Another one’s gone. And another one’s gone. Another one bites the dust.
Dun dun dun.
Another coworker is pregnant.
It feels a little like Red Rover: The playground game that begins with two equal lines of children, each team calling to weakest players on the opposing side to run and attempt to break through their line of joined hands. When the weak kid fails, they join the opposite team, until one team had gathered nearly everyone on the playground, and the losing team is down to a sad one or two chldren. I don’t exactly remember how it ends, except that slowly one team disappears; the majority always wins.
Slowly, my friends and coworkers get knocked up. Some are predictable. Some have hoped to get pregnant for a long time, and I’m thrilled when it works out. Some have much more success in parenting than I would have expected, and again I’m very happy for them.
But occasionally, I take a pregnancy announcement as a personal affront. Some people are seemingly past the age of reproduction, or have never mentioned kids, or for whatever reason I just assumed they were on Team Childfree. So when they’re suddenly two trimesters in, I feel betrayed. Excuse me, expectant mother, but can we pause your miracle of procreation to consider how I might feel about your life plans? I’m your coworker. Didn’t you bother to wonder how this might shift my self-centered worldview?
Every acquaintance who becomes a parent is another loss to the other side. Individually, I’m happy for them. But en masse, I am distressed to find myself in an increasing minority.
At work, I am excluded from an ever-growing number of conversations. I have nothing to contribute when talk turns to C-sections at the kitchen coffee cart. The baby talk is simultaneously irrelevant, uninteresting, and a reminder of how much our culture centers on parents and children. When you have nothing else to say, ask about someone’s kids — they’ll talk endlessly.
For now, my social life is safe: But what happens when even one couple from our small circle has a baby? Our dinner parties of four couples may not withstand even one pair dropping out due to parental obligations.
Gradually, the childfree world around me shrinks and I am surrounded by mommies and daddies. I hate to be divisive, and I don’t think the culture needs to be. Parents and nonparents can blend together comfortably. In theory. In reality, however, I see parenting change people. They spend less time on their jobs. They RSVP yes to fewer parties. They have little to talk about except kids.* So when someone gets pregnant, it feels like they’ve been traded permanently to the other team.
I lied a little when I said I didn’t remember how Red Rover ends. I don’t remember the rules clearly, but I do remember this: despite my small hands and skinny arms as a kid, I was surprisingly great at this game. No one could break through my strong grasp, and no one could stand against my tiny weight when I charged through their line. I knew my goal, and my determination was great. I rarely let go or failed to break through.
The Decision: No Baby. It feels a bit unnecessary to continue this conceit, but I appreciate the consistency.
* Generalization. One couple I know maintains thoroughly normal work and social lives, and well-rounded personalities, while parenting a two-year-old. They work hard, and talk about things across a variety of non-baby subjects. They’re generally Model Parents, in the sense of being good people who also parents among other things. (They’re probably “good parents” in a more traditional sense — but I wouldn’t really know, since they talk mostly about things other than their kid.)