Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"I used to be just like you."

Boy, do women love saying this to me. The love telling me how they never wanted kids, that they were workaholic professionals and hey, they still are, but they managed. They tell me how motherhood changed them, adjusted their priorities.

And I listen.

I smile.

And I say, "that's wonderful for you. But I'm happy with my life as it is."

And she sighs, disappointed that it's not up for discussion.

Welcome to my dinner conversation tonight with a colleague. I went to a lovely dinner with a woman I met through my current client and we had a wonderful conversation. We talked about work, mutual connections, travel. And then she asked me about my kids.

"You've been married 8 years and... so wow, you're really not doing it, huh?"

I hoped she'd let it drop, but they never do. Especially women in their late 40s up through my mother's age, mid-50s or so.

Many women used to be childfree until they had kids. This isn't unusual, apparently, judging by how gleefully so many women tell me that they never wanted kids until…

And that's great for them. But I don't want that to be my story. That's lovely, colleague, that you launched into stories about how clueless and afraid you were with your first child, it really is. But don't be offended when it doesn't make me immediately change my tune. When you try to one-up me when I explain I'm useless with infants, you make me clam up because we can't have this conversation.

We can have a conversation about my choice. We can have a conversation about your kids and your experiences. What we cannot do is have a conversation where the purpose of sharing these stories is to convert me, to make me see the error of my ways. It's disrespectful and unfair.

And tonight it took a perfectly lovely dinner and left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

Telling me "I used to be just like you" may be your way of finding solidarity with me, of saying we're the same, but it's not. It isn't supportive. What is supportive? Asking questions without giving the third degree. Respecting when I change the subject. Treating me exactly the same as you treated me before you found out I wasn't having children. That's what support looks like.