Dear Fellow Parents: We need to talk. Come here, I'll clear a spot in the middle of all the toys and half-eaten snacks so we can sit. I have wine. I brought one for you, too. Anyway, a toast to you guys. You are my tribe. You are the ones who understand so many of my hopes, dreams, and struggles. There's one problem, though, and it's how you talk to our child-free friends. You're kind of being the worst. Sorry, but I'm not going to mince words in telling you that you seriously need to rethink yours. There are things parents need to stop saying to their child-free friends. Honestly, it's getting to the point where I feel like I have to preface any interaction with my (many) child-free friends with some version of, "I'm not a regular mom, I'm a cool mom!" so they know I'm not going to judge their choices or push how awesome mine are onto them or shame them for not procreating or downplaying their struggles because they don't look or sound like mine.
"But it goes both ways!" you may yell at me. I know. In fact, I'll be the first to admit that sometimes kid-free people say stupid things to parents. Anything from laughably unaware to pointedly hurtful. However, don't we all want to strive to be better than the most obnoxious examples of humanity? Why attempt to market your own brand of awful with thoughtless, condescending rhetoric?
Yeah, sometimes it's hard to get out of parent mode and yes, even when you do your world is now seen through a parent's eyes because, well, you're a parent. I get that switching gears or remembering that non-parent perspectives are just as important as ours but, like, as a group we have to do better. So here's a handy little cheat sheet of things you really just need to STFU about, like, yesterday. Get in your DeLorean, travel back in time with Marty and Doc Brown, and stop.
"When Are YOU Going To Have A Baby?"
You're making us sound like we're in a cult, or one of those pyramid schemes where the more people you recruit the more money you get. If people want to have kids, they'll have kids. If they don't, they won't. In some cases, people who want to have kids can't have kids or are struggling to have kids, and you being pushy is only making a painful situation substantially worse. In any case, badgering people about what they should or shouldn't do with their genetic material just makes you sound like a creeper, with no interest outside of your friend's lives. If, in fact, you don't have any interest outside of your friend's lives, either a) get a hobby or b) play it cool.
Horrifying Labor/Delivery Stories
I suggest saving the 3rd-degree-tear stories for fellow parents (and even that can be a stretch, as there are plenty of parens who don't really want to hear that, either). I told my best friend about the specifics of childbirth with my first and I'm pretty sure I scarred her for life. This just sort of falls under the category of "TMI" and applies to everyone, whether or not they have children. Like, I don't want to hear about the details of anyone else's medical procedures and complications. It's just off-putting.
"Until You Have A Child You Just Can't Understand"
I will level here with you parents: you're not wrong, at least not when it comes to non-parents not getting what it means to be a parent. Child-free people, I'm sorry, but partial point to parents here and, really, you shouldn't be offended. If you are not a parent, you don't understand a parent's struggles. Just like, if you're not, say, a person of color, you do not understand the struggles of a person of color, no matter how great an ally you are. Having said that, we need to talk about tone and delivery. For starters, this is an obnoxious way to express a valid point. For another, you really overuse this and act as though non-parents don't understand, like, life. Lastly, it's okay that they don't get parenting the way we do. What's important is that people show you compassion and try to understand your point of view.
"I Used To Think [X] Was Important, But Then I Had A Kid"
Ugh. Guys. Come on. Yes, our kids are at the absolute least tied for the most important thing in our lives and, most likely, stand head and shoulders above everything else. But there are other important things out there and speaking to everyone else's hopes, dreams, and passions as though they're shallow idiots is not appropriate, not nice, and not a particularly accurate assessment of how the world works. You don't need to condescend others in order to express how much your children mean to you.
"You Think YOU'RE Tired?"
Yes. Believe it or not you were tired before you had kids, too. People can be tired for a lot of different reasons. "But they're not as tired as I am!" you wail. Shhh. #1) You don't know that #2) Everyone is entitled to their own feelings and #3) It's not a damn competition. Save it.
"You Think YOU'RE Busy?"
As with being tired, people are busy with any number of different things. You're busy with kid stuff on top of everything else you're doing. They're busy with everything they're doing plus, I'm sure, some stuff you aren't busy with. So knock it off: respect everyone's hustle.
"Have You Considered Adoption/IVF/Surrogacy/Etc?"
None of you damn business. None of your damn business. None of your damn business. This is none of your damn business so stop asking. Again, you're making parenthood sound like a cult or the end-all-be-all or the only valuable identifier and in order to validate your own choice, you need people to join with you.
"Your Pet Is Not A Baby"
Your friend is fully aware that their pet is not actually their baby. However, if they really do think that they carried and birthed their dog, their mental health should be a far bigger concern for you than their comparison of pets and kids. Even if they call their pet their "furbaby," they are joking. It's a turn of phrase. If they're comparing the love they feel for their pet to the love you feel for your child, how on Earth is it hurting you to let them and just respect that their pet is really important to them? Furthermore, who are you to police that love and tell them that it couldn't possibly be the same as the love you have for your child? You have no way of knowing that, so don't downplay their emotions in order to prove that you love your kid.
"You'll Change Your Mind About Not Wanting Kids, Some Day"
Or they won't. You have no idea. Even if you feel like you do, keep it to yourself. If you turn out to be correct in this honestly rude assumption, continue to keep it to yourself and let the knowledge that you were correct in your guess be its own reward.
Any Implication Or Suggestion That They Are Selfish
I want to karate chop something any time I hear someone suggest that choosing no to have children is selfish. In what world? Certainly not this heavily overpopulated one. You're only selfish if you are duty bound to provide something to someone and you fail to do so out of self-interest. Child-free people do not owe anything to hypothetical children.
"But I Need You To Have Kids So They Can Be Friends With My Kids"
There are literally 1.9 billion children in the world. Your kids will not want for playmates. Relax. Your friends procreation is not a requirement of your child's future social life. Moreover, even if it were, their uteruses do not work for you.
"You Can't Know Love Until You Have A Child"
Did you honestly not know love until you had a child? Really? Because that's tragic to me. I loved a ton of people before I had my kids. My parents, my brothers and sister, my husband, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister (#thegreatestloveofall), the list goes on and on and literally on. Granted, I love my children more than anything else in the world and unlike anyone or anything I'd ever loved before, but I knew what love was. The people you're talking to? They also know what love is, they don't need you to show them (Foreigner reference, what WHAT?!). Don't try to cheapen someone else's deepest and most personal emotions in some sort of bizarre pissing contest of love and admiration.
There seems to be a weird, existential divide in many instances between parents versus non-parents. Part of me gets it: other parents understand what you are going through in ways that non-parents probably won't. On the other hand, how does that matter? You've always had a different perspective than your friends or family members or people around you, and even if someone is a parent, it doesn't automatically mean their perspective is going to mirror your own. In short: don't be a jerk. Remember what connects you, remember that you have an identity and interest outside of kids, and remember that even though your child is the center of your universe, children are not the center of everyone's universe.