IT Happened Again!

The first time IT happened I chalked it up as an unfortunate anomaly.  IT happened at work, and involved a man who knows me really well, but who I do not turn to for any real emotional support (we don’t have that kind of relationship).  But, this time was different.  I was with a group of female friends who had gotten together for some serious bonding time.  We were comparing notes…I commented on how nice it was to have my college-aged niece stay with me over Thanksgiving break. Later, the friend in this group with whom I am the closest, who I will call Madge, started relaying a slight she received at work.  After Madge described how she was hurt, she went on to disparage the offending colleague by exclaiming that this woman has no children, and therefore she has NOTHING.  She then punctuated the point by sneering about how this colleague works with her nephew (huh?).  I was dumbfounded to say the least.  Both the man at my work and Madge know I tried unsuccessfully to have kids.  I don’t believe that either person meant to be malicious, but to say that a person has NOTHING if they don’t have kids as a way to disparage someone in conversation is insensitive at the very least.  I am still incredulous and am still trying to wrap my head around this new way to insult someone behind their back (and, unwittingly to my face).  I am also still wishing I could have regained my composure quick enough to have quipped with a meaningful and pointed response.  What are your thoughts?  What would you have done or said?

40 thoughts on “IT Happened Again!

  1. Oh man…that’s tough. I mean, obviously Madge was not even thinking. But I agree, I always wish I could have thought of a great quip in moments like that.

    If I had been reactive, I probably would have said something like “oh, so everyone who isn’t a mother has nothing, really now. Does that include me?” – Which could be too harsh, but she definitely needed a reminder to be more sensitive. Obviously this person had greatly upset her, but she should still be sensitive to your feelings (and there is probably no need to insult this other woman.)

    That sounds terrible and I am sorry you had to endure that. I still find it so odd that children end up being the most important part of life – it should be just ONE part of life. Not all.

    If I think of any great ways to deal with those situations, I’ll let you know. I am still learning myself. I am finding that being direct, while polite is very effective.

  2. Yep, Nicole, I think a direct, yet polite, approach sounds appropriate. Maybe an slightly humorous “Ouch” would have made the point in this situation…

    • yes, the humorous “ouch” definitely could drive home the point in the situation like that. These are tough waters to navigate, always being the minority and having to figure out the right things to say that allow us to remain civil but also enunciate our feelings.

      • if I had my wits about me, and I usually don’t when comments like that come out, I think a humorous “ouch” would have been perfectly placed. That’s probably what I would have come up with days later in a “darn! I wish I had thought of that” moment.

        I wish this didn’t happen so often and I wish I didn’t take it so personally. When people are mad or hurt they grab and the closest, most visible thing they can find – in Madge’s case, her co-worker being childfree was probably the first thing she spotted in her anger and rolled with it from there. Perhaps if her co-worker had a horrendous sweater on that day, that would have been the object of her scorn.

        Regardless, I’m really sorry you had to feel that sting (but I’m really glad I found your blog today – via the round up). I’ll be back.

        • I am now in my 60′s but have lived with that “shame” yes, shame, that’s what the women I worked with said about women who could not have babies. I was an only child and growing up alone was not great so all I ever dreamed about was several babies and an old farm house and a veggie garden. But then at 18 I was told that wasn’t going to happen. I made it this far in life, but have never married and always tried to stay away from “girl groups” that were Mommies as somehow that’s where the conversation always went–babies. When I got older all the same women at worked talked about was –”grandkids”!!! I have outlived all in my family and now just live alone and try to stay away from people. Not great, but much less painful.
          Sad as it is my problem could be corrected today, but not 50 years ago.
          R

  3. I’m sorry you had to hear such comments.
    I’d like to think that if I were part of that conversation that I’d respond with a smart comment. The reality is I’d probably do my best goldfish impersonation with my mouth open…

      • And the goldfish impersonation is exactly what I did in the office, just before the holidays. One of the researchers who occasionally does work for us, shared her view that the eurocrisis would have been resolved if Angela Merkel had children. Apparently, it’s impossible to have a long-term view unless you have children! As I did my goldfish impersonation, my colleague asked incredulously ‘you can’t be serious?’ to find out she was! This is a woman hired to do evidence-based research……

  4. Ouch, indeed!! Maybe that’s all that’s needed. I hope so.

    I suspect that Madge sees you as her friend, as an amazing woman, and that the part of you that is the woman who has no children is only small, and perhaps insignificant. Clearly she wasn’t thinking!

    What hurts you, and all of us though, is that she seems to think that having no children is something to abuse or denigrate someone for. (Much like some men will abuse women simply with the fact that they are women, and that is a lesser state in their eyes). Ultimately of course it hurts her too. Because by saying this, she’s put up a barrier that will be hard to pull down.

  5. Thanks for your support Mali. Your point about how some she feels that the lack of children being something to denigrate someone for is a good one. I also don’t think that she was directing any of at me personally, but it definitely creates a barrier…

  6. Came here from Mali’s post — not sure how I missed this the first time, or maybe I thought I needed to mull over a comment & never got back. :p Anyway, just wanted to say ditto on the “ouch!” People really don’t think, do they?

    I told Mali that this reminded me of when dh & I went to his uncle’s funeral several years ago — & the widow embraced us, sobbing loudly (in front of dozens of people) that her late husband had always been so worried about us, because “poor Sam & Lori have no children.” GRREEEAAAAAAT. :p Just what you want to hear, at a funeral, no less, right??

  7. “Ouch,” says a great deal but it might have been lost on the recipient. I might have been tempted to add, “really? did you just imply that my life has no meaning — because that’s sure what it sounded like …”

  8. I’ve had similar experiences where people who were aware of our multiple losses all of a sudden make horrible remarks. I also was not quick enough on the draw to have a witty comeback to put them in their place, which I thought (at the time) was unfortunate. However, I now think it was a good thing. I didn’t have to lower myself to their petty level of snippery, and could keep my integrity intact by not putting them down in defense of myself. I know what my life is like without children. I know what I had to go through to get here. They don’t. They can’t possibly. No amount of me berating them will change that.

  9. I probably would have also just been too dumfounded to actually say anything, I never think of a comeback till later! Although I’d bet that later she realized what she said and who she said it to/around, and felt really dumb. A few months ago at work, I was in kind of a weird opposite situation…several ladies were talking about raising kids, and one came over near my desk to the water cooler and said, in a joking, laughing way, “Angela, don’t ever have kids!” I had been feeling particularly depressed about it that day. I laughed too loudly, then said, “Well, that won’t be a problem!” She looked a bit confused, so I continued, “We can’t have kids!” Poor lady, she tried to backpedal and came out with something along the lines of, “Well, kids aren’t all they’re cracked up to be….” Thank God that my husband called at the very moment, I pounced on the phone like my life depended on it! At least she hasn’t been weird around me since then, I work with very nice people but even the nicest can have an off day. I haven’t told anyone at work about my problems with infertility so that was a strange way to do it!

  10. (I am here from Stirrup Queens and have also read the responses to this post that Mel linked.) First of all, OUCH is right! Good heavens, it’s truly unbelievable that someone would say that out loud. Regardless of who was listening. I’m so sorry you had to hear it, and I hope you haven’t let it go too much to heart.

  11. What about those of us who never had the opportunity to have children…are we nothing as well?? What a B****. People like this really make me angry. I hate that look I get when I say am in my 40′s, unmarried and no children. Its like I just told them I have a highly communicable disease….:(. You handled it much better than I would have.

  12. I cannot imagine that you would consider only making a snide response. I chose to NOT have children; still, at varying points in my life, I wished I had thought differently. Too, when my hub and I have admitted that we did not have children because neither of us wanted them–I am greeted by a pathetic smile/grim/wimper that tells ME (the female) what I might have had, had I chosen a different partner. Hub had a child with a woman he married soley because she became pregnant while they were dating. That child is important to me, but she is NOT the whole world. I think my mother scared the wits outta me by telling me the story of m own birth. From her point of view, without anaesthesia, and without the episiotomy, (Sp?)

    • Huzzah, for you. Honesty here is very important , AND you were straight up for reasons WHY you did not care to be a parent. Nothing wrong with that either, at least you don’t have children you resent, because they are tying you down, and therefore you are turning to abuse (follow my lead, here?) . ..
      My mother told me that she would give me dolls to play with, and i would play with them for an hour and then forget about them, but when she would give me a book, she lost me for the day, does that make me a bad person? NOT, your choice made you a WISE person…and there is nothing wrong with it, for those who wrinkle their noses at your choices, they need to check in their own closets for tiny little skeletons of their own past and present…

  13. I do have children and they are grown, now. However, there is one thing to always remember and that is what my ob/gyn told me many years ago, when he said, “Silina, your children will never think as you do!” I did not believe him, but later, as my children grew into adults I realized that he was correct. Many, many women desire motherhood, I know that I did. Many other women desire motherhood and are denied that opportunity due to infertility on the part of either the woman or the man. Adoption is not always a possibility. Then, there are other women who decide that parenthood is not for them for many reasons. The woman’s comment to the lady who found that she was infertile was insensitive at best and really very unkind, and I am sorry that the woman who was unable to conceive was so badly hurt by that comment. However, “Dear Abby” did a survey a number of years ago and found that 70% of the women who were mothers found that they regretted their decision to have a child or children. That is an interesting point to ponder. Frankly, parenthood changes your life and no one is prepared for the stress, the work and sometimes the disappointment that ensues. All women and I say women because still, even in 2012, it is usually the woman who bears most of the responsibility for child raising, even if she works outside her home, will realize that children do not think as their parent/s do. There are people, and I have spoken with them, who regret making the decision to have a child. There are others, to whom I have spoken, who refused, for many reasons guilt placed on them by others, to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, some of them are glad that they made that choice, and others who regret it deeply, for many reasons.

  14. Holy buckets.I can so relate. I am also infertile and sometimes people just don’t get it. Like you shouldn’t want Christmas off because ” you don’t have kids” ect. I am a step mom and I often get, “you aren’t a real mom”. Really? Because I don’t feel that way. I just try and remind myself that I can share my time and live with my nieces and nephews and friends kids. I probably would have responded something a little sarcastic like, “you are sooooo right. She doesn’t even have a reason to get up in the morning…wait, why do I even get out if bed?”. I once had a co-worker tell me if I just prayed enough I would be able have kids. I am still offended to this day. I am Christian and I Know Jesus isn’t a fairy godmother, it doesn’t work that way. So hurtful. It’s like discrimination of some sort. People don’t get it.

    • you know i was once told BY A MAN, that ANY MAN (this applies to women too) can make a baby, it takes someone special to be a daddy…/mommy….really take the time to ask yourself why it is soooo important that YOU MUST HAVE CHILDREN, they are NOT LITTLE CARBON COPIES OF OURSELF, they are human beings. Geez…

  15. Its a pity how women themselves let other women down and then complain about being called the weaker sex. I think you should tell her that she is doing a disservice to women all around the world by comparing a woman’s ability or willingness to have children with her sense of worth. In effect, a woman’s skills, her talents, her opinions, choices, her very ability to share her incredible spirit amount to nothing if she is unable to or does not choose to have children. It would do her good to step into the shoes of countless women who are treated merely as childbearing machines and then profess to have an opinion on this subject.

  16. Just because you cannot bear children does NOT make you a lesser being. That is ridiculous for women who can, to look down upon those who cannot. Having children is NOT A CONTEST, we need to take into consideration that they beings are going become adults some day, and have to learn to deal with an , for lack of better world, “ignorant society” who places value on material rather than spiritual and building one another up , instead of tearing down. I wouldn’t associate with someone like that…just chalk her comment up to “ignorance & lack of knowledge”. You will be known by your works…how do we judge people? By many things, what they say, what they wear, where they live, how big is their bank account, etc…which will all become eaten up by rust and moths, (we are all dust)…
    I read something that really stuck with me , we can’t always change our circumstances, BUT we can change how we react to them. Good to live by, we don’t need attitude of “self” righteousness, but we need a Godly attitude towards all. Chalk her up to ? Pray about it, and maybe you can calmly someday approach this “woman?” and tell her that she hurt you with the comment, or you can let it go. Just because doesn’t make you a lesser person, i am sure you have many MORE talents than just child bearing…

    • P.S. and yes, i HAVE children, but i don’t have an attitude. I love people and i love children and care about their welfare and well being, and well…i had better shut my mouth…something comes to mind for many “fertile” women, it is called BIRTH CONTROL. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you HAVE TO.
      again, this is NOT a contest.

    • Men also make insensitive remarks about women who have no children. My partner has two children and informs me that I don’t know what it is like to be a parent. Really? I spent a great deal of time with children of family members over the years and my parenting skills are better than his. You don’t have to be a biological parent to be a parent. He informed me that adoption is not the same either as having your own. Maybe he should tell that to all the adoptee parents out there who I am sure would disagree. I feel people like himself are born of ignorance.

  17. I chose not to have children and have been in a wonderful marriage for 23 years. My husband and I have amazing careers, we travel, we have many nieces and nephews that we love and who love us. The funny thing is…unlike what a lot of other women seem to hear…my friends with children feel comfortable saying “I wouldn’t trade my kids for all the world…but…” and they unload their frustrations with lack of money, time to themselves, travel abilities, frustrations, etc. I know they love their children. I know they aren’t saying they would choose not to have them. But they let me know that I have a pretty darn good life in their eyes. And I’ve got to tell you, they’re right!

    • Lee, I completely concur. Actually my husband and I truly enjoy our years after the children grew up, moved out and eventually married. No, they do not think as we do and we bite our tongues, A LOT! However, they are adults and must make their own decision, albeit, not ones that we would have made.
      Many people, myself included, had children because we thought that we “could do a better job than our parents did.” Wrong! We raise our kids, but make mistakes, many mistakes. Frankly, knowing what we know now, we probably would have opted not to have had children. Polls have shown that many people feel as both my husband and I do. Of the childless couple whom we know, most seem happier than those who opted to have families.

  18. I have read so great responses. No, motherhood/parenthood should never be a “contest” that says that having many children means that you are “worth more” than the woman who has only one, or no children. How archaic and frankly out of sync with what the actual costs of raising a child. Much thought should be given into whether someone chooses motherhood through actually bearing a child, adopting or helping with nieces, nephews of becoming a foster parent. It should always be a choice. Some people are not financially able to raise a child, some people know that they would not have the patience of physical or emotional strength to have a child and others simply do not wish to have children. It must always be a choice. As someone said in an earlier post, she loves and cares for her step children as well as her siblings’ children.
    What deplores me today is that some politicos want to eliminate birth control and put more and more restrictions the availability of abortion. Yes, abortion is sometimes needed, for rape, incest, for chromosomal defects that would make the child’s and the parent’s life intolerable. Many of you may disagree with this last statement, and that is your right. However, do not take the right of privacy and choice away from others. I am old enough to have worked as a nurse in the 50s and 60s when abortion was “illegal,” however, I put “illegal” in quotation marks because a woman of substantial means could always obtain a termination. It was the poor women who suffered when they tried to obtain an abortion from an unskilled practitioner or tried to do the procedure themselves.

    • If you want to learn about the back street abortions, read Our Bodies, Ourselves, Boston Womens Healthbook Collective…they have a photo of a woman who died from an illegal abortion. Women have been oppressed, through religions also…my mother nearly lost her life due to the fact that she would not practice birth control, well her physician made a choice for her, he took her uterus (she was bleeding to death from her last child)…i could have lost my own mother at my tender age of 17. It is not a contest, nor a challenge to see who is MORE FERTILE, we are not dealing with objects that when you grow weary of them can be easily discarded…they are Human Beings, just like all of us here. Treat them as such, they are your children, BUT, they need to learn principles and values and only parents pass those on in order for us to survive with dignity and respect..even the wealthy have children that are not always “admirable” and cannot always claim bragging rights. I am all for loving on nieces and nephews and grandparents, and brother and sisters, and such, nothing in the book says we ALL have to prove that we can reproduce…
      The greatest of all commandments is to love one another…when we love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we take care of our relationship with them, we don’t have to provide for them (each man will carry his own load) but we can help when we see the need…we can do and accomplish many things, without having to always feel like we are nothing without being able to produce children, children are NOT COMMODITIES….again, they are human beings … don’t mistreat them…

  19. it is a choice. My own daughter confessed she wouldn’t want to do it again…but she had no partner help, just her parents…but we all survived and flourished. We were given a mother AND a father for a reason, they both balance one another out when it comes to our training, but you can see what is going on in this system , chaos, death, destruction, drugs…what happened to the family foundation, it got tossed out with the bathwater and the baby…i see mothers with children with handicaps and i want to wrap my arms around them and tell them no matter, what it WILL be okay…sometimes i hate having an empathetic heart..it is a struggle in this world…and a cause for a lot of depression at times too…you just don’t stop caring about other people, you learn to show them a new path, sometimes…

  20. I have an acquaintance who has worked for Right to Life and now works for a Teen Parent Program, whereby pregnant and parenting teens can obtain a GED. The education is sparse and leaves many students ill equipt to enter either college without much remediation nor does it ready the young woman to enter the workforce. This lady is a counselor, however, she has an agenda that is to ensure that the young woman does not terminate her pregnancy. I feel sorry for these girls as they do not really get a choice, if they are “counseled” by this woman, and many of those girls are left to try to raise a child and her only skills allow her to be apart of the low wage, service industry. This lady is so proud of her efforts to obtain a crib, and stoller for the young woman. I can tell you first hand that it takes more than a crib or stoller to raise a child to adulthood. Any woman, young or not so young, should be counsled by someone who is willing to give her ALL her options, which are termination, adoption or taking her pregnancy to term and keeping the child. But, in my opinion she should only keep the child if she has the support that she will need, be that parental, or devoted and committed partner, and that she obtain the education necessary to be gainfully employed with a salary that will allow her to raise that child to adulthood.

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  22. I am 26 years old. I was able to conceive and had a child when I was very young, but chose to put my son up for adoption due to my age and I really had no support at all. So, I gave him to a family in my church that I grew up in, which was promised to be an open adoption, but when I decided I did not want to be apart of an organized religion, the phone calls and visitations stopped at once. Apparently I was too secular? I am nearing my 27th birthday, and these days I don’t even get pictures. When I was 19 years old, I was diagnosed with a certain seizure disorder (partially caused by anxiety) and they put me on a pharmeceutical drug called clonezepam. This is in a class of drugs called benzodiapanines. i was never informed or educated at the time on how truly terrible this medication is, as I was at the time grieving over the loss of my child, looking at college and moving across the country, the last thing on my mind was side effects of what was supposed to be a short termed medication. I always thought, later on in life, I will get another chance to be a mommy again. I was a fool for thinking such. The medication not only has left me practically barren, but the last 3 times I did become pregnant again, I had a toxic miscarriage and after that was forced to have two abortions due to the effects of the medication on the fetus. I have been trying to get off of them for years now, but my seizures become greatly increased and I am basically bed ridden without them. Benzodiapenines and alcohol are the only two lethal substances to go through withdrawal from. So, to wrap this up, a doctor basically took away my rights to motherhood. I have come to terms with knowing that I will never have a second chance, that they will not tie my tubes, and that anytime I get pregnant from here on out I will have to deal with another death abortion. I feel like a framed murderer. I feel as though my fate has been stolen from me. My cousin just gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, and of course the family is in love (as am I), but I am also in so much hate and straight up envy. Every time i hold a child, it does not console me to any extent. It’s just a tease, another reminder of what I had and that I am not allowed to have it again. It is hard for me to even write this. I went to a Christmas dinner this past year, and I was sitting across the dinner table listening to a conversation my Aunt, and my cousin’s girlfriend were having. Both were talking about how there is nothing else to do out there for a woman besides getting married and having children. I cringed in silence. What is there for a woman to do besides such? What worth does she have or consolations even? Is she still even validated as truly being in the eyes of her mate? I have wrung my hands with grief for the love I that I still possess for my little boy, and somedays, I think the only thing that keeps me alive from day to day and going is the possibility that he might seek me out when he is older. Then I will be able to rest. There also is a chance that he might not want to find me at all and that I will spend my entire life waiting with out stretched arms. i have shed so many tears for the time after time the doctor has sent me to the clinic to be “emptied” as he calls it. I even fear having intercourse for the sheer fact that I might get impregnated (as I’m also horribly allergic to a hormonal agent in birth controls). This is where I am. This is where I stand. Stolen from, internally raked out and waiting hopefully every day.

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