Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About Common Courtesies September 18, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Is it just me, or has the world gone rude? I am so over boorish behavior, when it is really so easy to be polite with each other—not measure-the-distance-between-forks etiquette, but simple common courtesies we can employ to be kind and respectful of each other. Here are some of my suggestions, based on recent experiences, for how we might start:

        • If someone takes the time to determine, shop for, and give you a thoughtful gift, you can spend five minutes writing a thank you note. (A text message does not count.)
        • If a driver slows and allows you to change lanes in front of him, give a courtesy wave. (Better yet, start the exchange by first turning on your turn signal.)
        • If someone nearby—a stranger or friend—sneezes, say “Bless you.” If someone—a stranger or friend—holds a door open for you, say “Thank you.”
        • If your phone rings at the dinner table (or at the gym, in the library, during a meeting), apologize to the people around you for the interruption. If it’s urgent, excuse yourself and take it outside where your conversation won’t bother anyone else. If not, turn the dang thing off and check your messages later.
        • If you ask someone “Do you have children?” and s/he says, “No,” change the subject.

Feel free to add your suggestions in comments, and let’s all make an extra effort to be kinder to each other today.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is adamant that she will never give her baby names to her dogs.


Dealing With Our Scars June 14, 2012

By Quasi-Momma

How much time do you spend concealing “what is?”   As I begin my road toward healing, it’s a subject I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

I have tiny scars on my chin from blemishes. I don’t like them, so every morning I dig into my arsenal of beauty products — foundation, concealer, powder, and the like — to make them appear like tinier, lighter versions of what they are.  This enables me to leave my house feeling a little less self-conscious.

The time I spend performing this ritual allows me to practice hiding my emotional scars as well. I take stock of how I’m feeling, rehearse my mask of calmness, and identify potential triggers that might set my heart reeling. It’s a routine I haven’t quite yet mastered. With relatively fresh wounds, it is difficult to maintain composure at times, especially in the face of cherub-like cheeks, rounded bellies, and all things that radiate motherhood. I am no Lady Gaga.  Yes, you CAN read my poker face.  I need more practice.

Last month as I was getting ready for an unavoidable family reunion and bracing myself for being around a pregnant relative, I wondered aloud to Hubs if it would just be easier to wear a little sign around my neck. It would be like a “Don’t Feed the Bears” sign, only mine would read, “Don’t ask me about [insert relative’s name here]’s pregnancy.”  He shook his head sympathetically, laughed and said with his best southern-boy charm, “That ain’t right.”  I agreed, and then offered to make him one too.

Joking aside, Hubs is correct. Indiscriminate expressions of hurt are not appropriate. Everyone has their own burdens, and our issues belong to us. We simply can’t expect everyone to sympathize with our plight. Not many people truly can. Selective concealment is a necessary evil.

This leads me to wonder how we can know when it is appropriate to reveal our emotional scars to the outside world. What yardstick is used to decide when we show them and to whom? How do we prepare ourselves for the reactions of those who just don’t “get it?”  Do your scars protect you?  Do they give you strength? Or do you no longer consider them as such?

Quasi-Momma is not quite a mom, but has always wanted to be.  In her blog, Quasi-momma, she explores her struggles with pregnancy loss and facing childlessness while grappling with the ups and downs of step family life.


It Got Me Thinking…About Photo Opportunities November 15, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

It’s like a Pavlovian response. I see someone taking a group shot, and I automatically steer their way and offer to take the photo so everyone can be in it. It’s a good human thing to do, I think.

But a recent event may have begun dismantling the conditioning process. We were heading out of the stadium after a baseball game when I spotted a man lining up a woman and two boys, I’d guess about 7 and 9 years old.

“Can I take the shot so you can all be in it?” I asked.

“Yes! Thank you!” the man said, then handed me his camera and pointed to the shoot button.

“Say ‘chili-cheese fries’!” I said, then I looked through the viewfinder and noticed one of the boys was doing his best impression of a troll face. “Seriously?” I asked, as I lowered the camera. “Is that your best choice?”

The kid looked surprised that I’d called him out, and for a second, I felt badly that I’d ruined his fun. Maybe he’ll appreciate it when he’s 30, I thought to myself. But then his dad looked over and laughed as he saw his son’s expression.

“Nice catch!” he said to me. “You must be a mom.”

“Yup,” I choked out, as I lined up the shot again and captured a keepsake of four normal-looking people—three of the four with unforced smiles.

I handed back the camera and accepted their thanks, and wondered to myself if it would have made any difference if I had responded, “Nope. I’m just a woman who used to be a kid, who loves kids, who gets kids. Don’t have to be a parent to do that.” Did I miss a teaching moment? Could I have given this one family something to think about, a little more awareness that childfree people are human too? Could I have gently impressed upon them that we don’t need to give birth to have parenting skills?

Sometimes it just seems easier to nod my head, swallow the slights, and keep the game moving. But the fact that I’m still thinking about this months later makes me wonder if I made the right choice.

And then to make things even more complicated, I start to wonder why I assumed this was a dad taking his family out to the ballgame? Maybe he, like me, was an uncle who loves his nephews, who also comes naturally to great parenting skills. Funny how our conditioning, our trained responses to situations, takes over. Funny how, in the midst of bashing other people’s preconceptions, I am confronted smack in the face with my own.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. Although she came of age during the Los Angeles Dodgers’ glory days, she’s now a committed fan of the San Francisco Giants.