I’m at an age and live in a community where most people are married and have kids. That leaves me to be in the position, that when I go to my friend’s houses I am not able to just hang out with my friend, but I am also there to hang out with their kids and/or spouses. It means that our conversations are going to be broken up by screaming children. It means that there are conversations that will have to wait till after dark when the kids are asleep, and hopefully we are not asleep either.
I have friends who love being in this role, or at least they talk about it as if they love it. They go to kids plays and school open days. They bring presents and come over just to hang out with the kids. They take the child out to dinner or plays or something fun. They are the go-to babysitters. The surrogate parents- helping with feeding and changing, and sometimes even discipline.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit in the past two weeks. Starting with one of my friends who when she is having a hard time, she wants to hold babies and hang out with small children. And then I was at my best friend’s house- where really, I do have a very close relationship with her 5 year old. And then over Shavuot I was at someone’s house with three other “older” single women, who are part of this woman’s house hold of caretakers.
And to be honest- it makes me really sad. I never thought that I would be the old-maid aunty. That I would be the one that still has no husband or children of my own. I have to say that holding my friend’s kids makes me sad, because I don’t have my own. I feel like I am in the pity party, that they feel like they have to be nice to me because I’m just not there yet. I find myself talking to babies asking if I will ever have the chance to have my own, or will I only ever experience holding other people’s kids.
Will I always be that single one sitting at a table of couples who all talk about their completeness, or schools or camps or birth stories- and I have absolutely nothing to contribute to the conversation, because it is not part of my life? Will my parents hang out with other small kids at shul because I will never be able to give them grandchildren of their own? Will they get more birds because that is the best they will be able to get?
I would never change my relationship with my friend’s daughter- I really do love her and love hanging out with her. And will always laugh when she asks me if I would have different rules for her if I was her mom or when she jokes that she wants me to be her mom instead.
But at the same time, I am finding it harder and harder to be around kids and those with kids. It is the thing that hurts my heart. I don’t want to be the surrogate mom, I want to actually have kids. I don’t want to be the single aunt, who never has a date or a husband. I don’t want to be the old-maid that either has nothing to say in conversations or just makes things up to try and fit in.