‘There are two kinds of people in the world’ is a phrase I’ve been hearing a lot lately, a phrase thrown every which way to express one’s perspective on the world and which is often misused if not misguided. But there are, indeed, two types of people in the world: those who have had children and those who haven’t.
Sitting across a coffee table, surrounded by old friends, I found myself unable to take part in a conversation that had the entire gathering enthused: some raised their voice, others gestured dramatically and when they laughed, it echoed on the walls. The last time I had seen them all so profoundly immersed in a debate was at University discussing politics. But years had passed, decades even, and now the topic had moved onto… baby food!
I believe myself to be, if not well-versed in many subjects, at least able to form some kind of an opinion about a topic I’ve never really ever thought about before or if I’m really stuck at least play devil’s advocate, which is always; let’s face it, quite fun. But baby food had me at a loss. My friends, I should add my married friends with toddlers, were pretty excited about the topic, some raved about a new carrot-peach combo while others claimed organic was the only way to go. What could I possibly add to the conversation? The closest things I’ve had to baby food was a jelly shot the previous Saturday night and I knew more about vodka flavours than about the, apparently, wide range of purées available at our local grocery shop. I leaned back and listened as the conversation moved on to strollers, baby clothes and how to remove stains from bibs.
And the more I listened, the more I realised there was a wall between us: a big, great, China-type wall I could never take down unless I, myself, became a parent too. They repeatedly apologised about talking shop, as they called it, before diving head first into a new baby related topic. But there was a look in their eyes, a look I didn’t quite recognize. A look of pity draped in jealousy.
As I walked home, sadness wrapped its cold arms around me: I would never be a father. I would never experience unconditional love, my heart would never been taken whole by a little guy that would look up to me, his eyes wide with wonder, waiting for me to give him the key to understanding. I would never be the father I so desperately wanted to have when I was a kid. It just wasn’t meant to be; Nature had chosen a different path for me. I would never hold my flesh and blood in my arms and serenade him to sleep. I would never teach him (or her) how to count, to speak, to worship Doctor Who. And that realization truly saddened me. I walked home as if my legs were chained and I had to carry a boulder on my back.
My friends envy how lucky I am to have no responsibility other than my own wellbeing. The fact that I can do whatever I want whenever I want with whomever I want and that I cannot fathom the burden of parenthood and how obliterating it is for one’s personal life. But all I see is their kids little faces and how they light up when their parents hold them up. All I see is the loneliness of liberty, the solitude than comes with freedom…