Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Whiny Wednesday: I don’t want to talk about this anymore August 15, 2012

This post was originally published on May 11, 2011.

Let me just say, right up front, that I love the community of women I’ve found through this blog. I’ve really been amazed at how people are willing to rally around and help others they’ve never even met. I attribute the speed of my healing progress to this community and to having somewhere to go to talk about infertility and childlessness.

But sometimes I feel as if I just don’t want to talk about it anymore.

For the past two weeks I’ve stood up in front of a theater full of strangers and told my story. It was a fantastic experience and everyone I met was wonderful and supportive. (More about this very soon.) I know that talking about this issue is bringing it to the forefront and building understanding. People have come up to me and told me as much.

But sometimes I just want to be little old me. I don’t want to keep talking about “it.”

Recently, this article reminded me of why I don’t want to talk about “it.” Here, this writer pours out her heart and her “regrets” at never having children.

“I know, for example, that not being a mother means there is a part of me which remains unused, a love that will be forever unexpressed. I know that what any mother describes as the most profound love she has ever known is, to me, a locked door — there is so much love I will never be able to give, wisdom and understanding I cannot share, shelter and solace I cannot provide.”

I admire for having the guts to say that, and I know she’s right, no matter how much I try to convince myself otherwise. There are a million ways to substitute for not having children, but none of them are really going to fill that gap. I know that; I feel that.

But, then she goes on to say:

“My regrets will always linger. My life is a poorer place for not having children, and I am less of a woman for not being a mother.”

And that’s when I want to yell, “No!! Pull yourself together, woman! You have a successful career, friends, a great life. How can you say your life is a poorer place and that you are less of a woman because you don’t have children?” Forgive me, friends, but it just comes across as feeling sorry for herself, and that doesn’t sit well with me.

And this is why I don’t want to talk about this sometimes. I don’t want to be defined by my childlessness; I don’t want to be a one-ring circus with the same act playing night after night; I don’t want to be “that poor pathetic childless woman, who never quite got over it.”

All that being said, I’m going to keep talking about it, because it’s an important topic to me, but I’m keeping an eye on myself to make sure it doesn’t become the only thing I can talk about, to make sure I don’t start feeling sorry for myself.

 

Interview with author, Dr. Ellen Walker June 23, 2011

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Ellen Walker, author of Complete Without Kids: An Insider’s Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance. Ellen is childfree by choice, and even though I am childfree by chance, we had plenty to talk about on the subjects of friendship and community, the drive for motherhood, and what to do when life doesn’t go as planned. Here’s our conversation:

Life Without Baby: How did you make the decision to be childfree?

Ellen Walker: I never spent a lot of time thinking about motherhood. I was busy with work, travel, and hobbies, and I always had partners that never wanted a family.

My current husband already had grown children, and I never felt pressure from him, this was the first time I’d really been close to a father-son relationship, and when I’d hear him on the phone, telling his son he loved him, it tugged at my heartstrings. For the first time, I began to question my decision not to have children, and suddenly I wanted a baby of my own.

After many tearful discussions and weeks of writing, talking, and contemplating, I was able to step back and analyze. I realized that if I really wanted children, I would have made it happen before.

LWB: What do you think triggered that urge?

EW: I think it’s a basic biological drive to create a child, especially in a relationship with a man. You have a primitive urge to have his baby. It’s also about not wanting to be left out of a group. When friends are having babies and people are bringing photos of children into work, you have nothing to talk about with them.

LWB: Do you find that most of your friends are also childfree?

EW: Yes. My female friends tend to be 10-20 years older because the women my own age didn’t have time for friends without kids. Their friends went to soccer games and connected because of their kids. I did seek out childfree people, but most came about through chance meetings.

LWB: How important is it to find your own community?

EW: Really important. I never thought about it until I started meeting people and got really excited when they didn’t have children. I began to seek out others. I found a childfree Meetup group and went to a few meetings. It was fun, but I realized that just being childfree does not make someone a good candidate for friendship. Now, I look for people with interests in common, and if they happen to be childfree, I nurture those relationships.

LWB: Do you ever regret your decision?

EW: Sometimes. In a way I feel as if I’ve missed a big life stage. I’ve been career driven for a long time, and I’m feeling as if I’m ready to do something else. Many women my age with children are now focusing on their careers, and I’m ready to retire. I’m trying to figure out the next stage.

If I’d been raising kids, I wouldn’t have had the energy I’ve had for other things. I’m glad I made the choice and pursued my career. I’ve had the opportunity to impact people’s lives and I’ve written a book. I wouldn’t have been able to do those things. Everyone has regrets, but luckily mine are fleeting. Mother’s Day is always hard. I recently wrote an article about it for Psychology Today, asking people to be careful about saying “Happy Mother’s Day” to every woman and to be aware that it can be a very painful day for some women, and not a happy day.

LWB: What advice would you give to someone struggling with being childfree?

EW: Let yourself go through a real grieving process, preferably with a therapist. A dream is something you’d hoped to have as a part of your identity and most likely wanted it your whole life. Losing that dream is like a death, and a formal grieving process has to include acceptance. Only then can you make a decision about where you’re going to put your energy. Then you can create a new dream, picture your future, and figure out how to make that happen.

While writing my book, I interviewed a woman in her 90s. She had never talked about her childlessness. Decades later, she still hadn’t reconciled and come-to-terms with it. She had so many strengths and talents, and had she dealt with her grief and loss, she could have embraced a new life.

LWB: It was a pleasure talking to you about your choices and hearing your insight.

EW: This is a really important issue for women of the world. We are peers for the next generation of women who may experience pressure from mothers to have grandchildren. We need to talk about this topic and be good role models for young women.

LWB: I couldn’t agree more.

To learn more about Ellen Walker, please visit her website, CompleteWithoutKids.com

 

Whiny Wednesday: I don’t want to talk about this anymore May 11, 2011

Let me just say, right up front, that I love the community of women I’ve found through this blog. I’ve really been amazed at how people are willing to rally around and help others they’ve never even met. I attribute the speed of my healing progress to this community and to having somewhere to go to talk about infertility and childlessness.

But sometimes I feel as if I just don’t want to talk about it anymore.

For the past two weeks I’ve stood up in front of a theater full of strangers and told my story. It was a fantastic experience and everyone I met was wonderful and supportive. (More about this very soon.) I know that talking about this issue is bringing it to the forefront and building understanding. People have come up to me and told me as much.

But sometimes I just want to be little old me. I don’t want to keep talking about “it.”

Recently, this article reminded me of why I don’t want to talk about “it.” Here, this writer pours out her heart and her “regrets” at never having children.

“I know, for example, that not being a mother means there is a part of me which remains unused, a love that will be forever unexpressed. I know that what any mother describes as the most profound love she has ever known is, to me, a locked door — there is so much love I will never be able to give, wisdom and understanding I cannot share, shelter and solace I cannot provide.”

I admire for having the guts to say that, and I know she’s right, no matter how much I try to convince myself otherwise. There are a million ways to substitute for not having children, but none of them are really going to fill that gap. I know that; I feel that.

But, then she goes on to say:

“My regrets will always linger. My life is a poorer place for not having children, and I am less of a woman for not being a mother.”

And that’s when I want to yell, “No!! Pull yourself together, woman! You have a successful career, friends, a great life. How can you say your life is a poorer place and that you are less of a woman because you don’t have children?” Forgive me, friends, but it just comes across as feeling sorry for herself, and that doesn’t sit well with me.

And this is why I don’t want to talk about this sometimes. I don’t want to be defined by my childlessness; I don’t want to be a one-ring circus with the same act playing night after night; I don’t want to be “that poor pathetic childless woman, who never quite got over it.”

All that being said, I’m going to keep talking about it, because it’s an important topic to me, but I’m keeping an eye on myself to make sure it doesn’t become the only thing I can talk about, to make sure I don’t start feeling sorry for myself.