If you’re an easily offended person or a parent having a particularly bad day then maybe skip this post or save it for later, although it is intended to be humorous! 😉
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about being questioned (interrogated) about my child(less) status and the circumstances around it. Lots of people messaged me to share their experiences, and it got me thinking a bit more about conversations I have with some mothers who have children at social things. Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy playing with kids and talking or hearing about the funny things that they do- but they have to actually be funny. Sometimes, parents get on a one track mind, and think that because they love talking about every aspect of their kids’ lives, other people do too. Or maybe it’s because they feel that they have little to talk about besides their kids, because they spend so much time with them. Either way, if you don’t have children, it can make you feel a bit awkward/irritated/bored/frustrated/grossed out…. after a while:
- If you have chosen not to have a baby, then it’s unlikely you’ll want to talk about the things I’m going to mention in this post. That’s why you don’t have any kids of your own.
- If you can’t have children for medical reasons, it’s pretty insensitive for the parent to talk incessantly about their child (NB I didn’t say not talk at all, I said talk incessantly).
- If you can’t have children because your situation doesn’t allow for it e.g. you’re single, then it’s also pretty insensitive for the parent to only talk about their child.
Here are some conversations or scenarios which come up which make me a tad frustrated:
The child doesn’t have to be the focus of everything.
Kids take up a lot of time and energy. They require a lot of attention. I do like playing and interacting with children. But sometimes, it can feel a bit forced. I’m a big fan of children being allowed to choose who they interact with and have affection for for themselves, so I won’t hug or kiss your child even if you tell us both to if it clearly makes them uncomfortable. If they don’t want to play with me and want to go off and do their own thing, I don’t mind, it’s their choice. You don’t need to demonstrate their new ‘tricks’ to me. Also, photos. Believe it or not, it’s possible to take a photo without your child being in it as well. If the photo naturally is set up to include the child then no problem with that, but I have been told more than once that we can’t take a photo until X wakes up from their nap because they *need* to be in it.
Gifts with kids’ faces on them aren’t cute.
Ok, they are if you’re related or you’re a godparent, but have you ever considered how weird it is to give a mug (or whatever) with your baby/child’s face on it as a Christmas present to someone who doesn’t have kids? Firstly, that mug won’t ever come out of the cupboard except maybe when that parent comes over because it’s a bit creepy offering a mug with a child on it to someone visiting, especially if all of your friends with children do it- lots of kids’ faces on different mugs in the cupboard looks seriously dodgy to me! Secondly, I’ll point out the sensitivity/not wanting kids aspect again, and thirdly, it’s a pretty thoughtless present in general. It’s not specific or personal to me and requires very little thought on your part.
Don’t use your kids as an excuse.
I hate hearing the phrase ‘baby brain’. And before anyone says it, I actually do have ‘baby brain’ as part of my condition, but I work round it or I apologise and say ‘I forgot’. Using your kids as an excuse for not doing something/failing to reply to a text/not sending a birthday card… etc isn’t fair. I don’t mean ‘my kid got sick at school so I had to cancel our plans to go get them’, that’s obviously a justified thing and isn’t an excuse! Forgetting is human and is allowed every now and then. Using the fact that you have children as a get out of jail free card isn’t. How long are you going to keep that up for anyway, until they’re 18?
‘You don’t understand, you’re not a parent.’
What exactly do I not understand? I have people in my life I care about who I would want to protect or help at all costs. I’m an auntie. I interact with children a lot. I used to be a teacher. Hey, I even don’t get more than 4 hours sleep most nights and sometimes don’t sleep at all. I have empathy for others and I listen. I’d get it if this phrase was used in relation to something that I actually couldn’t understand, but it’s not, it’s usually used after the excuses mentioned above.
Selling parenthood to me.
Another thing that comes up a lot is the notion of not fully appreciating unconditional love until you have a baby (which I can’t understand because I’m not a parent…), which is usually followed by some kind of gushing about how amazing parenthood is. I refer you to points 1-3 above. Talking about kids is fine, I like that. Gushing for hours on end is not fine. Who’s it for anyway- are you trying to convince me that parenthood is great or yourself? If you want to moan about your kids, I’m fine with that, you don’t have to pretend it’s all lovely if it’s not!
You don’t deserve a medal for being a parent.
I say moaning about kids is fine, which it is, but not constantly. The impression I get at the moment from reading social media and blogs is that some mums think that they deserve some kind of medal because they’re coping with kids. Parenthood isn’t an illness or a burden or a cross to bear. People have been having kids since time begun. I completely agree that it’s challenging and hard bloody work and sometimes you must be tearing your hair out, but you are not the next Virgin Mary nor is your baby the new Messiah.
You’re not better than me because you have kids.
You don’t suddenly get an office with windows and a sofa type promotion above other humans because you’ve had a baby. It’s not a sacred club that people are invited to join. It’s life. Some people really look down their nose at me because I don’t have children and they do, and I can never work out why! It makes me feel like a failed human being, even though I like to think I’m not!
Not taking an interest in me.
Some parents get so focussed on talking about their kids that they forget to ask how I am or what I’ve been up to. It’s pretty rude, particularly if the conversation about their kids isn’t interesting. I went out to lunch with some friends and their babies a while ago and not one of them asked me a question about me, even though I asked about them and had to listen to (boring) child stories.
I don’t care how often your child poos.
This is what I mean about boring stories. I don’t care how often your child poos. Unless there’s a story linked to it, I really don’t care, and even then why are we talking about poo? Do you want to hear about my poos? Maybe that’s where I’m going wrong when I say people don’t take an interest in me, maybe I should get involved with how many times I’ve been to the toilet that day.
I’m writing this post mostly tongue-in-cheek if you hadn’t guessed, but the points I make are ones that I do find frustrating sometimes. I have lots of friends who manage to get the balance between parenthood and normal life conversations brilliantly and I love spending time with them and their kids. But considering so many mums and dads post on Facebook about missing adult conversation and ‘me time’, you’d think that they’d skip the poo conversations whenever we meet up!