Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

With Eyes of Faith…Charity and Social Justice May 31, 2012

By Dorothy Williams


 

“But when you give alms,

do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,

so that your almsgiving may be secret.

And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

 

~ Jesus

Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, verses 3 & 4

 

The virtue of charity is about more than writing a check to a dachshund rescue group.  As I wished friends at church a “Happy Mother’s Day” this year, I realized that this too was a form of charity and a gift worth giving.  Because I gave from my poverty — my lack of children — the gift felt more sacrificial than inking over alms in the form of cash, so that’s why I almost overlooked it as a practice of virtue.

 

Why are these gifts so hard to give?  Maybe it’s because we look for immediate reward from people rather than God; maybe it’s because we get tied up in knots trying to achieve social justice.  A Chinese proverb says: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Charity is the initial gift of fish, while social justice changes the man’s behavior, to cure the problem requiring charity in the first place.  When I first grappled with the fact that I was childless, all I wanted was social justice.  If I could just change society’s perception of my status, I would not have to be so understanding, so charitable, in the face of such monumental ignorance and insensitivity.  But in a child-centric culture, I was in over my head. Opportunities for social justice seemed to be around every corner and it frustrated me as I tried to correct problems that sometimes didn’t even exist!  I eventually learned that charity is something I could give until I had the opportunity to cure the problem at its root.

 

Nowadays, when I enter a troubling situation where I do not have the capacity or motivation to teach, I give an inward glance to the Lord, secretly communicating my need for grace in dealing with the person who has just crossed a mental boundary. Sometimes my gift of charity is humor, like when I brush off an insensitive comment with a joke.  Sometimes the gift is sacrificial, like when I wish someone a “Happy Mother’s Day”.  Finding balance between charitable and teachable moments is worth the struggle we go through to find it. The reward that comes from God alone is priceless.

 

Dorothy Williams lives near Chicago.  Her favorite pet rescue group is Midwest Dachshund Rescue. You can find them at:   www.mwdr.org.

Editor’s Note: This will be Dorothy’s last “With Eyes of Faith…” column. Please join me in thanking her for sharing her words these past months and wishing her well on her new writing ventures. Thanks Dorothy.

 

 

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.

 

Preparedness May 14, 2012

I live in earthquake country. People ask me sometimes if I’m afraid to live here. I’m not. I’m prepared. I have a kit in my house with supplies in case the San Andreas Fault does a major shift and sends my neighborhood tumbling into the Pacific Ocean. I’m not afraid of earthquakes, but I am prepared.

Still, whenever we do have a little shaker, I always feel it before my husband. I’m up, I’m ready, I’m waiting to see. Is this it? Is this the Big One? I’m not afraid, but when the ground starts shaking, I’m on high alert.

I felt a bit like this yesterday. I wasn’t afraid of M-Day. I knew I’d come far enough that it wasn’t going to be the emotional time-bomb it was in past years. And I was ready with my M-Day preparedness kit. We avoided restaurants, social gatherings, Facebook, etc. We went to the movies, took care of some household tasks, went for a walk, and played some dominoes. But all day I was on high alert. There was a cloud of tension that surrounded me all day. I was sad and I wasn’t afraid. I was just ready, in case something happened.

As it turns out, the day passed without event. I survived. And if you’re reading this, it means you did, too. I hope you came out relatively unscathed.

Did you practice self-preservation? Were you prepared? And most of all, were you good to yourself? I hope so. It will be another year before it comes around again, and I’m willing to bet that next year will be a little better, a little easier, a little less difficult for each of us. That’s kind of the way this works, in increments, until it’s no longer a bad day, just an odd day.

 

M-Day Safe Haven May 11, 2012

I’ve been reading your comments this week and I can see that many of you are battening down the hatches in preparation for this weekend’s “festivities.” RESOLVE got onboard, too, and sent out an email, with some positive tips on coping with the day.

These are good tips, but the problem is they’re all positive and don’t include the option to stay in bed until Monday rolls around. And I say this with my tongue nowhere near my cheek.

I think the key to getting through this weekend is self-preservation, whatever that looks like for you. For me, this once would have meant staying home and avoiding any social interactions at all. This year, it will mean trying to have a pleasant, ordinary Sunday with perhaps a walk or bike ride. And while I’m now in a position to handle a casually cast “Happy Mother’s Day” from a stranger, I will still be avoiding restaurants and stores where I might get pulled into a Mother’s Day mêlée (like the time our local breakfast eatery was handing out flowers to all the mothers and I left empty-handed. Not nice.)

I’ve been really inspired lately by the way this community has rallied around one another and offered support to other members in need. You are an amazing group of women and I am so glad to have the chance to get to know you just a little.

Over on the private site, there’s a Mother’s Day Safe Haven forum that started up a couple of years ago. If this weekend starts to get the better of you, please consider heading over there for support or just to vent. You do have to make it through this weekend, but you don’t have to do it alone.

I’m sending good wishes out to you today and I’ll look forward to seeing you back here on Monday, when the mommy madness will be over and we can hopefully get back to our regularly scheduled programing.

 

Duck, Weave, or Cover? May 10, 2012

By Quasi-momma

Around mid-April, my mind starts thinking about that scary little day coming up in May. You know the one. The one that makes us cringe ever so slightly. The one we might all like to avoid. Dare I say its name?  It’s Mother’s Day.

As a stepmom, M-day has always been tough for me. The first year after marrying Hubs, I had expectations that I would at least be honored in some small way.  After all, I did perform the duties of a mom, so I deserve a little something, right?  Wrong.  It came and went without even so much as a word in my direction from anyone: not my Hubs, not my in-laws, and not my Skid. It was like a jab to the face.

Add a couple pregnancy losses and several negative pregnancy tests over the years, and M-day packs a one-two punch. You can safely say that the day has lost its luster for me.

To give him credit, Hubs finally did get the memo last year. He took me on a special outing the Saturday before to thank me for all I did as well as to acknowledge what we’ve lost. It was quiet, private, and meaningful: enough to get me through the indignity of the next day.

But this year, a final uppercut has been added to M-day’s combo: there’s a pregnancy in the family. I will now be the only female not honored as a Mom. It’s threatening a knock-out. I need a strategy.

Right now, I’m in heavy negotiations to bow out of this round. I know my limits. I’m just starting to deal with the possibility that I may never have a child of my own, and I’m not up to this “holiday.”  Yet, I fear that my absence may bruise some egos, and the fallout may not be worth it.  So I’m turning to you, my dear community, for advice. How do you get through it? (Feel free to whine too. By all means, let’s vent!)

The one thing I do know for sure is that extreme self-care will be required. There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the urge we feel to explain or defend our situations, whether they are by choice or not. This day will have our guards up higher than usual.  So please be good to yourself.

Quasi-momma, also known as “Bruisin’ Susan” explores her thoughts and feelings on her own struggles with childlessness, pregnancy loss and stepfamily life on her blog http://quasimomma.wordpress.com. She prefers not to disclose her weight class. It’s no one’s business.

 

Whiny Wednesday: It’s Your Turn Next May 9, 2012

A friend posted this picture on Facebook and it made me laugh out loud.

Then it got me wondering how this could work for those women (and it’s usually women) at baby showers and family gatherings who unwittingly assume that yours will be the next belly to be celebrated and adored. I haven’t come up with an appropriate equivalent yet, but I’m working on it.

It’s Whiny Wednesday and I know that for those of you in countries that celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, this week could also lovingly be called Hell Week. So, here’s your chance to let off steam among friends. Feel free to vent at will.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Nurturers May 8, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I can bitch with the best about how much I loathe the holiday that’s coming up this Sunday. I’ve spent past years avoiding church, restaurants, flower shops, TV ads, and, well, people who brightly wished me “HAPPY (you-know-who’s) DAY!” It was easier to hibernate than face painful reminders of what I am not.

But this year is different. This year I am embracing the second Sunday in May because a wise friend has transformed it for me. This year I am pulling out all the stops and celebrating because I am…drumroll, please…a Nurturer!

Here’s the message my friend sent out last May, and it is my message to you.

To the nurturers in us all: For helping friends in need, for compassion for strangers in pain, for helping children to learn, and for being good stewards of our world…Happy Nurturer’s Day!

If you are an aunt, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a coworker, a coach, or a listener. If you’ve comforted another person, if you’ve offered support or encouragement, or if you’ve shared a hug. If you’ve read something on this site and responded with kind words or sent up a prayer for a sister in need. If you’ve been any or all of these things, then it’s time you acknowledge yourself.

You’ve been there for me, in our forums, in your comments, in your presence here with us on this site. For that I say, Thank you! and Happy Nurturer’s Day!

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

 

Awareness February 13, 2012

I’m not sure if it’s the same where you live, but if you happen to be in the U.S., you’ll already be into several weeks of red and pink window displays and newspaper ads for romantic dinners, and great prices on jewelry and red roses. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and like so many holidays, it’s become a huge commercial venture here.

Despite my somewhat curmudgeonly attitude towards Hallmark holidays, I would ordinarily be taking the opportunity to wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day.

But my resistance comes from somewhere deeper than a distaste for over-commercialism. Now that I am not going to be a mother, I have a more highly tuned awareness of the minefield of global holiday greetings. I know how hurtful it can be for a stranger to glibly wish me a happy Mother’s Day, not realizing what a painful thing that is for me to hear.

Because of this, I now appreciate that by wishing “Happy Valentine’s Day” to everyone I meet, I could inadvertently be reminding that person of what they don’t have. And I know how that feels. Shouldn’t Valentine’s Day, like Mother’s Day, be a personal exchange between the two involved parties?

So, I won’t be broadcasting a Happy Valentine’s Day message here. But instead, I wish you love and I wish you someone good to share your life with, whatever that means to you. If you have that love, cherish it. And if you don’t have it, I hope you find it soon.

Wishing you love today, in whatever form it comes.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Oprah December 13, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Last night, I dreamt Lisa and I finally scored tickets to the Oprah show. I bought a new dress, flew to Chicago, and chatted excitedly with the women seated around me before the show began, trying to figure out why we were there. Was it the “Favorite Things”? Were we “Women Who Rock”? Several minutes into Oprah’s opening, it dawned on me that a hideous mistake had been made. From my seat in the second row, I looked over my shoulder and locked eyes with Lisa, who was a few rows back. We were there for the early taping of the “Mother’s Day” special.

The assistant producers apparently had googled “mother” to find guests, but did scant research to further qualify us. At least the two of us. I prayed there weren’t other women suffering through this like we were. The theme of the whole show was women getting up to congratulate each other for being wonderful mothers, to celebrate how special they were, to cry and laugh and share stories about their beautiful children. I was in hell. And I was stuck in the middle of the row. There was no graceful exit, so I choked back hot tears and stayed put.

I considered calling over a staffer to explain the mistake so that maybe I could make a statement, contribute something to the show, but I couldn’t imagine sharing my experience of being a childfree woman with a more unreceptive audience. Then, the assistants came out to hand every guest a Mother’s Day bouquet. I passed mine along. So did Lisa. If I’ve learned nothing else from years of watching Oprah’s show and reading her magazine, it was that I need to live my truth, and my truth was that I was not going to suck it up, accept the flowers, and pretend to be a mother just to fit in and make nice for everyone else.

I watched with my heart in my stomach as the staffers grouped together on the side, scanning the audience, trying to determine which two guests didn’t yet have their bouquets. I overheard one say that this would ruin the audience shot at the end, that every guest HAD to hold her bouquet. I tried to sit lower in my seat. I hoped my neighbor wouldn’t rat me out. The stress of it all finally woke me up.

As far as nightmares go, this isn’t the worst one I’ve have. But two hours later, as I sit writing at my desk, I’m still shaking. I am childfree by chance and circumstance, and I’ve been in situations where I’ve been stuck in a group of mothers and felt the need to play along. I’ve also been in situations where it’s been okay to speak my truth and have it heard. I don’t know why I had this particular dream scenario at this time, and I’m pondering its significance. I think, maybe, the message is that I need to better acknowledge and celebrate the beauty of my own life and the unique roles I play. I think, maybe, I need to go out and buy myself a beautiful bouquet.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She takes issue with the idea that society still largely considers childfree women anomalies.

 

Guest Post: Mom Friends October 27, 2011

By Iris

Coming to terms with childlessness can be a very lonely process, especially when most of our friends, those we’ve reached out to over the years for support over things little and big, become difficult to be around.  Women who are consumed by motherhood and their children, and women who are preoccupied by the inability to have them, can sometimes make for a painful combination.

The bond of love between a mother and her child must and should be amazingly strong. I have been known to brag about my niece and nephew and to smother them each with hugs and kisses, probably more than their own mother does. So, I do not resent my mom friends for being less available to me than they were before having children, and I don’t mind listening to their concerns and stories about their kids, some of which I’m pretty fond of myself. It’s a different story, however, when a friend’s appreciation of her new role as a mother seems to translate into a devaluation of your own life’s worth because you have not given birth.

Much of what I read on childlessness and motherhood seems to enhance rather than reduce this divide between Moms and non-Moms, which made me really happy to come across Lisa Rankin’s tribute to her childless friends on that most difficult day for many of us, Mother’s Day.

And that got me feeling very grateful to those mom friends who help me hold on to perspective. The ones who remind me that there is more to life than motherhood, who know of my circumstances and encourage me to stay positive and enjoy my life, who remind me that happiness comes from within and that the grass is not always greener.  I’m grateful for their words and the sentiments of love and friendship they express.

Iris lives in Florida with her husband and best friend of many years. Five years ago infertility and other life stressors really messed with her head, but she’s gradually regaining her Self and her passion for life.