Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About Traditional Families May 22, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I grew up in a Norman Rockwell painting. White, upper-middle-class, staunchly Republican. Parents still married to each other (celebrating 50 years this summer). Dad worked for the same company for 47 years; Mom stayed home to raise three all-American kids. Look at a snapshot of any holiday celebration, and you’ll see us gathered around the dining room table, with flowers from Mom’s garden in the centerpiece, a golden turkey nesting in a great-grandmother’s platter, and everyone dressed with a smile. Picture-perfect.

The flowers, turkey, and smiles are the same in contemporary photos, but we’ve added a few new players. My brother married his college sweetheart and they introduced four beautiful daughters. My sister went off to college and came home a Democrat. Then she went off to graduate school and finally figured out she was a lesbian. A few years later, she joined her partner in a commitment ceremony, and they welcomed two boys with contributions from a sperm donor, a “donor daddy.” I was the lone ranger for many years, the only single person at the table, till I met and married my husband in my mid-40s. He is African-American, and we are childfree.

While growing up and well into adulthood, I never imagined there was any other kind of family for me outside of the traditional model that raised me. I had every expectation that I would follow in my mother’s footsteps and create a home and family in her image. I held tightly to that illusion, through many unfulfilling relationships and socially awkward encounters (“Why aren’t you married?” “Don’t you like children?”). I think it’s a miracle that my “right” family was revealed to me and that I am able to embrace it.

I would argue that our society’s definition of a “traditional” family is flawed. Certainly census statistics show that single-parent homes, adults living alone, and mixed-race families are more the norm than marketing directors would have us believe. I look down our street here in San Francisco (and, admittedly, we are a liberal and open community), and I see this reflected back to me through our neighbors’ homes where multiple generations, languages, races, and genders commingle without special notice.

Here in the childfree community, we’re often made to feel that our families are “nontraditional,” which translates to “less than” or “incomplete.” This way of thinking is so judgmental, so hurtful, and so unnecessary. If you’re single, you can create your own family among close and supportive friends. If you’re married or in a committed relationship, you know that it takes only two to make your family. Other people expand their families to include caretaking of nieces and nephews, elderly relatives and friends, or beloved pets.

The “nontraditional” extended family I am part of today is a beautiful thing, defined by love, acceptance, and respect. In my own home, I feel blessed to be one of a family of two, which we augment by sharing our table with friends who have become family. This is my family, this is my new traditional, and I think it’s perfect.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is working on a memoir about her journey to embracing life without baby.

 

Harry Potter and the end of a tradition July 16, 2011

Filed under: Current Affairs,Fun Stuff — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
Tags: , , ,

Mr. Fab and I went to see the new Harry Potter movie on Thursday night. We went to the midnight show, double-feature (Parts I & II of the Deathly Hallows), and didn’t get home until after 3:00 a.m.! We didn’t dress up as Harry and Hermione and didn’t line up to six hours ahead of time to get the best seat in the house. We didn’t go because we are Harry Potter fanatics; we went because it’s tradition.

Harry Potter is one of those quirky things that binds Mr. Fab and I together. I took him home to meet my family for the first time the summer book four came out. We lined up in town at midnight to pick up a copy, and I have a picture of him standing under my mother’s clock, holding his purchase.

We got married the year the third movie came out and we saw it on our honeymoon, dubbed into Spanish. We’ve bought every book at midnight, read them together, own copies of some in Spanish, Welsh, and Latin, and have been to every midnight opening show.

Young people interviewed after the movie said that the end of the Harry Potter movies marks the end of their childhood. They grew up on the books, and now the story has done being told, it’s time for them to move on. For us, I don’t think of it as the end of anything, just a catalog of good memories we’ve logged together. I know it’s goofy, but Harry Potter is special to us and it became a tradition and a guilty pleasure.

What traditions and guilty pleasures do you have? Is there an event that you never miss, no matter how goofy it seems to others?

P.S. happynenes, I’m envious of your visit to Harry Potter World!

 

Happy Thanksgiving November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving is a funny holiday in our house. As I didn’t grow up here, the holiday doesn’t hold any special meaning to me (even though I love the traditional turkey dinner), plus my family members are on the other side of the world and don’t celebrate it anyway. My husband’s family is close by, but his kids always go to their mother’s house and his sister and dad aren’t really the kind to sit around the big family table and celebrate together.

Usually Jose and I head out of town, but this year we didn’t quite pull our plans together in time, so we’re just going to stay home. I’m perfectly ok with these plans as we could use a few quiet days to ourselves, but somewhere inside me is an ember of an idea about how the holiday should be.

In my dream I have a long oak table laden with good food that I’ve spent the past few days creating. Around the table are all my favorite adults, talking, having intelligent conversations, and periodically glancing my way to rave about the food. When I think about a big family holiday, I think about my friends. They are the family I’ve chosen and I am thankful to have them in my life.

So I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving, including our far-flung readers who might be reading this and wondering what the ruckus is all about. I also know that the holidays can be trying for we childless and childfree peeps, so I’m moving Whiny Wednesday to tomorrow, just in case it all gets out of control.

Be well and Happy Thanksgiving to you.

 

 
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