Parents Say the Darndest Things
An article in the Huffington Post has been making the social media rounds and causing quite a stir among the childfree and parents alike. John Kinnear wrote the piece, intended as advice to himself and other parents on what NOT to say to to their non-parent friends. Here’s what John had to say:
5 Things Parents Need to Stop Saying to Non-Parents
By John Kinnear | Posted: 07/13/2013 7:31 pm
First, I should say that I am 100 percent guilty of all of these. I know this reads as an advice list, but really it’s advice I’m giving myself. The “you” I am addressing in this piece is me… unless it applies to you; then it is you.
I ran headfirst into this parenting thing, and have gladly and gratefully let it redefine me as a person. One unforeseen side-effect has been that I view everything through the lens of parenting. Sometimes that is a good thing. For instance, I don’t leave steak knives lying around as much as I used to. Sometimes — and this is what I’ve recently learned — it can alienate my non-kid-having friends. Here are some things that are better left unsaid.
1. “Dogs are not kids.”
It usually goes like this. “Ugh. You know what really bugs me? When so-and-so compares her dog to my kid. Or when so-and-so refers to his or her dog as his or her kid. Dogs are not kids! She has NO IDEA!”
You know what? Unless “so-and-so” needs professional help, I guarantee “so-and-so” knows that her dog is not a human child. She also knows that having a dog is nothing like having a kid. What she’s really saying is “Oh! Yes. I also have something in my life that poops AND brings me joy.”
She is trying to relate to you and be a part of your life — the life where all you do is talk about your kids. I know that it’s hard to relate when you have kids and your friends don’t. What were once close relationships can become sporadic meet-ups where you do your best to try and catch up with someone with whom you have very little in common anymore. Sure, you two were best buds in college, but now you have very different lives. So, when “so-and-so” offhandedly, and perhaps awkwardly, tries to relate to your story about picking poo out of your bangs by comparing it to scraping dog shit out of the carpet, cut her some slack. She’s just trying to be nice. And she misses you.
2. “You think you’re [insert anything here]? Try having kids!”
Tired, stressed, in pain, covered in urine, it doesn’t matter. They all apply. Too often, we parents downplay non-parents’ concerns by pulling ours out and tossing them on the table. “Oh man! You worked 50 hours this week? Try doing that with kids!” “Oh man, you think your feet hurt from working outside all day! I’ve been chasing my toddler blah blah blahpunch me in the face, please.”
It’s not a competition. If, on a scale of 1 to Passing Out Awkwardly in the Shower and Waking Up When the Hot Water Runs Out, your friend is at a 7, and three weeks into your first newborn you were at a 9, that DOESN’T MAKE YOUR FRIEND ANY LESS TIRED.
It isn’t that your experiences can’t be a valid contribution to the conversation, but instead of a “my pain is more painful than your pain” approach, instead, try sympathizing. Why not try using your experience as a new parent to help instead of compete? Say something like, “Whoa! I bet you’re tired. When I was tired after my daughter was born, I found that pouring coffee directly into my eyeballs was incredibly useful.”
3. “Don’t worry, when you have kids you’ll…”
… not be grossed out by boogers, know who Dora the Explorer is, be happy… UGH. We’ve got to quit assuming that everyone is going to have kids. Some people don’t want kids and choose not to have them. Some people really want kids and are trying incredibly hard to have them. Indicating to these people that having kids is the only way they will reach some higher level of understanding is both inconsiderate and rude. I don’t know what the alternatives to these statements are. Maybe just cut anything that starts with “When you have kids…” out of your repertoire all together. It makes you sound like someone’s mom, anyway.
What would you add to John’s list?