Women talk to women about babies. It is the all-purpose icebreaker, the way women mark territory and establish their identity. I can’t recall how many times I have been seated on the dais with other women, preparing to talk about female empowerment or human rights or economic development in Africa. Within five minutes of arrival, though, before the microphones go on and the public conversation begins, we are all talking about kids. “You have children?” “Yeah.” “Me, too. How many?” Just like those infernal forms in the doctor’s office. Number of children. Number of pregnancies. And so forth.
You might have thought that this would have changed by now, that once women had joined the Senate and piloted fighter planes, their status as mothers would have become less relevant. But it hasn’t. Despite what feminists of all stripes had desperately hoped, once women become mothers, they are still largely defined– both by others and by themselves– by the children they bear.
— Debora L. Spar, Wonder Women, p. 145
Everything has changed and nothing has changed. I used to look forward to a time when my friends children were grown up and they would become interested in other things again but an older childless friend said to me “Just you wait. Then they start banging on about their grandchildren.” Sadly for us childless once it has started it will never stop. I prefer to seek out other childless people these days for conversation…and not to talk about childlessness!
“Just you wait. Then they start banging on about their grandchildren.” “Once it has started it will never stop.” So many childless by choice or circumstance are at heart misanthropic and yet many of them wonder why they are alone. They don’t want talk of children, they don’t want to eat near them in public… but if you don’t like children, which we all were at one point, on some level you just don’t like people. I had a friend once who really just wanted to be indulged about her own dramas, well into middle age. You could see how irritated she would get, how impatient, if the conversation would drift away from her interests toward anything to do with children. But it is natural! At this age, well-adjusted people relish taking the back stage and cheer on the young ones. My aunt, a self-proclaimed spinster, threw herself into our family’s younger generation – and her life was rich and fun. Time to let go and enjoy the joy of other people — they in turn will celebrate your own joys. If not, they will know you resent them, believe me. That old friend chose a lonely, resentful life.
Hi Single Sprout. You have read a lot more into my comment than is actually there so I can only assume what you do see is in your own mind. My comment was in reply to the main blog piece which you don’t appear to have read.
I never said I don’t like children though I do not like all children as I don’t like all people. I have a lot of children in my life, nieces and nephews (more fabulous than anyone elses kids too! 🙂 ) and I am a favourite with all my friends children precisely I think because my interests vary and I haven’t allowed my mind to atrophy like some(but not all) parents do. I just don’t like talking about parenting all the time and I like having good conversation about a variety of subjects.I also am bored by women who define themselves soley-solely-by the fact they have borne children which is what this piece was about yes?
That’s me and youre different and thats OK with me. I don’t think women should fall dutifully in line and become childminders or spend all their time with children. That idea smacks a little too much of some kind of fascism to be honest but if its what you like go for it girl. For some of us that’s just not interesting. I have a (joyful) life to live and I am going to hang with my friends big and small when it suits.
I hope that one day you take your own advice and let go and feel joy instead of spreading bad feeling around through an account that appears to be have been cancelled.
Bitterbabe, surprised this was approved.
Claire, I (who am no girl, as you call me) responded to your own embedded quote — not sure how that qualifies as reading into it. “Banging on about children” speaks for itself. Fascism? Now that may in fact be inflammatory overreach. And why would my comment need approval? Candid encouragement needs a trigger warning these days, I guess. If my account has been cancelled, then I don’t know how I can still use it. It’s possible; like I said, I am no girl and not tech savvy. Anyway, hang in there!
I am a man. I was speaking with a friend the this weekend about his marital difficulties. I also am a father and have experienced a divorce, as have my children. So I asked the guy if he had children. Would I have done so if I did not have children? I don’t know.
So maybe it is not simply a women’s issue.