It Got Me Thinking…About Being Blessed With Children

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods 

Girl ThinkingI’m not a Catholic, but I have attended numerous services to support friends in their faith journeys and I am familiar with the vow in wedding ceremonies that asks, basically, “If you are blessed with children, will you raise them in the Catholic faith?” (“We will.”) It was an unpleasant surprise, then, when recently I attended a beautiful wedding mass and the priest, in my humble opinion, went too far.

“There are many here who are eager for you to bear fruit—as soon as possible!…May you soon become co-creators and bring many children into the world…Now that you are husband and wife, we look forward to your becoming parents…When you have your children….”

I get that the parents of the bride and groom are eager for grandchildren, but as the calls continued for my friends to procreate, I got uncomfortable, sad, and, well, angry. The kicker for me was when the priest invited us to pray for this beautiful young couple to produce babies asap. Oh, I prayed for them alright, but my prayer went something like this:

Dear God, Please be present for this wonderful man and woman. Bless their marriage. If they have a desire to have children, I pray that you spare them the heartache of infertility, miscarriages, and any other impediments to parenting. If children are not to be a part of Your plans for their future, please be a comfort and guide to them, and please soften the hearts of their family members.

I’m rankled whenever I hear someone say that “it’s not God’s will” or “you aren’t faithful enough” or some other condemnation for why good people are not “blessed” with children. I know in my heart that none of these statements are true, yet they can be so hurtful. I hope and pray that my newlywed friends never have to be at the receiving end of this kind of pain.

I’d like to hear from you. What does your church have to say about this? How do you feel about wedding vows that call for bringing children into the world? And most of all, how has your faith helped you in your journey through life without babies?

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with being childfree. 

Whiny Wednesday: Making Friends

Whiny_WednesdayThis week’s Whiny Wednesday topic comes from a reader and is ripe for a rant and perhaps some ideas.

She writes:

“I still haven’t figured out how to make friends with people my own age (40s) who have children. I often feel disposable, or okay to invite to things when it suits them. I’m a thoughtful, caring person who deserves better.”

What do you think about this? It’s Whiny Wednesday, so let it all out.

P.S. You’ve perhaps already noticed that the comments have chosen not to work today. Please bear with me while the tech whizzes work this out. I promise you extra whines as soon as it’s fixed. I may have a few of my own to add. ~Lisa

How Not to Say the Wrong Thing

By Lisa Manterfield

shhhI absolutely love this article by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman about how not to say the wrong thing to someone in crisis. I wish it was mandatory reading for everyone, and I especially wish it came with a note explaining that it applies when talking to infertiles and the childless-not-by-choice.

The gist of their Ring Theory is that the person in crisis is at the center of the ring and those next closest to the person occupy subsequent rings. In the case of someone coming to terms with not having children, she would be at the center, her spouse or partner on the next ring, perhaps closest family and friends on the next, and more distant family, coworkers, and acquaintances beyond that.

The rule is that that if people have something mean or insensitive or opinionated to say, they say it to someone on a bigger ring. When speaking to someone on a smaller ring, they can only listen or—if they must say something—offer help, support, or comfort. No advice, no miracle stories, no blame or shame. No offering of their kids, no suggestions to adopt. “I’m sorry” is all that needs to be said. If they want to dump, dump outwards, not inwards.

I wish people would understand that someone who has just acknowledged she won’t ever have children is in crisis, and what she needs more than judgment and unhelpful help is for people to say to the right thing.

Great news: The final book in the Life Without Baby ebook series comes out September 22. Writing Thriving in a New Happily Ever After showed me just how far I’ve come in making peace with my childlessness. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you. It’s available now for pre-order at Amazon, along with the first three books.

It Got Me Thinking…About Shotgun Weddings

By Kathleen Guthrie

Girl ThinkingShortly after I sent out save the date cards for our wedding, I received several variations of “Didn’t know you were pregnant – har har!”

I didn’t finding this the least bit humorous, although I’m sure that is what those Jim Carrey–¬wannabes had intended. My fiancé and I had been together for four years, living together for two. We were getting married because we wanted to, not because we had to. And so what if I was pregnant? Would it make this occasion, our commitment to each other, any less solemn?

Of course, because I had finally (mostly) made peace with our decision to be childfree, our friends’ insensitive responses struck a deeper, more painful chord. What I really wanted to do was reply back by saying, “No. Sadly, pregnancy is no longer an option for me.”

But that would have been rude.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She met and married her Mr. Right in her 40s.

Whiny Wednesday: Do You Want Mine?

Whiny_WednesdayIf you’re new to the site, you might wondering what Whiny Wednesday is all about.

A few years ago, some readers commented that they couldn’t express how they felt around friends and colleagues, as they were always made to feel as if they were whining. So, we created Whiny Wednesday as a place to complain and grumble about whatever’s on your mind each week. It can be an issue surrounding living without children, or just a general grumble about life, work, family, the world.

I used to start each post with a gripe of my own, but lately I’ve found I’ve covered most of what bothers me, so I put out a call for Whiny Wednesday topics, and you, dear readers, came through! So, each week, I offer one of your suggested topics as a starting point, but as always, any topic is fair game.

So, let’s kick off with this week’s topic:

Parents who complain and complain then ask “Do you want my kids?”

Happy whining!

P.S. If you need something to cheer about instead, check this fun list of quotes from famous childfree women.

If you have a topic that hasn’t been covered yet, please drop me a line, send me ideas, or a list of ideas, and I’ll include them here. You can reach me at: lisa [at] lifewithoutbaby [dot] com.

 

Throwing a “Moving On!” Party

By Lisa Manterfield

Cork Shot Out From a Bottle of ChampagneOur private community now boasts well over 2,000 members and I’m extremely proud of the support and camaraderie we offer one another.

Periodically, someone leaves and I wish her a silent farewell and good luck. Members don’t often fill in the note about why they’re leaving, but when they do, it’s usually along the lines of “Yippee! I’m pregnant. See you later, sucka!”

Ok, it’s never like that, but you get the idea. Women generally leave Life Without Baby to pursue life with baby, and I have to admit that it always stings a little.

Recently, though, one member left and gave this wonderful reason:

“I am moving on from my identity as a childless woman.”

I wanted to throw her a party. She’s not leaving because she’s no longer a childless woman; she’s leaving because she no longer wants to carry around that label and all the stigma and resentment that can come along with it. She’s moving on, I assume, to embrace her life as a woman, with all its facets.

We play many roles in our lives and carry an assortment of identities. Sometimes those identities no longer suit us and we have to let them go. And while I’m sorry to lose a member, I truly wish her nothing but a wonderful life.

Our Stories: Ann

As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Our Stories“For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a mother,” Ann writes. “I could picture the children more clearly than I could picture any partner.” Now 49 and divorced, Ann still wonders if there is a way for her to become a mother. Here’s what she has to say.

LWB: Are you childfree by choice, chance, or circumstance?

Ann: I am childfree because my ex-husband and I had three traumatic pregnancy losses—a full-term stillbirth, a termination due to chromosomal abnormalities, and a miscarriage. We were diagnosed with infertility and found ourselves in a vulnerable enough state in our marriage that it didn’t seem right to adopt.

 

LWB: Where are you on your journey now?

Ann: I am amicably divorced. I am mostly at peace with my childless state, though I still have times when I think of adopting.

 

LWB: What was the turning point for you?

Ann: The turning point for me—and it took a long, tangled while—was realizing that my marriage and my desire to be a parent were separate. I needed to address the state of my (unhappy) marriage before I could address the idea of becoming a parent. I have never wanted to go into parenthood as a single parent, and this still mostly holds true now that I’m divorced.

 

LWB: What’s the hardest part for you about not having children?

Ann: The hardest part about not having children is that I feel as if my natural state is to be a mother, and I’m not (except to my dog and very occasionally to my nieces, nephews, and friends’ kids). This is confusing and makes me feel as if I’m denying who I really am. Then I get all worked up about why I don’t have children. My decision to not be a parent has more logical reasoning behind it than maybe it should.

 

LWB: What’s one thing you want other people (moms, younger women, men, grandmothers, teachers, strangers) to know about your being childfree?

Ann: I used to view people who were childless as kind of limited and selfish. I want the world to understand that being childfree for many of us is not by choice.  Even though we live in a world where we have a lot of choices, there are many very legitimate reasons why we remain childless. This does not mean we do not care about children as much as the next person. This does not mean we don’t or can’t understand love. I hate it when people say they didn’t understand what love was until they had children, as if those of us who don’t have children don’t know what love is. I hate hearing about groups such as Moms For or Against…whatever the cause is. Why can’t they be People For or Against…. I hate it when parenting queries are addressed only to parents, as if all the time I have spent around kids doesn’t count. I also hate the doubting part of me that worries that I am limited and selfish by not doing all I can to have kids.

 

LWB: How do you answer “Do you have kids?”

Ann: Mostly I answer “No.”  Sometimes, depending on the context and the company, I answer “None living.”

 

LWB: What is the best advice you’d offer someone else like you? (or What advice would you like to give to your younger self?)

Ann: The best advice I’d offer someone like me now is not to be too hard on yourself and to find ways to make yourself happy. It is hard to live a different life than you envisioned yourself living. Give yourself time to sort it out. There are many ways to positively influence kids without being their parent. The world needs us all—parents and non-parents.

The advice I would give my younger self is different. I would encourage my younger self to get started on the parenthood quest sooner. My older sister had a life plan: She wanted her first child by 30. I had no such plan. Perhaps if I had, my life would be different now.

Won’t you share your story with us? Go to the Our Stories page to get more information and the questionnaire.

Whiny Wednesday: Not Worthy

Whiny_WednesdayThanks to those of you who suggested Whiny Wednesday topics. If there’s something we haven’t covered yet, feel free to drop me a line.

This week’s whiny topic is:

“This happened because I am not worthy of being a mother
.”

I think this falls into the same category as “I must have done something to deserve this” and “God/the Universe/fate must have other plans for me.”

Have you had these thoughts? Did you believe them?

As always, other whines are welcome. It is Whiny Wednesday after all.

Family Jealousy

By Lisa Manterfield

Young Businesswoman Standing with Two Young Business ExecutivesAs I continue on my own journey of healing, I find it hard sometimes to write about the issues that used to cause me such discomfort. It’s amazing how the human brain can dull past pain. So I appreciate when readers contact me with ideas for topics they’d like to see discussed.

Recently, Jennifer sent me this question about jealousy within families:

“I see a lot of people post about the joy of having nieces and nephews. Well, my brother’s wife is pregnant and I’m feeling completely pushed of out the picture. It may be because I reacted with shock and sadness over their first pregnancy. But I did write a lengthy, heartfelt apology and when that resulted in a miscarriage, my husband and I were the first to make it to the hospital and we stayed 11 hours with them. Now, my sister-in-law is being really removed from me.

I really want to have the connection with my niece or nephew, but I’m afraid I won’t. And honestly, I’m jealous.

I wonder if others have similar experiences?”

A new baby in the family is a really difficult situation to navigate. There’s such a mixed bag of emotions involved. You’re trying to deal with your own grief, while also feeling alone because others don’t understand what you’re going through. Then a cause for celebration gets thrown in on top of that and, as much as you know you’re supposed to be happy for the new parents, all you can feel is resentment and jealousy that it’s not you. So, guilt and shame for being a bad sport get piled on top of that.

I also know that other people don’t know how to handle us when they have good news. I recall a friend being extremely uncomfortable about telling me she was pregnant. She dealt with it by sitting down, explaining that she knew this was difficult for me, and asking me how much or how little I wanted to know or be involved. I really appreciated her being open and it allowed me to be honest with her about how I felt. I’ve also had the experience of a friend saying, “Guess what?!” and then launching into every detail of how she found out and how it feels to be pregnant, while I sat and squirmed. Often people don’t know what to say or how best to handle us “volatile” folks, so they pull away and say nothing.

How about you? Have you experienced jealousy over new babies in the family? How have you dealt with it? Have you had a good experience with a friend or family member handling their news with aplomb?

 

If you have a topic or question you’d like to see discussed on the blog, please drop me a line. You can email me at lisa [at] lisamanterfield [dot] com or go through the Contact page.

It Got Me Thinking…About Self-Awareness

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Girl ThinkingMy friend Kim* is an amazing pediatric dentist. Not only is she highly skilled, but she is passionate about what she feels is her calling. I have always admired her and, quite honestly, have at times been envious as I see her in action, see how her patients l-o-v-e her, see how energized she is by her work. In fact, it doesn’t seem appropriate to call it “work” because she glows when she is in her element and even outside when she talks about it.

So I was stunned during a recent catching-up phone call when she announced she was letting go of her practice.

“What?! Why?”

“It sucks the life out of me, it’s just takes too much energy, I’m exhausted,” she said.

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” I said, but that wasn’t entirely what I was thinking. See, Kim now also has a one-year-old daughter. Her job hadn’t changed. She’d never found it life-sucking before, quite the contrary. No, it is being a parent that is sapping her energy and making her too tired to continue to enjoy her job. I was saddened to hear that she was choosing to sacrifice her first great love, and also to hear that she was misplacing the blame.

But while I was quick to judge, once I took a step back and looked at the big picture, what I felt was compassion. I realized this was perhaps her way—consciously or unconsciously—of making peace with her sacrifice in her own mind. I do the same thing when people ask me why I don’t want kids and I respond by joking that my dogs take all the parenting urges out of me. Oh, I wanted kids, but I didn’t get to have them, and rather than have a complete meltdown in public, I deliver a half-baked “excuse.” I could easily imagine myself telling one of those strangers, “I just don’t have the energy to be a parent” versus revealing the real and painful reasons for my childfreeness.

When I think about it from my heart, I realize Kim and I aren’t all that different. We’ve both lost something we wanted, we’ve both sacrificed big dreams, and we’ve both lied to ourselves in an effort to salve the wounds. It makes me think that if we could be more honest with ourselves, and if we could then better communicate our real feelings with each other, there would be a smaller divide between the moms and non-moms.

We’re all women, doing the best we can with the paths we’ve been given. I hope that by being aware of this, the next time I am at the receiving end of a half-truth, I will bypass judgment and instead model understanding and compassion.

*Her name and details have been changed to protect her privacy.

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