5 Things NOT to Say to Non-Parents: To My Future Self
There are a lot of things that people with children used to say to me before I officially began my parenthood journey by becoming pregnant and becoming a stepmother in the same year that really used to annoy me. They annoyed not only because of their content, but because inherent in these comments was the assumption I would one day have kids. I know for myself, who struggled with fertility issues in my past, or for those who do not or will not have kids for a medley of reasons, this assumption can be kind of upsetting.
Chief and I have a baby arriving at the end of March and so I am writing this post as a reminder to my future self about what not to say to those who do not have kids. I hope that by recording these “pre-baby” feelings and emotions, I can help keep myself connected with how I relate to people without kids. So, here they are…the 5 big things I want to remind myself not to say:
- It will change your life. Really? No shite, Sherlock. When you cruise through life only worried about yourself (not in a self-indulgent way but in an independent way), doing adult things, it’s different than when you have a helpless infant or child dependent on you for survival that can’t be left alone. It doesn’t take some magical switch to be turned on once motherhood kicks in that suddenly makes you realize that life is different when you have kids. What really annoys me is when I try to tell my friends about something fun I’m doing – anything from a nice dinner with my husband to a spontaneous trip to Latin America to an afternoon nap. And then I get the inevitable, “Just wait until you have kids. You can kiss those times goodbye.” Ya, I know…the trouble probably won’t be worth the reward, spontaneity is a lot more difficult, and the simple activity might not be possible with kids. Each time I do one of these things now, I appreciate the simplicity of the situation and I think everyone without kids recognizes the same. This is exactly why I’ve spent the last ten years enjoying these sorts of events.
- Oh, you think you’re tired now…just wait until you have kids! Yes, yes, yes, we’re all tired. Yes, little kids don’t sleep in. Yes, they wake up in the middle of the night. Sometimes vomiting and pooing. Sometimes at the same time. They need you at all hours and keep you awake. So I know I’ll be really, really tired but that is no reason for parents to marginalize how tired a childless person is today or this week. It’s not like up until this point I’ve been milking 9 hours of sweet surrender night after night. I sleep an average of 6.5 hours per night and I know that if I only get 4 hours per night for a few months on end it will be exhausting but that’s the obvious. Please just let me tell you I am tired today without one-upping it.
- You say you won’t [insert thing I loathe] now, but wait until you have kids. I have heard this about everything from disposable diapers to fast food to a house in the suburbs. OK, I relent…a house in the suburbs is a possibility someday. The point being that I will go through some fundamental changes when I have kids (see number 1) but my values won’t change. Living a healthy and sustainable lifestyle and keeping some order in my life are always going to be things that are really important to me. I’m not instantly going to become a consumerist with a disposable and unhealthy lifestyle just because I have kids. Me having kids does not mean I am going to suddenly adopt your values just because we both have kids. I know I’ll have my days when I prepare macaroni and cheese from a box for dinner and I know there will be days when the house is a disaster because I need sleep (see #2) but I’ll still be me. I do realize there will be some things I try that are important to me that I might deem a failure but I realize that is part of the process. It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t even try or that I should follow society’s norm on the things that really bother me now.
- These are the kind of things you’ll do on weekends when you have kids. I can’t stand how every time I go to any sort of kid-friendly function, whether it’s a birthday party or dinner at someone’s house with kids, or a festival when the parents look at me and say things like, “Remember how it used to be before we had kids? Well, just you wait. This is what weekends are like now that we have kids- it’s all about them.” Obviously! It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that weekend-long benders and fine dining aren’t particularly conducive to toddlers. These people say it like I should start preparing for my life to come to an end though. Most people who make the leap to having kids are quite ready to mostly give up these things at this point in their life anyway. It’s not like me being childless doesn’t allow me to see that some activities are no longer possible when spending time together as a family. And please don’t follow it up with the “I bet this is good birth control for you.” Kids do kid-things in kid-ways and just because I’m childless doesn’t mean I want to remain that way because sometimes they get needy or have meltdowns at places like Chuck-E-Cheese.
- You can’t understand the love you will have for them. Yes, I can. It’s very easy for me to imagine the kind of love I will feel for a child that I am raising. What especially bothers me about this statement is when it’s used as the justification for why someone no longer cares about his or her pet. I’m not necessarily trying to say that a love for a child can be compared straight on to the love for a pet but please don’t justify your actions by patronizing me and saying it’s because I don’t understand love. I really can imagine how much I will love my children. I know it bursts the heart wide open and it is one of the most profound emotions a person can feel but that doesn’t mean childless people are incapable of comprehending this emotion.