Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About Being Happier December 4, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Another childfree friend just sent me this link to a brief article titled “Sex and Alcohol Make You Happier Than Kids and Religion, Study Says.” According to researchers in New Zealand, “caring for kids” came in at #5 on the happiness-making scale.

I’d like to think there’s some truth to this, since it certainly offers more promise for my life. And it got me thinking about things that I do (in addition to having sex and drinking) that make me happy. Things such as losing myself in a great book, playing with my dog, laughing my head off at a silly movie, and lingering over a meal with friends.

What do you think? Would they get the same rankings in your corner of the world? And, most important, what makes you happy?

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

 

Everything Happens for a Reason December 3, 2012

My friend has been very sick recently. She is single, doesn’t have children, and her family lives in another state, so when she told me what was going on, I offered to go with her to her doctor’s appointments and help her out while she recovers from surgery.

One of the reasons I’m able to be there for her is that I don’t have children (the other is that I work for myself, so I can easily move my schedule around.) If I had children to care for, there’s no way I would have been able to sit in on her appointments or even just hang out with her and keep her company.

It’s also not lost on me that I am one husband and one diagnosis away from being in her position. As, statistically, I should outlive Mr. Fab, there’s a very real possibility that I could someday find myself in her shoes. And frankly, it’s scaring the crap out of me.

I’ve been pretty cavalier so far about what will happen to me in the future and who will be there for me when I’m old or if I get sick. Mr. Fab is a rotten nurse as a rule, but I know that if ever I were really sick, he’d be there for me. But if he’s not around, then who will be?

I now know from experience that there’s only so much a friend can do and I know that my friend has still spent much of the last few weeks dealing with her illness alone. Truly it’s a horrible thought.

But before I drag you down into a pit of despair, take heart. Something is going on with me that I cannot yet explain. Although I’m generally quick to dismiss the “everything happens for a reason” school of thought, I have a very strong and inexplicable feeling that something positive will come out of this experience with my friend.  Maybe I have something to learn from her or maybe she’s casting a light on something I need to consider. Maybe her journey will show me the solution to my own fear.

I’m sorry to be so vague and mysterious, but I don’t yet have any explanation for my odd feeling. But something is coming, and when it does, you can bet I’ll be sharing it with you here.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About the Story Time November 27, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I am going to be a “mystery reader”! This is nothing like a mystery shopper, someone who goes into a store, shops a bit, then rates the service. Instead, I am the mystery. On a given day, after tantalizing clues about my identity have been revealed, I will surprise my 6-year-old nephew when I show up to read a story to him and his fellow first-graders.

I about leapt out of my chair when I read the invitation my sister forwarded from the teacher to aunts and uncles, grandparents, and special friends. “I AM SO IN!!!!” I replied. I love reading to my nieces and nephews. Bedtime stories with friendly monsters, fairytales with happy endings, wild yarns that tickle the imagination; hand me any book and we’ll read it together. Before I moved closer to them, I even checked out books from the children’s section of the library, made up silly voices for each of the characters, and read to them over the phone.

My date isn’t until after the new year, but I immediately started thinking about my selection. Make Way for Ducklings is a personal favorite from my childhood. I regularly give Mo Willems’ Knuffle Bunny and Knuffle Bunny Too as shower and first birthday gifts. Dr. Seuss, wild rumpusses, Shel Silverstein, the many adventures of Winnie the Pooh…and then it hit me. I’ve been giving these beloved books as gifts for years, but I don’t have any of them on my own shelves.

Dangitall! I always assumed I’d have a shelf full of children’s storybooks, and I imagined how I would teach little ones how to read then sit in awe as they discovered the joys of reading for themselves. I looked forward to becoming reacquainted with my favorite characters, experiencing precious stories through a grown-up perspective, and appreciating anew the artistry that goes into creating them. I’ve been making such good progress in coming-to-terms with my childfree status that I didn’t see this left hook coming. Like with so many of our experiences as childfree women, something that made me so happy also makes me so very sad.

I will pick myself up, dust myself off, and pick a story that I think will be fun for everyone. It’s no mystery that I’m going to savor every moment I have with my wee audience. Meanwhile, I tip my hat to the thoughtful teacher who came up with the mystery reader program and is giving me the opportunity, just for one morning, to live in my fantasy world.

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

 

Funny Friday: A Job Opportunity? November 23, 2012

I always start my mornings by reading the newspaper (I know; call me old-fashioned) and my day officially begins after I’ve read the comics.

Recently, Darrin Bell’s Candorville tickled my funny bone, with this cartoon.

I wonder if making a few bucks would ease the sting of listening to parents who don’t quite get that we might not want to hear every detail about their children.

No, probably not.

 

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Catalogues November 20, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I can’t even remember what it was that I ordered, but at some point in the last couple of years I purchased a gift online for a niece or nephew, and BAM! Now I’m on everyone’s mailing list.

By everyone, I mean every company that makes stuff for kids—bedding, clothing, toys, gear—and as we rev up for holiday shopping, I’m getting catalogues from all of them. Cute kids in Santa-themed PJs, cute kids playing with cute dogs while cute parents look on with pride and joy, cute kids who are healthy and happy. Just shoot me now! The promotional flyer that really put me over the edge was for organizational systems especially for parents. I’m not even sure what it’s supposed to do (I couldn’t quite bring myself to look at the Web site), but maybe I don’t understand it because I’m not a parent. Whatever!

You know, I also buy my fair share of chocolate. You’d think I’d be inundated by catalogues brimming with sweet things for me, but noooooo.

Say it with me: The Holiday Season Sucks!

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

 

Gratitude for What You Do Have November 19, 2012

During a recent workshop support call, we were discussing loss and how to begin coming to terms with the idea of not having children. One member raised a question:

“How do you keep moving forward day-to-day?”

It’s a good question. When you’ve suffered a loss, or a series of losses, and you realize children aren’t going to be in your future, how do you keep getting out of bed and getting on with life, when what you feel like doing is curling up and wishing for the world to just leave you alone?

Another member of the group had a great suggestion:

“What helped me was staying focused on what I do have, instead of obsessing about what I don’t have,” she said.

When the goal of motherhood has been your main focus for so long, it’s natural to focus on what’s lost, what’s being given up by walking away from that goal. (And let’s face it, it can be a very long list.) But a little dose of Pollyanna can go a long way in making it through the day.

Look around you. There’s evidence everywhere to support what we do have. If you don’t live on the East Coast of the U.S, you probably have power in your home. In fact, you most likely have a home to have power in. Maybe you have good health, a strong relationship, a close family, or good friends.  When you look up and look around, it’s amazing to see how much you do have.

Shifting perspective can be a good coping tool. It doesn’t diminish what’s been lost, not one bit, and it doesn’t mean there’s no excuse for grief, or sadness. That loss is real and it takes time to heal. But shifting focus can help you keep moving forward.

This Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the U.S., traditionally a time of gratitude. So, employing this perspective shift, what are you grateful for in your life? How are you lucky? What are some of the things that you do have going for you?

 

You’re Not Alone November 15, 2012

Last month I announced the Great Life Without Baby Makeover and asked, “If you wandered onto a site that was exactly what you’d been looking for, what would you find there?”

You responded with some great suggestions and I’m working to implement those ideas as best I can.

Several of you mentioned how much you enjoy the Guest Bloggers, how refreshing it is to hear new voices, and how reassured you feel by knowing you’re not the only person going through this mess.

Andrea suggested a new “You’re Not Alone” column, featuring readers’ “own stories of fall, personal suffering, and acceptance: of slowly getting back up.”

I love this idea, so I’m putting out a call right now.

“Tell us your stories!”

Here are some suggestions to start you thinking:

What do you wish you could tell people?

What was your darkest moment?

What turned things around for you?

What made a difference?

How did you start coming to terms?

How do you see your future?

What’s the silver lining you never could have imagined?

Your story doesn’t have to include all of these—or even any of these. I’m just using these as prompts to light a creative spark.

And if you’re thinking “I’m not a writer; I can’t do this” banish those thoughts right now. Storytelling is a basic human instinct. It’s how we learn and how we share information. Don’t overthink it; it’s in your bones. Just tell us; we’ll appreciate it because many of us will have lived it too.

So, put on your thinking caps and send me your stories. You can email them right to my inbox at: lisa [at] lifewithoutbaby [dot] com.

I can’t wait to hear from you.

 

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.

 

The Blame Game November 12, 2012

Last week, a woman I’ve known for almost ten years finally decided it was safe to ask me a question about infertility.

“I wondered…” she began. “My grandmother always used to say that when there are cats in the house, women don’t have babies. I didn’t believe it and thought it was just an old wives’ tale, but recently I’ve noticed that many of the women I know who don’t have children have cats. Do you know anything about this?”

I told her I hadn’t heard of this, that it was most likely just superstition, but that I’d look into it and let her know.

But even as the logical part of my brain was writing the idea off as a misguided belief, and even as I was surfing the internet looking for any shred of scientific evidence to support it, I found myself looking sideways at Felicity, my poor unsuspecting cat, and wondering if she could be the cause of my otherwise unexplained infertility.

It’s been a while since I’ve caught myself playing the Blame Game—taking some irrational idea and trying to twist it into an explanation of why I can’t have children. I did it a lot in the early days, racking my brains for something in my past that I could pin my infertility on. Everything from Chernobyl fallout and birth control to too much computer time and too much wine was put under the microscope as a possible culprit. I refused to believe that it could have been “just one of those things.”

The scientist in me won’t allow fate, God’s will, or bad luck to factor into my infertility. There is a biological reason that my body’s reproductive system got old before the rest of me, and why my ovaries don’t function like they’re supposed to. But like so many other things in life, pinning blame on something or someone doesn’t change the outcome. So, I’m choosing not to expend my energy on finding the culprit, but instead I’m putting my efforts into making the best of the hand I’ve been dealt.

Call me fatalistic, but playing the Blame Game feels like a waste of my valuable time—time that could be spent living my life instead.