The title of this post is a variation on the question that was posed at the onset of a BlogHer panel I attended called Women Without Children in the Blogosphere. (Hey, is this an opportunity for another acronym or what? WWC?)
The actual question was “how many of you feel invisible at this conference?”
Loads of hands went up, including mine. It’s quite the feat to be invisible at my height — especially when I usually wear two to three inch heels, but Teri Tith, another seriously tall woman who asked the question, had a point to make. At the BlogHer conference as well as society in general women without children are made to feel “less than” than their mommy counterparts, hence our disappearing act.
Now lest readers think this nothing more than sour grapes talking, the vast majority of women in the room made the choice not to have children. Some were single. Some found their mate after their prime conceiving years and still others, like me, tried but didn’t succeed despite years of efforts. We all shared one very big thing in common — the wrong-headed assumption that we dislike children. Among the many fallacies held about us, that one by far is the biggest.
The stories tumbled out in this session about how often the women in the room were on the receiving end of looks signalling confusion or pity or hostility about their childless or childfree state (take your pick on the adjective — I haven’t decided which I dislike more).
Is it any wonder I felt large and in charge at this session? I was among my people. I felt validated in a way I hadn’t at the other sessions I’d attended. When I got my turn with the microphone I half-jokingly asked if it might be possible for us to get tattoos so that we might be able to locate each other more easily. My suggestion was met with lots of nodding heads as it might be one way for us to comfortably avoid all manner of mommy small talk at parties or work events.
None of us felt we had much to add to a conversation about how to avoid sore nipples during breast feeding, how to evaluate the best pre-school or how to manage competing soccer schedules.
Beyond feeling excluded one woman said she was downright bored by the conversations that she’s usually forced to sit through. A woman to my immediate left said her department manager liked to open staff meetings with non-work chit chat — in other words stories about kids on the weekend. At one point he pulled her aside and asked her why she didn’t participate. She told him she didn’t have kids and, by the way, (hint, hint) she was getting a bit tired of having to hear all the parenting stories.
You can read other stories and perspectives from a live blogging post on this session here.
And since, I’m on a roll…some other thoughts about invisibility.
The session reminded me of a conversation I once had with a 50-something women. She warned me that because society doesn’t value older women, she sometimes felt invisible. Guys no longer checked her out. At any type of event or location where security guards are stationed she said older women can all but do as they please. No one is watching them. She’s had to adjust to feeling invisible. In her case, though, she found her grandchildren gave her license to be young again, to try new things, to be seen.
Um, grandchildren won’t be in my future so apparently there’s yet another challenge before me not to feel invisible as I continue my march through my 40s.
Finally, the session also provoked a deeper exploration of thoughts. The opening question stayed with me and, like a pebble in the shoe, I couldn’t quite identify what about it was irritating me until today.
Caveats: Now, what I’m about to say isn’t a contrived way to solicit reassurances or to initiate a new divide. And I will get downright pissed if my thoughts elicit pity. I’m just going to tell it like it is. Consider it part two of a recent post I wrote called Stuck in a Thought Bubble.
So here it is: it’s occurred to me that I’m starting to feel invisible amid the infertility blogosphere. Each day I get further away from my herculean efforts at trying to conceive. I’m not shooting up hormones or evaluating fertility protocols or pursuing home study for adoption or parenting after successful infertility treatments. So once again, I need to figure out how and where I fit in amid a set of discussions and experiences that are moving along a path that I’m not on. Gotta get the road map out to see where I’m headed so I don’t get stuck in another cul-de-sac.
What are your thoughts about how to manage around these types of challenges (and they don’t have to be infertility related!) Also, any “WWC” tattoo ideas are most welcome.