Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About Getting Over Myself May 15, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Whiny Wednesday came three days early for me this week.

I left the house well armed to face Mother’s Day (which I intended to embrace as Nurturer’s Day). Aside from calling the mothers in my own family, I had no need to recognize this Hallmark holiday. My husband and I enjoyed a long bike ride together, ran some errands, went out to lunch at a busy casual restaurant. While I noticed more women than usual carrying flowers, there was no announcement, no one stood up and asked everyone to join in singing to celebrate an individual, like we would if there was a birthday. Just another Sunday.

But the slights came in from odd angles, like the “Free Treat for Moms!” at the confectioners (How would they know? Should I go in and take one?) and the posters advertising “Gifts for the Special Woman in your Life…Mom” (I have lots of special women in my life, some who are moms, many are not). I spotted a magazine for women that looked interesting until I read the subtitle: “for the woman in every mom.” A barrista at a coffee house handed a drink over me to a woman further back in line, explaining to everyone else, “Moms should be served first, don’t you think?” (Do I have “Childfree” stamped on my forehead? What the fruitcake?!)

Maybe I’m oversensitive, or maybe I spot these things because on some psychologically twisted level I’m looking for them. Maybe I need to acknowledge that, for many women who are moms, this is the only day out of 365 that they are appreciated for their sacrifices. Maybe I just need to get over myself and stop whining.

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

 

With Eyes of Faith…Not Easily Offended February 9, 2012

By Dorothy Williams

 

“Love is patient, love is kind…

it is not quick-tempered,

it does not brood over injury…”

 

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Can you tell when someone is bragging about their kids versus just sharing joy and being amazed by life? I thought I could, until I visited with an old friend I had not seen in twenty years.

Our luncheon started innocently enough as we sipped drinks while waiting for a table. We caught up on what happened after leaving school and where we landed in our careers. When we spoke of children, I revealed how keenly I felt the loss of my dream to have a family. My friend seemed to understand and, after sharing her joy over having two children, turned the conversation to her husband and the dog.

Then we reached our table. And then her merlot kicked in.

As my companion launched into a monologue about her son­ – that would last our entire meal – waves of shock and panic washed over me. I was about to learn just how smart Junior is, the great Ivy League school he got into, their wonderful times together when she watched him play sports, the awards he won, the private jokes they shared – well, you can imagine the rest.

What part of my struggle did she not get?  I considered my choices. I could indulge in a range of emotions popping like hot kernels in my consciousness, or I could load them onto tiny boats in a cosmic river, and watch them slip away. I chose that, and relaxed into a Christian form of meditation, called Centering Prayer. With a deep, cleansing breath, I secretly called on the Lord for what I needed and then…just…let…go…to focus on a prayer word.

At some point, the momzilla took a breath and said, “I am so sorry to keep talking about my son like this, but I miss him so terribly since he left for school!”

Ah, there it was.  My long-lost friend was not intentionally trying to offend me, but instead grieving the loss of her best friend. When he left for the east coast, a huge void opened up in her life. Talking about him – remembering the good times – made it seem smaller.  It also explained why we were reconnecting after twenty years. If I had allowed my indignation to rise up, our reunion would not have been the gift God intended.

Is it getting easier for you to tell if a gabby friend is bragging or experiencing something else? What helps you get through tense situations like this?

Dorothy Williams lives near Chicago.  She met with her old friend for a second lunch and they had such a good time that they now plan to meet monthly for activities like walking and kayaking.

 

You’re such a mom August 9, 2011

Last week I was grumbling to a friend about how much time I spend looking for my glasses. Seriously, it’s ridiculous. I can never find them and without them, I can’t see clearly enough to find them. I have a list of places I look first – desk, nightstand, purse, bathroom – but it’s not uncommon for me to find them on the stove, on top of the trashcan, on the floor, or in the bed.

 

“You need to have a place you always put them,” suggested my friend.

 

I’ve heard the exact thing from my mother for decades, but clearly it hasn’t done me a bit of good. I take my glasses off when I don’t need them and I put them wherever I am at the time.

 

I rolled my eyes at my friend. “You’re such a mom,” I told her.

 

Driving home later that day, I reran the conversation in my head and I cringed at the emphasis I’d put on the word mom. I’d used a disparaging tone, suggesting that my friend’s tendency to want to help was something negative.

 

I thought about the discussions we’ve had here about offhand comments people have made to us that have been so hurtful, and I realized I’d just done the same thing. What if my friend, with a daughter just graduated from high school and preparing to move out into the world, was feeling the pangs of her future empty nest and having a crisis of confidence now that her motherhood services were no longer needed? What if her daughter had said the same thing recently and she’d been stung? What if my offhand comment had really hurt?

 

We can’t censor everything we say on the off-chance we inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings, or there would be no room for humor in the world, but this incident reminded me that everyone brings their own filters to a conversation and what might be an offhand remark for one person could be hurtful to another.

 

The same rules apply to us, the other way round. Because of our filters regarding childlessness, infertility, or our choice to be childfree, what feels like a hurtful barb could just be intended as a meaningless throwaway comment. If we can’t censor the world, then maybe we just need to adjust our filters.