Virtually every parent I know has at some point said to me “I only like my own children”, or, as some of my circle would put it: “I couldn’t give a toss about other people’s kids”.
Fair enough, humans are wired to feel an unconditional commitment towards their own offspring; it’s normal to feel relatively indifferent to the children of others.
Where does this leave people without children? In my case, the only kids I really care about, along with those I’m related to and those of my friends, are the ones I didn’t have.
Similar, then, but not the same.
I am unmoved by loose acquaintances’ or colleagues’ tales of their children; I find it hard to muster up the appropriate small-talk. I’ve been very self-conscious about this, however. Afraid of looking like some kind of …… child-hating crone. Unnatural.
My own delusions. But there it is: as a woman over 40 without children, I’ve sometimes obliged myself to look interested for longer. Not just for the sake of politeness.
So when trapped at a work lunch with six acquaintances swapping stories about their kids, or enduring a conversation about babies with people I don’t like much, or fake-laughing at an unfunny anecdote about a colleague’s teenagers, I’ve tended to set my face to riveted until rigor mortis sets in.
Anxious that if I act like the average male and scarper as soon as I can, these mothers might think: doesn’t have kids = doesn’t like kids.
I realise that such interactions are a necessary social emollient. But at least parents have some common ground, can take a turn at talking about their own children. Me, I find them awkward.
And, I confess, disgruntling, having been denied the opportunity of a kid to bang on about.
Are they all in my head, though, these presumptions that I’m something a bit aberrant, and need to compensate for it? Where did they come from?
From casual observation, half the population couldn’t care less about how these things look. So next time I’m going to say to myself:
what would most men do right now?