When All They Can Talk About is Their Kids—and You Don’t Have Any

The beauty salon is a dangerous place for childless women, not just because of the sharp instruments and the danger of a horrible haircut or a tragic dye job. Been there, but that’s not what I’m talking about today.

Since the stylist I had for years cut my hair so short just before my father’s funeral that I felt bald, I have been seeking the right person. It has been a journey. In this journey, I have repeatedly found myself in the land of MOMS. Yes, capital letter MOMS.

There was the Vietnamese woman who wielded her scissors like a chainsaw while talking at her teenage daughter in Vietnamese. There was the heavyset woman whose kid was hanging around for lack of a babysitter and required a lot of attention. Okay, stuff happens. I understand. But their focus was on their children, not on my hair.

The stylist I dumped most recently was late because of a ride situation with her kid. Okay. Things happen. Then she kept leaving me mid-cut to text with her husband about her kid. Not so okay. She barely paid attention to me. But I liked my haircut, so I went back.

The next time, she spent the whole haircut talking with a co-worker about their kids and their baseball teams. All I got to say was, “Just a trim, not too short.” Yeah, I’m just another old lady getting her graying hair cut, but I’m a person. This time, my haircut wasn’t that great, and she applied so much “product” I couldn’t even get a comb through it.

Moving on, I tried the salon next to Safeway. I think I may have found my person. I love my hair. But I will probably lose her in a few months because she is hugely pregnant with her second child. As she cut my hair, her belly bumped up against me. I didn’t mind. It was soft and somehow comforting, and I thought it would be really fun if I felt the baby move. I didn’t. I asked about her children. One at home, one in the oven. Naturally, she asked about mine. “I never had any,” I said. In the awkward silence that followed, I quickly changed the subject.

Some types of work are dominated by young mothers. Managing hair is one of them. The stylists can arrange their schedules around their children’s needs and hang out with other young mothers doing the same. It requires some training but not a four-year degree or 60-hour work weeks. That’s all good, but we have nothing to talk about.

I have also encountered the mom-centric talk with the hygienists at the dentist’s office. Mine is super-involved with her kids soccer team. I usually hang out with people closer to my own age. If they are moms, their children are grown up and usually living somewhere else. Yes, they sometimes get busy with the grandchildren, but most of the time we are living similar lives. The beauty salon is a different world.

How about you? Have you experienced places in your day-to-day life where you find yourself surrounded by moms or dads talking about parenting and making you feel left out? Where? How did you feel? Did you try to fit in? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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Mothering my husband instead of my kids

           Perhaps I was spared caretaking in my earlier years because I was destined to do it in the later years. I’m like the last runner in the relay race, the one who takes the baton home.
           All my adult life, other women gathered to talk about their children. Having no offspring, I could only offer a few memories from my own youth or a borrowed observation about my stepchildren and slink off to hang out with the men. But when I was 52, I discovered a whole new cluster of women with whom I shared a genuine sisterhood. We could talk for hours about our joys and frustrations, offering helpful hints, trading visits over coffee.
            I had never realized this group existed, and I would never have willingly joined. I’m talking about the sisterhood of Alzheimer’s wives, women who find themselves mothering the men they had hoped would take of them. Whatever their relationship before, now they must watch their husbands as constantly as they would a child. Turn away for a moment, and he might hurt himself or wander off.
            At first, it was a matter of filling in missing words and prompting him to get dressed, take his pills, and go to his appointments. His wife served as navigator on the road and interpreter at the movies. Later she would scold him when he turned on the stove. “No! Hot!” she said. And still later, she would feed him, diaper him, and clean him like a baby. Where once there were two potential parents in the house, now there was only one.
           I had been exchanging notes on the Alzheimer’s online message board, becoming friends with women nicknamed Emmie, Twiggy, Fortune Cookie and Sooze. We had talked about doctors, diapers, depression and more. But sending e-mail messages is different from meeting face to face, as I discovered one Sunday shortly after Fred’s diagnosis.
            We three authors were sitting in the library at the historical museum selling our books when Suzy, the take-charge 50-something beside me, asked Carol, fuzzy-haired with a wide mouth and deep dimples, if her husband’s “cognitive” powers were still working.

             Cognitive. Oh, I knew that word. They use it a lot in Alzheimer’s Disease books. A few more lines and I knew they were talking about AD. When they paused, I said, “My husband has Alzheimer’s, too.” It was strange to hear myself say it out loud. Mostly we weren’t telling people yet.

            Well. I was in. Not only did Carol’s husband have it, just a little farther along than Fred, but Suzy’s mom had it, too. We talked about lawyers and homecare and tips for getting our loved ones up and dressed and out the door. Suzy tsk-tsked over how young my husband was. He seemed handsome and loving and helpful that day–until he came in to report that he had locked his keys in the truck. 
            One in 10 people over the age of 65 had Alzheimer’s Disease. The numbers were growing as the baby boomers approached senior citizen age. In every gathering, someone’s mother, father, brother or husband had AD. At last I belonged.
            It didn’t matter how old I was or whether I had ever given birth. I was welcomed into the caregivers’ club. We all loved someone who was not what he or she used to be, and we were not giving up on them, despite their imperfections, their sometimes bratty behavior and their constant demands. Just like mothers with their children, we loved them, no matter what.