Navigating Workplace Challenges

By Lisa Manterfield
Young Businesswoman Standing with Two Young Business ExecutivesDuring my years of trying to conceive, I worked in the corporate world. I managed a department of about eight people. When I first took the position, only one member of my staff had children. By the end of two years, only two of us remained childless. I had three pregnant women in my department at one point, and every new announcement was followed by “It’s your turn next.” Of course, my turn never came.

There are so many challenges in the workplace when you don’t have children. There are cubicles festooned with photos of children, lunch groups dominated by kid talk, and family-oriented company picnics. There’s also the challenge of some parents using their parental responsibilities as an excuse to bend the rules and not pull their weight. And, of course, there are the inevitable pregnancy announcements and subsequent baby showers.

What are some of the workplace challenges you face and how have you found ways to navigate them?

It Got Me Thinking…About Invisible Losses

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

IGMTI’ve been thinking a lot lately about the invisible losses that come with being childfree-not-by-choice. My list includes:

• Never being able to look into my father’s, husband’s, or own eyes in another human being.

• Never having the pleasure of hearing someone say “She’s just like you at that age.”

• Never getting to throw a child’s birthday party with all the silly frills, such as a magician, balloon artist, or bubble-making machine.

• Never getting to quietly take pride in my child’s achievement.

• Never being able to watch my grown child pass on to his child the traditions, rituals, and stories I taught him.

In her book Rocking the Life Unexpected, the amazing Jody Day adds her own list of invisible losses followed by this line:

If you take the time to think about it all in one go, which is more than most of us are ever likely to do because of the breathtaking amount of pain involved, it’s a testament to our strength that we’re still standing at all.

“It’s a testament to our strength that we’re still standing at all.” That line took my breath away the first time I read it, and it reminds me that grieving and healing is a long and circuitous journey.

I know it’s painful. I know sometimes the “easy” route of denial is appealing. But today I encourage you to set aside some time to acknowledge what you’ve lost. I think that is the first step toward letting it go.

If you need help working through the process of grieving, I encourage you to check out the many resources available to you, starting with Lisa’s workbook series. If one book or author doesn’t speak to you, don’t give up; find another. It’s what I’ve been doing, and I promise you it helps.

 

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

Whiny Wednesday

Whiny_WednesdayThis week’s topic is a tough one.

Any unexpected pregnancy announcement can be hard to handle, but it becomes even more tricky when the new arrival is a family member. So, this week’s Whiny Wednesday topic is:

Trying to be happy about a birth in the family


As always, any topic is open for whining, so let it fly.

Meeting Other Members

By Lisa Manterfield

I’ve had several e-mails recently asking for information about regional in-person groups for women who are childless-not-by-choice. Unfortunately, I’ve never had anything valuable to offer as no such groups existed, but thanks to Jody Day at Gateway Women, they do now.

Here’s a post that Jody wrote on her blog about the meet-ups she’s set up so far. In there, she also includes links to the meet-up sites for each country.

My experience with meeting other women in a “childless-not-by-choice” group has been a feeling of belonging and not having to worry about being asked if I have children and enduring one of those long, awkward pauses when I say I don’t. I’ve been able to talk openly about shared experiences and also chatted about all kinds of other topics having nothing at all to do with being childless. It’s a great opportunity to find common ground in a safe environment.

Do let me know if you go along to one of these meet-ups. I’d love to hear how it went.

It Got Me Thinking…About Evil Fantasies

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

IGMTIt was a dark and stormy period in my life. I was single, alone, lonely, and hoping to turn my close-knit group of friends into a contemporary family unit. One of those friends, Karen*, was going through a particularly ugly period with her siblings and felt like she also needed to redefine family. So she presented me with an idea that seemed to partially solve both our problems:

“If something happens to me and my husband,” she said, “what would you think of being our children’s guardian?”

No brainer. I loved Karen and would do anything to help her. I also loved her kids, and knew I would step in and do my very best to raise them well.

Plus, instant family! I started to plan out various scenarios with me in the starring role. The comforter, the mentor, the auntie admired by all for courageously and selflessly raising someone else’s children. The proud substitute-mom at soccer games, choir performances, and graduations. The doting grandmother…. Whoa. I completely glossed over the tragic demise of two close friends.

You’ll be relieved to know that Karen and her husband are alive and well, and their kids are now in college. Karen reconciled with her siblings and designated one of her brothers and his wife as potential guardians. All was as it should be.

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. I knew it was wrong, but those evil fantasies were tantalizing, alluring, even comforting. Getting a ready-made family seemed simpler (and possibly more possible) than my plan for dating, finding a suitable husband/father, and following the traditional route to family making (which, of course, didn’t pan out).

Every so often a mom friend will complain to me about her kids and say, “Do you want them?” and I’ll think, Be careful what you wish for.

 

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

*Not her real name.

 

Whiny Wednesday

Whiny_WednesdayMr. Fab and I got rid of our TV when we first moved in together and—apart from on a handful of occasions—we haven’t missed it at all.

One of the things I definitely don’t miss is the topic of this week’s Whiny Wednesday:

Kid-centric advertising

I’m sure you know what I mean—those ads selling products you might actually use, but which start out with lines like, “We know your family is important to you that’s why you use [fill in the blank product].”

It’s Whiny Wednesday and open season for any topic that’s on your mind.

Finding You In the New Year

By Lisa Manterfield

MP900444514This is absolutely my favorite time of year. The madness (and sometimes, sadness) of the holidays is behind us and it’s time to look forward to a brand new year.

I love the New Year. I love making plans, taking a little time to do some walking and dreaming, creating a picture of what I want my life to look like the following year. I always set some pretty lofty goals and sometimes I even reach them! But the thrill for me is not in checking accomplishments off my list (although I enjoy that, too) but in taking a deep breath and realigning my life to how I’d like it to be.

Among the cards I received over the holidays were a several (I was surprised how many) photo cards from friends who are also childfree. I really enjoyed seeing their adventures and travels, and although I’ll admit to a touch of envy, I was also glad to see photographic evidence that these women had worked their way through their loss and grief and were living life to the fullest again. Their photos also prompted me to move some of my old passions (travel and hiking, for example) higher up my list next year.

If you’re in the thick of grief, looking ahead to a rosy future can feel impossible, and even when the healing begins, you can sometimes find that you’ve lost touch with who you really are and who you’d like to be again.

One of the most encouraging weeks during one of last year’s support calls was after we’d discussed the topic of finding yourself again. So many participants said they’d pushed aside old passions during the baby quest, and it was so fun to see all the amazing things people had once loved to do that were about to be dusted off again. Some people loved singing, reading, writing, traveling, even trampolining. Their ideas made me think about bringing some of my own former hobbies back into my life again. I’d like to encourage you to do the same.

If you’re thinking there’s no way you’re getting on a pair of rollerskates again, I suggest thinking about how your old favorite hobby made you feel; what was it about rollerskating (for example) that you loved so much. Is there a way to recreate those old feelings in a new hobby? If your rollerskates gave you freedom and if you loved the feel of the wind in your hair, can you get that by riding a bike or taking a long drive with the windows open?

As we step into this brand new year, I encourage you to think about the “you” that got lost and to look for ways to find her again.

It Got Me Thinking…About Empowerment in the Media

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

 SignOver the past couple of months, it feels like childfree women have been stepping out of the shadows and speaking up—quite publicly. Several friends have asked me, “What do you think of all this?”

I think the question should be, “How do you feel?” and my answer would include: supported, acknowledged, comforted, encouraged, vindicated, empowered.

I applaud these women for making their—and our—voices heard. I am encouraged that, in doing so, they negate the shame so many of us have been forced to feel for our choices and/or our circumstances. I think, as a society, we are making good progress.

Here’s a sampling of some of the articles. If you have come across other good news, please share links in the Comments.

25 Women on Childlessness

Jennifer Aniston on Pressure to Have Kids: “It’s rude, insulting, and ignorant”

I’m 40. I Don’t Want to Be a Mom. Now What?

 

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

Whiny Wednesday: Why Don’t You Just Adopt?

Whiny_WednesdayHappy New Year!

Welcome back. I hope you survived the holidays and found a way to celebrate in your own way.

I’m kicking off this year’s Whiny Wednesday with a hot topic and I’d love to hear your thoughts:

“Why don’t you just adopt?”

I wrote a post about my answer to this question here, but I’d love to here what you say (or would like to say) when people ask this thoughtless question.

I’m “Officially Amazing” But Who Cares?

By Lisa Manterfield

Ever since I was as young girl besotted by the weekly children’s program “Record Breakers”, I’ve had a dream of making it into the Guinness Book of World Records. I’d fantasize about some of the crazy things I could do, given that I wasn’t born exceptionally tall or flexible or fast.

As the years passed, I let go of this childish fantasy and got on with life, but last year, in the middle of re-evaluating my life and setting some fun goals for myself, I created a Bucket List. Along with becoming a New York Times Best Seller (currently working on this) and growing my hair long one last time (working on this also), I included “Be a Guinness World Record Holder” on my list. Then, last summer I got the chance to go for that goal.

I attended the World Domination Summit in Portland and participated in the Great Namaste, an attempt to break the record for the world’s longest yoga chain. You can see the video of the event here.

WDS 2014 | The Great Namaste from Chris Guillebeau on Vimeo.

We succeeded in beating the existing record, but we still had to wait for verification from Guinness. Four months later, we got the news. We did it. I was officially a World Record Holder. And to prove it, I could order (for a small fee) a certificate of accomplishment.

I was so excited at the prospect of have my World Record Holder certificate, but as I sat down to place my order, I had a thought. “What’s the point? What am I going to do with this certificate?”

If I were a mother, I’d do it for my kids. I’d be excited and proud. Maybe my kids would have taken me and my certificate to Show and Tell, where I could have shared what I’d learned about setting and achieving goals, no matter how far-fetched, and about the importance of making life fun.

But I don’t have that.

I sat there imagining my certificate arriving. Maybe I’d show it to Mr. Fab and maybe he’d be appropriately impressed, but then what? Would I frame it and hang it on my wall? Or would I stuff it in a drawer and forget about it?

I almost canceled the order, but then I thought, “Sod it!” I don’t need to do this for anyone else but me. I’m proud of me and that’s enough. Yes, maybe it will get stuffed in a box, but maybe when I’m old I’ll look back fondly and remember that day. Maybe whoever gets to rummage through my stuff when I’m gone will find it and be surprised. Who knows? And who cares?

I remember writing somewhere once, “I’m not dead; I’m infertile” and I need to remember that mantra. Just because I didn’t have children doesn’t mean I don’t still get to have a life. And when I look back on that life, I want it to be full and amazing—officially or otherwise.