This post is written by Marianne Hayes. She is a longtime freelance writer and essayist who lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters. You can read about her adventures in motherhood on her blog, With Kids In Hand.
If there’s one thing my husband hates, it’s making small talk with strangers. It’s not that he doesn’t know how to talk to people – quite the opposite, actually. When within the boundaries of a clear, purposeful conversation, Mike is authoritative. Articulate, even. It’s the insignificant exchanges, the meaningless back-and-forth with another parent in the grocery store line, that leave my husband fumbling and uncomfortable.
The interesting thing about having two young children is that they serve as an open invitation for such talk, a magnet for unsolicited chitchat. As long as I’m pushing the stroller, I’m pretty much guaranteed the opportunity to do the one thing all moms love to do: talk about their kids.
Any mother who denies this to be true is a liar. It is true. We love it. We’re convinced our kids are spectacular and seize any chance to drive that point home to any cashier, bank teller or other parent who’s even halfheartedly willing to listen.
This is precisely why I’ve come to thrive on small talk. I don’t mind filling the silence between myself and a stranger with aimless, idle talk about the kids. In fact, I kind of love it. When I bump into Lynn, the elderly widow from down the hall, and she asks how my girls are getting on, I’m giddy. Even if she’s just being polite and thinks my kids are trolls, I’ll still take the bait every time.
Perhaps it’s the mere act of connecting with another by way of our children. The way Lynn lights up as she tells me about her adult son’s new job promotion, her voice brimming with pride. It is inthese moments that I feel the tug of a common thread that runs through the both of us.
We are mothers, and we get it.
Mike, on the other hand, dreads these conversations. Rushing through the lobby with his hood up like a celebrity ducking the paparazzi, he’s actually made us exit our building through the back service door to avoid being cornered by a chatty doorman. “What’s the big fuss?” I’ll say. “People just love talking about the girls, is that so bad?”
But my husband’s expression says more than his words, implying that maybe it’s just me who loves to gab about the kids. Even if he’s right, I feel like there are worse things a mother could be guilty of.