Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Reorienting Friends July 16, 2012

Image courtesy: Microsoft Office

If you’re dealing with the loss of the dream of motherhood, there’s a good chance you’re going through it more or less alone.

Let’s face it, it’s often easier to turn in on ourselves and shut the rest of the world out than to try to express what we’re going through with someone who might not understand. There’s less chance of getting hurt this way and less opportunity for someone to try to say something helpful, but only makes matter worse.

While doing some research on grief and loss for a project, I came across an article that turned that idea on its head. (Of course I now can’t find the article, but when I do, I’ll add it to the post.) The article was about the importance of involving those close to us in our grief. The author writes:

“The process can also assist those close to us to re-orient their relationships to us. For example, without appropriate acknowledgement of a major change, former good friends don’t know how to relate anymore, what is appropriate for discussion or activities and so avoid the issue altogether by dropping the friendships.”

Our culture has accepted norms and customs for handling grieving friends and relatives. Most of us know what to do and what not to say to someone who’s suffered a loss. But the loss of motherhood may not be apparent or understood by those who care about us. We have to point it out.

By telling people what we’re going through, acknowledging our loss to ourselves and to them, we can create expectations for our relationships to function by, rather than allowing those connections to fizzle out because nobody knows how to behave around us.

Sounds easy on paper, I know, but wouldn’t it be worth the short-term pain of having an uncomfortable conversation with a friend versus the long-term pain of watching that friend drift away because she didn’t understand what was going on? What do you think about this idea?

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The “Do You Have Kids?” Conversation June 28, 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how “Do you have kids?” is such a natural part of polite, “ice-breaking” conversation, and yet it’s such a loaded question for so many of us.

When we meet new people, we’re looking for something in common to talk about. People with kids know that when they talk to someone else with kids, they automatically have a topic of conversation – their kids. And asking this question is presumed to be okay because the answer is usually anticipated to be either “Yes” or “Not yet.” People just aren’t prepared to hear “No.”

So, imagine you’re at a function, wandering around with a glass of wine in one hand and a shrimp on a skewer in the other and you strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know. You talk about the weather, she asks where you’re from or what you do for a living, and then she asks, “Do you have kids?” Assuming this is someone you don’t want to offend, you resist a snarky answer and instead say a simple “No.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that this response is usually met with a horrified silence (although occasionally I’ll get, “You’re lucky,” or “You can have mine.”) People just don’t know what to say when I tell them I don’t have kids, and in order to fill the silence I find myself explaining why I don’t kids, and imparting some very personal information about myself.

So, let’s help these poor people out. No, seriously. Instead of the stunned silence, what do you wish people would say? Do you want them to ask if you’re childfree by choice? Do you want them to ask if you’re ok with not having kids? Or would you prefer them to change the subject to someone or something else so you don’t have to talk about you anymore? Assuming someone opens this conversation, what would you want her to say next?