As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods
When I wrote to thank Jen for sharing her story, I added one of the big things I’ve learned over the years is there are LWB women all over the world who have been suffering in silence and often shame. Then we read one of Our Stories and realize we’re not crazy, we’re not alone.
Jen understood completely. “I feel my story is taboo and isn’t talked about often,” she replied. “For years I looked for others who I could walk with in my journey,” she said. “A lot of times I don’t share what I am going through because people assume I can magically change my life for the better. I’ve heard ‘divorce and date, adopt, fool around,’ etc. I worked hard for a secure home, but just don’t feel it’s safe anymore.”
Finding LWB has helped her, and I am so grateful that we have this safe space where all our voices can be heard and supported.
Here’s Jen’s story. If you can relate to it, I hope you’ll offer her words of compassion and encouragement in the Comments.
LWB: Describe your dream of motherhood.
Jen: Loving and mentoring my children. Listening when they need someone to care.
LWB: Are you childfree by choice, chance, or circumstance?
Jen: Circumstance. My husband cheated while we attempted. During and since then, he has said I’m physically the reason why I will never have children.
LWB: What’s the hardest part for you about not having children?
Jen: I work with teenagers during the school year, younger children during the summer. I have a gift working with kids, how to talk to them, listen to them, encourage them. All that, and I can’t have my own child.
LWB: Where are you on your journey now?
Jen: Roller coaster of all the above. There are days when I’m at my best. Maybe it’s making my sister, her husband, and their toddler happy. Maybe it’s elementary school kids during the summer day camp saying they liked my choice in songs. Many teenagers at the high school where I work at call me their “campus mom”. It’s an honor I don’t take lightly.
Then there are days when I’m told I am inadequate to have a child. Maybe it’s because of a wrong decision I made, or more often I’m told with disgust that I’m overweight (size 12–14) with a family history of diabetes.
LWB: What was the turning point for you?
Jen: A couple years ago I came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be best (maybe closer to worse) for my child to have my husband as a father, and it was best to give away any baby items I had in the house. I had to give up or be brought further into depression.
LWB: Who is your personal chero (a heroine who happens to be childfree)? What about her inspires you?
Jen: A coworker of mine is childless due to cancer (now in remission). She believes in God and she knows her gift is to mentor kids. She has perfected listening to teenagers, and giving them advice and encouragement so they can make better decisions. These teenagers know they have someone who cares. [My coworker has helped me] realize I have that same gift with kids of different ages that I work with throughout the year. I remind them of their value and how important they are.
LWB: How do you answer “Do you have kids?”
Jen: Politely say “No,” and if they ask why, come up with a reason appropriate for the audience. They mean well, so it isn’t right to take my frustration out on them.
How do you answer “Do you have kids?” Are you sarcastic or flippant? Does the word “No” tumble out with ease, or do you dissolve into a puddle of tears? Has your answer evolved? We’d love to hear about your journey, wherever you are on your path toward acceptance, plus we’d like to support you. Please visit the Our Stories page to get more information and the questionnaire, and consider sharing your story with women who truly understand what you’re going through.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is getting ready to tell her own story. The Mother of All Dilemmas follows her journey of pursuing being a single mother then embracing a life without children, and explores the reasons our society still presumes to calculate a woman’s worth based on whether or not she’s a mother. Keep an eye on LifeWithoutBaby.com for announcements about the book’s release.