On Saturday night, we attended a dinner party with three other couples. The men all work together, but none of them had met each other’s wives. I am not always the most social person when I’m headed into a room full of people I don’t know, but I was happy to go along this time. And we had a great time.
One of the reasons I was looking forward to the dinner is because I knew the couple hosting the dinner (they are in their mid-30s like us) does not have children. Our childless couple friends are few and far between, and generally those we do have are working on having kids. We know we’re still a long way from bringing our child home, and those couples will probably have babies during our wait. And in my overly sensitive and dramatic mind, this means that we’ll be left without any friends. (I know this isn’t really true, but it’s how I feel sometimes.) So, anyway, I thought this was a great way to make some new friends, especially since they don’t have children.
I was surprised, though, to learn that the other couples didn’t have children either. One couple was in their 50s (Craig’s boss and his wife). Honestly, I assumed they had kids and perhaps they were grown and out of the house, and then after the dinner, I asked Craig and he said that they didn’t have kids. Another couple was in their mid-40s, and also had no children. Now, these are people Craig works with, and they were people I just met, so we did not get into the children discussion at all. Perhaps if we all get together another time I will try to feel them out a bit.
I guess it just makes me wonder if they chose to be child-free all along, and/or if they tried to have children but did not succeed. A few people asked us, prior to taking the step toward adoption, if we would consider a child-free life. The answer for us was always clear: No. We knew we wanted to have children, and we were open to considering non-traditional methods of building our family when the old-fashioned way didn’t work. But not everyone has that natural drive to have children, and there are also people who deal with infertility and then choose to be child-free if they aren’t successful in having a biological child. I’m always a bit fascinated by people who make that decision – not because I think it’s right or wrong, but because I can’t comprehend it, simply because my desire to have children is so great. I still grieve the fact that we will likely never have a biological child, but my grief is tempered by the fact that I know we will have our family through adoption.I wonder how difficult it would be to totally say goodbye to the notion of having a family. It must be terrible. But it’s a choice some make.
There is definitely a distinction to be made between being childless and child-free. I feel like we are childless now because we want to have children and we don’t have them yet. (But we will!) But child-free, in my mind, denotes a choice to live a life without children. I think there’s a shift in connotation that also helps with the distinction between the two.
Oh, and I should totally mention that this dinner party of eight included four artificial intelligence engineers (two were PhD linguists and two were computer scientists (Craig included)) and two statisticians (two of the wives). Talk about geek overload! While I certainly embrace my inner geek on many levels, the other non-professional-geek wife and I bonded over the fact that much of the conversation sailed over our heads. I am certainly not a dummy, but my knowledge and skills come from logic and reasoning instead of algorithms and physics. One conversation piece was about how one of the men is teaching a linguistics class and has a student who submitted a paper written entirely in Klingon. I’m not kidding!