Parenting Notes from Your Single Friend

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I definitely don’t have kids but lots of people around me do. From what I can tell parenting is challenging and rewarding and isolating and communal and countless other contradictions. For what it’s worth, these are some of the things I’ve picked up as an outsider…

  1. You’re doing a great job. I try to tell my brother and sister-in-law this every time I see them and their (currently) four-month-old baby. I watched her one time at my house by myself for two hours and thought I was going to die. So as far as I’m concerned, if you have managed to put pants on and not leave the baby on top of the car or something, you’re doing a great job.
  2. You’re not being judged. I think parents feel constantly judged for their parenting choices and this is unfortunate because 1) that must not feel good and 2) we’re not judging you. We really don’t know anything about which sleeping method is safer and which feeding method is better and all those things you spend time researching and defending. A lot of times the feeling of being judged just comes from our own internal fear, doubt and criticism. Go a little easier on yourself.
  3. Your photos are fine. I will rail on your never-ending Facebook baby pictures all day long but then I will post several of my cats so… Who’s really winning in this situation? Post whatever you want.
  4. You might not know that we have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. As much as you can’t imagine your life without your child, we can’t imagine our lives with one. Everything you’re experiencing with this new life is, no doubt, a first for you. For the rest of us, it’s a zero. We have no reference point from which to gauge what it’s like to create a life, not sleep for six months, and so on. There’s this new chasm between us but it doesn’t have to be a negative thing so long as we all agree that one side isn’t better than the other.
  5. You can tell us the truth. Two of my favorite new-mom moments came when the moms were unfiltered about their emotions. The first, minutes after the baby was born, looking up with tear-filled eyes to a room full of people who love her and saying, “I’m so happy I love her. I didn’t know if I would love her.” It was one of the most tender, honest moments I’ve ever witnessed. The second, a new mom explaining her first month: “I’ve never so much as punched another person but I would kill anyone that tried to hurt her. I would kill them. That love was immediate and instinctual. The harder part that no one tells you about is that as easy as the love is, it takes a while to like your baby sometimes.”
  6. But not too much truth. I think any mention of secretions or chapped nipples or whatever is just not fit for the public domain.
  7. Your parents are grandparents now. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m still the forever child while my brother becomes The Dad but… I am floored that my parents are now grandparents. I remember the day my parents left to go to the hospital to have my sister. I was handed a Fisher Price wedding cake (best ever) and Grandmother Betty’s hand and instructed to wait for the arrival of the child I suggested we name Peter Rabbit. (They ended up going with Julie Elizabeth, weird.) I didn’t see my grandparents a ton growing up so they were always these mythical, untouchable, gift-bearing creatures with the coolest houses on earth. Seeing my own parents step into that role completely shifts my view of my grandparents further to the “real and relatable” end of the spectrum. Think of the things you remember about your grandparents and then watch those moments unfold with your own parents. And remember them.
  8. Not everyone wants what you have. It’s so important to remind all of us that not everyone wants kids–either not right now or not ever. As offended as you probably are when your young, wild and free single friends make you feel like your home is now a prison from which there is no escape, we are equally offended when you infer that our lives without a family are selfish and meaningless. This is a lose-lose if we keeping trying to debate it. Let’s all just avoid that mess and live our own lives without such concern for what everyone plans to do with their uteruses.

 

12 Comments

  1. Very good post. I was hoping this wasn’t going to be another, “We don’t have kids, we’re tired of hearing about that part of your life,” post, but it isn’t. I agree that, as a kidless person, it’s not something we can relate to, and that parents don’t sometimes go overboard, though it has, for the most part, never bothered me when parents talk about their kids.
    And yeah, I talk about my cats often, so I can’t really complain about baby pics.

    • I’ve hit this point in my life where I can’t judge anyone for anything because of the state of my cat collection. It trumps absolutely anything anyone else could ever do.

  2. This was amazing – so spot on. Your writing style is incredible and so relate-able.<– is that a word? Officially my new favorite blog! XO

  3. This is really good. My husband and I do not have kids (nor do we want them) but most of my friends have a few at this point. I think sometimes they don’t include me in things because they feel I’m judging them (I am 100% not – parenting looks like the hardest thing ever) or because they feel sorry for me because I don’t “have what they have” (I don’t want that). In reality, I think people who don’t want children get judged 100 times harder because we are labeled as “selfish” or told we just “don’t understand how awesome it is.” My only request of my friends is that they remember that at one point – they were a person with their very own interests and hopes and dreams long before their kids came along, and that it’s ok to be that person again every now and then. Children are obviously a huge part of their lives and that is wonderful, but sometimes the discussions that are solely focused on their kids get to be a bit exhausting.

    • I totally feel for my married and childless friends because the world is way harsher on them about “starting a family” than they are with those of us that are single. Several of my married friends told me to change the title of this to “Parenting notes from your single and married friends without kids.” Ha, it’s just too long.

    • So true! And the phrase “starting a family” makes my skin crawl. My husband and I are a family! People make it seem like you’re not a family until you have kids and I find that extremely insulting.

  4. Love this. Just made my day. I’m the married never having kids lady among my friends, and this pretty much hits the nail on the head for me. I love that people are talking about this. And why does everyone think the friends need to end because of these choices?

  5. Great piece! I am not sure if I will ever have kids- I am not firmly on one side or the other but at this moment and for the foreseeable future (I’m almost 30) I have no desire. This is not something I broadcast freely but when the conversation turns to “when are you having kids?” I answer honestly and most of my friends who have kids know how my boyfriend and I feel. However, this does not mean I don’t want to be around your children and don’t invite us over until the kid is asleep. I think this is often misinterpreted as I don’t want kids so I must not want to be around your kids. Bring on the kids, even ask me to babysit! (like once in a while when the grandparents can’t, ain’t doing it regularly). I am happy for you and happy to share in your happy family!

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