Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

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 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.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Stevie Nicks May 2, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

Sheryl Crow recently revealed that rock legend Stevie Nicks advised her “not to have babies, ’cause you’ll never write a great song again.” (Watch their amazing duet of “Landslide” on Oprah here.) Now, I don’t agree that mothers can’t also be great songwriters, but it is hard to argue with Ms. Nicks when you consider her legacy: more than 40 hits, over 140 albums sold, 8 Grammy Award nominations as a solo performer, 1 win for Album of the Year (for Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours), and 4 decades of success in the music industry. Plus, she looks damn hot at 62.

Tomorrow, May 3, Nicks’ latest album, In Your Dreams, will be released. In a parallel life, she might be helping out with the grandkids. Instead, in part because she’s childfree, she’s touring with Rod Stewart, promoting her album, and moving all of us with her extraordinary musical gifts.

So I say, Let’s support one of our own! Purchase the album, get tickets to her shows (visit her official Web site here for more information), and show the world that childfree women ROCK!

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

 

It Got Me Thinking…Abouts Childfree PSAs April 11, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

While on a treadmill at the gym this morning, I caught the tail end of a public service announcement (PSA) about forest fire prevention. PSAs encourage us to stop smoking, promote charities that support vital medical research, raise awareness about health and safety issues, and diminish the stigmas associated with victims of assault and people who suffer from mental illnesses. In the last category especially, they remind us we are all equally human. And it got me thinking….When do we, the Women of the World Who Are Childfree, get a PSA?

Our script might read something like this:

Music in background: instrumental of Bonnie Raitt’s* “Something to Talk About”

Voice #1, Kathleen Guthrie*: My name is Kathleen. I am a writer and I am childfree.

Voice #2, Oprah Winfrey*: My name is Oprah, and I don’t need to have children of my own to raise up humanity.

Voice #3, Lisa Manterfield*: My name is Lisa. Every day, women around the globe are rocking the world instead of rocking a cradle.

Voice #4, Ashley Judd*: My name is Ashley, and we are Women of the World Who Are Childfree. Join us today and get a free toaster!

*All of these rocking women are childfree.

Okay, I’m kidding about the free toaster part. But one day, in my lifetime, I’d like for women like us to be able to talk openly about being childfree without having to apologize or feel sorry for ourselves. Better yet, I’d like to see my childfree-ness become a nonissue when my value is measured in our society.

Ad Council: Are you hearing us?

Kathleen Guthrie 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.

 

Oprah’s Second Chance January 20, 2011

Oprah Winfrey was one of the first guests on Piers Morgan’s new talk show this week, where she talked candidly about the loss of her baby when she was 14. Oprah has said in the past that she has no regrets about not having children, but this time she talked about how losing her baby was her second chance to turn her life around and make something of herself.

Love her or hate her, there’s no denying that Oprah has certainly made something of herself. She talked to Morgan about the chain of events – beginning with going back to school and becoming head of student council – that led to her becoming the person she is today. “None of those things would have happened and the whole trajectory of my life would have been different,” she said on the show.

Although I have no illusions of my own life paralleling Oprah’s, I have to say that it’s certainly taken some unexpected turns since that doctor told me I would never have biological children. I’ve started a blog, met women from all around the world, written a book, and been quoted in a magazine as an expert! Recently, another avenue has opened and I’ve been working with a therapist friend to develop a series of workshops to help women deal with the effects of infertility and childlessness (more to come on that soon!) None of these things were in my plans two years ago and certainly would never have happened if I’d merrily gone on to become a mother.

They say that for every door that closes, another opens, and I’m a believer. The motherhood door closed firmly for me, but once I picked up my chin and looked around, I discovered a whole host of opportunities waiting for me. While I don’t believe I was denied motherhood so that I could do these things instead, the converse is certainly true -none of these things would have happened if I’d had children.

Has your life changed for the better because you don’t have children? Have you had opportunities you wouldn’t have had if you’d been a mother?

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Women in the News November 2, 2010

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 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.

 

Men Dealing With Childlessness September 14, 2010

This month’s Oprah magazine has a feature about surviving miscarriage—from the man’s point-of view. It’s so rare that we ever hear what it’s like for men to deal with infertility, loss, or “missing the baby boat.” I think it’s easier for us women to find communities and to talk to one another openly and honestly about our feelings. Not so for men.

While I’m merrily discussing my infertility with you and pretty much anyone who’ll listen, I know that my husband is dealing with it by not dealing with it. In time, if properly ignored, it will somehow go away. I’ve been hashing out my emotions in writing, sorting through my story and looking for meaning, but my husband doesn’t want to read anything I write. He says he doesn’t want to have to relive it all again.

We all deal with things differently and what works for one person doesn’t always work for another, but I wonder if the men involved in our stories are getting what they need to heal. Where does your spouse/partner go for help? Does he go anywhere? Would he benefit from having somewhere safe to go to talk, or is that not how he deals with problems?

Our men may be from Mars, rather than our own planet of Venus, but we’re all hurtling around the same crazy solar system.