Don’t Blame Your Kids; You’re Just a Crappy Friend

If you’ve been anywhere on social media in the last week or so, chances are you’ve seen this article making the rounds: “Once We Become Parents, We Don’t Want to Hang Out With You Anymore (But Not for the Reasons You Think).” It’s just the latest in a neverending series of sanctimonious screeds from a particular breed of self-important parents who feel the need to condescendingly explain to people without kids why the life of a parent is so hard and why those without kids could never possibly understand. Here’s the thing, jackasses. We understand. We get it. It’s not actually a complicated concept.

These types of articles always seem to boil down to: “Parents’ lives change once they have kids, and if you don’t have kids, there’s no way you have any idea how or to what extent.” Are you kidding me? Do you know who knows that your life changes after having kids? Literally everyone. Everyone gets it. So when you smugly go on and on about how your life has so much more meaning at such a great sacrifice because you now have kids, it’s like being trapped in a room, A Clockwork Orange-style, forced to listen to the same tired bleating everyone has already heard a thousand times before.

What never seems to occur to these “It’s so haaaaaaard” parents is that parents and non-parents are perfectly capable of maintaining friendships, if both parties are willing to put in the effort and make some compromises. I’m at a point in my life where more of my friends have kids than don’t, and yet, we still manage to navigate changing circumstances to keep the friendship alive, even though I don’t have and will never have kids. Hell, I don’t even particularly like kids.* However, because I’m not a self-absorbed clueless asshole, and my friends are not self-absorbed clueless assholes, we make the friendships work.

Here are some things that the types of parents who write and identify with articles like that posted above should know about people without kids and how to maintain friendships with them:

  1. Don’t assume we’re total idiots.  We know you’re sleep-deprived, adjusting to a new schedule, getting used to major changes in every part of your life and just generally overwhelmed. If we are making an effort to try to see you or get together, you can just say that you’re exhausted, or Tuesday’s not good for you, or that you’d love to get out of the house but you need a nap more. A non-asshole way to respond to a request for hanging out when you just can’t is: “I’m not up for going out, but I’d love it if you could come by one night after [kid] is in bed.” Or even, “I think I need a little time to adjust. Can I call you next week when I’m thinking a little more clearly?”
  2. Don’t be condescending to us. “Oh, you have no idea how exhausting being a new parent is.” Um, yes. I do. Because every mommy blogger gets 15 minutes of fame by enumerating all of the various ways that life now makes them tired. Seriously, we get it. Just say you’re wiped out and leave it at that. “Do you know how hard it is to find a babysitter?” Yes, I do. Did you not?
  3. Don’t be a martyr. We all get that your life is irrevocably changed now that you’ve had a child, but that was an obvious result of your totally voluntary choice, so don’t act like having to say “no” when your friend wants to catch a movie with you means that you were forced against your will to give up all frivolity and entertainment and the entirety of your social life. Lots of non-asshole parents still hang out with their friends, and when they can’t, they don’t act like they’re carrying the cross to Golgotha.
  4. Don’t imply that your life is now more important or meaningful than ours. We may not have kids, but we have jobs, families, obligations, and responsibilities. When you start telling us that we don’t know what real love is, or that a life without children isn’t a valuable life, you’re making the choice to end our friendship, because someone who can’t see the value in someone else’s life isn’t a person worth being friends with. We understand that your priorities have changed and that new things have importance to you, so do us the favor of not devaluing our lives just because we made different choices.
  5. Make at least the slightest effort. No one’s asking you to leave your toddler home alone so you can go do Jäger shots at the club. And frankly, I’m not sure where this prevailing notion came from that the childfree spend all their leisure time at the club, because, well, we don’t. But keeping up with texts or phone calls and managing a coffee date when you can or switching off nights with your spouse or significant other, if that’s an option, so that you can each have a night away goes a long way to showing people you’re still interested in their friendship. If you’re a single parent, trust me, we get that it’s more difficult, so your flexibility will be extremely limited. If your significant other won’t stay with the kids so you can grab appetizers and a glass of wine, well, your spouse kind of sucks and that’s a different issue and all the more reason you might want to try to keep your friendships alive.

Here’s the thing: your kids will eventually grow up and not need you around 24/7 at some point. And at that point, you’ll probably want to hang out with friends and go places and do things that interest you with people who you like and want to spend time with. But if you’ve been a sanctimonious, condescending jerk to your friends without kids, you’re probably going to find that you don’t have many people left who want to spend time with you. Those friends without kids who you devalued and insulted simply because they didn’t have kids are probably going to laugh in your smug face on their way to dinner with the people who had kids and didn’t treat them like crap when they were still figuring out parenthood.

It’s not hard. There’s no need for continuing to perpetuate this parent/non-parent divide. We can all coexist, be friends, even. It just takes compromise and respect on both sides. If your definition of friendship doesn’t include any flexibility for changing life circumstances, then I’m left wondering what exactly you think friendship is.

[For a parent’s perspective with 100% less condescension and a whole lot more honesty than the post that inspired this one, check out Susan’s reaction to that post and others like it.]

 


 

*(Yup. I just committed the biggest sin possible when writing an article from a childfree perspective. Hey, people without kids: you don’t have to qualify everything you say on the subject with, “Don’t get me wrong, I love kids!” or “I’m really involved in helping raise my niece,” or “Kids are wonderful and I love them so much!” There are reasons people choose not to have kids, and for many of us, one of those reasons is that we don’t much like being around them. It’s OK. All the choices are valid.)

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[E] Rachel

I punctuate sentences with Oxford commas, and I punctuate disagreements with changesocks. Proud curmudgeon. Get off my lawn.

21 thoughts on “Don’t Blame Your Kids; You’re Just a Crappy Friend”

  1. “Do you know who knows that your life changes after having kids? Literally everyone. Everyone gets it.”

    Personally, I think the parents who think non-parents “don’t get it” are just idiots who didn’t get it themselves before having children. It’s easier to assume that everyone without kids doesn’t get it then admit you were the one who was woefully ignorant.

    This, of course, is just a theory. A theory that comes from me being a “baby” nurse. I’m mostly in the NICU, but twice a month or so, I’m pulled to the well-baby nursery (hell-baby to me and my fellow NI nurses). And let me tell you, these parents* are easy to spot. They’re the parents who think everything about their child is sunshine and rainbows, but then wants you to change a dirty diaper because “there’s a lot of poop and it’s gross.” They’re the parents who “know everything” and brush off your advice, but then call you five hours later in fucking panic attack mode, demanding for the pediatrician to be called because their baby won’t stop hiccuping. They’re the parents who plan to exclusively breastfeed and keep the baby with them 24/7, but then demand for the baby to be picked up and kept in the nursery for 3 hours so they can sleep because you know, their baby is screaming and they’re soooooooooooo tired. And of course you can’t give their kid a pacifier! Why did you even ask? You just have to listen to their kid scream for 3 hours!

    And on top of being annoying, most of these parents are also SHOCKED that I don’t have kids (most parents don’t even ask me). They’re the parents who tell me I’ll never know love until I hold my own baby for the first time. And this can’t be a coincidence right? Why are these parents who lecture me on love also the parents who seem so clueless?

    I don’t know. I’m convinced these are just all the same people. That these clueless assholes I’m dealing with in the hospital are the same people writing up these crap articles. Because while I know parenting is hard (there is a reason I don’t have kids), it is quite clear from my job that some parents don’t get it and are in for a very rude awakening. Just my two cents. =)

    *These parents are definitely not the norm, most of my parents are wonderful and I love teaching them. The assholes just stick out like sore thumbs.

  2. And dude! When was the last time you asked for help? There are those of us that, just because we don’t have kids, doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy them! And we love YOU. So if all you want to do is take a fucking shower and eat a real meal and have 10 minutes of grown up conversation in your own house? We can help you with that. Seriously. I will play with blocks and pretend to be a unicorn so you can wash your hair. Go take 20 minutes for yourself, I won’t run out of the room screaming at spit up. I have happily played with an infant while its mother pumped and got on facebook for the first time in a week in a WHOLE OTHER ROOM.

    The childless can still fit in your life, if you’ll freaking let us. We love you, so by extension, we probably love YOUR kids, even if we dislike kids in general. Chances are, that if we’re at the age where our friends are having kids on purpose, a quiet night with a glass of wine and a few streamed episodes of tv you would like to catch up on is just fine. We don’t really live these wild lives that you’ve envisioned for us out of some kind of sleep-deprived wishful thinking. It’s what we’d be doing at home anyway.

  3. OMG, every time I see Facebook posts like the article linked in this piece, I roll my eyes. Having kids doesn’t make you a better person than someone else who chooses not to, and you don’t deserve a fucking award for just having a kid. It’s about what kind of person you are and what you raise that kid to be. I’m pretty involved with my niece and nephews and while I love them, I love coming home and NOT having to deal with kids and not being tied down. Kids are a big commitment, and if it’s something you know you aren’t up to and you don’t want kids, there’s nothing wrong with that. I wish more people would understand that.

  4. I HATE HATE HATE the “You’ll never know true love” argument and all versions of it. It’s right there behind “Only Christians have morality” (but that’s a different subject).

    Don’t you know in how many shapes and sizes love comes? Am I calling you a fool because you never knew the love of a dog, a bicycle or that amazing book that saved your life? Why are you acting like having a child is a level up in love-knowing, while it’s a bonus level that’s not very essential for the game? SHUT UP ABOUT KNOWING REAL LOVE.

    Sorry.

  5. As an Infertile, the “my life has REAL meaning now” comments make me stabby. I tend to see them from women who’ve assumed very traditional roles, and thankfully, all of my close friends who are parents don’t tend to fart aspirational rainbows in general.

    I think that might be the crux of this whole issue, the aspirational (spell check doesn’t even know it’s a word yet) aspect of parenting in the Internet age, at least among the demo that tends to parent for an audience, either through social media or a blog. I think there’s a lot of pressure to at least give the appearance that your parenting skills are magazine-cover ready, 100% of the time. I’m 42 and wearing pajama pants and a unicorn t-shirt, it’s easy for me to assume that pressure is easy to avoid.

    I’m not forgiving the eye-roll inducing behavior you’re spotlighting here, at all, that article was as insufferable as it was condescending. I just see how we got here.

  6. Sometimes when people post articles talking about how much meaning their lives have now that they have kids, or how people without kids can’t possibly live meaning-filled lives, I think I’m doing something wrong. Either I am defective when it comes to kid-having (because they are awesome, but they didn’t turn me into a different person) or I was defective when it came to not having kids (because I had lots of meaning in my life before).

  7. Funny article, however me and a lot of my friends with kids sit in the camp of “desperate to go out but everyone assumes you’re up to your eyeballs in nappies.”

    Which we are of course but perfectly capable of arranging for someone (anyone!) to take over for an evening.

    I bite the hand off of any poor soul who makes a passing comment about how nice it would be to go out for drinks sometimes. “YES!” I yell before they’ve even finished the sentence.

    My other half and I use every flimsy work do excuse to get out and have a drink “yeah Barry from accounts is leaving so I have to go for a drink” neglecting to mention I have never met Barry from accounts but someone mentioned in passing that there was a leaving do happening and the first round was free.

    But that’s the other side of the coin!

  8. Maybe I’m one of the few parents who will read this and want to high-five PoM, but HIGHEST OF FIVES.

    Just because I wanted to have kids doesn’t mean I stopped being a person or judge people who don’t want them. And yes, I think there IS a certain breed of parent who stares at the childless wonderingly/judgmentally, and that is helpful to no one, and they start in with the “When are YOU going to do this WONDERFUL MAGICAL THING?!”

    Just, gross. And even parents who have only one kid still get it to a certain degree. Yes, kids are awesome/wonderful/exhausting/etc, but it’s not like I get an extra-special kid if I “sign up a friend” to the cause. Not my business, yo.

    Anyway, parents who think that the sanctimommies don’t exist in their lives can be glad they keep good company, I suppose, but bear in mind that you might not be getting the whole picture.

  9. I always hear of the mythical parents who go on and on about how parenthood has made their lives have meaning but I’ve yet to meet one in person. Thank goodness.

    And, no. I don’t count mommy bloggers.

    I have one child and quite frankly he wears my ass out. And, it’s not sanctimonious to say that someone without children won’t get it. It’s just a fact. Just like many things in life – you don’t get it until you’ve done it. It’s not a holier-than-thou statement.

    I thought I understood what someone goes through while caring for a person with a brain injury. Then I did it. You can imagine what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes but you don’t actually GET IT until you do it. There is nothing WRONG with that. It’s just the way it is.

    People who think they are special little flowers for having kids are just assholes. Plain and simple. It has nothing to do with having children, they were that way before it happened. You just didn’t notice.

    1. You may not hear those parents going on and on because you have a child, and generally people without kids are the targets of that kind of proselytizing. From my own personal experience, I have absolutely had people tell me that their lives were meaningless and superficial before children, and that I can never hope to live a fully fulfilled and meaningful life without kids.

      Do people without kids not know the exact details of life with a child? Sure, but acting like it’s a big mysterious secret of life is disingenuous and obnoxious. And condescending. Mostly because parents (no, not all parents) seem to continually complain about the details and difficulties of life with children. The type of person who writes a post like the one linked is the type of parent who wants everyone to know how much she does and how hard it is to do.

      And you’re right; people who are crappy before they have kids are crappy after they have them, and people who were cool before tend to be cool after. It’s just that the crap factor is magnified exponentially in this particular situation.

      1. I think I tend to stay far away from those types of people. I love my kid with all of my being and can’t imagine life without him but anyone who says it’s just one big magical experience is a liar or use delusion as a coping mechanism.

        Of course I’m also not a recruiter for the breeding community and don’t judge people for their choice to not have children. To each their own.

        I do think a lot of parents also feel pressure to only be “Mom” and lose themselves in that role and try to recruit their friends so they can get lost together, if you will. Who knows. I’m talking out of my ass now. haha

        1. Yeah, people try harder to recruit the childfree to parenthood than some college sports scouts. It’s perplexing.

          It is refreshing when parents (well, everyone, but in this case, parents) are honest instead of smug or condescending. It makes maintaining a friendship much easier and more worthwhile.

  10. I don’t have kids and generally say something along the line of: I like other people’s well mannered children. Then allow the parent to figure out a good time when to hangout with me. Which, if the kid’s 2.5 years, old might be in another year or so.

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