Klara had an interesting post about feeling ignored because she didn’t have children. It’s something those of us who live a no kidding life have all experienced this at some time or other. We find ourselves ignored, as people fawn over those with children, engaging in animated conversations about ages, school, etc, obviously finding an easy, common bond.
I remember being at a friend’s house for the Naming Day of her children. My husband and I were chatting with another couple who didn’t have kids. Our mutual no kidding state wasn’t why we were chatting – they were just the only other couple there we had met before, we liked them, and we managed to find things to talk about. Then another guy arrived, someone we’d also met before – my husband had actually been to school with him – but didn’t know especially well. He was welcomed into the conversation, with the opener “so what have you been up to lately?” He started listing off all the things he was doing with his children, adding in comments like "you know how it is with kids." We all looked at him. He tailed off, muttered an excuse, and vanished. Presumably to find some parents to talk about car-pooling and soccer and homework.. It was the most blatant example I've encountered of someone who had lost all powers of conversation. Actually, now I can look back and laugh at his discomfort. But I remember, at the time, feeling quite insulted that he didn’t even bother to stay and talk to us about anything else. Sadly, once the topic of children is off the table, many people really can’t talk about much else.
This is understandable I guess. Their heads are full of the lives and their kids, with no room or time or inclination (I think that inclination is an important factor in this) to consider other issues. And so they have nothing else to talk about. In the same way that part of my extended family (uncles, aunts, cousins) cannot in any way relate to my life. They’re mostly hard-working rural people, and then there’s me – no kids, lived overseas when I was 17, then again later, university educated, travelled extensively for business and for pleasure, live in the big smoke, etc. They struggle to find a common point of reference, and always have. I understand that. If I’d had kids, that would have been an easy bonding point, a common point of reference.
But you know, I wonder how that would have made me feel? I’ve never enjoyed stereotyping, and always wanted to be seen for who I am. I’ve always been offended if I’ve been ignored because I’m a woman, or if assumptions have been made that I think a particular way because I’m a woman. (Yes, I do think more like a woman, but it doesn’t mean I can’t understand maths either, or don't want to be independent!) Yes, I acknowledge that if I had been a mother that would be part of who I am, and an important part. But I always felt it would still only be a part of me, that motherhood wouldn’t define me in the same way that infertility doesn’t define me now. I’m more than that, broader and deeper. And so if this friend of a friend, or my relatives, felt more able to talk to me because I had kids, it wouldn’t actually change anything other than a brief conversation. They still wouldn’t be able to talk to me about my life, to learn about me, to find the wonderful person they’re missing out on! They still wouldn’t know me. And that's their loss.