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!