Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About Self-Awareness October 23, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

My friend Kim* is an amazing pediatric dentist. Not only is she highly skilled, but she is passionate about what she feels is her calling. I have always admired her and, quite honestly, have at times been envious as I see her in action, see how her patients l-o-v-e her, see how energized she is by her work. In fact, it doesn’t seem appropriate to call it “work” because she glows when she is in her element and even outside when she talks about it.

So I was stunned during a recent catching-up phone call when she announced she was letting go of her practice.

“What?! Why?”

“It sucks the life out of me, it’s just takes too much energy, I’m exhausted,” she said.

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” I said, but that wasn’t entirely what I was thinking. See, Kim now also has a one-year-old daughter. Her job hadn’t changed. She’d never found it life-sucking before, quite the contrary. No, it is being a parent that is sapping her energy and making her too tired to continue to enjoy her job. I was saddened to hear that she was choosing to sacrifice her first great love, and also to hear that she was misplacing the blame.

But while I was quick to judge, once I took a step back and looked at the big picture, what I felt was compassion. I realized this was perhaps her way—consciously or unconsciously—of making peace with her sacrifice in her own mind. I do the same thing when people ask me why I don’t want kids and I respond by joking that my dogs take all the parenting urges out of me. Oh, I wanted kids, but I didn’t get to have them, and rather than have a complete meltdown in public, I deliver a half-baked “excuse.” I could easily imagine myself telling one of those strangers, “I just don’t have the energy to be a parent” versus revealing the real and painful reasons for my childfreeness.

When I think about it from my heart, I realize Kim and I aren’t all that different. We’ve both lost something we wanted, we’ve both sacrificed big dreams, and we’ve both lied to ourselves in an effort to salve the wounds. It makes me think that if we could be more honest with ourselves, and if we could then better communicate our real feelings with each other, there would be a smaller divide between the moms and non-moms.

We’re all women, doing the best we can with the paths we’ve been given. I hope that by being aware of this, the next time I am at the receiving end of a half-truth, I will bypass judgment and instead model understanding and compassion.

*Her name and details have been changed to protect her privacy.

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.