Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About the Dark Side August 21, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

This post was originally published on July 18, 2011

“I’m pregnant!” my friend gleefully announces.

And I think, Well, f*ck me six ways to Sunday, but I instead I jump up and embrace her and say, “Congratulations!!! I am so happy for you!”

Yup, another one has gone over to the Dark Side. My playmate, my buddy, my date for tea and chick-flicks will soon switch discussion topics from the last great novel she read to the merits of cloth versus disposable diapers and the challenges of getting into the “right” preschool/private school/ballet studio. While I bravely continue to pursue political movements, investing options, and the hottest new tapas restaurant this side of the Bay, she’ll be focusing on PTA politics, college funds, and how to get her kid to eat green vegetables.

Before long, the excuses for missing lunch dates (sick baby, sick kid, soccer games) will grow tiresome. She’ll kindly include me in the first few get-togethers with her new friends from the mommies group. I’ll make polite conversation when I’m invited to baby showers and first birthday parties. But eventually I’ll get lost in the mist as she gets sucked into more and more “family” events and senses how much more she has in common with the other reproducers. “Whatever happened to your friend Kathy?” they might ask. “Oh, she never had kids.” “Oh,” they will say knowingly. Or so I imagine. This is worse than being the last kid picked for teams. This is being told you can’t even play the game, but if you want, you can watch from the bleachers.

And I’m pissed. But mostly I’m lonely. It’s really, really hard to make new friends when you’re over the age of 40, and it’s that much harder when, like me, you leave the city you’ve lived in for those first four decades and move some place where you know no one but your fiancé. You have to make a determined effort to get out, try new classes, start new groups, and hope to find a connection. It’s not unlike dating, and it can be really exciting, but mostly scary and discouraging. But you carry on, remembering the closeness you once shared with old friends who, over time, could read your thoughts and finish your sentences.

Since moving here three years ago, several of the women who I thought could become part of my new posse now are new mothers. I didn’t know they were trying; we hadn’t known each other that long, so the topic never came up. A couple had been trying for years, and became pregnant shortly after meeting me. My friend Lisa found this hilarious and suggested I offer myself out as a fertility icon: Become friends with me, and you’ll be knocked up within 3 months—guaranteed!

After the fourth announcement, I broke down and told my fiancé how crushed I was, how broken-hearted, how devastating this was to my developing social life. He laughed at me, pointing out how ridiculous I sounded for getting so overly dramatic and self-pitying. And he’s right. Because, really, I am happy for my friends. And it won’t be as isolating as I imagine, it will just be different.

When I get the “good” news, when I sink into one of my funks, I fully realize that I am the one who has gone over to the Dark Side. But for a short while, I need to lose my perspective and my sense of humor, wallow in self-pity, and mourn the loss of my friend. Because underneath my happiness for her, I still hurt for myself.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. It’s raining today, and she’s feeling blue.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Minivans August 7, 2012

This post was originally published on February 22, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Aside from the obvious fears of pregnancy and childbirth – related pains and complications, what I dreaded most about becoming a mom someday was the transition from hot babe to minivan driver. Whenever friends waxed poetical about their automatic sliding doors, roomy seats, and safety features (really?), I wanted to gag. Not me. No way. Never, I thought.

Be careful what you wish for, right?

But now that I know there will be no children to haul around, I’m excited to rediscover a whole wonderful world of fun cars. And because I won’t be funding anyone’s college education (see “Money” post), it’s possible I could pull one out of my garage some day. Here are a few I’m ogling:

Sure the red-hot Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class screams midlife crisis, but who cares?! It’s gorgeous! “With a retractable hardtop that transforms it from coupe to open roadster in 22 seconds,” it allows me to imagine I could be the next Danica Patrick, hair flowing in the wind as I zoom around the track…or just out to dinner. I also love that the description includes “Seats 2 adults.” Yup, that’s us.

The 2011 Jeep Wrangler has a tagline that reads, “The Ultimate Experience for the Person who Wants Freedom to Explore.” And because there’s no one in the backseat being cranky, I can go wherever I want, whenever I want. That’s Freedom, baby!

Porsche now makes family-friendly vehicles, including the 4-door Cayenne hybrid. They’re stylish, I think, but my heart still belongs to the classic Boxster. Top down, a drive along the coast, Beyonce on the stereo. No room for packing a playpen, stroller, or quilted bag filled with “entertainment” and drippy snacks for the kids. P-a-r-a-d-i-s-e.

I’m sure the marketing execs at Harley-Davidson hired supermodel Marisa Miller to entice men of all shapes and sizes to buy a motorcycle, but I’m here to tell them that I’m also looking to pick up the bling, boots, pants, and leather jacket she’s wearing. (Are they washable? It doesn’t matter!)

Gullwing doors, plush leather seats, a stereo system that automatically ejects songs performed by The Wiggles…. So many fabulous possibilities. Vrooom!

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She currently gets around in a hip Scion xB.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About What Makes Me Crazy June 5, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

You think you’re finally okay with being childfree, then your best childfree girlfriend announces she’s EXPECTING! and you find yourself sobbing hysterically over a carton of Haagen Daz. You turn on the six o’clock news thinking you’re going to hear actual news, but instead you get bombarded with baby bump status reports and profiles of unnaturally gorgeous celebrities who reveal secrets for losing all their pregnancy weight in just 4 weeks. You attend an important conference, all excited to focus on building your business, and get stuck in the middle of a passionate discussion about the struggles of working moms.

Is it just me, or is the Universe trying to make me crazy? I thought I was just being oversensitive, but then I got a new cell phone. In order to set up the apps, I needed to read the manual, which was only available online. In order to get online, I needed to register my phone. In order to register my phone, I needed to get the serial number from under the battery, inside the back panel. To open the back panel, I needed to refer to the manual. (Warranty be damned, I finally pried the thing open with a screwdriver.)

Once I got the manual, here’s what it said about organizing my apps: “Icons that have the * symbol cannot be removed. Only icons with the * symbol can be removed.”

I give up. Clearly the world has gone mad and is taking me down with it.

Pass the ice cream, please.

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

 

A Great Place to Raise Kids March 26, 2012

I live in “a great place to raise kids.” People have been telling me this since before I made the decision to leave L.A. and make this my part-time home.

I love it here. I can walk into town for just about any service I need. I can walk or bike from my house along a creekside path that takes me out into the vineyards. A ten-minute drive away is a huge State Park, where I can hike, bike, look for birds, and enjoy the peacefulness of the countryside. For me, this is a great place to live.

I didn’t give much thought to it being a great place to raise kids until my neighbor stopped me one day last week. She and her husband run a day care center in their house and even as I write this post, I can hear the kids playing and squealing in the backyard. It doesn’t bother me. I enjoy their laughter, and when things turn ugly – as they’re apt to do later in the afternoon around nap time – I get to enjoy one of those “Phew, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that tantrum” moments.

But last week, the neighbor lady made a welcome gesture to join her and her friends for cocktails one night. “We have a great group of ladies here in the neighborhood,” she told me. “You’ll love them.” But I realize that in this “great place to raise kids” this woman’s great group of ladies all have kids too.

I was struck with an image of myself sitting on the couch, clutching a pina colada and staring like a deer in the headlights as the neighbor asked me if my husband and I are going to have kids, while a dozen pairs of inquisitive eyes bore into the new girl, waiting to hear her answer.

I’ve lived in L.A. for 18 years. I barely know any of my neighbors because, as a general rule, L.A. is a great place to be anonymous and neighbors don’t often come around to introduce themselves. As a woman without children, it’s a great place to blend into the background. But here in “a great place to raise kids” I’m starting to worry that I might not fit in after all.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Set-ups January 17, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I had more than my share of bad dates during my single years, but one stands out from the crowd of mis-matches: He huffed ’n’ puffed during the flat, 10-minute walk to dinner (I was training for a half marathon), he complained about the food at the restaurant I’d recommended (Who doesn’t like Italian?), and he griped that all the women in California were snobby b*tches (Um, hello?).

As soon as I got home, I called my friend and asked why she’d set us up. “You’re both single,” she said.

After a couple of deep breaths, I gently suggested that she raise her standards. Perhaps in the future she should find out if I had anything in common with the random, eligible bachelor of her choosing before handing out my phone number.

Sadly, I was reminded of this during a recent ladies’ lunch. I was seated next to a woman I hadn’t met before and launched into standard getting-to-know-you questions—job, hometown, connection to the hostess. She was nice enough, but it was soon clear we had little in common…except we were both childfree, the only childfree women at the table.

I looked up from my seat as the other women laughed over toddler antics, compared poopy diaper horror stories, discussed the pros/cons of various baby carriers, and exchanged knowing glances about the challenges of sleepless nights with newborns. In all fairness to the host, I don’t believe she placed us childfree women together on purpose; it was more that the mothers were drawn to each other. But that didn’t make it any easier to bear.

I certainly understand the need for mothers, especially new mothers, to get out and socialize and to be able to get information and support in their new roles. Had I known what I was walking into, though, maybe I would have bowed out of the lunch. Maybe I could have risen above it and made another stab at finding common ground with my seat mate, but I felt so downtrodden, so invisible, that I just couldn’t muster the courage to make the extra effort. I also didn’t want to talk about being childfree; I’m mostly over it.

What I had looked forward to that day was getting out and talking with women about all sorts of issues, things we could all relate to. Maybe moving forward I should only accept invitations to after-work drinks. I’m thinking not a lot of new mommies will make it out for that, and I’ll be in more amiable company.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She still looks for the good in people.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Inappropriate Invitations May 30, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

Yesterday afternoon, I received an online invitation to a networking event for entrepreneur moms. I did a little bit of research before replying, and quickly figured out that the invitation came from a “friend” on Facebook, an old friend from elementary school, who had invited every person on her friends list. So I can’t take in personally, and I didn’t include a comment with my RSVP explaining why I wouldn’t be attending. But, boy, just for kicks, I’d love to invite her to an infertility awareness seminar.

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