in love with Mr. Romance (who really wasn’t Mr. Right), fell out of love with engineering, and never even got a sniff of anything resembling my four children.

But…

I found my true vocation and now do work that I love. I picked my way through the minefield of potential spouses until I found, not simply Mr. Right, but Mr. Fabulous. These two areas of my life didn’t meet my expectations; they exceeded them.

When I look back at my expectations I realize that I probably wouldn’t have been happy in that life. I’ll never know for sure, but because I made some mistakes and some poor choices, and because things didn’t go as planned, I’ve had opportunities I would never have had, and I have a life that is, overall, better than it might have been.

So often we set expectations for ourselves and when they don’t work out we lament our misfortune or beat ourselves up for not achieving what we set out to do. But I’m coming to believe that life isn’t supposed to go as planned. And sometimes out of those disappointments comes an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

This may all sound a little Pollyanna to those of you who are trying to make some sense of the hand you’ve been dealt, but I really do believe that each of us will someday be able to look back and say, “Wow, this great thing that I have now could never have happened if I’d had kids.” Yes, it’s Pollyanna, but for now, I’m hanging my hat on it.

 

Childless in the Workplace October 15, 2010

Filed under: Children,The Childfree Life: Issues and Attitudes — Life Without Baby @ 8:19 am
Tags: , , ,

A friend of mine was recently offered a “promotion.” The job came with more prestige and opportunity, but also a significant increase in stress and responsibility, and no increase in pay. My friend wanted the job, but politically, she knew she had to take it. Declining the offer would have been a mark against her for future opportunities, so she accepted the position (and is now working crazy hours, weekends, and also had her planned vacation cancelled.) She later came to find out that someone else had been offered the job, but had turned it down because he has children. My friend, with no children, had no legitimate excuse for not taking the job. If she’d refused because she wanted to spend more time with her fiancé, she doesn’t think she would have a job at all today. Yes, my friend was able to take that opportunity, and yes, it will serve her well in her future career, but it seems that more is expected of childless employees.

Have you found this in your workplace?