This is a slightly random, slightly ranty and probably slightly patronising blog post, but I feel that what I’m about to say needs to be said…
Christmas is fast approaching and the Christmas parties are already in full flow. Nothing quite beats family and friends coming together, sharing food, getting a bit tipsy, the sound of laughter and the thought of new memories being made…it really is special. I do love this time of year, but I feel like this year will be a bit more sombre for me. Its our first without my dear Dad and I can already feel the massive hole that will be following us around all day, I’m dreading it. If that wasn’t enough, I also have to contend with the thought that this would have been Jiya’s first Christmas, we should have a 3-month old to fuss over right now but instead our house is quiet and empty. To fill that void, I’m busying myself buying presents for everyone else’s babies and toddlers wondering if our day will ever come. I hope it will.
Anyway, that’s not entirely what I want to talk about today. I want to share a story of something that happened over the summer and how it made me feel. I want you all to read it and think, think, think and think again before you unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings or make someone feel like an outsider this Christmas.
Sukhie and I were at my friends garden party this summer where we were the only couple without a baby or toddler in tow. It didn’t bother me. I am at peace with my situation and I’ve got used to the sight of strangers playing happy families amidst the backdrop of BBQ smoke, the smell of charred meat and kids running into your legs. It is in fact a very beautiful sight that one day we may be a part of. I enjoyed being at this function and I wasn’t going to let myself feel out of place. Why should I? I was invited out of great intentions and I deserved to be there and have a good time, didn’t I? Why then did I start to feel uncomfortable? And why, when Sukhie suggested leaving early did I jump at the chance?
It played on my mind on the drive home. Something felt unjust. I made the effort to talk to the mums and dads about their kids, asked their ages, heard the stories about this baby who was teething and that child who was too thin that clothes didn’t fit him well. I even did the whole ‘goo goo gaga’ and cheek pinching thing with the babies and made friends with one baby who was then attached to my hip for a good 30 minutes. All this I did happily with a beaming smile and like I said, I really was enjoying myself.
However, seeing that we arrived without a baby, over the course of the event the parents made unnecessary comments like…“oh, you don’t have grey hair like me, its because you haven’t got kids”. Another parent, seeing me hit it off with one of the babies there said “you’re definitely ready aren’t you?”. My husband was told a number of times “you’ll be next”. It was this that was unjust. Couples with children feeling the need to throw wholly unnecessary one-liners at our childless situation, oblivious to what we had been through. Fair enough we hardly knew any of them well enough for them to know our situation, but did we deserve to be made to feel like we were out of the club? Did we deserve to be made to feel so uneasy that we left an hour after arriving? Considering I stood there listening to stories about potty training, selecting nurseries, having another one on the way that wasn’t planned, why did no one care to ask me anything, if I wanted children for example. If they’d have asked me, I’m pretty sure I’d have told them my situation, if only to shut them up (worst case scenario) or have them open up about their experiences (best case scenario). But they didn’t. No one asked a single question. They just spoke at us. And the only losers in this situation were me and Sukhie. We were made to feel uncomfortable. We were made to feel like outsiders. We left early. We started to question whether we should go to these types of functions and spent the rest of the day feeling pretty sombre and deep in our own thoughts. I’m sure the other guests continued to enjoy themselves and didn’t think twice about us or how their words may have made us feel!
That’s the story I wanted to share, in the hope that it makes you all think before you speak at a Christmas gathering, or any function for that matter. What you say may be polite conversation to you, but like my story shows it can be a whole lot more to the person you are saying it to. We rarely know what someone else is going through and we have a choice about what we say which can have a positive or negative impact. Personally, I’d much rather people were honest with me and just asked me if I’d thought about having children. It gives me a choice. Rather than be talked at or made to feel like I don’t belong, I have the space to answer in a way that feels right to me. If I respond with, “yeah maybe one day”, just get the hint and don’t ask me anything more. If I want to talk, then I will.
I hope you understand why I needed to write this blog. I’ve been made to feel like shit so many times because people feel the need to make throw away comments about having babies…and if it’s happened to me, its probably happened to someone you know, a friend, family member, colleague at work, stranger in the checkout queue…this blog post is for all of you. I hope you aren’t made to feel any less of a person because you don’t have a child. I hope you don’t have to hear thoughtless comments. I hope you can enjoy the festivities as much as everyone else. I hope you receive kindness wherever you may go.
And to those who may have put their foot in it in the past, it’s ok, I think even I’ve done it too in my younger, somewhat ignorant days. Please don’t feel bad, just think of this blog when you next get the urge to say something to someone whose arms are empty but whose heart is full of longing. Your choice of words has the power to hurt or heal, so choose them wisely.
Happy holidays to you all. Remember, everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about, so be kind, always.