Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About Angels October 30, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

My friend Deedy is the gentleperson who visits old souls in nursing homes. She sends flowers for no particular reason, writes cards to simply say “Thinking of you!”, calls regularly just to chat and reminisce. Now in her 80s, she has a driver take her on her rounds, otherwise she hasn’t slowed much in her efforts. She’s a champion conversationalist, a goodwill ambassador, a messenger of cheer, an angel on Earth.

Long ago she recognized that friends were slowly dying of loneliness because their own extended families were too busy with jobs, children, and other important responsibilities to tend to their elders, so Deedy picked up the slack. She doesn’t do any of this because she expects anything in return, but because she has a good heart. And she’s able to do this with such vigor because she is not married and doesn’t have children of her own. Ironic, isn’t it?

I’m often asked who my childfree role models were. To be honest, it wasn’t until last year, when we did the series on cheros (heros who happen to be childfree), that was I able to I think of any. For some women it’s an inspiring aunt, teacher, or boss. I can’t recall one childfree woman who was part of my growing-up years. Then there was Deedy, who came along in my late 30s, just as I needed someone to shine a light and show me a different path. Deedy is my personal chero. I hope I have learned well from her, for I intend on following her example and becoming a chero to others.

Look around you and share with us: Who is your personal chero?

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.

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Thinking About My Old Age October 29, 2012

The question often seems to come up of, “What’s going to become of me when I’m old? Who’s going to take care of me if I don’t have children?” It’s a question that rattles around in my brain more often than I’d like, and my answer is always the same: “I have absolutely no idea.”

Given that my husband is 15 years my senior and my family lives on a different continent, I am facing the statistically real possibility that I will be someday be alone with no blood relatives within a 6,000-mile radius of me. I’m thinking that as long as I remain physically and fiscally fit, I’ll get long well enough. I have friends and interests, not to mention a job that doesn’t tie me to any particular geographic location, so I could choose to move closer to my family if that’s what I wanted to do.

But what happens if I’m not healthy, either physically or fiscally? What happens if I need care that I can’t afford to pay for and there’s no one around who gives enough of a damn to look after me? What will become of the poor, impoverished, childless widow then?

These are the thoughts that pop into my head, and honestly, it’s depressing. If I allowed these thoughts to take hold, it could be paralyzing. I could see myself planning for this possibility, saving every penny for my future healthcare and frantically collecting friends in the hopes that, in my time of need, one of them will be a friend indeed. I could see me putting my current life on hold for the sake of avoiding a future life alone, and I don’t want to do that.

I don’t want to get all Pollyanna about this. I am thinking about this future possibility. I am trying hard to keep myself healthy, I’m nurturing my friendships, and I’m trying to be smart about my finances. But I’m not looking at my friendships with an eye as to who will take care of me (that would be weird, for one thing) and I’m not living now for the possibility of my future, because it might not happen that way.

Anyone who’s ever made plans for the future and then watched them fail to come to fruition (is that anyone here?) knows that life has no guarantees. Yes, statistically I should outlive Mr. Fab and someday be alone, but in reality I might not. Yes, theoretically people with children will be taken care of in their old age, but if you’ve ever visited a retirement home, you’ll know that’s not a given either. In fact I wonder if people with children aren’t sometimes more alone because their friends assume their kids are visiting and taking care of them? As a friend, I am more likely to step in to help a friend who doesn’t have family than one who has a partner and family close by. Likewise, I hope that my friends will be there for me, when needed.

So yes, I’m aware that I may need a plan for the future, and I am thinking about what my options might be. But there’s no way of knowing what my future will be, so I don’t want to fritter away my present worrying about it.

P.S. After writing this post I came across the image above and it made me laugh. Who knows, 40 years from now I could still be sitting here blogging about how to get along without children. Hopefully by then I’ll have it all figured out. 🙂

 

It Got Me Thinking…About the Caretaking Question March 27, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I usually include in my byline for this column that I am “mostly at peace with being childfree.” I now can tolerate the occasional baby shower, I genuinely celebrate news of friends’ pregnancies, and I relish my unscheduled weekends. I am growing accustomed to a childfree life, but one nagging issue still troubles me.

In recent months, complications from arthritis, pain, and plain ol’ old age have crept up on my 14-year-old chocolate lab, Scout. It’s fallen to me to provide for her new needs, like carrying her home from walks when her legs can go no further, supplementing her diet with soft treats like ground turkey and steamed broccoli, and lugging her up and down our front stairs for pee breaks throughout the day.

I’m not complaining. I feel privileged to be Scout’s human, and I want her final days to be as comfortable as possible and full of love. I cherish this precious time with her. But it’s got me thinking….

In caring for my sweet girl, I am confronting my greatest fear, the one big bad ugly fear I have about being childfree: Who will take care of me? When my mind or body gives in to the inevitable aging process, who will step up to manage my finances or coordinate medical care? Who will assist me up stairs or change the batteries in the smoke detector or make sure there’s food in the fridge? I worry there will be no one to keep me company in the lonely hours of my golden years, and to hold my hand, offering comfort and prayers, when it’s my time to pass from this life to the next. Will I end up paying someone to perform all these tasks perfunctorily?

Both my grandmothers lived into their 90s. When they needed help in their final years, there were children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren at their sides. But I am childfree. I have no caretaker in the wings. I am saddened by this thought and, frankly, I am scared.

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

 

Friends, neighbors, and community August 2, 2011

My neighbor is sick. She hasn’t come out and said the words, but she’s hinted at breast cancer. It’s not the first time for her; she knows what to do.

I don’t know what her prognosis is; we haven’t talked about it, but I do know that her relatives all live several states away and that she’s a quiet person who has just a small group of friends. She’s never been married and she doesn’t have children, so I’m wondering: who’s going to take care of her if she gets really sick?

We live in a small compound (although that’s not quite the right word) with five little beach cottages on a lot. Mr. Fab and I live in the front house and the other four are all occupied by single women. One has grown kids and grandkids, but the others are childfree, like me. So, I wonder, if my friend needs care, will it come from us, her neighbors?

Maybe she has a plan figured out that doesn’t include us, but if my friend needed help, I’d be there for her and I’m encouraged to realize that, even though I don’t have children to care for me when I’m older, I do have friends, and I’m willing to be that those friends would be there for me, too, if I needed that. That thought alone makes me optimistic for the future and how this whole thing will work out.

 

Who’s going to take care of you when you’re old? September 10, 2010

“Who’s going to take care of you when you’re old?”

This is one of those arguments that’s easy to shut down if anyone suggests it as a reason for having children. One peek in your local nursing home, or frankly, on the streets of any major city, will give you all the evidence you need that having children is no guarantee that you’ll be taken care of in your old age. But with all possibility removed, do you have plans for your later years?

I think about this from time-to-time, but I don’t yet have a good solution. My husband is 15 years my senior and so in theory I should outlive him. My family—brothers, nieces and nephews—is on another continent. I have good friends, including a circle of women who are also childless, and some of us have talked about taking care of one another as we age. But I wonder what will actually happen to me

A recent obituary stated that so-and-so (I can’t now remember who it was) had passed away at 93 years old, surrounded by close friends. My husband, being cynical, pointed out that she was wealthy and famous, and therefore drew plenty of close friends hoping for their share of her inheritance. Trying to out-cynic him, I pointed out that that’s usually what happens but with distant relatives coming out of the woodwork for their share of the financial pie. But the point is, that that is how I want to go, surrounded by people who choose to be with me.

So, plan A for my future is to be nice, take care of my friends, and hope that they will take care of me. Plan B is to become rich and famous and buy my friends. Either way, I hope to not grow old alone.

Have you given any thought to what will become of you in your old age? Or do you have a plan all laid out?  I’d be interested to hear.