I was at a cocktail reception last night. A couple of times a year I dig out my high heels from the back of the closet, assume the role as Executive Wife, and spend the evening shaking hands, eating things on sticks, and trying to remember the names of people’s spouses (and in some cases the names of the people themselves.) When stuck for small talk, I always turn to the subject I know will get people talking; I ask about their children or grandchildren. In many cases, I’ve known these people for many years, and I’m glad to hear updates; in others it’s a ploy. In know that all I have to do then is sit back and let them talk instead of having to come up with anything new and witty to say.
Most of the people I knew in the room have children. Some of their grown children were there. At one point in the evening, I glanced around the room of maybe 80-100 guests and spotted three visibly pregnant women (and spoke to another, although I didn’t know it at the time.) It wasn’t until I bent down to admire the shoes of a little girl toddling around that I was suddenly aware of my childlessness. I wondered if people who knew me well enough to know about my situation noticed me and thought, “What a shame she can’t have children.” But I shook the thought off quickly and got on with my job of working the room.
At the end of the evening, one of my husband’s employees found me. She pulled me aside and told me that she had seen this website and that she got what I was all about (I’m paraphrasing.) She told how she loved children, but had never wanted children of her own, and she told me about the amazing volunteer work she does fundraising for a local children’s organization. Talking to here was like finding a lush tropical island in the middle of the sea of parents. It was like being a part of a secret underground organization and hearing someone else speak one of the code words.
So maybe we childless and childfree women need an identifier so we can find one another at social gatherings. Maybe we need our own secret masonic handshake, or a piece of jewelry with the Life Without Baby crest subtly showing. Because wouldn’t it be great when we find ourselves at mixers and receptions and other social gatherings to be able to find just one person to talk to and not have to talk about their kids?