My friend, whom I love, insisted on showing me a video on her phone of her grandchild babbling nonsense. I reacted in much the same way my father would have. A head nod and “yeah, cute,” but she stood there waiting for more. Another woman came over to look. Right away, she started gushing and oohing and couldn’t get enough of it. I don’t know how to do that. I come from a planet without children. That visceral response just doesn’t happen. Yes, she’s cute, and yes, I know she was a preemie and it’s wonderful that she’s growing and learning like other babies now. But I can’t give you that gushing mommy reaction.
When we met a one-year-old Lab-Golden Retriever named Bella at the vet’s office yesterday, I got plenty gooey. Oh, you’re so beautiful. Oh, what a cute puppy. And when my Annie, who doesn’t usually relate to other dogs, walked over and touched noses, I was beside myself with happiness. But human babies? It just doesn’t happen.
The other night, I was rewriting an old essay that carries a food theme through my life from first marriage to first apartment post-divorce to new marriage and widowhood. It’s about tuna noodle casserole, not the one with potato chips. Basically neither husband liked it, so I cooked it for myself whenever I was alone.The essay covers a whole life, but when I read it over, it seemed to be missing something. Married, alone, married, alone–
Where are the children and grandchildren? Wouldn’t I be making tuna noodle casserole for them? Would they like it? I’m thinking they wouldn’t because it has mushrooms and nuts, but it doesn’t matter because they weren’t at the table. Children were not a factor in this life story. If I were being 100 percent accurate, I might mention the stepchildren, but I probably never served them my tuna noodle casserole. I knew they would hate my favorite comfort food.
My dog would love it, but she didn’t make it into the essay either.
On what planet does a life not include children? Mine. Yours. We’re approaching a quarter of American women who reach menopause without giving birth. Their life stories don’t revolve around children, and their lives don’t revolve around Betty Crocker casseroles, with or without potato chips.
On this planet of no kids, we do not learn to speak Mommy. We don’t develop the gushing-over-baby-pictures area of our brains. We fill that area with pets or other things we enjoy. There’s a widowed man in my church who goes nuts every time he sees my Martin guitar. Babies not so much. I don’t know if he was always from the Planet of No Children, but he lives there now.
Maybe, male or female, we are like the old “bachelors,” the unmarried fellows the aunties were always trying to marry off. In the cliched picture, they’re into work, cars, and maybe women, but not kids, oh no, not kids. They wouldn’t go all soft at the photo on the phone either. Being guys, they might be more interested in what type of phone you’re using.
These days, I’m pretty much indifferent to baby pictures. My fertility ended long ago. For you, the sight may cause deep pain because you’re still trying to deal with the possibility–or certainty–that you will not have children. You can’t really refuse to look at the doting mother’s or grandmother’s pictures. If it makes you want to cry, I say go ahead. Let the tears fall. Admit that it’s hard for you to look at baby pictures because you don’t get to have any of your own. Maybe, just maybe, they will realize that not everybody has to see the baby pictures and no one should be forced. If their reaction is not pure adoration, there’s a good reason.
Then again, it’s quite possible people assume you don’t want to look when you really do.A few years ago, when a family member said, “Sue doesn’t do kids.” I was so hurt. I don’t have kids, but it doesn’t mean I don’t do kids.
What’s your reaction when someone shoves a phone in your face to show off baby pictures? Are you able to gush and spew praises or do you just hope to move on as quickly as possible? Does your life story look a little empty with no little ones? Or are there plenty of babies in your life, just not your own?
What is your favorite comfort food?
I welcome your comments.
Happy New Year!
10 thoughts on “I’m an Alien from the Planet of No Children, Only Dogs”
Recently a friend tried to cheer me up after a really rough holiday with no family. Her approach was to essentially say, “Look on the bright side.” Not helpful.
She ended her text with three pictures of her smiling baby boy. It did absolutely nothing for me. Now a video with a bunch of crazy Frenchies – that I’ll take!
Needless to say, I didn’t even respond. Apparently, you and I live on the same planet.
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Babies like me for some reason. And like for me to hold them. But none of my blood, is in them, so that starts an empty experience.
It depends who is thrusting the baby pics at me. If they’re related, that makes it a little different. If I’m ever going to meet the child, that makes a difference too. Or if the child is doing something funny, or especially cute, then it makes a difference. But so often, it depends on the attitude of the parent or grandparent, both about the child, and their attitude towards me too. So sometimes I’ll just draw a blank, or not even try, and other times I will wholeheartedly join in on lovefest. I’m not really a gooey or gushy type of person. I always remember my mother saying that she loved her kids, but wasn’t interested in other people’s! In effect, she gave me permission to react to them however I feel like.
Mmmm, favourite comfort food … it varies. But it is probably pasta with a tomato sauce, or a Thai stir-fried noodle dish. The husband doesn’t love noodles of any sort, so I make them for myself when he’s out with his golf buddies.
Happy New Year, Sue!
Thanks, Mali. I’m not a gushy person either, and not just about babies. What is it with men and noodles?
Once again you hit it out of the park.
My cousins and friends are the world’s worst about shoving their kids in your face. And it got to the point that I had to talk to them and tell them to quit.
It strained some relationships when I expressed my feelings about being childless. I’ve made my feelings abundantly clear. It a child shares none of my DNA, then I’m very ambivalent about them. And I don’t apologize. If people don’t like it, then so be it. That’s the breaks of Marine Air. Skid marks in the sky.
Oh gosh, baby pictures used to be SO painful for me. They don’t hurt as much anymore, but I still actively avoid newborn pictures. I’m not on social media so it’s pretty easy to avoid. It’s been a long time since someone showed me a baby picture. I can usually say an off-handed, “Oh, how cute” type comment but I don’t encourage any further conversation by going on and on. Now, dogs on the other hand… I want to see multiple pictures and hear all about them! Lol.
There are no babies in my life, and I’m fine with that. My life doesn’t operate on that child-raising rhythm anyway. I always feel judged for what my unique life allows (time for sleep, time for hobbies, etc.). Yes, I feel very different as a woman without children in this world. But I’m glad I created a life for myself that I want to live.
After 3 decades I can finally genuinely smile at baby pictures. No gushing though. To be genuinely happy for them is quite an accomplishment. And when one of the family is pregnant and someone else says so-and-so is pregnant, well, that sting is also slowly decreasing. I guess it will never go entirely away.
Occasionally I meet someone struggling with not having their own children for a variety of reasons and they work in childcare or are a teacher. And being around never-ending scores of babies, baby pictures, toddlers, or children in school doesn’t faze them in the least. It amazes me. If it does faze them why do they continuously expose themselves to such pain? Apparently I’m not strong or brave enough, or that is not my calling, because I wouldn’t subject my broken heart to that scenario repeatedly.
I love kids, especially babies! I always gravitate towards them at any gathering and they usually love me back. I have a new Step great-grandchild now and am happy to babysit. Maybe not having children of my own allowed me to not ever really grow up and I just click with like-minded humans! The pain is so much less these days when I hold someone else’s child, but it can still surprise me on occasion.
I know quite a few mums who are not the slightest bit interested in other people’s kids so I guess it must just be part of my DNA. Thanks for creating a place to have these types of discussions
Helena, I know what you mean. I feel sometimes like I’m the only grownup who is still willing to get down on the floor and play Barbies or whatever. Little kids are fun. But yes, the sadness hits sometimes.
Thanks for that phrase “planet no children”, I feel I definitely inhabit it, and wish things could have have been different. After mothers, I do envy women who have an aunt or stepmother role and therefore have children in their lives, but I hear sometimes it can be painful too.