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.

12 comments:

Alix said...

This one always gets me. Clearly, no, you did not used to be just like me because I will never be having kids. There is nothing that will make me change my stance on this, but obviously you were never 100% committed to the idea or you wouldn't have kids now.

bonclyde149150 said...

She couldn't have used to have been like a childfree woman if she had intended to become a mother all along.

:-D Bubble Bee said...

I'm hearing you!

I AM good with babies/kids/teens, which seems to make it unbelievable and even more unacceptable to those who don't quite get it...

Anonymous said...

My husband and I are childless my choice too, I find your blog to be very interesting. I have never experienced the "rabies" and in my mid-40's I'm certain if I haven't yet, I never will.

I once had a co-worker who had fertility issues and was finally able to have children via IVF tell me that having a child was amazing and I should "try it".

Do kids come with a 30 day money back guarantee or something? Um, no.

I've also had people say to me "who will take care of you when you are old" or "who will you leave your stuff to". Neither of which are reasons to have children. I'd rather pick out my own nursing home, thankyouverymuch and I have plenty of nieces and nephews to leave my "stuff" to.

Anonymous said...

I admit that I sometimes think along these lines: If I had my own child, I'd be totally different in my thinking about motherhood, I'd end up loving it. But then I think, if I were advising a college student about graduate school, and that student was waaayyyy on the fence about it, saying maybe they'd love it if they just tried it, I'd tell them, Do not go to graduate school unless you are 1000% sure that is what you want, and you are willing to do the work to get the degree and launch yourself in that profession. Otherwise, it is too many years and way too much work to invest in something you're not sure of.

If I think that way about graduate education, then for motherhood it goes triple, quadruple, quintuple! In this day and age, in these uncertain times, the earth being in the state it's in, the human population being what it is: no one should become a mother unless they are absolutely, 1000000000% certain that that is exactly what they want. Motherhood is not something people can or should "try out"!!! No, it is something that a woman must be completely, totally committed to at a conscious and unconscious level, if she is going to do it.

H. M. Stuart said...

Stasha, we'd like to invite you to become one of our Authors in Alexandria. This invitation has been extended to you by email as well.

In addition to posting on anything you wish, as you desire, you may of course mirror posts you've already written from here or elsewhere to gain a different or additional audience or for any other reason that appeals to you.

If you think you might be interested, contact me through Alexandria or by return email via this comment and I'll forward our formal invitations for you to look over and return if you decide to proceed.

Come contribute your perspectives and opinions to the ongoing conversations there or, even better, start some new - and different - ones of your own.

I look forward to hearing from you.

H. M. Stuart
Alexandria

Anonymous said...

- Oh, you say you don't like kids because you don't have any of your own

- No, it's the other way around! I don't have kids because I don't like them!

Always, always, always

Aless

Anonymous said...

I feel you... I have been for almost 5 years with no kids yet... As musch as we want to see ourselves pregnant, I guess God wants us to wait for a little while. It annoys me everytime someone would bombard us with questions "why" or "when." And some would even tell me if I don't get pregnant, my husband will cheat on me. How rude is that? Are they thinking? Should man equates their love and loyalty to having children?

Thanks,
Neri

Amanda said...

Just wanted to say it's so amazing to find this blog - I've never been maternal and never had any interest in having children of my own. I respect other people's choice to have children but it would be nice if they could also respect my conscious decision to be childless but unfortunately this never seems to happen! I don't know if this is just my experience but I definitely get a feeling that as a childless woman parents see me as some kind of second class citizen or not as important as them. Anyway, just wanted to leave a wee comment and say how great it was to come across your blog and I have already put it on my favourites :-)

Temujin said...

To Anonymous:

Someone seriously suggested that having a baby will make your husband less likely to cheat on you? Not only is that totally offensive (to men, women, everyone), but it doesn't even make logical sense.

We can now add that to the long list of Bad Reasons to Have Children. Reason #592 and counting....

Temujin said...

Turn it around. Flip it back. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Tell the new mommy:
"I used to be like you."

For example:
"I used to feel superior and more mature than my friends because I thought my way of doing things was the only way....Then I turned 16 and started thinking for myself."

Anonymous said...

If someone wants to have children its as much their business as someone that doesnt want them.

I dont get why in this day and age having kids is expected. Why is it that women generally are the more harshly criticized when the decision is made?

What is it to some of these people if I never had kids? I dont get it.