I was at a cocktail reception last night. A couple of times a year I dig out my high heels from the back of the closet, assume the role as Executive Wife, and spend the evening shaking hands, eating things on sticks, and trying to remember the names of people’s spouses (and in some cases the names of the people themselves.) When stuck for small talk, I always turn to the subject I know will get people talking; I ask about their children or grandchildren. In many cases, I’ve known these people for many years, and I’m glad to hear updates; in others it’s a ploy. In know that all I have to do then is sit back and let them talk instead of having to come up with anything new and witty to say.
Most of the people I knew in the room have children. Some of their grown children were there. At one point in the evening, I glanced around the room of maybe 80-100 guests and spotted three visibly pregnant women (and spoke to another, although I didn’t know it at the time.) It wasn’t until I bent down to admire the shoes of a little girl toddling around that I was suddenly aware of my childlessness. I wondered if people who knew me well enough to know about my situation noticed me and thought, “What a shame she can’t have children.” But I shook the thought off quickly and got on with my job of working the room.
At the end of the evening, one of my husband’s employees found me. She pulled me aside and told me that she had seen this website and that she got what I was all about (I’m paraphrasing.) She told how she loved children, but had never wanted children of her own, and she told me about the amazing volunteer work she does fundraising for a local children’s organization. Talking to here was like finding a lush tropical island in the middle of the sea of parents. It was like being a part of a secret underground organization and hearing someone else speak one of the code words.
So maybe we childless and childfree women need an identifier so we can find one another at social gatherings. Maybe we need our own secret masonic handshake, or a piece of jewelry with the Life Without Baby crest subtly showing. Because wouldn’t it be great when we find ourselves at mixers and receptions and other social gatherings to be able to find just one person to talk to and not have to talk about their kids?
Kate B says
“Because wouldn’t it be great when we find ourselves at mixers and receptions and other social gatherings to be able to find just one person to talk to and not have to talk about their kids? ”
Oh GOD yes! Or to not have to deal with the silence or uncomfortable questions and comments when they ask us if we have kids.
Wow, your post totally hit home with me! I know people think and wonder things about why we don’t have kids yet, since we are still hoping, praying, and trying we haven’t flat out told anyone about our trials.
Mostly though, I feel alienated by family and friends because they all have kids and we don’t. Not everyone knows what it’s like to be in my shoes, and I feel like everyone thinks they are so superior to me because they are mothers and fathers. It’s hard to be the black sheep. Our families get together and all the talk is about the kids, school, ball games, what to get them for Christmas, birthday’s, funny things they said, etc. I just sit and listen. I don’t have anything to contribute to the conversation. I can talk about my dogs, but no one gives a crap about them. It has made me a little bitter towards friends and family, when I shouldn’t be. It has made me more of a tomboy. I do more things with the “guys” because that is where I fit in. They aren’t typically talking about all those other things. They talk about hunting, fishing, riding snowmobiles, and four wheelers, and pigs and farming. All things that are my life right now.
You are a better person than me, I’ve become withdrawn and shy to talk to anyone because I don’t feel like we have anything in common to talk about.
God Bless you for your courage!
Oh my, it’s refreshing to read this post! I am childfree by choice (not just that I don’t want children, I don’t particularly like them either) which makes it very difficult not only at social gatherings, but to find friends in general. The friends I had changed into completely different people after having kids, and we really don’t have anything in common anymore.
A couple of weeks ago I was at the Oktoberfest celebration at our country club, and asked a woman we had just met if they had any kids – and she said no, and they like it that way, to which I responded (way too enthusiastically) “That’s AWESOME!” She laughed and said “Well we don’t hear that response very often.” I wish there were an easier way to meet like-minded people…
YES IT WOULD BE! Too bad I can’t draw a circle to save my life otherwise I would design get on it stat.
I have recently made the choice to become childfree being that I am in my early 30’s and for the most part tried to do what society wants when it comes to settling down. I finally figured out that I have to follow my own path and not having children is part of that. It isn’t because I don’t like kids at all but mostly because I don’t want to be tied down 24/7 to a human being that is going to leave in 18 years and do their thing when I can focus on myself and helping others and making the world a better place. Also because I see it in my neighborhood and in the media and social media how “parents” behave and it makes me sick and I have no desire to become like that oblivious to the world and only focused on the “children”. Look what is going on with the Glee/GQ photo spread all this drama for the “children” excuse me while I take a bleach bath…
Aja Gold says
Wow! That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking! I asked a co-worker today if he had kids and when he told me “No”, I mentally put him in my “In” group. When I find/meet childless people, I feel less pressure. Oh, and you should see what happens when I find a dog lover!
What a great story and I love the idea of having a way to “know” each other with one glance. And how courageous of that woman to seek you out, I’m sure she was looking forward to talking to you all night. Because you understand her and see her for who she is and not who you think she should be.
Thanks Ladies. It was really refreshing. Actually in an earlier conversation, one woman asked me if I had kids. When I said no, the other person we were with said, “Me neither. No kids for me!” I logged him in my database too. 🙂
It’s so nice to not feel alone! I have a hard time at social functions when I’m asked about having kids. It’s hard to not look offended that this stranger thinks I’m that kind of a person, but at the same time I don’t want to offend them for breeding. I usually stick with a smile and say, “No, I think I’ll stick with dogs.” Do you tell people flat out, “No. I will not be having any children but thank you for your concern.” or do you have an answer at the ready for social situations?
Hi Deryn. You’re definitely not alone!
We’ve had several debates about the answer to “Do you have kids?” Here’s one: http://lifewithoutbaby.wordpress.com/2010/07/27/dealing-with-do-you-have-kids/
Some people give straight answers and others go for humor. One of my favorites is, “No, we have white carpet.” I just go for a stright “No,” and leave it at that.
i am child free because biological problem. i was searching happiness in this childfree situation as you know it is difficult, but your post or presence has just given me hope to see life in a new way.
Kelly Fleming says
I’ll buy one of those necklaces when you get to them!
Child free by choice, I have noticed I have a tendency to talk about the dog an awful lot in social situations. She is the delight of my twilight (well, I’m 39…) years. I work with a lot of small community groups and many older people just can’t understand why a happily married, settled ‘young’ woman doesn’t have children. By the time I finish rhapsodising about the dog, they probably wish they’d never asked!
Oh, she’s a glorious collie / German shepherd cross BTW! Brains and Gothic crimped ears combined.