Q. I only entered law school after my husband divorced me (there being a connection between the lousy settlement I got and my decision to learn how to protect myself in the future). So I am older than the numerous other woman lawyers I know. A problem has arisen that I never would have believed possible when I was a young wife and mother. Sometimes I laugh about it, but basically it isn't funny.
This has to do with the fact that suddenly, in the last year or two, an awful lot of professional women I know are having children. My own children, who are grown, are a source of joy to me, and I wish these new mothers well.
In fact, I do more than that. I baby-sit as a favor; I buy baby presents and even birthday presents; I cover for colleagues who are sick when they're pregnant, or who are late to work when their children are sick. In these matters, I have complete sympathy.
But these women are driving me crazy, and what's more, I see them making other women, who don't have children, unhappy. A recently divorced young woman boards with me, and I have seen her driven to her room in tears by my friends.
What they do is talk about nothing but their children, and to announce constantly to others what a joy children are, that life is empty and meaningless without them, and so on. Mind you, these are pretty much middle-aged women who only a few years ago were telling me--some of them, anyway--that they didn't want the burden of children, that it ruined your life, messed up your career, curtailed your freedom, and so on.
At best, this conversation is boring. I like children, but enough is enough and I'd like to talk about something else once in a while. But at worst, this kind of talk is stupid (they didn't invent having children, and other people are well aware of how it's done and capable of making up their own minds if and when they want to do it, just as these women did) and cruel (as in the case of my boarder who has no husband, or women who are involuntarily childless).
Could you please tell them to enjoy their children but maybe shut up about it? In all fairness, it's the fathers, too, but I don't see as much of them as I do of the mothers. Anyway, when I was a young mother, women who chattered about nothing but their children were practically the definition of dumb bores. What, besides the age and incomes of these mothers, has changed?
A. Why, nothing. Since time began, people who are in love (with lovers, children, houses, pets, whatever) always have believed that their state was utterly unique, and have loved to brag about it. Politeness has always asked them to confine excess babblings of this nature to others in the same unique situation, so to speak, but this request is rarely granted. As you may remember, talking about one's children is an enormous satisfaction, and it is difficult to remember that it is of limited general charm. Miss Manners can only recommend tolerance to you and restraint to them.
But generalizing and propagandizing about one's own blessings to those who do not have them always has been rude. It is as if you had inherited a fortune and went around telling everyone how wonderful it is to be rich, and recommend that they go out and inherit money immediately.
Perhaps you remember the days when housewives and job-holding women each believed that theirs was the only route to female happiness, and therefore treated each other with condescension, if not hostility. A few gentle anecdotes about the folly of prescribing for an entire gender might provide a bit of perspective for your proud friends. After that, you can show them snapshots of your own children.
Feeling incorrect? Send your questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.