Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Invisible Woman Strikes Again

Recently I've been dealing with a medical issue that has required me to have more than one doctor's visit. Don't worry readers, everything is going to be fine, but I wanted to share with you another example of one of the many subtle ways childfree women are made to feel invisible in our society.

At the last two doctor's appointments I've gone to, I have been asked (during the usual question-and-answer segment of the consultation) at what age I had my first child. Did you catch that? I wasn't asked if I had children. I was asked when I had my first child. So here are the two assumptions made about me because I am a 44 year old woman:

1. That at some point I had a child.

2. That not only did I have a child, I had more than one child (asking about my first child presumes that I had a second child).

Seems to me, a more appropriate question would be "Do you have children?"

Now I realize that the majority of women my age have children, but many do not. While this question really annoyed me (a person who has chosen not to have children), imagine how it must make a childless woman feel, for example someone struggling with infertility or other issues.

How about you? Can you think of other subtle (or even not-so-subtle) ways the childfree are made to feel invisible? If so, post a comment.


sara star said...

I feel invisible when people ask when I am going to have children rather than if.

Gumby said...

That person should be slapped.
And I'm just the person to do it! ;)

Serotonin Storm said...

Like Sara said, they ask me WHEN I'm going to have children, and when I say I'm NEVER having kids, they say, "oh you will someday", or "you'll change your mind", it's ridiculous. Just because someone CAN have children, doesn't mean they should. It makes me sick. Even worse, I work at Wal-Mart, so it's like some sick breeding ground...

Dave said...

Around this time of year, we have lots of news coverage about school budget votes. All the chatter is about "the children" and "the teachers" but you never hear squat about the childfree taxpayers who pay and pay and pay but receive nothing from their school taxes.

Childfreeeee said...

I feel your pain, Dave. In fact, we have our house up for sale for the sole purpose of moving out of our way-too-overly-taxed state (I think our property taxes are the highest in the nation). I have no problem paying SOME taxes toward education, since a well-educated population benefits all citizens, BUT (this is a BIG but)...I strongly feel that there should be a reasonable baseline amount of property taxes toward schools that everyone pays, and then for each kid a family has, they pay a certain amount more. So in other words, everyone contributes, but the people with kids pay MORE than the people without kids.

The way it works now, the more kids a family has, the more they get for their tax dollars and it's simply not fair. said...

I recall a similar conversation that occurred when I ran into an old high school pal.
Her: So, do you have any kids?
Me: Nope.
Her: Oh, none yet.
Me: Uh, no, none ever!
I was baffled that she felt the need to respond with "none yet." How presumptuous and insensitive.

Cathy said...

I recently joined a girlfriend for a 'girls night out'. A bunch of women get together one night a month and play dice and I was subbing for someone, so I was the "new" girl. Every single woman there asked me if I had kids. When I said no, they pretty much stopped talking to me. The whole 3 hours I was there the women all talked about their kids. All I could think was "isn't this supposed to be your time AWAY from your kids? Why would you talk about them the ENTIRE time?"

charmed said...

even when I thought I had people convinced I didn't want kids, they would make some comment about it. Like this woman at work said something along the lines of "Tabatha thinks she isn't having any kids" and I would correct her with I KNOW I'm not having any. and another girl at work is a virgin and keeps asking who think I will have kids first b/c I am sexually active and she isn't(she says she doesn't want any either) and I politely remind them that if I did get pregnant I would take care of it, and that doesn't change the fact that I'm not having kids. They usually drop it and bring up again later. They are not mean about it, but its starting to get on my nerves.

Fanboy Wife said...

I got a postcard from a private school today to encourage me to enroll my children. I thought it was a "current resident" mailing at first, but it was addressed to my name.

I really do have a real gripe though with the health insurance offered through my job. There are two options: single and family. There is over $1,000 difference/month in the plans. I know the company offers a two-person plan, but my employers chose not to offer it to us. I asked about it, but I'm the only married person at my job that doesn't have kids. (Okay, there is one other married woman, but she just got married a few months ago.)

Christy said...

Whenever people talk about something sexual occurring in front of children. It's always---"What if a child walked by and saw that?" or "They shouldn't be doing those things around families!" And it's usually something that shouldn't be a big deal like nudity or sexy clothing, making out, or same-sex kissing. This infuriates me. First of all, when did I decide that your child got to dictate what I see? Also, is your child planning on being celibate for the rest of his/her life? Seriously, my nephew held onto his wiener for the first two years of his life. The people who buy into shielding children from anything sexual act like I am just going through a "phase" in my life, during which I am young and enjoy sex and/or being sexy, therefore I should be the one to modify my behavior. The disney police are invading everywhere that used to be adult, from beaches at night to bars and clubs. Sorry, but for me, it's not just a phase!

firefly said...

In our neighborhood, a dead-end street about 2 blocks from an elementary school (closing for good soon), the same set of parents organize several 'community' events every year. The Saturday before Easter there is a neighborhood Easter egg hunt with games in the street. In June when school ends there's a 'block party' that usually winds up being kids running around on front lawns screaming and throwing water balloons. In October there is Halloween (and recently 'Oktoberfest,' another stupid block party), and at Christmas there is an 'open house'.

The unspoken theme in all this is parents who get together over their kids' heads so they don't have to get babysitters to socialize with each other.

The second year we were here our front yard was appropriated for people who wanted a place to sit on the grass during the block party. We were home, but nobody asked if we minded. We've had people come into our yard to leave candy-filled eggs at Easter even though we don't fly the balloon that signifies participation. Last year after 'Oktoberfest' we found beer bottles on our front porch.

We went to the first block party and realized that none of the long-term childfree neighbors attended, so we stopped going. Now we usually schedule something else when these things happen and leave for the afternoon.

At no point is there an adults-only event, although these get-togethers are always billed as 'community-building.' The neighborhood has shifted quite a bit in the past 5 years toward fewer families (many of the people who were here when we moved in have left and the people who have replaced them don't have kids).

It's really not a community, but a parents' club for the people who all moved here in the early to mid-1990s with young families. No conspiracy, just a bunch of people with the same mindset.

Everyone else apparently doesn't exist.

Erin said...

@Cathy - I feel your pain!. Although for me it's in the workplace. Up until about 10 years ago, I always seemed to be the youngest person on the staff. Now in my 40s, I'm somewhere in the middle agewise. All along the way through 3 different employers, however, I'm usually the only single, childfree woman. It's like I'm an outcast, as if my life couldn't possibly be meaningful or interesting. I work in a field that's predominantly female so when meeting new people there's always the "Do you have kids?" question. (Why don't men ever do this?!) When I reply "no", the conversation usually ends. It's like women don't know how to have conversations with each other unless they have the common interest of being a parent.

This is largely why I find myself chit-chatting more with the men (whether or not they have kids) because they can happily talk about things other than their off-spring. I'm a big sports fan, so that's usually a topic of conversation.

I've relegated myself to not forming personal friendships with female co-workers because they have little to talk about other than their kids (which is of NO interest to me b/c I don't even know these rugrats). They rarely go to the movies; they don't watch the news or read newspapers; they don't go out for happy hour or enjoy a new hip restaurant; they don't travel to museums or art galleries or historical sites; they don't do anything that's for adults only!

I'm very happy with my life and enjoy all of the things mentioned in the previous paragraph, in addition to a full-time career and myriad hobbies. Why can't women express an interest in MY life?

Sharonkay said...

Hi Erin:

I am a single childfree woman in my 40's too and I get the same treatment from female co-workers on jobs that I have held in previous years. I don't have a lot of female friends either because I find that most of them are boring and all they do is talk about their bratty kids. I now have a work at home job and a part time art/craft business. It is nice not to have to deal with these silly insecure women anymore. I don't regret my decision to be childfree.

SophieD said...

I was at a friend's naming day for her two children. My husband and I were chatting to another couple in their early 40s, also without children. (I don't know their story - I figure it's not my business). A guy came up. He knew us all, and when asked how he was, he launched into explaining how busy he was because of the kids. "You know what it's like" he said. "No," we said, "we don't." And we all stood there. He was speechless, and turned and left. Obviously we weren't worth even talking to.

Patee333 said...

I've been going thru the archived posts so this comment is most def late.
I'm getting married later this year and I've signed up with sites such as the etc. And a few dress shops. Oddly, loath and behold, somehow my name and address got automatically subscribed to magazines. One of them for PARENTING!!! Because, you know, since I'm getting married, I'm automatically having kids!