Things People With Kids Need to Stop Saying to Childless Couples or Those Who Suffered Infertility or Miscarriage

When you have kids

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?

Take Care Tuesday – When is Technology Too Much, Too Young?

baby-technology

Megan had her impressions of the Polar Loop this week, in which she talked about why she enjoyed the Loop, but also asked about the wearable fitness device trend in general. Almost on cue, that same day LeapFrog, makers of technology products for young kids, announced the LeapBand fitness for kids.

The question I have is – are we pushing technology on kids too early?

It should not be a surprise that kids are more sedentary than in any previous generation, and that in general the obesity and diabetes rates have increased along with the decrease of kids’ playtime. More specific to technology, there have been loads of studies on the impact of screen time, and a couple of years ago some major studies linked excessive screen time to attention problems. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:

“According to the group’s Council on Communications and Media, parents are officially recommended to “discourage screen media exposure” for children under 2.

The main issue for pediatricians isn’t eye strain associated with electronic devices, nor tablet computers’ negative effect on kids’ vocabulary, though certainly both are concerns. Says the AAP, “excessive media use has been associated with obesity, lack of sleep, school problems, aggression and other behavior issues.”

The group notes that by age 8, the average child gets 8 hours of screen time per day – time that could be better spent staying active.

When I was at my fraternity reunion, I talked with a number of friends with young kids – and most of them have fairly unrestricted access to a number of mostly iDevices. iPads mostly, for watching TV shows, movies, playing games and so on. And even at early ages they already had pretty broad access. For them, ‘getting strict’ means changing the unlock code on the iPad. Sure that is overgeneralizing and cherry-picking from conversations – and makes them seem like bad or irresponsible parents. That isn’t my intent. Stick with me for a minute.

Here are some basics of the LeapBand:

The LeapBand, designed for kids ages 4 to 7, gives kids commands like “wiggle like a worm” or “pop like popcorn” and then rewards the activity by giving points that can be used to unlock special game features on the band. When kids get a certain amount of points, they can redeem a virtual pet like a cat, dog, donkey or unicorn. Additional points are accrued to let children interact with their pets in different ways.

First off, I am surprised … surprised that Leap didn’t have this out in time for Christmas this past year!

But seriously – I have two thoughts:
– First, once again I applaud anything that gets your kids moving.
– Second, why are we relying on an electronic device for kids who are preschool – first grade age?

Here is my basic premise: we need to back off looking for a gadget as our answer for everything, and instead encourage them to step away from the iPad and run around outside using nothing but their imagination; and in the winter ditch the pre-fab kits and just dump a bucket of LEGOS on the floor for all of them to play with.

The thought of an 8 year old spending 8 hours of screen time per day absolutely saddens me; I do believe that they should have SOME screen time daily – I mean, I am a VERY strong advocate of technology and the power of learning through gaming. But I am not a supporter of passive absorption of content in place of active engagement.

Think about books vs. TV – in books you create the scene, the setting and the characters, whereas on TV it is all spelled out. One absolutely requires more imagination and active engagement than the other – that isn’t even a point for debate. Have you seen popular book characters such as Harry Potter drawn by kids? They are widely varied based on the imagination – but once the movies arrived they all look the same.

So while I think it is great that Leap (I think they’re a great company, by the way, with loads of fun creative play products reaching back to when my kids were little) is doing something to help engage and get kids moving – what they’re doing is treating the outcome rather than addressing the root cause.

Kids LOVE to move, to play, to imagine, to create … and what we as adults should be doing is seeking opportunities to encourage them to do just that. There will always be time for screens after active play.

What do YOU think?