Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Tolerance August 16, 2010

After last week’s post about the overheard conversation, I’ve been thinking a lot about tolerance and about trying to understand one another. I think that, as a group, we childless women often feel (and often are) misunderstood. We feel that people don’t think before they say things that hurt our feelings, that people with children make assumptions about the type of people we are, that employers assume that, because we don’t have kids, we are the go-to people for extra work. We’re always ready to stand up for one another whenever there’s an injustice done to one of our sisters. I love that about us.

And yet, even among ourselves, we have different frames of reference. There are those of us who are physically unable to have children; those of us who are emotionally unwilling, because of our circumstances; there are those of us who don’t have the opportunity to be parents; those of us who are childless by choice; and those of us who never had the desire for children. And even within those groups, each of us has a different story to tell about how ended up here on this site, looking for other women like us. Each of us looks at our situation through our own personal filters—just like those people out there who look through their own filters and see us differently than we see ourselves, who look at a childless person and see something they cannot understand.

So, I’m writing on a theme this week. It’s a bit of an experiment, so if the wheels fall off by Wednesday, just come back next week and everything should be back to normal. But for this week, I’m writing about tolerance. Stay tuned.


5 Responses to “Tolerance”

  1. Kathryn Says:

    I don’t know where you are going with this, but i would say that tolerance is probably a good topic.

    I’ve read some of the toxic comments made at articles that Pamela Jean has had published. The lack of understanding, the lack of tolerance, the lack of even basic empathy by many of those commenters is simply astounding to me. It makes me very sad.

    It feels like tolerance is REQUIRED of me all the time. My niece posting how awful it is to lose her slim figure. My friend talking to me about her daughter’s pregnancy. Other friends telling me how lucky i am to not have kids, or that “God must have known that you would be sick & not have the energy for them” or a thousand other pinpricks. It feels to me that i have to tolerate all these things from them because they can’t have basic empathy to see that regardless of the reason, i’m HURTING that i can’t have kids.

    I think this is why i so desire to read blogs by other women in a similar situation to mine. They know how much it hurts to read that someone i know is expecting her 5th child. They know that hearing a new dad say, “I just can’t believe how much love i find in myself for this new, small person.” They know the pain of feeling like, “I’m so prepared, emotionally, financially, intellectually, to have a child. Why won’t he or she come?” They know the gut-sinking feeling of being asked to attend or host a baby shower & how, if i did, i’d have to put on a happy face & look as thought i’m delighted. They know how hard “putting on the happy face” is & what it costs me to do so. They also know the pain of hearing that someone has abused or neglected a child, yet that person gets to be a parent, where as i never will. Anyone one else would simply look at me like i’m just jealous & say “get over it.” Someone in a similar place knows that i’m happy for my friend, but hurting again at our world which is so unfair.

    There is so much one-upsmanship with pain. I have people that have lost children tell me that i’m lucky that i don’t have their pain, but they can’t see that my pain is real, too. It is like each & every person or couple in the world is a different kind of tree. We have similarities – branches & trunk & roots – but each of us bear a different kind of fruit. They can’t be compared. My pain is a fruit neither better or worse than the fruit of someone else, someone with a handicapped child, or who has lost a child, or has a child with a serious illness. Why can’t i just empathize with someone who has lost a child, & she empathize with me? Why does her pain have to be WORSE than mine?

  2. lmanterfield Says:

    Well, you said you’re not sure where I’m going with this, but it turns out you do. Tolerance, empathy, understanding, call it what you will. I think that infertility (in this case) is misunderstood because it’s not talked about, people can’t see it and acknowledge it, and can’t see what’s been lost, but no, it’s no less painful.

  3. Kathleen Guthrie Says:

    Wow, Kathryn. You’ve nailed it. I might just print out your response so I have it on hand the next time someone says to me, “You’re not a mom, so….”

  4. happynenes Says:

    Yes, Lisa, the conversation on the infertility discussion right now is a case in point of the many different frames of reference among the child-free. Very interesting. Well, it would be a boring world, I guess, if we all had the same opinion about everything.

    • lmanterfield Says:

      Very dull indeed. This is the second time today I’ve experienced first hand how an article can prompt polar opposite reactions in otherwise like-minded people.

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