Tuesday, 23 July 2013

5 Things Non-Parents Need to Stop Saying to Parents...

Having recently read "5 Things Parents Need to Stop Saying to Non-Parents" on Huffington Post, I was inspired and the need to share my opinion, nay, rebuttal  for the article was overwhelming.  Let's first set the record straight, I acknowledge and understand that not every one wants to have a child of their own, nor do they require the act of creating a human to feel fulfilled and happy in their life.  I have a few very dear, close friends, who will likely not take the plunge and have their uterus be occupied by a wee growing person -- and they are very happy and wonderful people.  This is not directed at them... However, there are many, I-just-don't-have-kids-yet-but-think-I've-got-this-whole-parenting-thing-figured-out-and-I-am-judging-what-you-are-doing kind of people that could stand to listen to a little advice about what not to say to parents... especially new ones.  And before you get too bent out of shape, I could have stood to read this before having a child of my own...

1.  "I totally understand getting up in the middle of the night, because I have a dog..."

Yah, no you don't.  And while I appreciate that you are trying to have a common ground with me because I look destroyed from the ass up, nipples pointing offensively at you while they leak through my Always maxi-pads stuck to the inside of my shirt, creating wet circles the size dinner plates on my spit-up stained t-shirt that I have been wearing for three consecutive days, common ground we have not.

Many a dog owner does truely believe that they understand the responsiblity of taking care of a wee baby (I was certainly guilty of it).  After all, they are both needy little creatures that need to be fed and picked up after, whether it be morning, noon, or the middle of the night.  It's totally the same.. Right?  BUZZ! Wrong, you do not pass go, you do not collected $200 (oh, wait... you do... It's called Maternity Leave Benefits).  The truth of the matter is having the responsiblity of a child is something you can't possibly imagine until you are stuck right there in the middle of it, in it to win it, no way out of it -- this kid is yours.. end of story.  There will be no discussion of putting a child down because they require an expensive surgery, there will be no talk of delaying necessary treatment for a sick babe because it is too costly, and there certainly will be no I'm-sure-they-can-hold-off-for-another-hour-for-dinner-while-I-stay-out-and-do-something-fun.

Most parents realize that the only thing we talk about is our kids, and that can make us difficult to relate to.  We've been abducted from the land of the living, thrusted into an asocial world where our only companion either has nothing to say or is angrily screaming at us, for hours in the middle of the night while you are all comfy in your bed.  It's a huge adjustment becoming a parent.  Many of us are sad, angry, tired, or just plain lonely.  So when the only interesting thing we can tell you about is that our kid, after only sleeping 73 minute stretches at a time for the last 23 days straight, shit himself something so fierce that we had to throw out the change table and call for Molly Maid to come and clean the walls, just nod sympathetically and don't compare it to having to let Sparky out in the middle of the night.

Our maternity leave is only a year, and within that time we will learn how to be normal, functioning, appropriately social, aware of current events and the world around us adults by the time it's up.  But in the mean time, cut us some slack -- be there for us.  We could use a friend.

2.  "I'm so tired/busy/stressed/have-no-time ..."

I'm sure you think you are, and perception is key -- but when I look back on my life before kids, I had no idea how much free time I truly had.  I'm past the point in my journey of motherhood where I become defensive and explode while telling a non-parent that they have no idea what tired is.  I now politely nod and generally give a dismissive responsive, of "oh, yes... I understand.."  But lets get something clear.  Never, will you ever, have as much free-selfish-I-can-do-whatever-I-want-whenever-I-want time as you do when you don't have children.  Life's cruel joke is that you just won't realize how much time you had until you're still up at 3:23 am bouncing on a yoga ball, shushing a screaming banchee for the 6 consecutive hour, wondering how you can be so tired but this wee-tiny-human is reared up and ready to party.  With meloncoly and sad irony, you will remember actively choosing to stay up this late and it being 'fun'.  You will long for those days that you could just push snooze, or just run out the door to grab a coffee.  Nothing is quick anymore.  Nothing is easy.  Everything takes 42 minutes to do, when it used to take 4.  There is no I'll-just-go-to-the-gym-later, maybe-I'll-just-grab-a-shower-in-a-half-hour, or even I'll-just-pop-in-here-to-grab-some-milk.  Everything takes planning around naptimes, and feeding schedules, and sleep schedules, and shit-filled diapers.  You are at the utter mercy and control of the tiny dictator that you created and will one day call you Mama or Dada.

So yes, I totally understand that you are so busy that you couldn't find ten minutes to call in the last month.  (insert polite looking smile here, drenched in sarcasm).

3.  "I know you have kids but couldn't you just ..."

No, I can't just do anything.  Everything is a bloody production around here, and babysitters are like precious unrenewable gems that you must polish and love and pay sweet attention to.  You must be careful not to over use them, or POOF! they won't be there for when you really need them.  I need some notice if you want me to come out kidless, and I need some understanding when I can't.  Me and my mini are kinda a package deal.  We used to be literally attached by an organ.  He is the Robin, to my Batman... the Sonny, to my Cher...  the Boots, to my Dora... the Binoo, to my Toopy... Aw shit, there I go sounding like a Mom again.  Oh wait.  I am one.  So if he tags along, please don't mind, and if you do.. then maybe I mind you just coming to be around.   Trust me that I can be an adult that can judge if it's socially appropriate to bring my little tornado with me.  I won't be bringing him out for mojitos to a girls night -- nor would I want to.  But as a gentle reminder... if I'm out for one of those coveted baby-free evenings, it's polite to ask me how much son is doing... even if you don't really care and find the whole idea of me being a parent boring.  Just like it's polite for me to ask how your relationship is going with that guy that you only met three weeks ago, even though I know it's not going to last.

4.  "Oh, are you still breastfeeding?"  ... or... "Oh, you're not breastfeeding?"  (insert shocked, slightly judgemental with a side of disgust face here)

For those of you that have never had to decide whether or not to have your nipples completely assaulted in the name of nutrition, let me give you a heads up... it's a bloody sensitive topic.  Whether it's about being able to actually do it, or being able to 'stick it out', or having to use a supplemental nursing system, or just formula feeding, or how many times a day, or why I'm still doing it when my baby is *insert totally appropriate age here*, or asking why I don't just give him a bottle because it's easier, or giving me a dirty look because I'm nursing under a brightly colored afghan and you can see my sons feet sticking out the side causing you to picture my nipple being sucked on, or giving me a dirty look because my baby is crying and you're certain I'm a horrible mother that never feeds her son, or bringing up 'facts' about how breast is best and I'm slowly killing my child each time he drinks a drop of formula because I had very difficult and sensitive issues that caused me not to be able to breastfeed that you never bothered to ask me about before spouting your two-cents about parenting-propaganda, or telling me about how easy it was for your best friend's sister's boyfriend's cousin... Listen very carefully.  This isn't about you.  

It never was.  It never will be.  It's none of your damn business whether my child is fed from the boob or the bottle.  Both work.  Both are healthy.  Both are good parenting.  Until you are faced with the choice, and by that I mean, the war of trying to breastfeed or not -- you should just keep your opinion to yourself.  It may be natural, but there is nothing easy about it.

5.  "You're looking great, a couple months ago you were pretty big..."

Backhanded compliments are awesome.  I want to personally give you a huge go-eff-yourself from all the new mothers out there.  Who knew that after having a baby the chub didn't just disappear with the slurpity plop of the placenta being delivered.  Did you think that Rachel from Friends was really what pregnant people looked like, or new mothers for that matter?  Listen up.  Just because someone had a baby, doesn't mean you have the carte blanche to bring up weight.  Weight is never a topic that you can discuss with a woman, ever.  So keep your idiot thoughts to yourself, chances are I was already feeling uncomfortable in my new mommy-gushy skin before you said anything anyways.  And while we're talking about post-baby weight... I have to give HUGE props to my girl Catherine the Dutchess of Cambridge for owning her doughy-I-just-gave-birth-to-a-baby-but-I-still-look-eight-months-pregnant-belly and rocking it out in a gorgeous baby blue polka-dot dress.  Reason #126 I think she's damn awesome.  Way to give a realistic view of motherhood.  Huge thumbs up.    

So lastly if you have done any of these things, oh well, what's done is done. No hard feelings.  But just know better for next time.  Please understand that becoming a parent is an all consuming journey that many of us wonder if we'll ever make it out alive.  We need friends to stand by us, not to dismiss, belittle, or ignore what possibly is the biggest life changing event of our lives.  We get, that you don't get it.  We just wish you wouldn't pretend that you do.  We have enough to deal with internally without worrying about our friends not being there for us.  

So give us a hug.  Give us a listen.  Give us a coffee.  Give us some time.  Give us a lasagna.  Or at the very least give us some leeway.  We're on a rocky road here, and we're just trying to do our best.  Do me a favor and remember me this Saturday morning when you sleepily wake up to the sound of your alarm and without thinking hit the snooze button and roll over for another 13 minutes of uninterrupted sleep...  I'll have been up already for two hours, changed a shitty diaper, got pee'd on, hopefully with a cup of coffee already in me, tiredly accepting gifts of pieces of fluff and crumbs and who knows what else that last nights vacuum missed but my son has a nearing obsession of a need to give me, while praying that the TV can be a good babysitter for just another twelve minutes as I try to read the latest news on my twitter feed so I'm not totally out of the loop while trying not to saw off my ears with a butter knife for having to listen to the Thomas and Friends theme song for the 8012th time.  Who's living the dream now?

Here's the original article from Huffington Post, incase you missed it.. 5 Things Parents Need to Stop Saying to Non-Parents

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  1. Love and agree with all of these points. The fact is that they will never, ever get it!

  2. I'm sorry, but you are contradicting your own message by demeaning people who have hectic lives as non-parents. Maybe you'd get more support from child-free (I hate to use the term childless because that implies that people without children have inferior and less fulfilling lives) people if you didn't consider yourself superior by virtue of your position as a parent. I can understand some of the complaints like trying to draw an analogy between a dog and an infant or people judging personal decisions like breastfeeding. However, just because you experience life in a different way than a non-parent in terms of stress, busy scheduling, being tired, etc. doesn't make you *the* authority on those things because you chose to have children. If you want respect from non-parents, don't minimize their feelings or experiences either. You don't win a trophy for being a mom or dad-as you well know, and it doesn't make you a better person than people who aren't parents. It just means you made different decisions, so step down from the pedestal. But what do I know? I'm just one of those non-parents who "will never get it".

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  4. 1. I can still understand getting up in the middle of the night. The amount of care needed or importance of the creature for which you are awakening is irrelevant. Awakening from your slumber and putting your feet on the floor is the same, whether its for a child, a dog, to water a plant, etc. etc. It sucks the same.

    2. The stress response of the body is the same no matter the stressor. Cortisol release. be it physical, mental, because of a child, job, or spouse. I can identify with tired. I'll refer you to my military training. Screaming child, screaming soldier (because he's bleeding to death).Lots of cortisol and no sleep to be had.
    I don't know your schedule before or after children, nor do you know mine, so either party judging what the other has time for is pointless.

    3. Fair enough.

    4. You wanted people to value your EXPERIENCE as a parent (by recognizing that you are in fact more tired, stressed, etc., as if it were a badge of honor) then get defensive when they question you about something you have experience with? How about using the question as a segue way into healthy conversation about a very important topic.

    5. I'm sorry you suck at taking compliments and tie feelings into your image.