For those of you who are or know someone who cannot have children, you are probably very aware of how frustrating it can be to listen to others talk about their children, be invited to their birthday parties, or have to answer questions about your lack of offspring. This is no different for Matt and me. If you have been following this blog, you have probably read posts where I have expressed these frustrations. How I get tired of the well-meaning, yet ignorant questions and the awkward position Matt and I have been put in where if we answer their questions honestly, we kill the mood of a party, but if we don’t answer those questions, we inadvertently encourage more questions or unsolicited, and unhelpful, advice.
I have not written about these frustrations lately because I have discovered a secret to avoiding these situations. The answer? Parseltongue. Yes, Parseltongue.
My building of a snake breeding business to raise money for adoption has created an amazing disguise for myself. Anytime I want to talk about raising money for the adoption, I don’t talk to acquaintances or coworkers anymore. Instead, I hop on ball python Facebook groups or contact local breeders. Let me explain:
When I ask for advice on my snake breeding business, I am also asking for ways to improve adoption fundraising. When I ask for troubleshooting advice on the husbandry of the animals, I am discussing ways to secure my investment in becoming a parent. When I am talking about the reaction I get from those who recoil at the ideas of snakes, I am practicing connecting with others who have similar experiences- probably not a dissimilar disgust that Matt and I will have to face as same sex parents.
I also feel like an accepted member of the community. When I ask for help, I get it. I have never been given unhelpful or unsolicited advice. I also feel like I can fully participate in conversations. I am not made to feel weird based on decisions I have made regarding on the type of snake rack I purchase, or morph of snake a prefer. There are no weird parties where people pry into my personal life. There are no silent judgments. And even though this tends to be a more conservative community that may not “get” my gay “lifestyle”, I have never been offended. It’s a non-issue. My ability to manage a snake collection is never questioned because of my sexual orientation.
I spend most of my days working with teens to adapt to their parents’ parenting skills, and working with parents to accept the reality of their child’s emotional development. When I am not seeing my clients, I share an office with almost all mothers. For most of them, being a parent is only part of their identity, but there are one or two that being a parent is their life. They talk about their child(ren) exclusively. Sharing stories, asking for advice, etc. And one of my closest coworkers has become pregnant. And although I am so happy with her, and she promised me that I could take any extra children “in there” should there be any, I still feel a bit of grief that I am losing a member of the team of childless coworkers.
To be able to isolate myself in my room and speak Parseltongue whenever I need, has been a much-needed escape. And not only an escape, but simultaneously a way of talking about my concerns and anxieties without talking about my concerns and anxieties. This has become my secret language of adoption.