I sometimes wonder if there’s as much awkwardness and animosity between parents and non-parents (or child-free folks) in cultures where kids are raised by the entire village. In our current society, we are all left to mainly fend for ourselves and our small “tribes” of 1-5 (or so) members. So, as a result, we’ve constructed these ideas that life changes completely (and often for the worst) once we decide to procreate. Unfortunately, that idea contributes to people without kids saying some obnoxious things to parents and, of course, vice versa.
Maybe what we need is some sensitivity training for, well, everyone. Childfree people need to learn that saying some things (especially about one's’ kids or parenting skills) is not only uncalled for but just plain mean. Parents, on the other hand, need to understand that our path doesn’t need to be everyone else’s path, and check ourselves and our language accordingly. Basically, if we all just embraced the "you do you" mentality, we'd be more inclusive and accepting of one another, regardless of their life choices, and less like, well, jerks.
Can parents and childfree folks just get along? I think so, but for this to happen, we first need to streamline the way we talk to one another. I’ve read the complaints about parents from some childfree folks (some are legit, but most, well, no), and have a few complaints of my own. Here are just a few, because how we talk to one another, matters.
"Ew, I Hate Kids"
Sometimes this is followed be, “Well, not yours, of course. Your kid is cool.” Honestly, this isn’t the most obnoxious thing (because, quite frankly, I am not fond of most kids myself, which is why being a parent is still ridiculously strange for me), but sometimes it comes off a little crueler than it should. So, maybe just keep it to yourself?
"Childbirth Sounds Gross AF. No Thanks."
Everyone knows that. We know it. Hell, many of us went through it, or saw our partners go through it, or have working knowledge of the entire process. Mucus plugs and episiotomies and all that, yeah. It’s not pleasant. Seriously, pointing out that labor and delivery can be gross is like saying, “Oh man, a broken leg must hurt.” Obviously.
"Just Sleep When The Baby Sleeps"
Ha. If I shower and wash dishes and do laundry and clean up toys and do my work while the baby sleeps, then when the hell am I supposed to sleep? C’mon, quippy, tell me!
"Can’t You Make Them Be Quiet?"
Uhm, with what, a muzzle? Yes, I do try to remind my child that he needs to use his indoor voice. I whisper and I try to meet his needs, but sometimes he just wants to scream. Honestly, I wish I still felt that kind of freedom, because then I could tell you immediately to STFU right to your face.
"Why Don’t You Just Get A Babysitter?"
Oh, you mean why don’t I just call a perfect stranger to come and watch my child while I go to a club opening and act like it’s all good? Nope, sorry. For the moment, only my parents and brother watch my child (aside from his parents), and while I would love to have a reliable, trustworthy, well-known and well-recommended sitter, not everyone has that at their disposal.
"Why Don’t You Just Put Them In Preschool/Daycare Already?"
I didn’t realize you were willing to pay for my child’s daycare costs. How wonderful! Wait, you mean you don’t want to shell out $100-200 a week for my kid to be under someone else’s care for a few hours a day? No? You mean to say that’s pretty expensive? Well here’s a shocker.
"Dude, You’re Such A Sell Out"
Unless you’re talking about the Reel Big Fish song, don’t talk to me about selling out. Yes, I have become a touch flakey (or more so than usual), but that’s because sometimes my kid gets sick, or has a meltdown on the way to an event, or we forgot to bring diapers, or my sitter (a.k.a. my mother) had to cancel, or I am just freakin' tired from a long day of toddler battles. I’m certainly not giving up on an outing with you to do anything that is more “fun," trust me. I would much rather go out to drag brunch with you, instead.
"Sorry We Didn’t Invite You. You’re Always So Busy Anyway."
Real friends keep inviting all their close friends to all important events, no matter what. I repeat, real friends keep inviting all their close friends to all important events no matter what. If you give us enough advance notice, there’s a good shot (maybe 50/50) that we can move things around in our lives and make it to your party, store opening, concert, open mic, whatever. Please don’t forget us. It really hurts.
"I’d Definitely Show My Kids Who’s Boss"
Another laugh-worthy comment from folks who don’t have a clue. Some kids are well-behaved and have a generally sunny disposition most of the time. Others are more rebellious, a bit wilder, less prone to restraint. Now, personally, I refuse to beat or scare my kid into submission because I think it’s wrong. So, unless you’ve got another magic trick up your sleeve to show me, I suggest you zip your lips.
"I Would Never Feed My Kids (Insert Fast-Food/Unhealthy Option Here)"
Never say never. I swore I’d never take my son to McDonalds, but on a day that we’re far from his favorite nuggets we make at home, Mickey D’s does well to keep him happy. It’s not an every day thing, but I wouldn’t shame anyone for whatever they choose to feed their kid. Food is way more complex than you might realize.
"I’m Wiped Out. I Went To This Bar Last Night And..."
Shhhhh. I get it, I do. I used to go on weekend binges, too. I used to not come home for days at a time. I can sympathize that, yes, you must be tired. But you’re not as tired as I am, I guarantee it. Raise my kid for a week and you’ll understand.
"I Totally Feel You. It’s Just Love When My Pet!"
Stop. Stop right there, please. Yes, parenting pets is a daunting task. Yes, you can love your cat or dog or other non-human child with every inch of your heart and soul. But no, it is not like raising human children. Pets’ minds only develop to a certain point, so you don’t exactly need to worry about teaching them how to read or do math or clean up their messes or get dressed. There are similarities when raising anyone, human or not, but please don’t act like you know 100% what this is like. I don’t tell you I know exactly what you’re going through when your kitten has a hairball, do I?
"Must Be Nice To Get To Just Chill With Your Kid All Day"
Yes, because my son and I just eat bonbons and paint our nails and watch Gossip Girl all day long. Or maybe it’s more like he plays with his trucks and then throws them to the ground, then jumps on the couch and screams and then finds a toilet paper roll to destroy and doesn’t clean any of it up. I wonder...
"I’m So Scared Of Having Kids. I Really Like Having A Life."
Hey, I understand. Becoming a parent is terrifying. I tend to be of the “Don’t do it!” camp when folks mention maybe wanting to have kids (I love mine but I know it’s not for everyone). However, please don’t disparage our lives post-baby. In fact, my career has finally started taking off now that I have a kid. I’m more motivated, more level-headed, and I know that while yes, my days of barhopping and couch-surfing are (mostly) over (at least until my kid is in college), I have plenty of other awesome adventures awaiting me.