Minutiae #16 The social awkwardness of being childless

Most of my friends don’t have kids. I’m not sure if this is by design or accident. I don’t have kids. People having kids doesn’t bother me. The few friends I have who do have kids I tend to like both the parents and the kids and in some cases I like the kids better. I adore my nieces and nephews. And I adore my sisters and brothers who had them.

People having kids doesn’t bother me. Not having kids doesn’t bother me either. But there is something about someone pontificating about the glories of children and how there is no greater joy in life than having kids – specifically after finding out you don’t have children that bothers me.

Here is a real life conversation that I endured:

Recipient of the greatest gift on earth: Do you have kids?

Me: No.

Recipient: You don’t? Really. Why? You don’t know what your missing. My children blah blah blah blah blah blah blah insert meaningless but heartfelt ode to being a parent and the greatest gift on earth. It the best thing that can ever happen to a person. The recipient then looks at me and says staring straight into my eyes “There is nothing better in life than having a child.”

I can see how this can be true based on the fact that I feel deep love for a few young people in my life. But really what am I supposed to do.

Stupified me looks at Recipient of Greatest Gift and I say, “Oh, wow really”. And I think to myself “I’ll have to get on that age defying sperm egg thing and see if I can get that to happen for me too.”

I don’t have these conversations very often. I don’t want to pretend this is a regular thing. I had the same sense of irritation when I was in university taking my (sweet assed) time and people would sardonically ask me if I had moved on to my graduate degree. I can’t comprehend why people want to start these stupid conversations or why they care if I take 5, 7 or 10 years to do my BA. Who fucking cares?

But there are times I get irritated. For example with Mr. stupid conversation above and then more recently.

This is how it goes. I go for a business meeting that happens to be in a bar. The person I’m meeting offers me a glass of wine and I say hell ya and she says well it has to be 5 o’clock somewhere and I say YES with more enthusiasm than I should. So I order chardonnay which I instantly regret because I remember someone saying that only old ladies drink chardonnay and they said chardonnay with an english accent that you might hear on Coronation Street. So the chardonnay comes and this is all I can think about.

So we’re having a drink in the lounge when Jennifer (who works at the hotel) comes in and starts talking to a young pregnant woman in the lounge who is there with her son.  Her son is about a year and half and he’s super cute dressed in dungarees, a plaid shirt and neon runners. His name is Ashwin. I am sipping my chardonnay remembering that it’s 5:00 o’clock somewhere when Ashwin comes up to me and rests his little hand on my knee. Looking up he says in his baby boy’s voice “Shake my hand.” so I do. Little dungaree man offers me his hand and I take it and the whole transaction feels so good and is so successful for both of us that we do it six more times. Pretty soon he’s sitting in my lap and he’s in the mood for a monster cuddle. You know how it goes. His very pregnant mother coos mostly at her son, my little bar date is cooing. Even the bartender comes around to watch and coos. Now we are all cooing.

Soon we are discussing the birth of baby number 2 still deeply imbedded in mom’s tummy….we move to the incredibly sweet nature of dungaree boy who is still nestled in my lap and then we move on to the general greatness of all babies everywhere. And why wouldn’t they be sweet and perfect. There has been no opportunity for them to be ruined or damaged yet so they’re like perfect little human beings.

Up until this point I have been right in there like a dirty shirt cooing about the greatness of the mini humans and how fab they all are. But then Jennifer friend of pregnant lady starts on the “children are the greatest gift to humankind” train and I’m like oh brother I know where the hell this is going. Predictably Jennifer starts beating her chest like an excited monkey while railing on, then pauses looks at me and says “Do you have any children?” And now I’m beginning to feel like I need to come up with something that will make OTHER people comfortable with my childless state of being. A) a lie – I never wanted kids b) the fertility clinic failed me c) I dated losers for far too long in my life d) the whole middle part of my body doesn’t work e) I forgot to

Anyone of these could do but regardless of what I say there is always the awkward “moment” – that pause after the question and the pause while you wait to answer and then the pause when they hear why you’re childless which is not a casual conversation between strangers. But I find myself fumbling towards an excuse. And then the moment passes and everyone carries on and the little boy toggles down from your lap and over to his mother. And then life resumes again. Ancient sorrows buried under social protocol.

My most recent encounter happened at another meeting when a woman who knows I work hard for certain causes said “I guess you don’t have kids do you.? Right. Because it’s only the childless who have time to save the world. I know so many excellent mothers, parents, fathers who throw themselves into amazing causes.  This is what I wanted to say as well as fuck you. But I didn’t. So I’m getting it off my chest here.


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