Okay, day 7 of An Uncomfortable January. This challenge is for all of us mamas to evaluate the way we treat other women. And kid-free women, I’d love to know your thoughts as well. It is longer than normal posts, but stick with me. My friend Stephanie wrote a great piece to moms from the perspective of a woman without children. So, grab your coffee and settle in for a challenging but good read.
To all the baby mamas…via Stifling Trivialities:
So recently my best friend from college Jordan asked me to gently post about the life of the childless. This was is in response to an excellent post for people without kids on dealing with people with kids. I said I would do it, but I was hesitant because mothers tend not to respond well to such things. She replied, (tongue in cheek), “I know, why are we so sensitive?!”
Friends with children:
DO know that we understand that now you have children and the skies are bluer. That EVERYTHING has changed,that your paradigm, world, emotion, vision, values, being and psyche has shifted. Most of us think that your children are precious and a gift and are elated by their addition to this world and our lives as well!
PLEASE DON’T talk down to those of us who don’t have children as if we are lesser mortals. Please don’t look knowingly at each other with what you perceive as stealthy glances when we say something ONLY a childless, hollow person would say. I respect your decision to have children. Please respect that I do not have children for whatever reason – one that you perhaps do not know and do not want to (for some) unknowingly exploit.
DO know that I ache for your sleepless nights, your struggles through teething, your frustration at a world that is not “kid friendly.” I will do my best to be a friend to you in those moments, as one who has the flexibility and funding to do so. I will send meals and come early. Because I can. I will hold that bundle while you shower. I will take your toddler for donuts while you and your newborn nap, BECAUSE I CAN. I have nothing else to do – I’ve got nothing but a cat. You see – there are benefits to this kid free existence.
However I ask that you please DO NOT take out your terrible twos and sleepless nights on what you perceive to be my ‘carefree existence.’ As difficult as this is to type, I ask that you remember that your child is a precious human – but not an entitlement. For example: I am sorry that I am on the stairway that you have to take instead of the elevator not provided to you, please do not mow me over while carrying your stroller or run me over on the sidewalk with it because you need to get home to nurse to keep your child’s schedule. While your child is in crucial formative years, if you would consider asking, “pardon me, this child is going to melt down into a screaming tirade any minute – would you mind if we went ahead of you in line?” instead of presuming that space, the world would be a much kinder, gentler space. I promise. You will sometimes hear, “I’m sorry, I do mind.” Please be OK with that – there is likely a reason – while children are important – it is crucial that they understand that there are other things happening in the world and their parents aren’t always the best people at teaching them that.
Please DO bring your children to my TINY TINY TINY apartment and please DO let them terrorize my cat. Seriously. Please. It’s my FAVORITE thing that my niece Belle does.
Please DO NOT apologize when your child screams hysterically when we are drinking wine past their bedtime, throws a fit, interrupts .. Everyone understands that children will cry, throw tantrums, break things, spill things etc. I promise that I will do my best to make this world a magical place for your child to be a kid! Just because I don’t have children, don’t think I’m not OK with them! Please let me help if I can, if your child is going to scream no matter what, let me hold them! It doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it bothers you – promise. You can hold them while they scream tonight. I’ll be sleeping.
However, when they are at my home I will do my best to accomodate your children when I invite your family over but if your child breaks something please DON’T dismiss it by laughing and saying, “kids will be kids” and get frustrated at me for having something within the reach of your child. Please have your child apologize if they are old enough – and help me clean it up, if they are not too upset with themselves, if they are, then will you please help me? As a parent will you please try to understand that it’s not just your child I have to accomodate, it’s all of my friends, at last count (three years ago – at our wedding – that count was 117.) As much work as it is for you to watch your two little one’s four arms, me moving my apartment’s 400sq ft for 117+ pairs of little arms seems a little overwhelming.
This is a tough one. Please DON’T call me and ask me to meet your for drinks and grown up conversation and then spend the entire evening talking about breast feeding, carpools, disciplining, MOPS, or potty training. Let’s go 50/50.
Also, and this is REALLY HARD TO TYPE. As a 35 year old woman and one of the last of my friends without children, when I am out with a group of moms or couples – myself or my husband and myself can feel very alienated from conversation when the ONLY topic of conversation is children or child raising – and no one notices. On the other hand, because we don’t have children, despite the fact that we spend 89% of our lives talking about them people often dismiss what we have to say about them… I can tell you most of what you need to know about breast feeding, weaning, and potty training. Seriously. I’m a wealth of knowledge about kids as a result of all my mom happy hours and parent dinners, I’ve even probably got some knowledge or thoughtsabout your kid, if I am at the table DON’T ignore or dimiss me or us simply because I don’t have children.
This is written on behalf of others – I have never had this happen to me, but I hear of it often and am always horrified when I do. We want to spend time with you and your children. We adore your children. We tell stories about them. We think of them. We talk about them when they are not around. However, when we are invited over to your house we DON’T want it to be assumed that we are there just to hang with your children for their activities. Or to watch them do their tricks – or better yet – to care for them while you cook dinner. Let me offer two examples on behalf of two other friends. One is a single friend and the other a couple. Both of whom were often invited over to friends homes and then expected to watch the child of the respective inviters’ be cute, you know as a bonding exercise. This is craziness. Please DON’T do this to a kid free person. It is confusing to them – they are your friend, you happen to have a child – please do not force them to bond with your child, or sit on the couch and watch your child ‘perform tricks’ on the floor. If they initiate it, that is different, but forced upon them, it is terrible and paralyzing.
Secondly, the pastors of some friends asked them over frequently to ‘hang-out’ for a little ‘quality time’. Frequently when the couple got there, the pastors would tell them what time the kids should be in bed, when they would be home from dinner and a movie, and ask said couple if they would be able to hang around for a while after they got home. I don’t think this needs further explanation. If you need a babysitter, ask for a babysitter. If you can’t afford to pay, we are often more than happy to do it for free or some form of barter.Like cookies. Or wine.
Kid and Kid Free are two different stages of life. It’s like Single and Married. It’s SO easy to be in your stage and forget the blessings and difficulties of the other side. I think the KEY to health is empathy and CONSIDERATION. I think the greater key is COMMUNICATION. Sometimes you just HAVE to say, “Hey, this is hard for me to say, but __________ is difficult for me.”
I lived in Berlin with a bunch of couples and SEVEN kids. It was craziness. It transformed me. I understood the difficulties of motherhood in a way that I never did before. I also began to understand how quickly becoming a mother removed you from the life of a kid free individual. I often had to reiterate to myself that as a single person, and a person without children – I still held some value in this world.
On a more personal note:
Justin and I have a cat. We adore her. We don’t think she is a child. She is a pet. She is a living thing that moves around our apartment and loves us unconditionally. This is what a pet is. Not like a family member that loves conditionally, but a pet, which loves blindly. I think it’s funny that I have a cat, and not a dog, or a fish, or a kid. All acceptable forms of family members. People HATE cats. They say the most cruel things about them. I think that maybe it’s actually OK to have a cat as long as you don’t mention them. I have seen people who post scripture, profess family values, and preach fiscal responsibility de-friend me because of too many tweets or instagram posts about my cat. (Honestly, I find this offensive and childish.) But in the most minute way it helped me understand what parents must feel like when single people rant about kids. 98% of my family friends are totally aware of their kid ways, their kids posts – and in this way – I find them 100% palatable. These little beings are a part of you. They are your lives, an extension of you, and I understand what Jordan meant by mothers being sensitive. Please parents, treat those of us without children with the same kindness, tenderness, sensitivity that you would want to be treated with.
I’m not asking for your understanding. No one is asking you to like cats, or to like posts about them – but please don’t be rude to people who may be ‘overly’ adoring their pets as they are on a fertility journey (we are not, but many are)…
Please do not minimize people that choose not to have children because they are simply big enough people to realize that they should not have children because they don’t have the capacity to parent their own, but would love to adore yours.
Please remember that in older days families made single people and widows feel like treasures and not lesser members of society.
It is so easy to get wrapped up in the stage of life that we are in.
I have forgotten what it felt like living in Berlin, how much lesser of person I felt like.
Let’s all reach out to each other. Baby Mammas. Singles. Kid Frees. Kiddos. It’s a big wide world. There is so much wonder to behold. Let’s all embark on it together and remind each other that we are all incredibly valuable to each other. It’s a puzzle and we’re pieces that fit together to form a big beautiful picture. So be your crazy craggly self. Trying to be the exact same as another piece just throws off the entire puzzle.
Now come over here, lemme hold your kid.