By Lisa Manterfield
I’m sure that all of us have heard the old chestnuts, “You wouldn’t understand; you don’t have kids” or “I didn’t understand until I became a mother” (which implies the same thing) or even “Only a parent could know how this feels,” as if being childless strips away all capability of empathy.
And then there are those situations where you just feel invisible, when the conversation about children and parenting is swirling around you and no one even bothers to make eye contact with you because what could you possibly contribute?
These instances make me think of the wonderful “Mr. Cellophane” number from the musical “Chicago.”
And even without clucking like a hen,
Everyone gets noticed now and then,
Unless, of course, that person it should be,
Invisible, inconsequential me.
Personally, I’m done with feeling insignificant because I don’t have kids. It took me a long time to get to this point, but now I hold my ground in conversation. I contribute when I can and simply listen and nod when I can’t, just as I would if I found myself in a conversation on any other topic on which I’m not an expert.
I also keep a list of amazing childless women in case I ever need to remind myself that we don’t need to be parents to make a difference. On my personal list is Amelia Earhart, Dian Fossey, Julia Child, and Juliet Gordon Low, who started the Girl Scout movement. If you need your own role models, Jody Day has put together an outstanding collection on Pinterest.
You’d be hard-pressed to call any of these women insignificant. I remind myself of this when I find myself allowing others to make me feel like less than who I am.
So what do you do when you start to feel like a Ms. Cellophane? Do you feign boredom, try to hop in with an intelligent anecdote, change the subject, or do you slip away and hope no one notices you’ve left?