The other day I was having my hair cut and a lady at the nail bar was wanging on about her new puppy. “Up all hours,” she was saying. “So tired. No rest.” And then she turned to me: “You’ve got kids, right?” Why? Because I’m in my 40s and relatable looking? A bit like her, like you? Every woman? Nothing ostensibly wrong? Nothing ostensibly special? Just, y’know, living?
That assumption is so stupid and so hurtful. Firstly because fewer and fewer of us are having kids. Secondly because – for all the child-free empowerment movement, which I wholeheartedly and passionately support – I have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t have children as an active choice. Failed IVF? Yup. Failed marriage? Yup. Failed to find a man in time? Mostly. And not because of career focus or selfishness or anything other than sheer bloody, bloody-minded, bad bloody luck. And generally – although there are exceptions – it has been a personal tragedy that has needed committed grieving.
So do not assume. Do not do it. Every time you do, it is a stab to the heart of a woman who can’t see for prams and nappy adverts and fecund bumps. The only thing that fills a baby-shaped hole is a baby, and if that’s not possible then things get complicated. And dark. More complicated than the mother-club can imagine. Do not assume and do not tilt your head to one side and look sympathetic. It is not your business. Do not bring it into the hairdresser. The pain does not belong there… That is where we go to escape.