Since Jody created the Gateway Women Reignite Weekend in 2012, it’s helped thousands of childless women shift the way they experience their childlessness. So what’s so special about it? And how might it help you?
Well, first of all, let me go back in time to 2012… I was still in my own early days of recovery from childlessness and this blog was just one year old. Being around families and children was incredibly painful for me and, on many days my grief felt so familiar that I presumed this might just be what being middle-aged felt like! I struggled to get up in the mornings, my career had stalled, my friendships were in free fall, my marriage was over, my romantic life was a disaster and the only thing that seemed to give me any pleasure at all was cake and red wine…
I think that should I ever write an autobiography I’ll call that time, ‘The Carbohydrate Years’!
The idea that I had something to offer other childless women, that I had any kind of ‘wisdom’ to impart, was laughable to me! However, having been part of a 12-Step program called Al-Anon (for friends and family of alcoholics and addicts) I had experienced first-hand the power of peer-to-peer healing, no experts needed – in the ‘rooms’ we all had more expertise in the issue that you’d ever want… As a member of Al-Anon I’d help to organise meetings (members take turns to do so) and I found that it was a kind of leadership I felt OK with because it wasn’t about me, it was about ‘us’. I wasn’t expected to have all the answers, none of us were – we were just a group of strangers brought together because we were each struggling with different versions of the same awful situation. We learned that just by being there for each other, by giving each other the gift of our full attention as we listened to each other’s stories whilst withholding judgement, comments and advice, healing could happen; change could happen. It was this experience, along with my then ongoing training to become a psychotherapist (thankfully completed!) that gave me the nerve to believe that if I could create a robust structure within a confidential and safe space, childless women could help each other heal too.
That first Reignite Weekend in 2012 had nine participants but it felt like a football stadium of people to me! I was terrified that I’d bitten off more than I could chew but, emboldened by the courage and determination of the women sitting around me, I got through it; we got through it. I’m still in touch with many of those pioneering women all these years later and their lives have continued to unfold in positive (and surprising) ways, which they attest grew out of the new direction their life took that weekend.
So what is the Reignite Weekend?
The Reignite Weekend is a mixture of truth-telling and deep emotional healing, of challenging new ideas and taboo-busting discussions, of sisterhood and friendship, creativity and kindness, empathy and recognition.
Yes, there are a few tears, but they are healing tears, tears of connection, rather than the tears of silent despair so many of us have sobbed in private over the years. And many of them are tears of laughter too, of being understood — finally.
The content and experience of the weekend has the capacity to create the framework you need to start thinking and acting differently in your life. To begin to take pride in your identity as a woman again. It gives you the tools and the companions you need to start creating your ‘Plan B’ – a meaningful and fulfilling future without children.
Saturday’s focus is looking at the present and the past; on Sunday we look at the present and the future. The two days together create a powerful alchemy that has been transforming lives around the world for a decade now. It’s run more than fifty times now and shows no sign of stopping! In 2020, due to the pandemic, we created an online zoom version of the Reignite Weekend and that also packs a powerful punch, so much so that we plan to continue running both versions as it makes the experience accessible to more childless women.
The friendships and connections that are made on this weekend are lasting ones too – some participants from each weekend continue to meet up at regular ‘Reignite Reunions’, and deep, soul-sustaining friendships have been formed. This weekend really does change lives.
One of the unexpected collateral losses of childlessness is the way it affects our friendship group, so the power of having a new ‘tribe’ cannot be underestimated. When my own friendship group was in free fall, I presumed that I was just rubbish at friendships; I had no idea how common this experience is and so these days I term it the hashtag #FrienshipApocalypse of childlessness. Being involuntarily childless can rip apart those relationships that form the structure of our lives: within our family, our old friendships, our colleagues, our intimate partners and ourselves. The Reignite Weekend can be an important step towards changing that for the better – both with our existing relationships and going forward into creating new ones.
Having worked personally with over a thousand women, and seen again and again how this weekend changes lives, I wanted to create a way for more of you to experience its power and the magic. And so in 2017 I started to train others to lead it and now in 2022 we have a team of ten wonderful licensed Gateway Women Facilitators in the UK, EU, USA and Australia, who have each successfully delivered workshops, both online and in-person. The feedback from the women who attended these workshops shows that the Reignite Weekend, in safe, well-trained hands, continues to deliver a powerful, safe and fun way to move forward with your childlessness.
My mission for Gateway Women is to help as many childless women as possible. And that doesn’t just mean in my lifetime. I want to create a safe space for personal healing (the Reignite Weekend) as well as a global friendship, support and advocacy network (Gateway Women) that will both change the experience of childlessness for each of us, and for the generation of childless women that will follow us. It’s time for the childless liberation movement.
I don’t write about the workshops here very often, so if you’d like to know more about when one is happening near you, the best way to do so would be to sign up for my monthly update email. Don’t worry, I’m not one of those people who sends out loads of emails – you don’t have the time to read them and I don’t have the time to write them! You can also check the workshop calendar here for those coming up soon and if you’d like to know more about future ones that haven’t yet been scheduled, do feel free to email me.
And until then, I’d like to introduce you to the ten exceptional women that I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know over the last few years, each of whom have trained with us to become licensed Gateway Women facilitators: you can find out more about each of them here.
With hugs and in sisterhood,
On the first morning I was looking around at everyone and wondering how on earth we could have shared stories, everyone looked so ‘together’ and ‘normal’. But with Jody’s expert leadership we gently got to know little bits about each other and by the end of the weekend we had become a tribe. For me these relationships have something extra and deeper than my online relationships and I know that we will keep in touch for a long time.
Jody carefully manages everything with an amazing eagle eye and so she was there for me when I needed a bit of extra support, which took me by surprise because I felt I was already moving-on and that I had dealt with some things.
So I was really surprised at how much I got out of the weekend overall, and if you are wondering if you are not sure if you need it I would definitely say give it a go; you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Because I got things I didn’t know I needed or expected, part of me thinks I would even do it again; I would definitely go to a follow-up event.
Dearest Helen – thank you so much for your testimonial – it means the world to know how much you got out of our Reignite Weekend together. It’s lovely to know that you’re open to more GW events too! Hugs, Jody x
I want to express my sincere gratitude to Jody for the inspirational and healing weekend of fellowship that the reignite weekend provided for me. It was such a comfort to be in a room full of other women who were compassionate, understanding, and non-judgmental of each other. Participating in a reignite weekend really helped me move forward along my journey of allowing myself to grieve and it helped me learn to recognize that what I had been feeling and experiencing was all normal. I realized that the shame I had been carrying around about being childless, and my feelings of inadequacy were feelings that it was time for me to start letting go of, and it was time for me to begin rebuilding the self-confidence inside of myself that I once had. Since the weekend I have been able to allow myself to enjoy bonding with my new twin nieces, and I have begun to share in the joy of friends having children. It didn’t happen overnight, and it is still a journey, for I still have times where I find myself feeling “less than” other women because of my inability to have children. I have learned to let myself feel what I need to feel, take a deep breath, and then take a step forward. I’m very happy to say that my wound is beginning to become a scar.
Hi Jessica – thank you so much for your lovely words. I am so very happy to hear how things have shifted from you since the weekend. It’s fantastic to hear that you feel easier around your twin nieces. I hope that things continue to move forward positively for you. Hugs, Jody x
Wow! I wish I had stumbled upon you years ago! It’s taken me ten years to even begin to look for help as I found the process of sharing my experience too raw. I am beginning to move on and looking at new chapters in mine and my husband’s life without children. Thank you so much for what you are offering. I’ve cried quite a bit reading different articles and I know it sounds cliche but the feeling of realising I am not the only one who feels like this is so empowering.
Hi Sarah – I’m so happy you’ve found us and it’s not at all a cliche to feel empowered at realising you’re not alone. It’s SUCH a relief! I really recommend joining our private online community as the next step – so much MORE healing/connection/empathy and sisterhood awaits you. Hugs, Jody x
Thank you so much for your leadership in the childless community, Jody! Finding your Plan B is so important, and you are doing such an amazing job to help CNBC women do just that!
Hi Brandi – thank you! I love what you are doing too and really enjoy your blog. Hugs, Jody x
Sadness. All my friends had children and now grandchildren. I feel incomplete and wish I could have been a mum and enjoyed caring for my children. A successful career does not compensate for not having your own children
Hi Val – the sadness is part of the grief of childlessness and indeed can run very deep and I’m so sorry that you are feeling it so strongly. A career, however fulfilling, cannot fill the hole left by children if we wanted to be mothers, as long as we are grieving that loss. However, it is possible, I’ve found peace and I’ve worked with many other women who have also done so and so I no longer feel ‘incomplete’. A meaningful life without children IS possible and the Reignite Weekend can be a great first step on the journey of healing towards that place of peace. My hope for you, and for all of us struggling with this loss, is that we all find peace and joy in the life that chose us, even if we did not choose it. Hugs, Jody x