Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Age and Attitudes September 29, 2011

On a flight recently, I sat next to an elderly woman who was on her way to visit her granddaughter. Before long the conversation veered towards children and she asked me if I had any.

For a second, I got that sinking feeling. Here was a woman with children and grandchildren, who wasn’t going to understand why I didn’t. But I told her anyway, and even headed her off at the pass by explaining why before she asked.

But the thing is, she got it. She understood that the battle with infertility can be endless. She understood that sometimes you have to walk away. And she also understood that parenthood isn’t and shouldn’t be for everyone.

This is a trend I’ve been noticing lately. I’ve found that older people are often more likely than younger people to understand that motherhood isn’t a certainty for everyone.

Maybe it’s the wisdom that comes with experience, or maybe it’s that perspective older people sometimes get about what’s really important in life. Whatever it is, I’m always glad to find that safe haven when it comes along.

 

The “Do You Have Kids?” Conversation June 28, 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how “Do you have kids?” is such a natural part of polite, “ice-breaking” conversation, and yet it’s such a loaded question for so many of us.

When we meet new people, we’re looking for something in common to talk about. People with kids know that when they talk to someone else with kids, they automatically have a topic of conversation – their kids. And asking this question is presumed to be okay because the answer is usually anticipated to be either “Yes” or “Not yet.” People just aren’t prepared to hear “No.”

So, imagine you’re at a function, wandering around with a glass of wine in one hand and a shrimp on a skewer in the other and you strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know. You talk about the weather, she asks where you’re from or what you do for a living, and then she asks, “Do you have kids?” Assuming this is someone you don’t want to offend, you resist a snarky answer and instead say a simple “No.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that this response is usually met with a horrified silence (although occasionally I’ll get, “You’re lucky,” or “You can have mine.”) People just don’t know what to say when I tell them I don’t have kids, and in order to fill the silence I find myself explaining why I don’t kids, and imparting some very personal information about myself.

So, let’s help these poor people out. No, seriously. Instead of the stunned silence, what do you wish people would say? Do you want them to ask if you’re childfree by choice? Do you want them to ask if you’re ok with not having kids? Or would you prefer them to change the subject to someone or something else so you don’t have to talk about you anymore? Assuming someone opens this conversation, what would you want her to say next?

 

16 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a CNBC August 6, 2010

I’ve been cruising around the Internet looking for interesting sites to share on this blog. There are plenty of good ones out there, but I’m finding myself drawn to blogs that have humor, with just a tinge of bitterness thrown in.

La Belette Rouge has just such a blog and I found myself laughing at this post: 16 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a CNBC (childless not by choice.) Granted my laugh was the type you blow down your nose with your lips pursed, rather than an all-out belly laugh, but sometimes a laugh is a laugh is a laugh.

 

Dealing With: Do You Have Kids? July 27, 2010

Last weekend I was invited to a dinner party along with some people I’d never met before. There were five couples, including us, four of whom had children, so I knew that at some point in the evening, someone would ask the question: Do you have kids?

In the past I would have squirmed and mumbled something apologetic, such as, “Um, no, unfortunately not,” and been given the “ah, poor thing” look. But thanks to you, dear readers, I was armed and dangerous this time.

When the woman asked me, I smiled and said, “I have a cat and a fish.”

She did give me a look, but not the sympathy look. She was utterly bewildered for a moment, repeated “a cat and a fish” with no question mark, and when I didn’t elaborate, she promptly changed the subject.

It was great!! So great that I’m seriously considering keeping photos of both my cat and my goldfish in my wallet so that I can whip them out and proudly show them off next time anyone asks.

So, thank you for all the ideas about how to handle this sticky situation. If you have more suggestions of how to answer the dreaded question, please keep them coming.

 

Learning to be Childless June 4, 2010

It’s been a funny week this week and I’ve learned a lot about myself. The main thing I’ve learned is that I’m not yet completely comfortable with this whole childless thing. Oh yeah, I talk a good talk, but put me in a conversation where the subject comes up of my status with regards to children, and there I am squirming in my seat, averting my eyes, and deftly changing the subject.

This has happened twice to me this week, both times in the company of other women who are also childless. You’d think I’d be comfortable in that situation, and able to talk openly about my childless status and my story, you know, the one I’m so happy to put in writing for complete strangers? But I’m not. Not quite.

I’m still a little raw about the education I received this week and I still haven’t had time to think it over, to scratch away at my own veneer and try to figure out what’s going to underneath. Maybe I don’t want to risk getting one of those sympathetic looks, one of those, “Oh, you poor thing. I completely understand” looks. Maybe I don’t want to feel I have to explain my childlessness. Or maybe I don’t want my childlessness to define me and so I just don’t want to talk about it any more.

All I know is that if I’m going to tout myself as some kind of advocate for childlessness, I’ve got a lot of work to do on myself first.

 

Life Without Baby Handbook May 31, 2010

Reader Lynne posted a comment recently about responding, or rather being unable to adequately respond, to a colleague’s pregnancy announcement. Her story got me thinking that what we need is a Handbook that we can refer to in sticky situations, and let’s face it, there’s never a shortage of those.

The idea is that we can all chip in with our best responses to situations and questions we’ve all faced and I’ll compile the answers, maybe on a new Handbook page. This shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but you never know, your witty response to someone’s thoughtless question might just save someone else.

So, let’s kick off with Lynne’s conundrum:

A colleague announces that she’s pregnant with twins. How do you respond?

Answers below, please.

 

Not Exactly Lonely May 24, 2010

 

My young nephew has no qualms about asking the most personal questions, and he’s so earnest and compassionate that usually I can’t help but give him an honest response. He’s asked why I don’t have any children, and also what happened to my first husband. I’ve told him the truth in both cases and he’s appreciated that, as far as I can tell.

Recently he asked, “Don’t you and Jose get lonely without any children.”

“No,” I told him. “We have lots of friends, and we have Felicity, our cat, plus we have lots of nieces and nephews.”

Somehow though, this response didn’t seem to satisfy him. Perhaps because it doesn’t satisfy me either. Do I get lonely because I don’t have children? Not really. Most of the time I wish I had more time alone with my own thoughts, rather than less, but do I feel a sense of loneliness sometimes, even when I’m around other people? I do. Sometimes.

Sometimes I feel that the connections I have with others are more tenuous than they would be with a child. My brothers have their own children and, while we’re still close, our connections have weakened as the bond with their children has grown. Somewhere inside me is a tiny empty hole that nothing can fill. Most of the time I’m not even aware of it, it’s so small. But every now and then I’ll experience a melancholy sensation that feels like loneliness and feels as if it could only be filled with children.

 

Does This Make Me Look Pregnant? May 20, 2010

Filed under: The Childfree Life: Issues and Attitudes,Uncategorized — Life Without Baby @ 9:34 am
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I went shopping for clothes yesterday. It doesn’t happen very often, but I was in the mood and in need of some warmer weather things. These days, my primary concern when shopping for clothes is: does this make me look pregnant?

I once made the mistake of wearing this fabulous African print mu-mu. Jose and I went out wine-tasting one hot summer night and I slipped into it for comfort. A woman (albeit a very drunk one) took one look at me sipping on my fruity red and said, “Should you be drinking?” I was confused at first, until she helped me out by looking down at my belly (which, granted could have used a few hundred crunches) and saying, “You know, in your condition.” That was a truly awful moment in so many ways, and even though the woman was TOTALLY out of line (even if I was pregnant, it’s no business of hers if I chose to have a glass of wine) since then I’ve been very careful about what I wear.

There’s been a trend lately in those little baby doll tops that poof out from just below the bra line. What were those designers thinking? Who can actually wear those without looking pregnant? Not me, that’s for sure. So I picked out from pants, flat fronted, of course and a couple of tops with no gathers, frills, or bunches that could cause them to be mistaken for maternity wear. Because even though I have no problem answering, “No, I’m just fat!” if someone is tactless enough to ask, I don’t even want to crack open the door on that conversation.

 

Guilty of Prejudice Against the Childless May 18, 2010

A friend recently announced her engagement. At 44 she is getting married at last. I know this woman’s story intimately. She is someone who dreamed of motherhood, but never met the right man. She seriously considered having a baby alone using a sperm donor, but realized that it wouldn’t be the responsible thing to do in her situation. So she started making peace with her childlessness. Then she met a wonderful man—and realized that what she really wanted was a loving adult relationship and time with him, and that children were no longer her priority. And he didn’t want children anyway.

When she announced her engagement to me, she speculated as to how long it would be before some tactless bozo raised the subject of kids. To my absolute horror, I realized that during our entire conversation I was wondering if the engagement had changed their attitude about having children. The tactless bozo was very nearly me!!!

So, despite my thoroughly modern, feminist attitude to living child-free, deep inside of me lurks a traditionalist, who at some subconscious level still believes that first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage. Yikes!

Our natural instinct is to reproduce and continue the survival of the species, so it’s no wonder that so many people can’t get their heads around someone’s decision to not reproduce. Maybe we need to cut those people some slack after all.

Or maybe not. Because, while man cannot fight his natural instinct, evolved man can learn when to voice his opinions and when to keep his (or her) big mouth shut.

 

Issues for Childless Men May 17, 2010

My husband’s cousin recently commented that she would never become a grandmother because her only surviving son was gay. Her comment then prompted my husband to ask me if this website included gay men in its audience. The whole interchange inspired several threads of discussion regarding potential grandparents, modern families, and whether this site was a place that childless men would come, or if the female readers would be as open if men were lingering around. All this is material for future posts, but the thought that bubbled to the surface this time was: What about childless men? Which of the same issues do men and women face and are there other issues that are unique to men?

My husband has grown children from his previous marriage, so I’m not able to ask him about being childless, although he’s more than able to talk about the frustrations of infertility and of having a wife who is unable to have the children she wants. So, for those of you with male partners, what issues do you think men face? Do they feel the same pressure from family? Do their friends (and complete strangers) ask the same tactless questions? Do men feel the same sense of loss that we women sometimes feel. And is it easier for a man to make the decision to be childless?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

 

 
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