Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Guest Post: Spoiling Someone Else’s Kids April 13, 2012

By Heather Smith

Whether you made the decision to not have children or it was made for you, more than likely there is a little kid somewhere that has your heart; it may be a niece or a nephew, a godson or your friend’s child. Whoever this child may be to you, you love them and you want to show them that.

But what is more fun than being the ‘cool aunt’? Here are some sure fire ways spoil someone else’s kids and probably annoy their parents:

Trips:  Be the crazy and fun grownup or the silly godparent that takes junior to see that silly new cartoon movie or to get ice cream that is piled up too high. Don’t forget about water parks, zoos and children museums. You bring out the kid in the kid. Don’t forget the souvenirs, especially the ones that make lots and lots of noise!

Toys:  Oh joy the toys! The must haves and the wants must be fulfilled as the spoiler. This doesn’t mean you have to wait until a holiday or a birthday to shower them with the newest video game or the latest princess game. More sporadic and random the gift giving is, the better. Your goal: clutter someone else’s living room and be the queen of queens through the child’s eyes.

Candy:  Always keep candy on you. Not only is it a great idea for you and your mid-day sweet tooth, but having candy on you is an excellent way to butter up that butterball. Candy can be used as a prize or an excellent bribing technique. Either way you will have the kid eating out of the palm of your hand. Literally.

Use your words:  Yes trips, candy and toys may be fun, but in all seriousness, when it comes down to spoiling a little one, using words is the biggest form of showing your love. Spoiling doesn’t mean giving them trivial things that they want. Telling them you love them and that you are there for them will stick around with them longer than any piece of candy or trip to the zoo. And remember if you say these things, you better follow up. We all know that actions speak louder than words.

Heather Smith is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites, and offers site design advice for Hire a Nanny. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at] gmail [dot] com.


Whiny Wednesday: Charity Case March 7, 2012

It’s happened again. I’ve been offered a child for adoption. Unfortunately, this “child” is the adult black sheep of the family, a young man who has so disappointed his own mother that she’s willing to give him away to a charitable cause, i.e., me.

I’m fairly sure (although not 100 percent certain) that this woman was kidding when she said, “You can have one of mine,” but even so, I can’t help being totally insulted by her suggestion that I am so desperate to be a mother that I’d take her seriously damaged goods.

It’s Whiny Wednesday. What’s rubbing you the wrong way this week?


The Night Watcher December 12, 2011

This weekend I went to see Charlayne Woodard in her one-woman show The Night Watcher. The play is a made up of a series of short stories about the relationships she shares with the many children in her life, and it was fascinating.

Charlayne “missed the small window of opportunity” she had to have children of her own and chose not to adopt. She makes no bones about the fact that she and her husband (and dog) can spend Sunday mornings in bed reading the newspaper and drinking Bloody Mary’s because they don’t have children, but also that she is able to play an important role as auntie and godmother to a lot of other people’s children.

It was  so refreshing to see this point of view in a public forum and I laughed out loud at some of her scathing observations, and blinked back tears at others. Charlayne touched on many of the subjects we’ve brought up on Whiny Wednesdays – how when you don’t have children, someone is always trying to “fix” that; how she’s judged as being something less than a woman; and how her opinion is so quickly dismissed, even by a mother who is all but absent from her own daughter’s life. I related to her experiences and appreciated her frankness.

I’ll admit, though, that the show was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster to watch. I found myself flip-flopping along with Charlayne between lamenting the joys I was missing by not having children, and appreciating the life I have. And of course, it brought the subject of our own journey back up to the surface again, and got me and Mr. Fab talking about it, which isn’t always pleasant, but is nonetheless beneficial.

The Night Watcher closes here in L.A. this coming weekend, but if you get a chance, get out to see it. Don’t forget your chuckle muscles and your Kleenex, though.


Chero of the Week: Charlayne Woodard November 18, 2011

You might recognize Charlayne Woodard from TV shows like Law and Order, ER, and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but more recently she’s been making a name for herself on Broadway.

Charlayne isn’t a parent, but she’s a godmother, auntie, and mentor to dozens of other people’s children. She’s had a stranger on a subway train tell her she’s not a real woman because she doesn’t have children, and she’s had a friend try to convince her to make a split second decision about adopting a baby. But she’s stood firm, and now she’s written a one-woman play about her experiences as a non-mom.

The Seattle Times called The Night Watcher “thoughtful and engrossing, entertaining and poignant” and says that Woodard “vividly illustrates a critical source of love for young people living in a culture that exalts the idea of biological parenthood but doesn’t always follow through.”

I’m so pleased to see someone finally addressing the subject of the important role that people who aren’t parents can play in the lives of children. And lucky for me, Charlayne is bringing her show to Los Angeles this month, so I’m going.

I’ll report in when I’ve been, but for now let’s hear a “Brava!” for Charlayne Woodard for having the courage to speak up about being childfree.


Childproofing your home…for other people’s kids October 24, 2011

When I saw this article about how to childproof your home for a visiting friend’s child, I had an instant and visceral reaction.

On the one hand, I would never want anything untoward to happen to a child in my home (or anyone else’s home for that matter) and I consider myself an accommodating host, but on the other hand I thought, “Childproof my home? Is she flippin’ kidding me?”

The article offers suggestions to plug electrical outlets and invest in some toys and books, as well as other inexpensive items, such as a highchair, play yard (aka fence), and baby tub. I tried to imagine buying these things to accommodate a visitor, and frankly, I couldn’t. Again, not because I wouldn’t want a houseguest to feel welcome, but because I couldn’t imagine having these items in my home – for someone else’s baby.

I had an experience a couple of years ago where Mr. Fab had guests with a baby stay for a few days when I was out of town. I returned to my home to find plastic plugs in all my outlets, baby wash and baby shampoo in my bathroom cabinet, and a portable highchair in my closet. There were baby wipes under my kitchen sink and a baby cutlery in with my knives and forks.

I remember feeling, not exactly violated, but certainly intruded upon. It was a strong and surprising reaction, and when I remember it, I try to figure out why I had responded that way. It was more than just having baby items in my home, because they’ve since been removed one way or another. I’m not even sure it was about feeling disrespected that my obviously childfree home was changed to suit someone else.  I’ve even wondered if was just plain jealousy.

I wish I could put my finger on it, because I felt that same reaction again when I saw this article, and I still don’t fully understand why. Any suggestions?


Whiny Wednesday – Free Birth Control July 20, 2011

The big debate on yesterday’s morning news show was whether birth control should be considered as preventative care and therefore covered by health insurance.

What?! Are we really having this discussion in the 21st century? Do we really need to go over the long list of ways that providing women with family planning options makes sense socially and fiscally?

The woman brought in to speak against the bill made the case that people who are opposed to birth control for religious reasons shouldn’t be forced to pay for this coverage.

Well, guess what, lady? That’s the whole basis of any type of insurance; you pay for what you hope to never use. Believe me, I hope I never need to use most of what’s covered by my health insurance and I don’t want to use my car insurance or my life insurance either.

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe in supporting services that I may never use. My taxes help pay for schools that I’ll never get to send my children to, but I’m happy to pay to keep other people’s children educated. I no longer need to use birth control to prevent an unexpected pregnancy, but I’m more than happy to do my bit so that others can have that option.

It’s Whiny Wednesday, the sun’s shining right in my window, and I’m hot, cranky, and pissed off about backwards attitudes. What’s on your mind today?


Making Room For Other People’s Children January 15, 2011

I recently read Ian McEwan’s book, Enduring Love. In the story, the main character and his long-time partner are childless-not-by-choice. It’s not particularly relevant to the story, other than it colors their characters and their interactions with other people and their children.

McEwan writes that the couple had made room for children in their lives. They were godparents and had many other young relatives and children of friends who were a part of their lives. They even kept a spare bedroom in their apartment, and encouraged regular visits from the various children.

I found this arrangement strange. Although I still love children and have several who are a part of my life, I can’t imagine having the kind of relationships with other people’s children that would warrant keeping a spare room and regularly inviting them to stay.

So I’m wondering, what kind of relationship do you have with other people’s children? Have you literally made room for children in your lives? Or do they just come along as accessories to your friends and relatives?


Other People’s Blogs and Facebook November 16, 2010

Last night I sat down to write a bunch of posts to keep on hand as the holidays open up next week and attempt to gobble me whole. I figured if I can get ten or so pieces drafted, I can pull from them if I find myself falling behind.

Instead, I ended up hanging out on everyone else’s blogs. Ah well.

The good news is that I found this hilarious post on Julie’s blog A Little Pregnant (not a blog I would ordinarily hang out on, but you start on one person’s blog and before you know it you’re back at the old infertility blogs again.)

Please, take a moment and check out her imaginary Facebook page. It’s brilliant. I think we’ve all had experience with these sorts of “friends.”

And Facebook is a hot topic on the forums right now.

I’ve recently noticed that fewer and fewer of my favorite people are posting on Facebook anymore. Perhaps they’re out having interesting lives instead.


The Secret Society of Childless and Childfree Women October 22, 2010

I was at a cocktail reception last night. A couple of times a year I dig out my high heels from the back of the closet, assume the role as Executive Wife, and spend the evening shaking hands, eating things on sticks, and trying to remember the names of people’s spouses (and in some cases the names of the people themselves.) When stuck for small talk, I always turn to the subject I know will get people talking; I ask about their children or grandchildren. In many cases, I’ve known these people for many years, and I’m glad to hear updates; in others it’s a ploy. In know that all I have to do then is sit back and let them talk instead of having to come up with anything new and witty to say.

Most of the people I knew in the room have children. Some of their grown children were there. At one point in the evening, I glanced around the room of maybe 80-100 guests and spotted three visibly pregnant women (and spoke to another, although I didn’t know it at the time.) It wasn’t until I bent down to admire the shoes of a little girl toddling around that I was suddenly aware of my childlessness. I wondered if people who knew me well enough to know about my situation noticed me and thought, “What a shame she can’t have children.” But I shook the thought off quickly and got on with my job of working the room.

At the end of the evening, one of my husband’s employees found me. She pulled me aside and told me that she had seen this website and that she got what I was all about (I’m paraphrasing.) She told how she loved children, but had never wanted children of her own, and she told me about the amazing volunteer work she does fundraising for a local children’s organization. Talking to here was like finding a lush tropical island in the middle of the sea of parents. It was like being a part of a secret underground organization and hearing someone else speak one of the code words.

So maybe we childless and childfree women need an identifier so we can find one another at social gatherings. Maybe we need our own secret masonic handshake, or a piece of jewelry with the Life Without Baby crest subtly showing. Because wouldn’t it be great when we find ourselves at mixers and receptions and other social gatherings to be able to find just one person to talk to and not have to talk about their kids?