Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

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.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Excluding Others September 11, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I have many friends who have gone through the Alcohol Anonymous (AA) program, and I admire them greatly for how they have turned their lives around and live into their new commitments every day. But I have to admit, as I sit here planning my next dinner party, in which my famous sangria will be prominently featured, I am hesitant to include two friends who are recovering alcoholics. I worry that they’ll be uncomfortable. I worry they’ll make the other guests self-conscious. I worry they simply won’t fit in.

Ooops! Did I really think that? What a hypocrite I am!

Recently, Maybe Baby Liz wrote on this site (“Locked Out of the Mommy Clubhouse,” July 5) about her first experience of being left out of a dinner party because she is the lone childfree friend among all the mommies. Your comments attested to what I know, that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Many of us have shared our painful experiences of being excluded from social gatherings (and even family get-togethers) because we are childfree. While I am commiserating, I’m also starting to face myself in the mirror. Have I excluded pregnant friends because I just couldn’t bear to be around them while dealing with my own loss? Have I excluded parents of young children because I just couldn’t take another night of listening to them talk about schools and sports programs and teething issues, a discussion I can’t participate in?

I know there aren’t easy answers. I know we can’t deny our own pain, and it also isn’t right to force ourselves to sit through a long evening that causes us to go home and drown our sorrows in a pint of chocolate-fudge-ripple ice cream. I also know that even when we make the effort to include our mommy friends, oftentimes we’re the ones who end up being excluded from the conversation around us. Believe me, I’ve been there.

But that doesn’t mean we stop trying. That doesn’t mean we don’t still make the efforts to reach out and support our friends no matter where they are on their life paths—or where those paths are headed.

The bottom line for me is I care about my friends and I want to spend time with them. I will be upfront with them about the sangria, I will make sure they know there will also be booze-free options available, and then I’ll let them decide if they want to come. If not, I’ll suggest we get together another time, maybe for brunch with really great coffee.

Because this is what friends do. We commiserate, we support, we show compassion. We reach out and embrace each other and we try to build bridges of understanding. It can start with us.

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

 

Locked Out of the Mommy Clubhouse July 5, 2012

By Maybe Lady Liz

Last week, I texted one of my girlfriends, trying to throw together a last minute Sunday night dinner with her and her husband. When she responded that they already had dinner plans with two of our other friends, but that we were “welcome to tag along”, I was a little taken aback. I couldn’t imagine why we hadn’t been included in the first place, until later that night when I saw some inside joke exchanges on Facebook about chromosomes. My girlfriend was newly pregnant, and I realized she’d reached out to the other pregnant woman in our group, because she wanted to spend time with someone who was going through the same experience.

It was my first glimpse of being locked out of the Mommy Clubhouse. Up until now, it had always been the other way around. My group was still very active, going out every weekend, and the first person to get pregnant in our group had been the one left at home. Now that more and more of them are starting to have babies, I’m realizing that my husband and I may be the ones left home alone while everyone else attends each other’s kids’ birthday parties, mommy yoga classes or family-friendly barbeques.

Parents seem to have this glamorized picture of the Childfree as partying every weekend night till the wee hours of the morning and then sleeping off our hangovers all day long on Sunday. Admittedly, part of the reason they have this image is because it’s the one being loudly and proudly portrayed on the Childfree blogs and forums. But that’s not really what I’m after. All I want is to be able to spend time with my friends. If that means tame dinners in, or board game nights in lieu of clubbing, I’m all for it. It just hadn’t occurred to me until last week that we might be excluded because they think we don’t want to give up the bar scene. Or worse, that we no longer fit in.

I don’t begrudge my friends the lack of an invite to their dinner. They’re sharing a life-altering experience together and some bonding is bound to take place that we can’t really participate in. And of course, it’s only natural that certain members of a group have smaller gatherings from time to time – everyone can’t be invited to everything. What scared me was not knowing if this was a one-off, or just the tip of the lonely weekend iceberg.

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 http://www.MaybeBabyMaybeNot.com.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Holiday Slights December 6, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

“Come One, Come All!” trumpets the headline.

I’m skimming the special calendar section of our local paper and find myself drawn into a description of a holiday spectacular and crafts fair, featuring actors as classic Dickens characters and carolers strolling in Victorian dress as they sing in the season. I am so there!

But then I read the small print: “Revelers (that’s me!), particularly families (uh, wait), are invited to enjoy the festivities.” It’s possible I’m being over-sensitive, but I am so sick and tired of slights like this, and it seems to strike an especially painful chord with me as we approach the holiday season. The “Family Sing-Along” at church. The “Family Pot-Luck” intended to bring coworkers closer together. The “Family Movie Night,” where multiple generations come together to enjoy a touching holiday-themed film. I love love love all of these fun activities, and will participate even though I’m not a 5-year-old, even though I am not part of a “family.” It’s sad to me, though, that my revelry is diminished by the sting of not feeling legitimately part of the event, all because of a marketing choice.

While I don’t want to get PC (politically correct) to the point of ridiculousness, I’d like to suggest to the world that there are other ways to welcome everyone without making single and/or childfree people feel…well…unwelcome. “Fun for all ages!” “Something for everyone!” The marketers for the fair had me at “Come One, Come All!” I wish they’d left it at that.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. “Mele Kalikimaka” might be her favorite Christmas carol.