29 May, 2017

Taking back control conversationally

I’ve been thinking about ways of dealing with the inability of (some) parents to talk about anything other than their children, and would love you to share any ideas or success stories of your own. I am tired though of always being the thoughtful ones, the ones who do all the emotional work in having conversations with parents, because we’re worried about being rude if we actually try to point out – either bluntly or through hints as below – how unfairly (and frankly, rudely) we are treated when we answer, “no” to that inevitable question.

There is of course the possibility of making a pre-emptive strike, responding, “before I answer, I want to check you’re not going to walk away if I say that I don’t have children,” and then tell them a funny story about this actually happening – if they actually walk away after that, then they truly have a problem!

Another pre-emptive response (similar to the one above, or perhaps the next step in the conversation) is to diplomatically ask them about how they feel about those parents who lose all their conversational abilities and interest in others when they have children. I personally know many mothers who roll their eyes at always being asked about their kids, rather than their work or travel or what movies they’ve seen recently or the weather or current events, etc, and would respond very positively to this.

As soon as possible, ask them questions about their lives (other than their children), showing you’re interested in them rather than just their status as parents, whether it’s house renovations or what grows (or doesn’t) in their garden, what sports they follow, where they grew up, etc. People love talking about themselves, and should respond positively to you, perhaps not even noticing they’re not talking about their kids for once.

If they’ve opened the conversation asking about children, then it's easy to ask about their kids, demonstrating in the nicest possible way that it is perfectly possible to have a pleasant conversation about children without actually having children. 

22 May, 2017

Healing and my Personality

I was thinking the other day about how our individual personalities affect how we heal after infertility, how they can both help and hinder us in the process, and came up with this preliminary list of my own helpful and unhelpful personality traits:
  • I don’t like failing.
  • I don’t like the feeling that I’m missing out.
  • I worry too much about what other people think.
  • I hadn’t spent my whole life wanting only to be a mother.
  • I never thought “things happen for a reason.”
  • I have always had strong feminist tendencies, and so have never defined women by their biology.
  • I was older, so was already learning to accept that I am the one who chooses what matters to me.
  • I am pragmatic, and so didn‘t (always) fall for society’s messages I was hearing.
I’d love to see your lists too - here in the comments, or on your blogs linked back here.

15 May, 2017

Happy being a stereotype

People often assume that the No Kidding amongst us can (and want to) travel the world, and that this  makes up for not having children. I’m sorry, but I know my existence just perpetuates this stereotype, and I apologise to those of you who resent being typecast. The fact that I think I would have travelled almost as much if we had had children seems to be irrelevant to the perpetuation of this stereotype; so too, is the fact that many of my most-travelled friends are parents.

This stereotype raises its ugly head less often for me these days, as - over the last ten years or so - I see my eldest sister and a number of friends also becoming free to travel wherever and whenever they are choose, as their children grow up and leave home. Our situation, where we were one of the few couples we knew who were free to travel unconstrained by the school year, is no longer unique.

Still,I remember a discussion last year with a former mentor of mine, who was envious of our three months in Italy in 2013 (and two months either side of it), noting that as she was now a grandparent, she couldn’t be away that long from the grandchildren. I realised this was very much her choice though, as I compared her with another friend who summers in France for six months with her French beau, and then returns in the NZ summer to see her children and grandchildren.

So maybe in the end this has little to do with stereotypes, and now is really all about choice. As this post is published, we will be a week into our northern adventure holiday, and I will feel okay that I am continuing this stereotype as the carefree couple without children - because that’s exactly what I plan on being for the next few weeks.

08 May, 2017

Refusing to give up my power

One of the advantages of being away at this time of year is that I will miss Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day somewhere else however hasn’t bothered me too much – I took great delight, for example, watching all the families out for lunch in Soweto, South Africa, on Mother’s Day in 2009 - and I’m pretty sure that it won’t bother me in Iceland either, as I generally find there is a real freedom being away from your own society and community and language.

Feeling separate from the rest of our communities can be an ongoing, underlying source of pain, one to which we become accustomed, but as the years go on, we don’t necessarily recognise this until we suddenly notice its absence (for example, when travelling). And of course, one of the difficulties of our ongoing No Kidding life is that we can never quite predict when those nasty “ouch” moments might appear. Doing something that makes us happy – for example, going for a walk or cooking a special meal at home with your partner or friends – can help alleviate the impact of this day, and so can planning in advance, which is why I've posted this a week early. It is an invented holiday, and within a few days it is forgotten, and I refuse to give it too much power over me.

That first day back at work though – all those discussions/competitions between parents around the water cooler about how they spent their day – can be painful, and it is fine to protect yourself and make yourself scarce during these conversations, or (perhaps useful in a one-on-one situation) use a standard response of mine that I hope makes them think, which is along the lines of “I am not the person you should be telling this to”  or "why would you be telling this to me, of all people?"

But I’d love to hear your own suggestions of how to deal with this in the comments.

01 May, 2017

My internal bad guys

Last year, Mel wrote a post about our internal bad guys, the voices in our heads that stop us living our lives, tell us stories that aren’t true, and steal our efforts at happiness.

I think everyone has these bad guys – I remember an “ah ha” moment when I was in my late 20s/early 30s when I saw a businesswoman on a documentary talk about imposter syndrome. I believe that it is much more prevalent amongst women ... or perhaps we just talk about it more?

I do think though that infertility emboldens these internal bad guys, when they say some terrible things to us, and additionally, in those early months/years of a No Kidding Life, they can really go over the top. Sadly, they learn their best material from stereotypes in books, on television and movies, by listening to politicians and radio announcers, or even from our friends and family, and then they know just when to throw these statements back at us, usually at our weakest, most vulnerable moments.

I’ve managed to stand up to the ringleader, What If Wanda, and as I told her in no uncertain terms to STFU shut her mouth, her followers Fearful Freddie, Sensitive Sally and Behaving Bessie quietened as well. Even though What If Wanda and her crew turn up again from time to time, they are actually easy to stand up to in the end, because all I have to do is ask, “are they speaking the truth?”

Now, if only I could get rid of Procrastinating Polly as easily!