Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About Excluding Others September 11, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I have many friends who have gone through the Alcohol Anonymous (AA) program, and I admire them greatly for how they have turned their lives around and live into their new commitments every day. But I have to admit, as I sit here planning my next dinner party, in which my famous sangria will be prominently featured, I am hesitant to include two friends who are recovering alcoholics. I worry that they’ll be uncomfortable. I worry they’ll make the other guests self-conscious. I worry they simply won’t fit in.

Ooops! Did I really think that? What a hypocrite I am!

Recently, Maybe Baby Liz wrote on this site (“Locked Out of the Mommy Clubhouse,” July 5) about her first experience of being left out of a dinner party because she is the lone childfree friend among all the mommies. Your comments attested to what I know, that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Many of us have shared our painful experiences of being excluded from social gatherings (and even family get-togethers) because we are childfree. While I am commiserating, I’m also starting to face myself in the mirror. Have I excluded pregnant friends because I just couldn’t bear to be around them while dealing with my own loss? Have I excluded parents of young children because I just couldn’t take another night of listening to them talk about schools and sports programs and teething issues, a discussion I can’t participate in?

I know there aren’t easy answers. I know we can’t deny our own pain, and it also isn’t right to force ourselves to sit through a long evening that causes us to go home and drown our sorrows in a pint of chocolate-fudge-ripple ice cream. I also know that even when we make the effort to include our mommy friends, oftentimes we’re the ones who end up being excluded from the conversation around us. Believe me, I’ve been there.

But that doesn’t mean we stop trying. That doesn’t mean we don’t still make the efforts to reach out and support our friends no matter where they are on their life paths—or where those paths are headed.

The bottom line for me is I care about my friends and I want to spend time with them. I will be upfront with them about the sangria, I will make sure they know there will also be booze-free options available, and then I’ll let them decide if they want to come. If not, I’ll suggest we get together another time, maybe for brunch with really great coffee.

Because this is what friends do. We commiserate, we support, we show compassion. We reach out and embrace each other and we try to build bridges of understanding. It can start with us.

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

 

Facebook’s Skewed Perspective August 20, 2012

This post was originally published on April 1, 2011.

In the news this week was a warning from doctors about teen depression and Facebook. Listed among the “unique aspects of Facebook that make it a particularly tough social landscape to navigate” were the “in-your-face status updates and photos of happy-looking people having great times,” leaving some kids to “feel even worse if they think they don’t measure up.”

If you’re childless-not-by-choice and spend any time at all on Facebook, these painful feelings might sound all too familiar. There’s nothing quite like a pregnancy announcement or cute kid pictures to remind you of what you don’t have.

But take heart!

The report is very quick to point out that Facebook “provides a skewed perspective of what’s really going on.” I think that’s true. While there are some people who clearly don’t give a second (or even a first) thought to what they post on Facebook, I know that I am very aware of how many people can read my posts and the different levels of “friendship” I have out there. Because of this, I’m always careful to manage my public persona.

If I’m having a crappy day and life is just the pits, I stay off Facebook; I don’t post my misery to the world. On the other hand, the pictures I do post are usually of my best days, out in the sunshine, with my husband, in some exciting locale, living a dream life!

I think that the majority of people post this way – we put our best Facebook faces forward – so it’s easy to look at a small sliver, a snapshot of someone else’s life and see it as perfect. In other words, it’s easy to look at a portrait of a happy family or read a jubilant pregnancy announcement and perceive that someone else has EVERYTHING we want.

But life just isn’t as simple as that.

If you’re at the stage in your journey where seeing some else’s children or baby news tips you over the edge, I strongly recommend giving Facebook the elbow for a while. But that’s just my opinion. There’s been a really great discussion on the forums about how to deal with Facebook. Take a look to see how other readers dealing with it.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Women in the News August 14, 2012

This post was originally published on November 2, 2010

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Lately I’ve observed a troubling trend. The bleeding news that leads frequently starts with something like “A mother of three…,” as in “A mother of three was found murdered in her home” or “A grandmother was brutally raped.” And it got me thinking…are only tragedies involving mothers newsworthy? Would it be any less tragic if the victim was, say, for example, me?

It’s not just in the primetime news slots that I see this occurring. Three recent shows in Oprah’s final season were titled “The Bravest Mom in the World is Set Free” (9/22), “The Mom Who Fathered Her Own Children” (9/29), and “One Mom, 20 Personalities” (10/6). In each case, I can’t imagine the story would be any less impactful if we substituted the word “Woman” for “Mom.”

Who’s behind this? Did some big marketing study show that “Mom” is a buzzword that attracts viewers (and advertisers)? Is there some sinister plot afoot to further ostracize women without babies? What does it say about our society that being a mom makes you a better story? And how does all this make us, women who are childfree, feel about ourselves?

Me, I’m kind of pissed. But I’m not ready to carry a sign, write angry letters, or start an impassioned campaign online. I already feel marginalized, and I don’t want to subject myself to the “you-must-be-a-child-hating-anti-mom-bitch” response I fear would come.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. Her articles have appeared in AAA’s Westways, GRIT, Real Simple, and 805 Living magazines. Read “How to Be the World’s Best Aunt Ever” on eHow.com.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Loser Parents November 29, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

This week as I was leaving the parking lot of the grocery store, I watched as a toddler wandered one direction across a lane of traffic and his mother, pushing a stroller with a baby, walked in the other direction…into oncoming traffic…because she was texting.

By some miracle, no babies, mommies, or motorists got hurt. I, on the other hand, was boiling with indignation. Why why why do I have to pay for a license to work as a writer (on my oh-so-dangerous laptop), while this idiot is given the responsibility of two precious lives with no vetting whatsoever just because she can reproduce? Why does this LOSER get to be a mother, and I get jack?!? Life is so unfair!

I want to scream: Pay attention, you dumbass! Don’t you know how blessed you are?

 

I know if I had children, I wouldn’t be a perfect parent all the time. But I know I would be better.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. Most of the time she’s at peace with her decision to be childfree.

 

Whiny Wednesday: The Mother’s Club April 13, 2011

I recently moved to a new town and I’m working to establish a life here. I’ve always got one eye open for community events that I might want to get involved in.

At the farmer’s market last Saturday I picked up a flyer for a group that was all about growing and producing your own food. As I have a garden and it actually rains here once in a while, I’m very eager to create a thriving vegetable patch. I’m even considering getting chickens! So this organization looked perfect for me.

But when I examined the card closer, I saw that the group was aimed at mothers wanting to provide healthy food for their children. I put the card back on the table and walked away.

I can’t say for certain that I wouldn’t be made welcome at that group, but I wasn’t prepared to risk it. And even if I was accepted there, wouldn’t the subject of motherhood trump the love for vegetables?

As it’s Whiny Wednesday, I’m feeling bad about being left out, and whiny about how the exclusivity of motherhood infringes on all aspects of life—even the growing of tomatoes and the canning of fruit.

Do you have a whine, justified or otherwise? Today’s the day to get it off your chest.

 

Facebook’s Skewed Perspective April 1, 2011

As much fun as I had profiling some of great Cheroes, it’s time to get back to regular programming, and as usual, there’s no shortage of material.

 

In the news this week was a warning from doctors about teen depression and Facebook. Listed among the “unique aspects of Facebook that make it a particularly tough social landscape to navigate” were the “in-your-face status updates and photos of happy-looking people having great times,” leaving some kids to “feel even worse if they think they don’t measure up.”

 

If you’re childless-not-by-choice and spend any time at all on Facebook, these painful feelings might sound all too familiar. There’s nothing quite like a pregnancy announcement or cute kid pictures to remind you of what you don’t have.

 

But take heart!

 

The report is very quick to point out that Facebook “provides a skewed perspective of what’s really going on.” I think that’s true. While there are some people who clearly don’t give a second (or even a first) thought to what they post on Facebook, I know that I am very aware of how many people can read my posts and the different levels of “friendship” I have out there. Because of this, I’m always careful to manage my public persona.

 

If I’m having a crappy day and life is just the pits, I stay off Facebook; I don’t post my misery to the world. On the other hand, the pictures I do post are usually of my best days, out in the sunshine, with my husband, in some exciting locale, living a dream life!

 

I think that the majority of people post this way – we put our best Facebook faces forward – so it’s easy to look at a small sliver, a snapshot of someone else’s life and see it as perfect. In other words, it’s easy to look at a portrait of a happy family or read a jubilant pregnancy announcement and perceive that someone else has EVERYTHING we want.

 

But life just isn’t as simple as that.

 

If you’re at the stage in your journey where seeing some else’s children or baby news tips you over the edge, I strongly recommend giving Facebook the elbow for a while. But that’s just my opinion. There’s been a really great discussion on the forums about how to deal with Facebook. Take a look to see how other readers dealing with it.

 

Irrational Thoughts and Kidnapping November 19, 2010

This week saw the final session of the creative writing class I teach. For the past 9 weeks I have taught ten 4th and 5th graders how to tell stories. Along with ten dedicated volunteer mentors, we have coaxed funny, scary, or deeply personal stories out of these children, turned them into short plays, and put them up on stage, performed by ten professional actors.  It’s such an incredible experience to see the students – especially the shy ones, or those who aren’t academically brilliant, or even those who are brilliant but can’t find a safe outlet – open up and pour out these wild and creative stories, and form bonds with the adults they have come to trust. Even though organizing 10-year-olds is sometimes like trying to wrangle cats, I love it and keep going back year after year.

This session one of the students lost her mother during the program. She skipped a class, but was back the following week, smiling, participating, and being her usual brave, strong self. At the end of the last class we play a game where everyone in the group has to share two likes and a wish. This little girl said she liked her dog and all the mentors, and she wished she could have her mom back.

I know that kidnapping is illegal and immoral, but for just that second I wanted to take that little girl home with me. While not all of us get to have children, I think that all children should have a good mother. This little girl had one, but lost her, and for a second I entertained the thought that maybe I could take her place.

It was a fleeting thought and a stupid one at that, and while I try to make sure my actions are legal and generally rational, no one ever said the same had to apply to my thoughts.

 

Best Mothers Who Never Had Children July 22, 2010

Filed under: Fun Stuff,The Childfree Life: Issues and Attitudes — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
Tags: , ,

Oh, how I wish I’d found this article closer to Mother’s Day. What a great and inspiring list of incredible women this is.

If you ever find yourself having those feelings of being incomplete because you’re not a mother, take a look at this list and ask yourself whether these women made a difference. I’d say that they did…and then some.