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"Mummies" at work

(25 Posts)
basejump Thu 08-Sep-16 12:57:55

I am one of a handful of non-parents at work. The job I do is ideal for people looking to shift to a lower gear while they have babies and bring up young families. I started the job while we were still doing IVF, as my previous job was too busy and stressful. IVF didn't work, 2 miscarriages were all we got out of the whole hellish process, and we have Given Up. I'm 42. I like my job and don't really want to leave, at least not for what feels like a silly reason.

Everyone I work with knows I don't have kids, but none of them know the details, and none have asked. Most of the men don't treat me any differently, but there are a couple of women who are starting to do my head in. Every conversation I have with them eventually turns into being about "when you're a parent". For example, we were talking about Brexit. Mummy number one throws in "well now I have a little one I'm so much more worried about it...etc." Ah, ok, remind me not to give a shit about the future of the country as I haven't procreated.

Then the other day we were talking about living outside London. I have recently moved out and was saying how glad I am about that. Mummy number one chimes in with "yes well when you have kids London isn't that great any more". HELLO ?? I don't have kids. I have just told you I'm really happy not to live in London anymore. Mummy number one then turns to male parent colleague to ask about him how he's finding living outside London with his kids. Nothing more for me to add, really.

Another conversation about holidays with "Mummy number two" : we're discussing hotels v Airbnb, she says to me "oh well of course you two can go on holiday outside term time so you don't have to worry about it being more expensive, but with the FIVE of us ..."

And yet another of many more examples - Mummy number three going on about how busy she is and telling me "how organised you have to be when you're a parent".

I'm sure they don't mean anything by it (well not entirely sure, but it would be so petty and unpleasant I struggle to believe they do) , it's more of a knee jerk reaction than anything. But it makes me feel excluded and belittled. The obvious solution is not to engage with them but I like having a chinwag at work and don't want to be a miserable sod. Or maybe I am a miserable sod.

Any thoughts ? Have I had the shit kicked out of me so hard by the infertility process that I can't take "normal" conversation any more ?

Marmalade85 Thu 08-Sep-16 13:16:28

I think you are being sensitive but it's understandable due to your circumstance.

ImYourMama Thu 08-Sep-16 13:20:23

I think you're being sensitive, they do sound a bit precious about 'mummyness' but just ignore it, they don't mean anything by it and if they don't know your struggles they won't know to be sensitive

GoblinLittleOwl Thu 08-Sep-16 13:36:12

No, you are not unduly sensitive; you can hold perfectly normal conversations, it is the ones larded with mummyness that are so upsetting for you and also stultifyingly boring. Unfortunately there are some women who can only identify themselves through their children, they dominate every conversation with unwanted updates on education, career, weddings and grandchildren, because they have nothing else to talk about.

Could you confide in a sympathetic colleague about your circumstances, so that when these people start, she can divert the conversation or start a new one with you?

I am fortunate in having had children, but I have always found these people crashing bores, and wish sometimes to have the courage to tell them to Just Shut Up.

CotswoldStrife Thu 08-Sep-16 13:48:18

I think you are being a little over-sensitive, sorry. I can see why it is difficult for you and I do sympathise, is it really just the women that do this or do you not notice it from the men so much when they mention similar topics?

anametouse Thu 08-Sep-16 14:03:01

I don't think you are being over sensitive as such, I just think a bunch of 'mummies' are self obsessed arses who can't think past their own mummy-ness (hence the infuriating farce when it was suggested Teresa may may not have the countries best interests at heart because she wasn't a mummy, what the fuck?!)

It's sounds like your view is being disregarded and that's shit. Confide in them if you want but I might also say "you know I'm still a person with the same rights just not had a small person spring out of my Fanjo" ... You may be nicer than me though wink

basejump Thu 08-Sep-16 14:15:45

Thank you. It really helps to get some sensible perspectives !

Goblin I can't tell you how I wish I knew more people with your attitude. Unfortunately I still can't talk about it to 'new' people without crying, and I don't trust anyone at work enough to do so. Funnily enough one male colleague seems to have picked up on it and does try to change the subject. Sadly he's leaving.

if they don't know your struggles they won't know to be sensitive Yes I think this is at the root of my problem ImYourMama. I do sort of agree with you but isn't it just basic courtesy not to exclude/trump people like this for any reason ? For example I never bang on about how fantastic my husband is to single colleagues (there are one or two). I don't need to know all about their dating struggles to tread carefully on that issue. For all I know, they might be happy as larry to be uncoupled, but I err on the side of caution.

Cotswoldstrife> I would love to get to the point where I don't react like this anymore, as I know I can't expect people to tiptoe around me. 99% of the time it is women. With the fantastic exception of one male colleague who, in answer to an innocuous question from me about reading books, boomed "I have CHILDREN instead of books !!".

Waltermittythesequel Thu 08-Sep-16 14:20:25

Honestly, none of your examples seem particularly precious or U to me.

I think you're being sensitive and almost a little sneery about them, which is a shame because a) they don't know your circumstances and b) if you continue to hold onto this resentment of them and their circumstances, you will grow unhappier as times goes on.

I'm not saying you should tell them, of course you shouldn't share anything personal unless you want to. But don't judge them by standards they don't even know they have to meet.

freetrampolineforall Thu 08-Sep-16 14:33:10

I don't think you are being over sensitive.

Sgoinneal Thu 08-Sep-16 14:43:10

It sounds like a pretty boring way for them to always respond to you but I also think you are being a little sensitive. (Understandably).

We had trouble conceiving and I know that during that period I bristled at all of those kinds of comments. Now that I do have dc I'm very careful not to go on about the kids because I remember that time, but on the other hand I have a pretty dull life (no nights out or holidays to report!) so any conversation with me will eventually touch on some element of family life. It's a tricky balance.

Equally on the other hand, having lost a parent recently and hearing stories about people spending time with theirs/doing amazing Father's Day things/having Grandpa around for their kids always stings me - but it's my sensitivity, not their fault I'm bereaved in that instance.

flowers I really feel for you though and your ttc issues - maybe when some of your colleagues have gone through some bad times themselves they will reflect. Maybe when you're able to discuss it more openly you could let the most tactful, kind one know?

basejump Thu 08-Sep-16 15:00:32

Thanks Sgoinneal. It's not parents talking about their individual children that bothers me. Not at all, in fact I like it when they do. It's more the blanket "when you're a parent" statements like the ones I mentioned earlier, that make me feel like a door is being slammed in my face. Whereas chit chat about what their kids are up to makes me feel included. I'm not sure if that makes sense, but the two conversations feel very different to me.

I'm sorry for your loss, and while as you say it's not their fault you are bereaved, I am endlessly surprised that ordinarily quite nice people will just carry on like this without a second's thought.

AnnaMarlowe Thu 08-Sep-16 15:01:06

We struggled with infertility for 6 years before we had our twins.

We didn't tell anyone that we were TTC or having problems.

I vividly remember being furious that my friend (who was rather a "only person in the world to ever have a baby") said "it's sooooo much harder to watch the sad things on the news once you have a baby"

I (kind of) get what she meant now, although it wasn't well expressed but on top of all the "you'll see what I mean when you have children" comments on everything from diet, exercise, world politics to bank accounts I was rather losing my patience.

Being a parent can be rather all encompassing, it does effect how you think about some things as you view them through a different lens.

You aren't unreasonable to be annoyed by it, I've been there myself. It's horrible to feel judged for not belonging to a particular club when you'd love to be a member.

Some of the comments are not entirely in reasonable, for example one of the reasons I'm upset about Brexit is that it will reduce my children's opportunities to study and live in different countries when they are grown.

Some are not - I've read thousands of books since my DC were born. Less than I would have done without them but it's still a ridiculous thing to say.

I suppose in conclusion, they are being thoughtless but not deliberately so. You are being sensitive but not 'over sensitive'.

Sgoinneal Thu 08-Sep-16 15:20:52

I think Anna has put this far better than i did. I completely understand what you mean about the two conversations basecamp.

sianihedgehog Thu 08-Sep-16 15:26:17

Op, tell them about your struggles. I've said stuff like that at work, but I'd be more sensitive if I knew one of the people I was with had been through infertility. Just drop it into conversation with one of them. "We tried so hard, but we've just not been lucky enough to have children."

AnnaMarlowe Thu 08-Sep-16 15:46:53

sani infertility is an incredibly personal thing. I have never "just dropped" it into a conversation.

We told no one. When we finally, after many years of tests and treatments got pregnant we told our closest family and friends only.

Most of my friends and wider family have no idea even now eight years later.

You should just always be sensitive that people without children may not have chosen to be so.

Things not to do:

Ask them if they are planning children
Tell them time is running out
Tell them they'll understand when they are parents
Tell them how lucky they are not to be burdened with children/school holiday limitations/extra costs (you'd be surprised how often this comes up).

BipBippadotta Thu 08-Sep-16 15:57:36

Yeah, this sort of thing completely does my head in as well.

'As a parent...' 'When it's your turn...' 'Well, when you have children to think about...' blah blah blah, complete with syrupy, patronising smile, in every conversation, whether it's remotely relevant to children/families/parenthood or not. So fucking boring. And you can't really participate in office chat if they will insist on yanking the conversation away from any shared ground. So if you're making a cup of tea in the kitchen and mention, say, what you got up to on the weekend, it's 'ha ha, well I wouldn't have time for things like that now that I have my children!'

I'll freely admit I'm a bit sensitive after 1 full-term stillbirth & 4 miscarriages and 5 years ttc. And former colleagues referring to me (with what I genuinely think was a misguided attempt at affection) as 'the cat lady'. Like I was some laughable piss-smelling mad old spinster.

I went freelance and I don't have to deal with that anymore.

Telling people about your struggles doesn't help, in my experience. It just makes them uncomfortable. And it also doesn't really do anything to debunk this idea that being a parent = being an adult. It's like you have to tell people you've at least tried to have children, so they don't continue thinking you are some overgrown child who wants to avoid real life and real love and real responsibility and real meaning forever.

Rant over.

basejump Thu 08-Sep-16 16:01:57

Like Anna, we were very private about it when going through IVF. Now our close friends and some family know we tried but couldn't. I don't mind telling people outside work, funnily enough. I recently met a lady who was struggling with secondary infertility and who asked me outright if I wanted children. The way she asked made it OK, so I told her. But work is different, it's not something I feel I could drop into the conversation, and it's tough enough seeing my life reflected as some kind of tragedy in the eyes of (some) friends and family, without my colleagues feeling sorry for me as well ! So maybe it's better this way and I just have to lump it.

Btw, Amen to Anna's list of dont's.

raisedbyguineapigs Thu 08-Sep-16 16:12:43

I think you might be being a little bit ( understandably) sensitive. I have said things like "You're lucky you can go on holiday out of term time" and things about London not being for me because of the kids without thinking about it. Your colleagues do seem unbelievably tedious, narrow minded and twee though. I would never say I had more of a stake in the country because I have children, or that I only understand things because I have children. Mainly because it's not true. I would find these things offensive on behalf of my brother and SIL who are childless but do much more in their community and for charity than me or anyone else I know with children, or my good friends who don't have children but are not selfish arses who only care about themselves because of it. I'd like to think I'd pull them up on it, but I pobably wouldn't!

basejump Thu 08-Sep-16 16:12:59

Yes Bip this whole notion that insensitive acquaintances will magically transform into supportive buddies if they just know your story is frankly bollocks. I have made that mistake a couple of times and won't be doing it again.

And the whole parent = adult thing ? Oh how sick I am of that one. I have met many people who were "parented" by immature idiots and suffered lifelong consequences.

Anyway, I second every word of your 'rant'.

BipBippadotta Thu 08-Sep-16 16:13:32

Disclaimer: Some of my best friends are mothers! And we have great, interesting, funny conversations about their children, and children they know, and school things, etc. Because they include me in those conversations and speak engagingly about these things, and don't treat me as though I'm on the other side of some weird parental fence and couldn't possibly understand their lives.

Lottapianos Thu 08-Sep-16 16:16:46

'For example I never bang on about how fantastic my husband is to single colleagues (there are one or two). '

Exactly. Because you sound like a sensitive, thoughtful, non-self-absorbed person with an range of different thoughts in your head. They sound unbearable dull. Very Andrea Leadsom

I'm so sorry to hear about your struggles. There is an excellent online Google + community called Gateway Women, for women who don't have children and are struggling with that, for all sorts of reasons. I have found it extremely supportive and helpful. There's a £5 monthly charge to be a member but its well worth it. I highly recommend it if you're interested

WootyWoo Thu 15-Sep-16 20:28:18

Oh just came across this thread and absolutely get it OP. I'm happy to listen to funny stories of other people's kids. Totally fine. It's the excluding comments that are so hurtful. It's smug and shows a complete lack of social awareness.

Yes they don't know you'd tear your own arm off at the chance of your own baby but like you say - you wouldn't go rubbing your perfect married life in the face of someone who's single. Just. In. Case. Really thoughtless self involved behaviour.

There's a guy at my work who's been calling me 'the crazy cat lady'. I'd like to think it's affectionate but it upsets me and gives me the total rage. Yes I have 2 cats I NEVER talk about. If I had kids I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be getting called the crazy cat lady. I find it soooo offensive.

Nothing I can do. I'm certainly not sharing my infertility story with him. Like you I couldn't without crying and also it's not for work gossip. Its intensely painful and private. I'd rather ride out the insensitive comments and keep my deep sorrow private.

KittensWithWeapons Fri 16-Sep-16 03:24:15

I agree, WootyWoo. Some of the conversations in my last office made me extremely upset. The fucking irony was that they talked loads about their babies, and how difficult it must be for 'the infertile' to have to listen to loads of talk about babies. As I sat there trying not to cry.

The fucking cat thing really gets me, though. We have cats. I've had 5 MCs. At a family gathering last week I was holding my nephew, when my Aunt demanded that I pass him over to my cousin. Cue loads of 'oh, cousin is amazing with him. Yet when I held him and nattered to him (and settled him to sleep, he was happy out) there was lots of sniggering and 'oh, that's probably how you talk to your cats'. I'm just the crazy cat lady. It's extremely hurtful.

BipBippadotta Fri 16-Sep-16 06:47:45

Absolutely right that nobody would harp on about our fucking cats if we had children. And why don't you ever hear about 'cat men'? I mean, my husband has the same cats I have, and they regularly make appearances in his video calls for work, and he's never sneered at for it.

It's not just a cat thing either - another childless woman at my old work had horses and she was a 'mad horse lady'. I wonder why it is people need to define women by the dependent creatures they look after...

Lovemylittlebear Fri 16-Sep-16 06:54:26

Wow those women at work sound a right snore - take no notice of them if that's how they define themselves. Or you could just be upfront and tell them - look I really wanted kids and it has happened for us so I would appreciate if you could be sensitive about it please.

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