Walking around with a newborn outside of Mormon country (where babies are a dime a dozen) garners you considerable attention.  Plenty of oohs and aahs; toddlers pointing out and squawking “baby!”; complete strangers asking after the details of the birth, name choice, and heritage.  It can be fun and inconvenient and annoying.

Yesterday I was picking up some drugs at my convenient neighborhood grocery store pharmacy when the pharmacist, a 50ish looking lady, noticed my constant companion: my two-week old son bundled against the upstate New York snow and strapped in his car seat/carrier.

“Oh,” she said.  “You’re a new mom.”

I smiled.

“I haven’t had the privilege myself,” she continued, “and I know it’s a lot of work, but life is just meaningless without kids.”

I didn’t know what to say.  I could easily have spouted off the appropriate responses to many other reactions we get these days, but this was an entirely unexpected profundity.

“They are a joy,” I affirmed and grabbed my drugs and headed off.

It’s not that I disagree with the pharmacist’s sentiment: certainly, children add much to my life and there is nothing I would prefer to having them be a part of mine.  Still, the idea that life would be otherwise “meaningless” troubled me.  There are plenty of people who, for many reasons, have not and will not have children.  I hate the idea that they might feel like my pharmacist.  Certainly, we have plenty of examples of people who had meaningful lives who did not have children.  In fact, I am sure some of what such people accomplished could not have been done had they had kids.  Yet, how could I think of refuting the pharmacist without degrading the presence and importance and blessing of children in my life?

Her very Mormon sentiment gave this Mormon pause.  I don’t want it to be true.