News Flash! We Don’t All Have Kids!

Why do people still assume everyone has children and grandchildren? I’m reading this new book called Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher, which is supposed to help women in their 60s and 70s get a grip on the changes happening in their lives in those years. Our bodies are aging, we might be retiring, friends and relatives are dying. I heard the author on NPR and ordered it right away because . . . I’m in that age group and thought it would be interesting.

It is interesting and somewhat helpful, despite an overage of psychology advice along the lines of “develop an attitude of gratitude” and “learn to treasure the precious moments.” I know all that. Tell me how to manage my finances when I don’t have a massive retirement nest egg, and what to do about my disappearing eyebrows. But that’s not why I bring up this book today.

In all 252 pages, not once does Pipher acknowledge the fact that some of us are not mothers. When she talked about “six generations” of family stories, it took me a while to realize she was including the generations from our grandparents through our grandchildren. But . . . She spends entire chapters talking about the joys of family and the wonders of being a grandmother, how the kids carry on the family name, help you in times of trouble, make you happy and proud and so on. But what if you don’t have any? What if it’s just you and the dog, or you and your husband, if you still have one? I would love to cuddle my grandbabies, bake cookies with them, and attend their graduations and weddings. But I can’t.

It’s not a bad book, and Mary Pipher is not a bad writer. If your mom or grandma is in that age group, she might enjoy it. Pipher is just immersed in the mom world and does not see the 20 percent of us out here without offspring. If only she had added sections that might begin along the lines of “and if you don’t have children . . .”

This author is not the only person who seems blind to the fact that some people don’t have children. We have all met people who think that way. I go for a mammogram and the technician asks me, “How many pregnancies have you had?” She seems surprised when I offer a big fat zero. A kindly church woman asks, “how old are your kids?” “Um, well . . . My dog is 11.” Other people hand me toys or candy “for your kids.”

Know what I mean? The older we are, the more people assume we’re mothers and grandmothers. I know they can’t tell by looking, but I wish they wouldn’t assume we’re all alike.

So, how about you? When you encounter books, shows, or real-life situations where it’s assumed all females are moms, how do you react? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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