Parents Just Don't Understand

GULP.

In responding to my own prompt, I'm posting a blog I have had written for legitimately over a YEAR (evidenced by the date on the story I'm responding to) and have been afraid to hit "Publish" on. I'm worried that someone might take this as a personal attack, although I can say 100% that not one of you bloggy buddies of mine was on my mind when I wrote this post. It was mostly fueled by a few IRL acquaintances and the rest of the internet, as I pointed out below.

The parent/childfree war has been raging and I am trying to hard to make sure this post isn't adding fuel to the fire. I just want to address this weird phenomenon that seem to happen to some people when they have children: They completely forget about their former childfree existence and make up this scenario where childfree adults are basically wild animals and they can't possible imagine what sort of pathetic, bizarre existence that is. It's super weird, you guys. And honestly? It makes me sad that such a huge, wonderful thing in some people's lives has to signal the end of another wonderful thing, like a best friendship. Really, really sad.

Anyway, here goes nothing...
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I've chatted here before about the plight of the childfree-by-choice contingent. I am currently a member, and may even remain one forever. But please don't get me wrong: I don't hate kids. I like most kids. I used to be a nanny. I'm genuinely thrilled for friends and family when they announce their pregnancies. But.

Parents? Are another story. Not all parents, OF COURSE. I have plenty of friends and acquaintances here in blogland and IRL that prove you can be a mother or father—and a good one at that—and not make every childfree person in a 50 mile radius regret they ever spoke to you. Because they don't condescend to every person who maybe doesn't want to be a parent, or who cannot be.

Like these people do. Or any of the thousands of others who post things like this on the internet, all of which boil down to a simple sentiment shared by a particular set of parents today: My life is not important because I don't have kids, and my life is silly, frivolous, and free from worry.

I get a skin-searing reaction to stuff like this. I can't help it. And maybe it's because of the age I'm at currently—the age where I'm apparently supposed to be all kinds of concerned about my reproductive plans—where I am more specifically targeted by these comments, thus more bothered by them. Whatever the case may be, I'm really tired of it. Of all of it: the judgment on my lifestyle, the assessment of my capacity to love, the insane belief that my life is a peach with no stress or fear or pain or confusion or fatigue simply because I have not (yet) chosen to have kids. So listen, handful of parents who think I'm a waste of space and ovaries:

7 Reasons I Probably Won't Make it To Your Kid's Event
(in response to 6 Reasons My Husband and I Probably Won't Make It to Your Event)

1. I don't have kids, and I might never have kids. And I don't want to be bombarded by people who do have kids who think that I am less than because of that. I don't have a kid to walk around with as a conversation piece like you do, or shield me from the incessant questioning regarding when or if I'm going to have kids. And I know the fact that I might choose to stay forever childfree makes some of you really, really angry...for some reason. But my idea of a social event is not talking exhaustively about the reasons not every person in the world is suited to be a parent, and why I might be a member of that group. Also, when you box me into a point where I have tell you another reason is that I have a reproductive disorder, the correct answer isn't, "But you can adopt!" or the story about your friend who had a reproductive disorder but went to 6 million doctors and tried 8 million treatments and now has 40 kids.

2. I have a budget too. Just because I don't have a kid to feed doesn't mean I'm not on a budget. Remember, I have a single income and expenses of my own. And just because they look different from yours doesn't mean they're less important, less valid, or less costly—or hell, less real. My landlord isn't going to be any more lenient on my rent than your kid's pre-school is on their tuition. A gift for your kid isn't cheap—and you know that, because you're always complaining about how expensive it is to feed and clothe and entertain the kid you chose to have.

3. I have a social life too. No, I don't go out and get drunk every night of the week and act like a heathen because that's not what every person without kids does. (Also, it's exactly what some people WITH kids do, so the holier-than-though spiel can quit.) The idea that childfree people are just whooping it up 24/7 is confusing—I mean, was that what YOU were doing right up until the moment you/your wife became pregnant? Come on now.

Anyway, one of the things I love about my childfree life is that I get to fill my social calendar with people I want to see and spend time with—I don't have to pretend to enjoy face time with another parent in my kid's play group so they can socialize properly. To that end, we're all adults with busy schedules and have to maneuver around work schedules and other commitments to see each other. I love my family and friends and value my time with all of them, and sometimes a cup of coffee with someone who doesn't judge me for my life choices wins over watching other people's kids crawl and drool while you glare at me for "not getting it."

4. I'm stressed out and tired too. No, parents do not have a monopoly on tiredness. I know, I know, your tired is otherworldly, you haven't slept since your kid was born, you can't even remember what sleep is, har har har. Ya know, I've been hearing that for about 10 years, so there's no way you didn't hear it too before you chose to become a parent. You know what I didn't choose though? Crippling anxiety and chronic insomnia. Didn't choose that while I was a full-time student and working full-time and also being the person who puts out all the fires in my family. I've been exhausted to the point of hallucination, and I've been reduced to tears and begged my body and mind to let me sleep. Your condescension when telling me I "don't know what tired is" could spawn a post all its own, but let's just get one thing straight: It's condescending, disrespectful, and it needs to stop.

I get it, you're tired. I am too. Yes, just as much. No, you don't win this one. And also, let's not forget the part where I live on a single income. That means I have no domestic partner to pick up dinner, hit the grocery store, vacuum the living room, take out the trash, start the laundry, or any of the other things adult human beings have to do to take care of themselves and their homes. You are not the only person running a household—and if you're the only person doing it in your household, that's your problem with your partner and I thank you kindly for not projecting your bitterness onto me.

5. I refuse to be told my life and choices aren't valid or important. You made the choice to have kids. I didn't. You chose a life of parenthood, I chose a life (at least, for now) of things that fulfill me personally. Parenting is important to you. (And listen, I'm glad it is. Last thing this world needs is more inattentive or unfit parents subjecting kids to a life they don't deserve.) My life and goals and efforts are important to me. One does not rank higher than the other in general terms, just in personal ones. So you live your life and choices, I'll do the same with my own.

6. I just don't want to go. I don't want to drink out of plastic cups while carefully stepping around Legos and crawling baby hands and feet. I don't want the aroma of diaper rash cream and other unappealing diaper-related smells permeating the room while I'm trying to have a conversation with a friend. I don't want to speak to someone who can't maintain eye contact with me for more than four seconds because they think they see their kid climbing up the dog again. I don't want to not talk about things that are important in our lives because kid ears can't handle it. Not today. Sometimes, sure. I get that compromise needs to be made—on both sides—between friends with different lifestyles. But you have to meet me halfway too. And you don't.

So today, I'm going to put on a shirt I do care about not getting vomit or magic marker or chocolate cake stains on, drink out of a real glass, and have an uninterrupted conversation with my friends about our lives. Because those lives are just as important as your one-year-old's. At least, they are to me.

7. I'm not an idiot. Before you tell me (again) that I can't possibly understand what your life is like, here are a few things to consider: Why do you think I might not choose parenthood? Because I DO know a bit about what it's like, and I'm not prepared for it. Do you think I live under a rock where no one is a parent? I don't; I see plenty of examples of the stress (and benefits) of parenthood in my daily life. Probably a great deal from you, since all you ever talk (and post on Facebook) about is being a parent. And I know nannying isn't the same as parenting, but I've been child-minding since I was a child myself and I absolutely, fully understand what it's like when a kid has a tantrum, or just won't eat, or just won't stop crying, or might be seriously ill. I'm not an idiot. I know parenting is hard. You must have too, didn't you? You chose that set of challenges. I'm choosing a different one.

But if you do insist that I can't possibly understand parenthood because I'm not a parent myself, here's a question: Why do you care? A lot of people in my life don't understand what it's like to run a marathon, but I don't take every one-on-one chat with them as an opportunity to force upon them how much they cannot possibly understand my life choice. If you're positive I don't understand, why are you wasting your time trying to tell me just how much I don't know your life? It just seems like a ridiculous argument to make, and a futile one at that.

Parents, please don't misunderstand me: I absolutely do not want to rank higher than your kid in your life. I don't think you're doing anything wrong by loving your kid as much as you do. But even if I love your baby, he or she isn't the most important person in my life, and the things and people I love the most deserve my time, attention, and money too. I am not less of a person, or less of a citizen, because I'm not a parent.

But most of what I want to say boils down to this: I just wonder when we had to start playing this game on opposing teams. Can't we all just respect each other's choices, remember why we became friends in the first place, and get along?

Comments

  1. Slow 90s teen movie clap.

    I love this. I love everything about this and I am a parent. And, on behalf of parents everywhere, I apologize for those assholes who make you feel like you have to defend yourself when you say no to a kid's party or for choosing not to have kids. I will never comprehend why people care if others have kids or not. Their life, their business. Your life, your business.

    Also, kids' parties are the worst. I don't even want to be at them when I host them.

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  2. I can totally see where you are coming from with this post - and I take no offense to it as a parent :) The thing is, for ME, parenting is the one of the hugest things in my life, but that has been my choice and I am perfectly happy with it. I don't expect anyone to care about my children as much as I do except maybe my husband and their grandparents ;);). It's such a weird world these days...I saw someone last week that I hadn't seen in 4 years and he went from being single to being a parent of 3 little boys and said something like "none of my friends understand anything in my life anymore because they don't have kids" which I found pretty strange because plenty of people still understand me and I have kids too...

    Anyway...I love this post. I have a similar one in my drafts folder about parenting wars which boils down to the same thing: if you love your kids and your goal is to make them happy, who am I to judge the way you parent them? And vice versa :)

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  3. I don't know why I clicked on one of those links but OMG. "Childless hippie liberals?" People make me sick. It's so nice to know that we live in an antiquated society where your life only has meaning until you reproduce. I love that these posts only seem to come from moms. It's women pitting women against each other all over again. And you know what, I DO understand that you have an 8-week-old and don't sleep anymore, so when I offer to come help with the dishes or bring you some food, take me up on it or don't, but don't tell me that it's hard because I "don't understand" anymore. I've never been there, I can't empathize with you, but I can understand!

    AMEN!

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  4. Great post, friend! As a parent, I'm sorry for all the jerks who question your life or make you feel like you are less than them. That is truly such bullshit. Whether we are parents or not, we should recognize that everyone has their own struggles. People are allowed to live their lives in the way they want rather than being ridiculed for being different from each other.

    P.S. I am so not a fan of children's parties either. Lol. Unless there's a bounce house I can go play in! :)

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  5. I have no words other than amen! I love this so much. It is so well written. Do I want kids? Yep, someday. But right now I'm living the single, kid free life & like you said, that's ok!

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  6. I'm with all the ladies commenting on here -- i apologize for those heinous sanctimommy biatches. jesus, even *I* can't stand them and I'm a parent. I know people who are like that and I stay away from them because all they do is complain about everything and I mean EVERYTHING. Sorry, don't have the time or stomach for that.

    Also - kids parties? I don't want to go either! unless:
    1) it's my friends' kids then I will but we just dump the kids off to play with each other and go off and sip wine/chat/catch up.
    2) if it's not my friend's kid(s), I'll drop Kayla off, hightail it outta there and we enjoy a few kid-free hours
    3) if we can't drop her off, I will only go if there's alcohol. I don't want to mingle with the other moms who don't know how to talk about anything else other than their kids. Also, I'm super anti-social.

    Just keeping it real, here.

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  7. This gives me ALL THE FEELS! Love it!! I have been with my husband for over 12 years (we started dating in highschool-2004, didnt get engaged until we were 25- 2012 and didnt get married until last year-2015.) We have been fighting off the children questions for YEARS. They think that since we were together since highschool that we should have 5 kids by now and that was never our plan. We wanted to get established, save money, take trips - all the stuff which will be more difficult when/if we have children. When I tell people about trips we've taken or planned their first response is "OH YEAH BETTER GET THOSE TRIPS IN BEFORE YOU HAVE A BABY! BECAUSE YOU'LL NEVER BE ABLE TO DO THAT AGAIN!" and not "Oh that sounds exciting! good for you!" It always turns into baby talk. We have made it a point to not get pregnant all these years because we weren't ready. We finally feel ready and will probably start to try to have a family soon but I can only imagine the comments that will ensue "Oh now that you're 30 you finally decided to have a baby! Better hurry up if you want more because you're old!" The age aspect really gets to me. I just turned 30 and have heard multiple times that I should hurry about up if I want kids- but my husband is 30 too and I've heard people say to him "Oh you've got plenty of time, you're so young!"..... talk about a double standard.

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  8. I am about to be a parent (in five weeks o.m.g.) but I know exactly how you feel and I could have literally written this post word for word for the last 10 years of my life about how other parents made me feel. Chris and I weren't 100% sure if we were going to have kids. Why?? Because we aren't idiots and know that kids change your relationship, your lifestyle, your financial situation and everything else. There is nothing wrong with a person that doesn't want all of that. They aren't "being selfish" or "silly" or whatever else. We all have the right to chose if we want kids or not and it is no ones damn business if you do or don't! I used to get so mad when our families would assume we are available whenever for any event just because we didn't have kids. Ummm exactly. We don't have kids so we have lives I would reply!!! So I am standing and clapping over here. And I will never tell you that you don't understand my life once I do have a baby because we are all adults and we were all kids at one point and know what is involved in it all.

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  9. I just wonder when we had to start playing this game on opposing teams. Can't we all just respect each other's choices, remember why we became friends in the first place, and get along? << FOREVER THIS! my idea of a social event is not talking exhaustively about the reasons not every person in the world is suited to be a parent, and why I might be a member of that group. & THIS.

    And basically this entire post, but I'll stop simply re-quoting you ;)

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  10. seriously yes to this a million times. you hit the nail on the head with 'Why do you care?' because that's what it boils down to. why do you care what i do or do not do, why do you think i care what you do? why does it have to be one or the other? and yeah every time people ask us when we are having kids and i say something like we are trying to enjoy this time together, they get all high and mighty and offended like i don't want their life? it's just like you said - i do know a little bit, enough to know my life will change and it is perfectly acceptable for me to push that back if i want to. you can't have it both ways, damned if you do and damned if you don't. 'you don't understand, it's really hard!' 'how dare you not want to pop a kid out right now, are you saying it's a bad life?!' like calm down. and then of course, my best friend has 3 kids and is not one of those people at all. i think sometimes people are just nutty and certain things make them nuttier.

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  11. Thankfully, the friends in my life who do have kids are the kind who understand my extreme distaste for them and don't talk to me like this (we don't even talk about their kids when we're together, thank god) but I feel like my friends are a rarity. John's family used to pull this 'you have to get married soon, you have to have kids' thing and then I told one cousin that I can't have kids for health reasons (which could be true, who knows, not ever going to find out) so that spread and no one has said anything again. I shouldn't have had to though, it's no one else's business.
    I TRULY though, deep in my soul, believe that the mommies who talk and act and write articles like that are so wildly unhappy in their life and the choices they made that they're desperately trying to convince themselves that it was the right thing to do by insulting other people who don't live like them - because if you're confident in your choices, no one can make you feel bad and you don't feel the need to defend yourself and attack others.

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  12. YES! I have baby fever and do want kids, but articles like those irritate me to no end. Even the seemingly innocuous comment so often made by parents that, "Nothing is more fulfilling than being a parent" frustrates me. A lot of times, they don't mean to belittle people who don't have/don't want kids, but it does. You can't decide what's fulfilling in other people's lives, only in your own. No one needs to have kids to be fulfilled.

    Also, I love your title. So perfect. And the last part of Stephanie's comment above is spot on. I feel like a lot of parents are unhappy or insecure and that's why they have to write these articles to try and make themselves feel better about their choices.

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  13. I've touched on this topic a decent amount and LOVE seeing other women talking about it, too. Being 'shamed' for not having or wanting kids is not OK and NOTHING infuriates me more than any kind of meme/social media post/status bashing people like us. We get depicted as lazy, selfish, unable to ever say we're tired/stress, etc. It's really ridiculous and divisive and that's why we need to write/share posts like this to let them know it's not OK. (For the record I love my mom friends and I'm pretty much unhealthily obsessed with my niece)

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  14. To be honest, I am a mother of 5 kids and I love having childless people in my life. It helps me remember that I am a person, that I have purpose outside of motherhood. It helps me to appreciate that we aren't all the same, that we can find our own purpose and bring that to the table. I wouldn't want to be shunned for being a mother and I don't think anyone who doesn't choose that lifestyle should be shunned either. I appreciated your post. Way to be brave.

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  15. A wave of people I know had kids around 25ish and I am not ashamed to admit (here, to you, not to them...) the schadenfreude I have felt since the newness wore off and now their kids are just expensive and annoying. The stressed out/tired thing makes me RAGE. I read an article this summer from a mom who, you know, had stress like you just wouldn't believe and of course assumed the rest of us were just eating bon bons and it made me so angry because I was like um, excuse me, I'm training for a freaking Ironman so my life isn't exactly rainbows and butterflies. It made me so mad because I felt like at the end of the day, we were both tired and stressed because of things that were important to us, that we each chose to make sacrifices for. It's absolutely condescending and disrespectful to assume that I, as a childfree person, could not possibly have something in my life the makes me lose sleep, or b) that because I don't have kids, whatever I'm losing sleep over isn't important. And like you said, why do we have to be on opposing teams?! Why can't we just respect each other's choices - because that's really what it comes down to - instead of waging a war over who is more this or that or whose choices are more valid?
    And freaking YES to the last point! A big reason why I don't have kids is because I see how it affects the rest of you, in good ways and in bad ways, and it gives me pause (especially the negative bits, not gonna lie) enough to go, "Hmm..is that something I want in my life right now? Not really!" If you're a parent, you've hopefully weighed the pros and cons and have decide the pros outweigh the cons. For me, the cons still outweigh the pros and maybe someday that will change or maybe it won't, but can't we all agree that too many people who shouldn't have kids have them and that maybe I'm doing myself and the world a favor by, you know, actually thinking it through and deciding it's just not important or worth it to me right now?

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  16. I feel singled out! Hahaha, no. I only clicked the Huffpost article and what a bunch of bullshit. This is why I will never read it, despite liking Thrive. Basically these people are flaky and use their kids as an excuse to not do stuff. Yeah, stuff comes up, and maybe with kids something unexpected is marginally more likely to happen. But "I'm tired"? Is your kid a newborn? Then your tired isn't anything special and if you had your kid 2 weeks ago maybe you shouldn't be making plans anyway (although I was totally trying to do that with Galentine's :P). And excuse me about the "we don't do things individually"? Because being parents automatically makes you codependent??? Ryan and I have already talked about this and how we'll need to take turns to make sure each of us gets some alone time (and hopefully social time too).

    I've never enjoyed other people's kids just because I wanted one someday (and I didn't always want one). It's like dogs - I love my own and they're the shit, but unless your dog is particularly cute or well-behaved, meh. I'm indifferent.

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  17. Amen. its always a competition with my sister "you have no idea" and she wins the struggling and the hard life award.

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  18. I have three kids and I still have fun with my non-parent friends as well. I'm busy with work and kids stuff (sports, school, events, etc.) but I also make it a point to carve out some time to hang out with other adults and do something fun just for me, just like every other adult (parent or not). Also, as far as kids events go, I don't like to be there either! My kids are old enough where they don't need to be watched 24/7 and they can go to a friend's party or event alone. If there are other parent friends of mine there, then we let the kids on their own while we enjoy adult time talking about things other than our kids or planning our next group adult night out. I hate hate hate kid places (Chuck-E-Cheese's) and events for babies or younger kids because I can't stand crying and sticky hands and all the yuckiness that comes with babies and toddlers. I had my fill of it already, thank you. Usually, if I don't go to an event, it's because I just don't want to. Plain and simple.

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  19. THIS, ALL THE THIS!!!! This post should have went live as soon as it was given the final review!

    Sometimes, when people ask why I don't have kids, I remind them that they were the assholes who used to place bets on when I'd get knocked up before I was married. Or that I have endo and might not be able to have kids.

    Also, if I do one day become a parent, I don't want to be a sanctimonious asshat.

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  20. A "skin-searing reaction"...oh yeah, I totally know that feeling. And, Alyssa, I'm sorry to tell you this, but it's not just the age that you are at now. This happens to women my age too. Just in a different way. Like the comment that I received last week about "women your age are still having children...why don't you want to try?" from a customer. A random customer who has been in my store maybe, MAYBE 3 times. She doesn't know me. She has no place to say something like this to me. But, she does. It took everything I had not to go into a 30 minute soliloquy of why she needs to mind her own fucking business. Instead, I politely responded that I am perfectly happy with my role as a step-parent to two children. Hell, I'm having a "skin-searing reaction" just remembering this conversation again.

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  21. I really enjoyed reading this because it's almost the complete opposite of how I feel. I'm single and childless and the thought of never having children makes me feel sick. That being said I fully recognize that not everyone wants kids and I don't think that makes them any less intelligent or caring or good human beings. It's kind of neat we now live in a world where having children (for the most part) really is a choice and I think that's something to celebrate. I don't know why people are of the mindset that everyone needs to have kids...I mean you don't hear people passionately and aggressively trying to tell everyone they need to get a puppy because they've been married for a year. It's well documented that puppies are a lot of work and aren't for everyone, I think the same goes for kids!

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  22. Oh. My. Gosh. It's like you took the words right out of my mouth. A terrifying post to share, I'm sure, but important. It's hard to put these thoughts into words eloquently and without hurting anyone. But I could not agree more. Thank you for this.

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