I never go into Chicago during the week, but found it necessary on Friday. I needed to visit some hotels as part of planning a work event. It was bitterly cold, and I knew the city, true to form, would bring an unforgiving wind. I planned the trip to avoid as much commuter traffic as possible, scheduling my first meeting for 10:30.
I was met in the lobby by two representatives from the hotel: a sales manager, and another person that I assume was in training. Both women. They showed me the guest rooms and meeting space and I nodded along, tight-lipped as I usually am during these types of meetings, not giving a hint of approval or disapproval. Of course, walking among so many rooms invariably led to small talk and mention that I had a baby at home. That’s where it all started.
“Oh! How many children do you have?” I have three at home. I was very careful to say at home, but of course, it didn’t stop there.
“Boys or girls?” My two older children are boys, and my baby is a girl.
“Ahhh! Finally got the girl!” Wince. I said nothing.
“I have two boys, ages 7 and 3 and people keep asking me when I’m going to go for the girl. You’re so lucky!” More silence from me.
“How old are your boys?” They are 8 and 5. “Wow that’s a big age gap!”
At that point, I was begging her in my head to stop talking. Instead, I forced a smile and said yes, we are “starting over” with a baby, and tried to make a joke about how we had “forgotten” some aspects of parenting a newborn. Luckily these visits for me are more visual as I examine the various rooms and meeting space, so she prattled on while I tuned out what she was saying.
At my second hotel visit of the day, with a male sales manager, when the subject of the baby entered the conversation, he gave me a hearty “Congratulations!” and left it at that. For which I was relieved.
I was so mad at myself later, again. I could hear the words in my head. I have five children. We have three at home, and we lost two. “Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry!” No it’s fine. I just never want to say that I only have three when I have five.
And perhaps that response might make her think twice about that type of “small talk” in the future. But I didn’t say it. I wish so much that I had.
But a friend wisely told me not to waste any guilt on her.