One of the great ironies of my life is that I develop, market, and advertise products and services for kids and their families. Funny, right?
The tricky part is that I sometimes worry that I might lose out on a great job because I’m not a parent and am therefore subject to the misconception that I can’t possibly know what I’m talking about. And so I play The Game.
I’ve mastered many of the skills of The Game. I dodge pointed questions about my family makeup. I deflect, I bob and weave, I jump to the next topic. I nod with understanding when colleagues moan about parenting challenges, and I speak with authority about kids and what they want. I’m certain many people assume that I have a houseful of my own. Quite the contrary, but I don’t want a potential client to dismiss me or my input because I’m deemed less experienced.
And here’s what’s interesting: I think part of the reason I am so good at my job is because I don’t have children of my own. Because I don’t have to be responsible for any little guys, I’m better able to play with them, to get down to their level, to talk as equals. I have time and energy to interact with them, to really listen to them and discover how their amazing growing brains work.
I’m always blown away when the ol’ “You don’t understand because you’re not a mom” insult is lobbed my way. It hurts like hell, and I think the person saying it is clueless. I think my unique childfree experiences make me a better auntie, a better friend to humans of all ages, and an insightful and inspired writer.
But I’m also starting to wonder if I’ve become so good at hiding behind the smoke and mirrors of The Game that I’m missing opportunities to open hearts and minds. I’m starting to think that winning will feel a whole lot better when I’m accepted and acknowledged for who I am and all that I bring to the table. I’m thinking that maybe it’s time to rewrite the rules of The Game and start over.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is wrapping up her memoir about being a temporary single mommy and how it helped her come to terms with being childfree.