Earlier this week, Rerah commented how great it would be to have a “Fabulous Friday,” where we can list all of the positive things we do or want to do, or are able to do because we don’t have children. I think this would be an excellent way for us all to keep our eyes on the future and what it might hold for us, even as we’re dealing with the past.
Kathleen mentioned that she is planning a cycling trip to France this year and is gathering information on things to do.
My plans for this year also include travel. Mr. Fab and I once created a Bucket List of places we wanted to visit. We made a start on checking things off, but life happened, we got busy and distracted, and our last few trips have been places that are quick and easy to book and don’t require much planning.
So, this year, I’m dusting off my Bucket List, making time to do some research and planning, and then we’re going…somewhere. I’ll report back later.
So what do you have planned, or what would you like to have planned? Could you use some encouragement? Let us know here, so we can keep one another buoyed up and maybe offer advice and support, if needed.
I think “FOR LEASE” are two of the saddest words of our time. When I saw the blinds drawn during business hours at our local butcher shop, my stomach flipped. When the sign appeared in the window a couple of weeks later, I fought tears as I stood outside on the sidewalk.
The owner is a young guy who grew up in this neighborhood. He set out to bring new life back to our community, to encourage new businesses to take a stake in the many vacant storefronts, to serve as a role model for independent, small businesses owners. He offered great products and personalized customer service with a dash of hope, and I loved supporting him.
I wish I could have done more. Now I wish I could bump into him because I have something to say, something I’ve been thinking about. My motivational speech would go something like this:
Joe, I know what it’s like to have a big dream, and I know how it feels to see that dream fail. You will figure it out. You will get through this. I have to believe that something better, something you haven’t even considered, is coming your way. I believe this experience will make you stronger, smarter, and more compassionate. I believe your life story will ultimately be one of success, a success of your own definition.
I haven’t run and lost a small business, but I did desperately want to be a mommy, and I lost my dream. With help from women like you who have shared your stories, your struggles, your inspirations, I am finding my way through the grief and into a new beginning. That’s experience I can pass on to Joe; this is one way I can pay it forward. Because the loss of a dream is a human experience, and whether we’re mommies or childfree women or downsized employees or neighborhood butchers, we can all relate to it and be supportive.
P.S. In grieving the loss of our wonderful butcher shop, I’ve thought more about how I can be a better neighbor, a better member of our community. I’ve decided that as one of my New Year’s resolutions, I will dedicate part of my groceries budget to support the local, independent shops. It will take more time and effort to run errands, but ultimately I think we all win. Consider how you might pay it forward in 2012 and share your ideas with us.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She takes issue with the idea that society still largely considers childfree women anomalies.
Even though I’m not yet even halfway through my planned life journey, I’m falling apart. Last week it was hot flashes; this week it’s a bad back. Not life threatening, but certainly life adjusting. And let me tell you, there’s nothing to make you feel more decrepit than being unable to lift your leg high enough to put on your underwear.
Luckily for me, my brother suffers from the same Achilles heel, so I was able to call him for sympathy. And now it’s Whiny Wednesday, so I can gripe to you too. I’m planning to be fully recovered and fit for dancing by the weekend (not that I plan to dance, but it would be nice to have the option) but in the meantime, all I have to say is, “Wah! Poor me!”
As it is WW, feel free to out-whine me. I dare you.
I trained for and completed my first triathlon when I was 43. A good friend earned her black belt at 47. A gal I know picked up a paintbrush for the first time after retiring from a decades-long career and became a successful landscape artist in her 70s. Recently, another brave friend and her classmates showed a gathering of a few hundred guests how real women (with curves) dance traditional hula.*
I think our youth-obsessed society is under the misconception that courage is the domain of people under 30. They party, they experiment, they go on reality TV shows. But I disagree. I think real daring rears its beautiful head around the age of 39. I see it in so many of my friends, as they finally pursue long-held dreams or take new risks, whether it be diving out of a plane or going back to school and changing careers. I think it’s a combination of finally letting go of caring what other people think about us, along with renewed desire to try new things and a dash of fatalism—life is too short, let’s do this now!
I also believe we childfree women have a huge advantage. We don’t have to worry about what will happen to the kids if we end up in a cast and pretty much useless for 6 weeks. We don’t worry about embarrassing our teenagers. We have time on our hands and money not earmarked for someone else’s college education. We can’t use sleep deprivation and PTA commitments as excuses for not chasing our dreams.
If you’re looking for inspiration, read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love or Julia Child’s My Life in France, both memoirs of childfree women who took big chances and dramatically reinvented their lives while their peers were shopping for strollers. Or watch Under the Tuscan Sun, Julie & Julia (based in part on Child’s book), or Last Holiday starring Queen Latifah for more stories about childfree women who dedicate their free time and passion to creating beautiful homes, beautiful foods, and beautiful lives.
Get creative, follow your bliss, explore what makes you curious, discover the blessings of a childfree life. This week, I have three words for you: Go For It!
*I want to note that these women took classes three times a week for two years to prepare for their debut. Their performance was beautiful, and I am in awe of these women and their devotion to the artistry of hula.
Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s signing up for gardening and French classes.
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.
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.
My brother and his wife are very open with their children and talk to them about all kinds of things my mother would never have brought up in conversation with me. And somewhere along the line I know they’ve answered questions from their children about me and my lack of offspring. One of my nephews (let’s call him “Frank,” because he is – always) even asked me flat out why I don’t have children. So I told him.
I’m actually glad for this openness; it’s allowed me to practice answering direct questions honestly in a situation where they’re asked in pure innocence. When someone asks out of nosiness, I already know I can say, “I tried, but I couldn’t.”
On my recent trip home I conned my nieces and nephews into playing Game of Life with me. As I loaded pink and blue pegs into my car, “Frank” said, “It’s funny that you have so many children in the game when you don’t have any in real life.”
And then the cool, calm, well-practiced me snapped, “Well, you don’t have a yacht in real life either!”
Yes, sometimes I have this whole thing under control, and sometimes all the embarrassment and insecurities come rushing back at me and I bite off some poor innocent bystander’s head.
Frank, if you’re reading this post when you’re not supposed to, I’m sorry I snapped at you. And I know you’ll be mad that I called you “Frank” in this story, so I’m sorry for that too. And you’re right. It is funny that I always end up with a ton of kids in the game. It’s funny that I end up at the Millionaire’s Mansion sometimes too. If one of those doesn’t come true in real life, maybe the other one will. If it does, I promise to take you out on my yacht. Love, Auntie Lisa –x-
The God I know is a tough broad. She can handle anything I dish out, and over the past two decades, She’s gotten an earful: I’m ready, where is my Mr. Right?! Is your divine plan really to keep me this lonely, miserable, and broke forever? Could you be a little more specific with your instructions about what I’m supposed to be doing with my life?
I’ve made peace with most of my youthful longings. I now know the last loser I almost settled for was not worthy, and that my Mr. Right was worth the wait. I’ve accepted and embraced that this is a co-partnership, and if I’m feeling lonely, miserable, and broke, it’s my responsibility to make changes. Furthermore, I’ve discovered that the plans God had for me are beyond anything I had imagined for myself.
But there’s one bitch-session I can’t yet get past: How come that drug-abusing, child-neglecting “mother” got to have all those sweet babies and I got jack?!? How come You, the all-loving, omnipotent God of everything, has denied the prayers of so many wonderful women, has robbed them of the beauty and privileges of becoming amazing mothers?
Because, like many of you, I prayed my heart out for miracles. I begged. I negotiated. And I cursed. Maybe She has something bigger in mind for each of us, and children would have gotten in the way. I cling to that promise, trusting, hoping, believing. But there are still dark days when I just don’t get it.
Why, God? Why?
Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s mostly at peace with her decision to be childfree.
I found it encouraging that so many readers embraced her decision regarding adoption, and I was especially wowed by her own mother’s open-mindedness, when she wrote: “I’ve never understood why people automatically think that because a couple doesn’t have a child of their own, they will, of course, adopt. It’s like expecting a man or woman who never married to become a priest or a nun.” Well said, Mom!
I also laughed out loud (as did my husband, who has grown children) at a comment from the father of a “stay-at-home 23 year-old” who wrote: “No doubt it is a great pleasure watching your child grow, […] but if the second ten years came first, there would be no second children.”
As if to prove this point, I opened up my newspaper this morning and found myself both laughing and despairing at this article about three 19 year-old “boys,” who have just managed to wreck their lives through sheer stupidity. I’m sure their parents are very proud.
Yes, being a non-mom can be painful, sad, frustrating, or all of the above, but even so, the grass isn’t always greener on the parenting side of the fence.
It’s interesting to look back on my journey and see all the people I’ve been over the past seven or so years.
I’ve been a woman who expected to be a mother and wanted a baby with the man I loved; then I became a crazed mama-wannabe, desperately trying to solve the mystery of my infertility and looking for a way to get what I wanted.
I’ve been through a phase of realizing that children weren’t going to be a part of my future, but not being able to quite let go of that dream. After that, I entered a phase of acceptance, where I knew I had to get through this and move on, but I didn’t know how.
There was a period of wondering what I was going to do and who I was going to be if I wasn’t going to be a mom, and finally, I came to the phase I’m in now. I am a childfree woman, accepting and even embracing this new life, not apologizing for my infertility or my choices, and moving on to enjoy a life I couldn’t have had if I’d had children to care for.
I never imagined I would get to this place, mainly because I never expected I’d need to, but here I am, and do you know what? It’s not bad here. In fact, I think this childfree life is growing on me.
I know that some of you are at or near this place, but others are still struggling to come to terms with not having the children you always dreamed of. So, I’m curious to know: Who are you?
Are you a newbie, trying to reconcile the idea that you won’t have children and maybe not even sure you’ll ever come to terms? Maybe news of a new treatment, or a friend’s new baby triggers all the old desires and keeps that “what if?” hope alive.
Are you coming-to terms? Have you accepted the idea of being childfree, but just need to figure out how to be okay with that decision? Are you making progress some days, and taking several steps back others? Are you still struggling with other people’s babies and finding your place in your family and community?
Are you moving on? Have you reconciled your loss, accepted your lot in life, and are ready to start a new chapter of your life? Maybe you don’t know what that is yet, but you know (at least most days) that you’re going to be okay not having children?
Please take a second to tell me who you are in the poll below. Let me know in the comments if you think these categories are accurate or if you fit into an entirely different category all together. My goal in doing this is to make sure I post information that covers all the categories, so that this blog is useful, whoever you are.
They say that when you don’t have anything good to say, say nothing at all. Well, I can’t do that, can I?
For today’s post I intended to reignite the Cheroes series with some new gems I’ve found, but it’s been a long week and I’ve run out of energy, so instead I thought I’d leave you with a short verse from one of my favorite Cheroes*, Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay.
This poem sums up exactly how I feel about my life right now. More about that later though.
Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!