When you see that first words, chances are your reaction falls into one of four categories:
– You have kids and are thinking “I know, right – they don’t know what stress is, what tired is, what busy is, …” and so on!
– You have kids and you HEARD all of those things and are thinking “I hope I never said any of that stuff aloud!”
– You don’t have kids and think .. ugh, I HATE hearing that crap!
– You are single or unmarried and thinking – OMG stop hassling me about getting married and having kids already!
OK, that last one comes from a young woman I work with – her family is simultaneously pushing her career and marriage and kids, and she told me she blew up at her mom who was bugging about kids, and when she said ‘I’m not even married yet’ her mom used that as an opportunity to ask about THAT. It is just so funny. Except that it isn’t.
A while ago Lisa was reading something on her phone that a friend linked on Facebook and it was about the things that parent’s need to stop saying to people without kids. It led to a long discussion about that subject for a number of reasons.
First off, because even with kids our dogs and cats remain part of our family. We had found out about a family in our neighborhood that had a young puppy that was planning to give it back/away or whatever. They thought it sounded like a good idea, but in reality was too much work/mess/whatever. So they just got rid of it like tossing a disposable razor … which was a concept we just completely couldn’t ‘get’.
Second off – because we spent the early part of our marriage listening to all of these things from people with kids (ok, mostly only the same group of people over and over again) in varying amounts – by which of course I mean ALL THE TIME!
Here are some thoughts on things that just need to STOP!
So … When Are You Having Kids?
The immediate supposition that a natural ‘next step’ along with getting a dog and house is that everyone will have babies, right? That is less and less the case these days, for any number of reasons.
It is somewhat better to ask IF the couple is thinking about having kids – if you MUST ask, that is. Better still? Just ask what the couple has planned – let THEM tell YOU what is happening, maybe they plan to try, perhaps they HAVE been trying but are struggling (see below), and maybe they have no plans at all. Regardless, you should follow their cues and respect their choices. Because … um, it is THEIR choice.
Dogs are not kids
Um, really – that would explain the calls from the school! But seriously, no one who talks about their ‘fur babies’ is actually confused about the animal’s genetic lineage. The presumption here is that you love and lavish upon your dog or cat, but once the baby comes along the center of your life will shift. Again, duh?!?
The problem with this is that it belittles where the couple is NOW. NOW they are a couple who has pet(s). Maybe they will have kids, maybe not; and maybe they will get a bunch more animals. Who really knows – but the supposition that a dog is a ‘training baby’ is insulting to all involved and needs to stop.
“You think you’re [insert anything here]? Try having kids!”
There were definitely times when I wished it was socially acceptable to head-butt people for saying stupid things like this.
So suddenly now that you have a baby you have cornered the market on being tired? Busy? Broke? Worried? Oh puh-LEAZE get over yourself! Guess what – millions of people without children all over the world are leading rich and fulfilling lives, not getting enough sleep, feeling frazzled and frenzied, and generally overwhelmed with no clue where things are going!
It is demeaning and belittling, and tends to close off conversations and have you second-guessing yourself. Suddenly at the end of a hectic week where you were frazzled and just need to vent, you realize that you have lost an understanding ear – you will be expected to sympathize with all the play dates and potty training and sleep-deprived nights, but eye-rolls begin when you discuss your own issues.
“Don’t worry, when you have kids you’ll…”
This is the complement to the last one – and generally a response to a look when your toddler sneezes phlegm into your hand and you just wipe it on a napkin and throw it away without breaking the conversation.
But you know what – people have different thresholds – because I have a strong stomach and Lisa worked in the medical field, we would discuss just about ANYTHING sitting around, and so that is what our kids have grown up with. My father (aka someone with kids) gets queasy with many of the discussions – as do many parents we know. I know people for whom watching their own kid puke is as good as sticking their fingers down their throat.
Sure there are some things associated with parenting that you just have to deal with, but there is no magical bestowing of talents that happens – any more than you suddenly start enjoying stepping in dog poop in the living room because you ignored the dog yapping at you to let her out.
“Is the party kid-friendly?”
The problem here is not checking if an event allows kids – that is a GOOD idea – but the supposition that as soon as YOU have kids that all events suddenly become ‘Family Time’.
What amazes me is how quickly it shifts – the same people who were lamenting kids for ruining everything by being noisy, crying, or playing around are suddenly expecting the entire world to stop and revolve around them and their baby.
And so much of the problem could be handled with some common sense – if this is a dinner party starting at 8PM with four couples and you are the only one with a child … it is a pretty safe assumption that NO, it is not kid friendly. If that means you cannot attend, your friends will understand … but expecting all of your friends to change nights at the tapas bar to become Chuck-E-Cheese outings? Um, no.
“My life didn’t have meaning before I had kids!”
Really? I am SO sorry for you – that is awful! Before we had kids my wife and I had years of adventures before we even met, loads of adventures before we were romantic, and tons of great experiences as a married couple. Rich, fulfilling years building a foundation that now as the kids are hitting their late teens is returning as we get to spend more and more time together.
I look at so many of my blog friends who are young married couples, and they are amazing people and I love hearing about their spouses and the adventures they have. Empty lives? Um, F that!
Also, the assumption of kids ‘giving your life meaning’ is that nothing else in your life even AFTER having kids has meaning. BS to THAT!
“Why Can’t They Work Late … They Don’t Have Kids”
Young kids entering the workforce after college are generally ambitious and willing to work more to prove themselves and accomplish more. The people around them will often take advantage of that until the young people draw boundaries (or get a mentor like me to advise them to do so) … and over time can even feel entitled to have those newer employees acting as personal resources for whenever THEIR life is hectic or they have an appointment.
Again this has its basis in the assumption that ‘the child-less life is not worth living or is of lesser importance. Which isn’t just wrong – it is insulting.
5 Things People Need to Stop Saying to Those Struggling with Infertility/ Miscarriage
Because we have two healthy and wonderful teenagers, everyone seems to forget that for four years we struggled with multiple miscarriages and infertility. But Lisa and I haven’t forgotten and will never forget – there was enough tears and pain to last a lifetime. And I wish I could say that people were really good and supportive during our struggles – but they weren’t.
Just keep trying!
This isn’t taking foul shots at the basketball court – this was a life that failed to sustain and form properly and died. Or a continued inability to get pregnant – either way, it is incredibly difficult to deal with, so ignoring it and suggesting just powering through is terribly insensitive.
Better would be “I’m so sorry for your loss” or “I’m sorry you are having a difficult time”.
“It wasn’t meant to be” … or “It is God’s Will”
Ultimately this really means “I have no idea what to say”. And the second one injects religion in a way that can really cause some problems either between people or within their religion.
Better would be “I’m so sorry for your loss” or “I’m sorry you are having a difficult time”. Or, “I have no idea what to say”.
It wasn’t really a baby anyway, just get over it!
If you have had a miscarriage – even one that required medical treatment – and on some milestone date of the pregnancy you get weepy … prepare to hear this. Seriously. We heard it multiple times across all of our miscarriages.
And to be clear … we had actually named one of the babies that died and had to be removed. Even with two kids approaching college I remember that day at the hospital vividly … and the day Lisa came home in tears less than two weeks later when someone had told her to just get over it.
So what’s wrong that you can’t get/keep pregnancies?
Let’s be clear – if you and your spouse are unable to get pregnant or stay pregnant … you already feel at least a little broken or deficient. You don’t need to someone asking you do detail the manner in which you are broken.
Sure they might want to discuss it at some point – and as an outsider all you should say is “I really have no idea what to say, but I’m here to listen.”
(if you have had a baby) Are You Going to Try for [opposite gender here]
There are some people – OK, many at first but after several years really just one – in our lives who would just never accept that after years of infertility and multiple heartbreaking miscarriages we were just incredibly happy to have a baby, and even more happy to have a healthy baby. That it was a boy was simply ‘what it was’ – and so when our doctor said ‘don’t stop trying if you want another child’ after our first, and then ‘you would probably not survive getting pregnant again’ … that was also ‘what it was’.
In the end we have two wonderful boys, each of which was a miracle to two people who had honestly started to accept that having our own children was simply impossible.
So to ask the ‘are you trying for the girl next’ question when they were little was mildly frustrating, but generally stopped with the ‘we cannot have any more kids, and had so many problems that we feel incredibly fortunate with the two boys we have’ statement.
But not for everyone … there were the ‘yeah, but don’t you wish you had one of each?’ comments (no, and you have no idea), and the ‘so do you use your nieces as substitute daughters?’ (again, just insulting), and even more.
Here is the bottom line – for those who struggled like we did, a child is an incredible blessing. We have never lost the pain or heartbreak of miscarriage and infertility, nor the wonder and awe of being able to have children … and as a result our perspective on the gender of the children has never shifted. And talking to others who went through similar experiences? Yeah, they share it as well.
So what should you say? Nothing. There is really no good way to ask someone if they secretly wish to change a major defining characteristic of their child … because it is an awful question, and asking it says more about the person asking.
And while we are on the topic of reproductive system … this ad … is hilarious …
If you or someone you know is married without kids (or not yet married, or has struggled with getting or staying pregnant, what things would you add to the list?