Mother’s Day is tricky and I’m not just talking about where to put the apostrophe. You see, I am not a mother. Mainly due to the fact that I do not have children. Yes, I am without issue.
It’s no issue for me but it does seem to cause other people “a bit of bother.” Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for motherhood. It’s safe to say it’s got me where I am today. And after five series of Call the Midwife there’s little I don’t know about childbirth. It’s just that whether a woman is a mother or not a mother and how she arrived at either of those states is not small talk. It is as big talk as you can get. So today I offer this helpful guide – what not to say on Mother’s Day, or any other day.
My first tip: “When are you due?” is a very risky conversation opener and should be used with extreme caution – perhaps only in a maternity ward. Once a rumour went around work that I was pregnant. Bailed up with the question, I had to admit I had just stacked on a few kilos. Now, a few years on, if I’m offered a seat on a bus I’m happy to accept. It means I look old beyond my years or young enough to be pregnant. I’m hoping it’s the latter but either way I get a seat.
Generally, assumptions are best avoided. Even though I’ve been asked this question in various forms many times I still don’t know how to answer, “How many children do you have?” “None,” just seems so bold and inevitably elicits a kindly hand on the arm and condolences in hushed tones: “You would have been a lovely mother”. Hardly evidence-based. If I find out someone can’t play the piano I don’t feel the need to reassure them their take on Bach would have been breathtakingly brilliant.
Usually the disappointed small talker moves quickly to pets. Which is fine as I can wax on about my beagle for as long as you want. However, it is hardly flattering and shows a poor grasp of biology if you actually think I’m his mum! I am really not sure why my doctor wrote on my specialist referral, “No children, has a dog”. A new holistic approach covering both medical and veterinary bases perhaps? Or maybe fleas were at the root of my problem…
I have never understood why parents seem so driven to wish their state on others. Once a well-meaning male co-worker helpfully urged me not to, “Leave my run too late in the motherhood stakes”. Ever since, I have had visions of myself in a lycra smock running breathlessly towards an imaginary finish line.
To those of you who have made the finish line, my congratulations. May all good things come to you this Mother’s Day. But everyone, remember – if you’re out and about and talking to strangers, please, just stick to the weather.
And OK, since you’ve asked – no, I don’t have grandchildren yet…
Words: Kate Lean