When I was a kid I dreamed that I would do something to change the world. I wanted to be one of the first female astronauts or I wanted to create a new type of math (I knew it would be called “subvision’ but didn’t get a lot further than that).
Somewhere along the way I got an inkling that those things would never happen. Strangely, my debilitating fear of heights and poor math skills never deterred me in either goal…..I was still forging forward.
At ten years, old (you know…. when I was creating new mathematical formulas), I didn’t really know what changing the world meant. Now I do.
I first met Jody Day while walking into a Cleveland hotel. We were both in town for the Not Mom Summit. She was the keynote speaker and I was the lunatic fan who ran up to her like she was one of the Beatles. For many years I had been overcome by grief…..feeling like I was immersed in pudding, drowning more every day. Then her book arrived.
Welcome. Pull up a chair.
Grab yourself a cup of tea or something stronger and make yourself comfortable.
Things are about to get a whole lot easier – Jody Day
The morning of her keynote she came to sit at our table. (Craig warned me to “be cool and don’t act like a goofball when you meet her”). I think Exhibit A Stalking Picture proves I didn’t listen.
She started her keynote and the room went silent. Her reputation is well known as someone who started speaking for the childless when no one else was. We were all anxious to hear what she had to say.
The numbers are staggering. Twenty percent of the women in the US will make it to their 40’s without having children. Jody acknowledged the heartbreak. “Yep. This sucks. It really, really sucks”. But then she asked the game changer. Very simply. “What’s next?” How did we want to live our lives?
Back then, I hadn’t gotten that far, honestly. I was still knee deep in refusing-to-acknowledge-cry-on-the-inside-like-a-winner grief. But, I’ll bite. How DO I want to live my life? Was the baby story going to be my only story? Was that my legacy?
She acknowledged that unwanted childlessness was painful and horrible… but she went far beyond that.
Those in the room looked around inquisitively. What!? Wait. What is happening? We had all been focusing on our individual internal grief (as we should have been) that we never even realized what was happening to the collective “us”. As a society, are childless women treated differently? Do company policies uniformly impact their employees or do they lean toward benefitting those with children? She tossed out a few examples that most had never considered. Unfair utilization of PTO? Are benefits equal? Does a company contribute more money toward healthcare for a family than they do for a childless person. Is that right?
This really got those in the room spinning. Nahhhhh, this isn’t a thing, is it!?
The story, all names and characters, and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, building or products is intended or should be inferred. <ha! This is what they put after Law & Order.
Susie needs to leave work at 2pm because she just learned her child broke his arm at school. She packs up her things and walks out the door…. everyone wishes her well and says “I hope little Johnny is ok”.
Jamie doesn’t have any children. She just bought a new house and needs to leave work at 2pm because she just learned her contractor is having an issue with her countertops.
A few weeks later, Susie’s son is in a holiday program at school. She needs to leave at 3 to get him dressed and ready for the evening. He will be dressed as a cow. Her co-workers say “Awwwww..a cow”
A few weeks later, Jamie needs to leave at 3 because she is going to meet with a decorator. Her co-workers say “Uh, why doesn’t she schedule this after work?”.
Susie’s daughter was accepted to cheerleader camp. Rah! Rah! Sis Boom Ba! Susie has a lot of work to do before the camp starts…buying outfits, getting lunch money for her, etc. She missed a few hours of work this week. Her son reinjured his arm and the project she’s been leading is starting to fall behind schedule. She is starting to feel overwhelmed. “We need to take Susie to lunch. She is juggling 20 things right now”.
Jamie started painting her kitchen and bathrooms a few weeks ago. She is still fighting with the contractor about the countertops. She missed a few hours of work this week . The project she’s been leading is falling behind schedule. She is starting to feel overwhelmed. “Jamie’s project is not on schedule. She needs to get her priorities in order. She took off a few weeks ago to go meet a decorator and now she just missed again?!”
Who is a better employee? Susie or Jamie? They’ve both missed the same amount of hours. Both of their projects are falling behind. But does your company’s leadership or the office gossipers consider these scenarios to be the same? Or….is Susie a “working mom trying to take care of her kids ” and Jamie is considered “self-centered and not a team player”.
What about this?
Susie sends an email “Attention company. Abby in accounting is having a baby soon. Let’s shower her with love! If everyone on this email gives $10 we can buy her the <insert random baby crap available at Babies R Us>. Yay!”
Jamie sends an email “Attention company. I am saving for a trip to Italy. If everyone on this email gives $10 I can buy my ticket before the rates go up! Yay!”
Huh. Not really the same, is it. Is it more socially acceptable to ask co-workers to donate to a baby gift as opposed to donating to another co-worker’s dream vacation fund? In fact, in some places (every southern place I’ve ever been) it would be considered tacky.
This conversation is about awareness and action. Things like the above are happening in our workplaces and it is up to us to stop it. Because we now know that childless women may get treated differently…..(In all fairness, companies may not even realize it….which is why we need to talk about it.)
This conversation is NOT about asking people to donate to childless women. If you believe it is, then either you missed the entire point or I explained it poorly. Over the years, I’ve happily donated to a zillion baby showers and bridal showers and will continue to do it.
A great keynote will make you think differently, act differently, feel differently….expand your thinking. Jody Day is a great keynote. She has impacted countless women from around the world. And now, she will make an even bigger impact….and I am THRILLED and honored to be a part of it.
Early next year, I will join 9 other women from around the world where Jody will teach us to facilitate her Gateway-Women’s Reignite workshop. This is the same workshop I attended in February and experienced the 10 most powerful minutes of my life. This workshop had a massive impact on me and helped remove the heavy feeling I had for so long (like drowning in pudding)…and now, she wants to expand the reach and by extension, the healing. She is giving us a chance to impact other women’s lives. THIS will be our legacy.
Gateway-Women.com describes Jody Day as the Voice of the Childless in the UK. She is much more than that. She is changing the world. And, she is a pudding remover. That is a big deal, people!
I find myself getting immersed again…but this time, not pudding….but in the excitement of Living. This. Life. The childless life.
For more information about the Reignite Workshops or the NEWLY launched Baton Rouge Childless Women Meet Up (1st Saturday of every month), visit Gateway-Women.com.
Well….and probably without the drugs and rock and roll…..but I’m not making any promises.
In early October, I and a zillion* other childless women (*numbers not confirmed yet) will descend upon Cleveland for the annual Not Mom Summit.
The 2017 Not Mom Summit….yeah, one actually exists.
For most of us who have been to a conference, we know how it works. Keynote speaker, concurrent sessions, lots of networking, probably a lil drinking. The website promises to connect, inform and empower the growing community of women without children by chance or by choice. Sounds like a laughfest, right?
Why am I going?
Because misery loves company? No. Because I want to cry in front of bunch of strangers? No. Because we are all a bunch of lonely, desperate women? Wrong again.
I talked to one of my closest friends (she is also a childless). She contrasted the difference in how she and I are both handling this life. She doesn’t like to talk about anything related to childlessness because she finds the whole thing devastating. And, as you know….people are morons…. so the conversation about childlessness never ends well for the childless one. So she has created a cocoon for herself to insulate her from the pain of the outside world.
Remember, that childlessness never ends. It is more obvious when someone is in childbearing years and cannot get pregnant at that moment….but …..but not having a child means not walking someone into their first day of kindergarten, watching them learn to play a musical instrument or watching them attend their first homecoming, consoling them during their first breakup, watching them grow and be a better you than you could ever be (and…get a few of the bad qualities, of course!)….it means not watching my child have a child of her own….
It. Never. Ends.
Years ago when this first started it felt like every piece of bad news was a sharp knife and I couldn’t catch my breath. The blade on each experience/test/failed attempt got longer, sharper and was pushed in with much more force than the last. In the past, my response to the sharp blades were still met with anger and sheer determination that I would overcome this. I would win this war. I would have a child. As time passed (along with my hope), the blade seems to have dulled a little and only cuts me once in a while. As a childless woman ages, the support system changes. The “YOU CAN DO THIS!”, “YOU CAN BEAT INFERTILITY” cheerleaders are replaced with those on the sidelines, sadly in the realization that this is it. And the cheers stop. And the pity starts.
I am 49…so I am muchhhh further along than many women who are just starting this journey. While I can’t say that I am an expert at the childless life, I am an expert at my childless life. When I started this blog I was still whispering the term “childless”….I knew that I identified with the group but was still struggling…..now, I am more of a “scream it from the rooftops to let other women know its ok” kinda gal.
So….uh…why am I going?
Remember my friend from earlier? She didn’t want to talk about it….as I grow stronger, my network of childless women grows stronger. My tribe grows stronger. Now I am bringing it up as opposed to cowering in a corner waiting for someone to ask me if I have kids. Wanna know what a loser I am!? I made freaking cards…. because I keep running into people who have been touched by childlessness and infertility….and I want them to know they are not alone.
So, will it be fun? Heaven knows there are tears on the other side of the plane ride but I am ready for it. I am ready to meet keynote speaker Jody Day in person and tell her how she helped change my life. I am also ready to bond with women exactly like me. It could get crazy up in here! A few women…a few glasses of wine….stories about hysterosalpingograms….we will be out. of. control.
…..If my plan works, I will be making friends, sharing stories and trying to let those who couldn’t attend know what’s happening. So think Woodstock. Think Oscars. Only different.