I was alive 28 years before I birthed a child. That’s a heck of a long time to build up the childless life worldview. My husband, Andre and I spent the first three years of our marriage in kid-free bliss and as awesome as that time was, there is no question the last five years of raising children has been 10x more incredible. Still, there is definitely a “had I known then what I know now” reality I’ve come face to face with as I look at my life then vs. now, and I only hope this perspective can help the next generation of not-yet parents do better.
I want to preface what I’m about to say with a medium sized disclaimer: I too once did not have children. It is an incredible season of life that everyone should experience. If you don’t have children and you are reading this, you are not allowed to get all butt hurt. Why? Because sometimes, you just have to have been there to get the joke. And I can hear the complaints now, “What about all the foolish things people with children say to us non-parents?” It’s true; parents can be idiots too and say some majorly annoying stuff, but that’s not what this post is about. There are a ton of lists of things parents should stop saying to non-parents. Google them. They’re very popular and funny.
1. “I just need some ‘me’ time,” or “I’m taking some time to focus on myself.”
One second. Let me collect myself from the ground. Because even as I type this out, the very words absolutely crack me up. I find this phrase particularly funny when uttered by single people. I remember my single days fondly. I had my own studio apartment. I hung out with a lot of friends. I ordered take out a lot. I volunteered at church. I had a full time job. I took extra-curricular classes. I taught dance. As busy as I may have felt, one thing I certainly didn’t lack was “Me time.” I was all up in myself and in fact so well acquainted with myself that I was a little bit tired of me. Sure there are some exceptions here. Are you Mother Theresa? Maybe you are co-dependent and emotionally unhealthy. Perhaps you are taking care of an ailing parent or relative and pouring yourself out on a daily basis. Maybe you are a nanny or you volunteer seven days a week in care and service of others. Maybe you are one of 19+ siblings like the Duggars (who I love, by the way, no shade). If you fit any of those descriptions, then you are excused. Go get your “me time,” boo. I can recommend a few spas. But if you are not the exception to the rule of those who don’t have children, then I’m talking about you. It’s really cute that you want to focus more time and energy on yourself though. I support that. Live it up! BE the change you want to see.
2.” My dog is my baby.”
I almost wrote “My dog/cat/squirrel/fish/guinea pig is my baby” in order to include all pet owners, but let’s be honest with ourselves and admit the main culprits here are dog owners. Not just any dog owners but silly–doing the absolute most–dog owners. I’m a dog lover, so I can attest to the tendency of canine lovers to simply take it way too far. Dog strollers. Dog carseats. Dog bakeries. I even once saw a lady at Panera carrying her dog in a Moby wrap. Every dog owner who’s ever put their pets in one of these silly contraptions needs to go have a seat in the corner and think about their life choices. I’ll wait. For all the weirdness of “cat people,” at least they are not under the delusion that owning a cat is exactly like having a child. That’s because the average house cat seems to have more independence and self-sufficiency than the average 24-year-old these days. But that’s another post. I too once thought my dog was like my child. I get it. Dogs are pretty loveable. You have to care for them daily and they return that love back to us in their own special way. They love unconditionally, they’re a lot of fun, and we even have to find someone to watch them when we go out of town.
I get it. You’re simply trying to relate. But here’s the thing: you don’t have to be able to relate to having kids. That is the beauty of not having kids. You’re not there yet. You are an ignoramus. Sit back and admit your total ignorance! It’s refreshing to hear someone say, “Yeah, I can’t even imagine that.” Raising and caring for a pet isn’t even in the same ballpark of responsibility as raising a child. So you get a puppy and the greatest responsibilities you have to that puppy amount to teaching him to pee and poop outside, teaching him to sit and obey commands, socializing him, and ensuring he lives his life to the fullest extent – which in many a dog’s case amounts to about 16 or so years if you’re lucky and far less if it’s a large breed dog. You manage to do all that successfully and congrats, you’re an awesome dog owner but you have very little skin in the game. The stakes are a bit higher when you’re responsible for ensuring your child doesn’t become the next Ted Kaczynski. Raising a productive member of society is one of the largest responsibilities on the planet. Children are a heritage and a legacy. I’m sorry, but as much as you love your dog, your pet is not your legacy. But whatever, I used to bring my dog on the airplane with me (before I had kids), so I’ll shut up now.
3. “There aren’t enough hours in the day!”
Oh silly mortal. Yes there are. You simply aren’t managing your time well. If I wanted to hire a rockstar team to launch a really cool product, I’d be sure I had a few high performing parents in the bunch. Why? Because parents are some of the most time-efficient multi-tasking fools you will ever meet. One of the things Andre and I often sit back and ponder with great bewilderment is what on God’s green earth we did with our time before we had children. When I was pregnant with my first child, I had recently been laid off and took my severance package as a green light to just take the entire year off. I was home all 9.5 months of my pregnancy. And I’ve got very little to show for it. I completely took advantage of the way I used my free time. Andre and I once took an entire Saturday and watched Rocky I through V and then late that night went to see Rocky Balboa at the movie theater. It was awesome and if I went back in time, I wouldn’t change a thing. But seriously, today, if I had an entire day free, there are so many other more productive ways I’d rather spend my time. The reality is that when you are not a parent, Parkinson’s Law is ubiquitous in your life. Parkinson’s Law states,
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Well, that’ll preach. So saddle up my child-less friends, time to start using some project management tools or something, because we parents really, really, don’t feel sorry for your over-scheduled weekends. Trust me when I say, you have PLENTY of time. You have no idea how efficient you can be until a demand is placed upon your time. You can rise to the occasion. No excuses.
4. “Tonight is date night!”
Mmkay. If you say so, chief. All I’m saying is — if the planets didn’t have to be perfectly aligned so that you and your significant other could steal away and have some private one on one time, then I’m gonna go ahead and say every night is date night when you are not a parent. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be intentional. And for all you newlyweds in particular, I highly encourage you to continue the dating one another well into marriage. We parents just find it hilarious when date night can essentially be ascribed to nearly every day of your week if you so choose.
5. “When I have kids, I’m never going to…”
Everyone who has ever thought they knew everything about being a parent and ended up right, please take one step forward. Anyone? No? Life is a funny thing. You say stuff and put it out in the atmosphere and then one day, it comes back and smacks you in the face. Like that time I declared I would never under any circumstances allow my child to sleep in bed with me and my husband. Don’t get me wrong, if this is what you intend for your future children, you hold that line, sister (or brother), and don’t let anybody tell you different. It certainly can be done. Just be prepared for possible eating of words in the future. It’s fun to call plays from the sideline, though. Even with two kids, I constantly make declarations that will likely come back to bite me. My list of things I thought I knew everything about is growing. Humility is part of the journey.
See, that wasn’t so bad now was it? One of my life philosophies is that our burdens and experiences are relative to the season of life we’re in. There is no parents vs. non-parents battle. It’s all a season of life and it all deserves to be validated and honored. We parents need to stop starting our sentences and attempts at advice with, “Just you wait…” We didn’t always have children.
Curious on both sides of the fence either from those with children or those without, if there are things you wish folks would stop saying?