Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About Puzzles January 24, 2012

 By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I took a week off over the recent holiday season, something I haven’t done in many years, and I planned all sorts of fun things for myself…of which I did, well, two. At the top of my list was to pull out the old card table and complete a jigsaw puzzle. It brought back memories of cozy holidays by the fireplace and lazy vacations in a remote cabin. I could hardly wait to get to the museum store and select a puzzle (I chose a painting depicting San Francisco landmarks), and I looked forward to indulging in some quiet while the picture was revealed before me.

What was I thinking?! That darn thing—1,000 pieces of a blurry friggin’ watercolor—was hard! It took me three-plus days to put the frame together and a couple of weeks post-holiday of a piece here, a piece there. There were times when I just wanted to sweep all the pieces into the box and move on with my life, but when the last piece slipped into place (Ta-da!), I did experience a gratifying sense of accomplishment.

Overall, I enjoyed my puzzling experience, and it was interesting to look back and realize I’d learned a life lesson in the process. You see, there were nights when I would stare at it and not see a single hook-up. Then, the next morning, I’d glance at it and instantly see where a huge chunk, when tilted slightly to the left, fit perfectly into a section that previously looked unrelated.

This got me thinking about how I can better face challenges in life. Instead of obsessing over it, stressing over it, banging my head against the wall, trying to cram pieces into sections that don’t fit, I need to walk away for a bit. If I take a step back and look at it from a new angle, if I allow myself a rest and return to it refreshed, I’ll be better able to see that all the pieces will come together perfectly—different than what I’d originally envisioned, but indeed perfectly.

It’s like the whole childfree thing. Years spent wanting, waiting, praying, trying to make my life fit the picture in my head. Then one day, a friend said, “Let’s start a blog,” and a whole new world opened up. I became part of a community of women who inspired, challenged, amazed, and comforted me. I found a place to share my stories and learn from others. And I look back at the pieces of my life and see how they’ve come together to reveal a beautiful new picture, one that might never have happened if I’d stayed frustrated, if I’d given up and thrown all the pieces back into the box.

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

 

500 Posts…and Going Strong January 6, 2012

Thanks to the new and improved WordPress software, I received a heads up at the beginning of this week that today would mark my 500th post on this blog.

500! That’s a lot of words.

So, I’d just like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you who keep showing up, reading my words, and contributing to this conversation. Thank you for keeping me going on my own journey and for helping one another of yours. Thank you for having the guts to share your most intimate feelings in the comments. Whether you realize it or not, you’re making a difference to other people who come here for solace and to know they’re not alone.

So, as a new year begins, I have exciting plans brewing for the blog. I intend to add some new voices to the conversation, include some practical guidance and some expert opinions on how to go about this whole coming-to-terms business, and I’m hoping to provide some more inspiration in the form of childfree women who left indelible legacies for the world.

I hope you’ll continue to come along  with me for the next 500 posts. And thank you for all your support. -x-

 

Asking for help September 16, 2011

I’ve been writing a weekly blog for Psychology Today called The Plan B Life. While it’s aimed at a general audience of people starting again with a new career, new relationship, or a new health situation, whenever I write it, I can’t help but relate it to my own Plan B Life, i.e. my unplanned Life Without Baby.

This week I wrote about the power of networking and the importance of asking for help from your community of friends and associates. I think that asking for help is something many of us are afraid to do, but I’m always pleasantly surprised to find how willing most people are to help, if only we ask.

It took a long time for me to learn this and I certainly didn’t ask for help when I really needed it, in the thick of my fertility adventure. In fact, I didn’t fully understand the value of community until I started this website, but boy, do I appreciate it now.

I know that many of you out there are struggling with coming to terms with your own Plan B Life, and I really encourage you to ask for help from this wonderful community we have here. We have almost 500 members over on the private site, so you can throw out questions and issues on the Forums there. You can also drop me a line any time through the Suggest Topics form. I’m certainly not an expert beyond my own experience, but I do have the power to put your needs out to an audience for their expert help. People are problem solvers by nature and sometimes all you have to do is ask.

 

Interview with author, Dr. Ellen Walker June 23, 2011

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Ellen Walker, author of Complete Without Kids: An Insider’s Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance. Ellen is childfree by choice, and even though I am childfree by chance, we had plenty to talk about on the subjects of friendship and community, the drive for motherhood, and what to do when life doesn’t go as planned. Here’s our conversation:

Life Without Baby: How did you make the decision to be childfree?

Ellen Walker: I never spent a lot of time thinking about motherhood. I was busy with work, travel, and hobbies, and I always had partners that never wanted a family.

My current husband already had grown children, and I never felt pressure from him, this was the first time I’d really been close to a father-son relationship, and when I’d hear him on the phone, telling his son he loved him, it tugged at my heartstrings. For the first time, I began to question my decision not to have children, and suddenly I wanted a baby of my own.

After many tearful discussions and weeks of writing, talking, and contemplating, I was able to step back and analyze. I realized that if I really wanted children, I would have made it happen before.

LWB: What do you think triggered that urge?

EW: I think it’s a basic biological drive to create a child, especially in a relationship with a man. You have a primitive urge to have his baby. It’s also about not wanting to be left out of a group. When friends are having babies and people are bringing photos of children into work, you have nothing to talk about with them.

LWB: Do you find that most of your friends are also childfree?

EW: Yes. My female friends tend to be 10-20 years older because the women my own age didn’t have time for friends without kids. Their friends went to soccer games and connected because of their kids. I did seek out childfree people, but most came about through chance meetings.

LWB: How important is it to find your own community?

EW: Really important. I never thought about it until I started meeting people and got really excited when they didn’t have children. I began to seek out others. I found a childfree Meetup group and went to a few meetings. It was fun, but I realized that just being childfree does not make someone a good candidate for friendship. Now, I look for people with interests in common, and if they happen to be childfree, I nurture those relationships.

LWB: Do you ever regret your decision?

EW: Sometimes. In a way I feel as if I’ve missed a big life stage. I’ve been career driven for a long time, and I’m feeling as if I’m ready to do something else. Many women my age with children are now focusing on their careers, and I’m ready to retire. I’m trying to figure out the next stage.

If I’d been raising kids, I wouldn’t have had the energy I’ve had for other things. I’m glad I made the choice and pursued my career. I’ve had the opportunity to impact people’s lives and I’ve written a book. I wouldn’t have been able to do those things. Everyone has regrets, but luckily mine are fleeting. Mother’s Day is always hard. I recently wrote an article about it for Psychology Today, asking people to be careful about saying “Happy Mother’s Day” to every woman and to be aware that it can be a very painful day for some women, and not a happy day.

LWB: What advice would you give to someone struggling with being childfree?

EW: Let yourself go through a real grieving process, preferably with a therapist. A dream is something you’d hoped to have as a part of your identity and most likely wanted it your whole life. Losing that dream is like a death, and a formal grieving process has to include acceptance. Only then can you make a decision about where you’re going to put your energy. Then you can create a new dream, picture your future, and figure out how to make that happen.

While writing my book, I interviewed a woman in her 90s. She had never talked about her childlessness. Decades later, she still hadn’t reconciled and come-to-terms with it. She had so many strengths and talents, and had she dealt with her grief and loss, she could have embraced a new life.

LWB: It was a pleasure talking to you about your choices and hearing your insight.

EW: This is a really important issue for women of the world. We are peers for the next generation of women who may experience pressure from mothers to have grandchildren. We need to talk about this topic and be good role models for young women.

LWB: I couldn’t agree more.

To learn more about Ellen Walker, please visit her website, CompleteWithoutKids.com

 

Silly Saturday: Bold Facial Hair! May 21, 2011

Filed under: Current Affairs,Fun Stuff — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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Photo courtsey: Wicked MonkeysBy Kathleen Guthrie

This has almost nothing to do with being childfree.

In Norway over the weekend of May 14, more than 150 contestants from around the world participated in the World Beard and Moustache Championship. In 17 categories, men’s facial hair designs were judged on size, grooming, originality, and how “good-looking” their style is. Medals were awarded.

While I’m initially drawn to the freak-show factor of the elaborate creations, I ultimately think, BRAVO! I love that these men have found a community where they are appreciated and celebrated. As Bruce Roe, president of a Washington-based Whisker Club and a multiple winner said, “The championships are an excuse for us to get together with our friends…I have some trophies, but the best part is the friends I’ve made through the years.”

Certainly, many people would look at these gentlemen and judge them as a sub-class of society. Funny, that sounds to me like how childfree women are often viewed. And, just like these fascinating bearded guys, we are ignoring our critics, demonstrating that we are fun-loving humans, reaching out to each other, and creating community.

I think that’s awesome!

P.S. Congratulations to Elmar Weisser of Germany who took home gold medals for the Full Beard Freestyle and Overall categories! Click here for photos of the 2011 winners.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She loves a feel-good human-interest story.

 

Another Year Over (Almost) December 21, 2010

Filed under: Current Affairs,Fun Stuff — Life Without Baby @ 8:33 am
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I don’t know about you, but this is the time that I start closing up shop for the year, winding everything down, and getting ready for a fresh new year ahead. The New Year is my favorite holiday. I love the feeling of wiping the slate clean and starting all over again. It’s a time to look back at the year, take stock of the good and the bad, and make plans for improving the next year.

This year has been a wild ride, but a good one. Back in March I had an idea that I should blog about the issues that come with being childless or childfree in our society. I thought it might be a good idea to start an online community where women like me could come and air their feelings. I had no idea how this was going to change my life, but it has.

I can’t tell you how valuable it has been for me to know that there are people out there (that’s you) who completely understand how I feel and who don’t think I’m crazy because I feel that way. It’s been an amazing experience to know that every time I sit here at my computer rambling on about what’s on my mind, there are other women out there reading it, nodding their heads, and saying, “I know! Me too!” It’s so comforting to know that I’m not alone.

I don’t yet know what next year is going to bring—the release of my book (with any luck at all), some travel, some new adventures? But I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be spending the next couple of weeks assessing my life, and deciding where I want to go next. I don’t set New Year’s Resolutions, as such, but I always set goals for the year and resolve to work towards them.

What about you? What are your wishes, hopes, goals, or resolutions for the next year? Or is your only goal currently to make it through the upcoming holidays relatively unscathed?

 

Finding a Community August 25, 2010

When I was younger I didn’t really get the whole “girlfriend” thing. My friends were always a mixed bag of male and female and I never felt I had much to contribute to the “girls’ night out” chatter.

I don’t feel that way anymore. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the value of having a trusted group of female friends to help me through life’s challenges. It’s so good to have people to talk to who know that I’m not perfect and like me anyway, even when I do stupid things. It’s reassuring to know that, when you’re dealing with life’s issues, there’s always someone else who’s been through something similar, and can share war stories and solutions.

When I was dealing with infertility, I didn’t have that community. Although my friends were supportive and kind, none of them had been through anything like it. I looked for an online community, but couldn’t find one where I felt comfortable. I really did feel that I went through that whole chapter of my life almost alone.

I started this site to talk about life after infertility and to be heard, but the pleasant surprise for me is that I’ve finally found a wonderful community of women who want to talk, listen, help, and support one another. And we’re not just talking about infertility and being childless; we’re talking about books, gardening, travel, pets, family, you name it.

Have you found other helpful websites and online communities out there? Please share your finds with us.

 

Find your tribe with “Groups” May 13, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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I’ve been fascinated to meet the members of this site and hear everyone’s stories. Numerous times I’ve talked to someone and thought, “Oh, they should really talk to the person I met last week.” And now they can!

I’ve just added the “Groups” feature to the main site. You’ll find it on the left side of the homepage and also as a tab at the top. “Groups” allows members to create groups based on their situations, issues, or interests. To get things going, I’ve started a couple of groups. Please feel free to create your own, based on the people you’re most interested in meeting.

We’re all here with the same common interest—living child-free—but our childlessness doesn’t define us. I’ve chatted with gardeners, cooks, crafters, and entrepreneurs. I’ve met women who have dealt with infertility, or the loss of a child or spouse. I’ve met women who have never wanted children and those who are still trying to get to grips with this whole childless thing. Some of us have families that just don’t get it; some of us feel as if we’re surrounded by new babies and pregnant women. We all have something we want to talk about.

 

My goal has always been to create a community where we can meet and talk to like-minded women. I hope you’ll find your tribe out there.