I have quite a few female friends that have kids. I also have quite a few female friends that do not have kids. I’m endlessly fascinated by the interactions between these two groups. For whatever reason, this is a polarizing topic. My friend Trisha posted a link on Facebook to this blog post:
http://hikinghumanist.com/2012/03/06/my-childfree-rules/ (Julie, in regards to the traffic- you’re welcome)
The responses to the link were interesting. And polarizing. People on both sides of the issue weighed in. And every comment was posted by females.
As a male, I could care less if someone decides to have kids. And I don’t care about the rationale they use to justify their decision. It’s not that I’m an uncaring person… it just has no personal relevance.
Despite my own personal indifference, I still like reading the comments. I see two behavior patterns. Both parents and the childless folks do two things:
- They lay out their rationale for their decisions, and
- They defend their decisions in a way that offends the other group.
The result is a firestorm of thinly-veiled antagonistic insults. As an outsider, it seems both groups care about this issue FAR more than is necessary. Here’s my message to each group:
To the outspoken parents: Some people choose not to have kids. Don’t question their intentions. Don’t make assumptions about their rationale. Odds are it’s quite personal. Don’t try to talk them into having kids by bragging about how special it makes you feel. And for the love of whatever god or gods you do or do not pray to, don’t complain about how difficult parenting is. Yes, it’s tough. You’re not special. If you need constant affirmation of your sacrifices, you probably have issues that need addressing. Get professional help. You don’t need your kidless friends to acknowledge the sacrifices you’re making. Oh, and don’t pawn your kids off on your kidless friends. Odds are they don’t like kids despite what they tell you. Don’t pawn them off on me, either. I don’t like your kids. If you do, I’m going to load them up on candy and teach them to curse. The lesson to learn: Not everyone wants to have kids. Your comments to the kidless make you sound like you’re trying to justify your own decisions, and make you seem pushy and insensitive. We don’t think you’re a martyr deserving of our admiration. We think you’re more like a catty bitch.
To the outspoken kidless folks: Stop bitching about kids and questioning parents’ abilities. Parents have far less control over their kid’s behavior than most think. It’s like wrangling cats… you can exert some control some of the time, but the cats are ultimately going to go where the cats want to go. Some kids are well-behaved. Some kids aren’t. Don’t assume parents can control that. Furthermore, you don’t know that situation. Maybe that screaming kid is hungry and mom doesn’t have food available. Maybe the kid is tired. Perhaps they have a developmental disorder. Don’t be the bitch that complains loudly. Furthermore, don’t incessantly tell the world why you choose not to have kids. It’s even more annoying than the martyr parents that constantly complain how difficult parenting is. Oh, and don’t bitch about all the breaks parents get in our society. Parents get seated first in a restaurant? There’s a good chance it’s because the staff is putting them in a back corner away from everyone else. They’re not being rewarded for having kids. Everyone is annoyed by other people’s kids… they’re being given a break to get them the Hell out of the restaurant faster. The lesson to learn: Your rants about why you don’t want kids make it seem like you’re trying to cover up some insecurity. We don’t think you’re a free-thinker. We think you’re more like a catty bitch.
Of course, there’s a high probability that both of those messages accomplish noting more than enrage both camps. Sooo… here’s my solution.
Handle the issue like a dude.
Here are some tips:
- Dealing with annoying kids: If you encounter annoying kids, do one of three things. Either leave the situation, choose to ignore the kids, or learn to mess with kids. A well-timed scary face does wonders to keep kids away.
- Dealing with annoying parents: Annoying parents are even easier to deal with. Play on parents’ protectiveness. I suggest either doing something ridiculously dangerous like waving around a knife or act creepy. It’s far more effective than loudly complaining to others or silently stewing about your bad luck.
- Dealing with annoying people that are clearly annoyed by your kids: Scare them away by using this time-tested method. Determine their “personal space” bubble… usually about three feet in any direction. Violate that bubble by standing a little bit closer. Call your kids over and tell them you’re going to play the “act like a chicken” game. The winner gets a piece of candy.
- If the topic of having kids or not having kids ever comes up in conversation: Change the subject to sex. For example, if someone says “I decided to have kids because it would make my life meaningful, unlike those without kids that don’t experience the magical muffins wrapped in rainbows I experience each and every moment!” you can respond with “Yeah, so what position did you use to conceive? I bet you’re into doggy-style. Am I right?” If someone says “I don’t want kids because I am independent and want to put my career first and those snotty-nosed kids would ruin my muffins-wrapped-in-rainbows lifestyle!” you can respond with “Yeah, so I bet you have lots of time to get freaky… I bet you’re into doggy-style. Am I right?” Learn how to end conversations.
Furthermore, here are some things you should never say:
If you are without child:
- When a parent talks about how stressful parenting is, don’t compare it to the stress of your job or owning a pet. Most parents frame this by complaining about the logistics of parenting, like changing diapers, not sleeping, or dealing with temper tantrums. What they’re really talking about is the deep-seated fear all parents experience- your parenting decisions are fucking up your kid. THAT is what parents mean when they say parenting is stressful. No matter what you do, there’s nothing that can compare to that stress. Instead, just nod and revel in the fact that you don’t have to worry about that stress.
- If a kid is being bratty or throwing a tantrum, don’t question the parents’ parenting ability. You may think you know the answers and may be convinced you’d magically be able to control the kid. That’s what most kidless people think. And you’re flat out wrong. Refer to the above example of wrangling cats.
If you have children:
- When a kidless person tells you they do not want kids, don’t play investigator and try to figure out what’s wrong with them. They made a decision. That decision doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with them. In many cases, it’s a very private issue. If they open up to you, it’s not an invitation to convince them otherwise.
- Don’t assume people without kids will change their mind if they spend time around your kids. Nobody thinks your kids are as cute or smart as you do. In fact, there’s a good probability this will only affirm their decision not to have kids.
- Don’t gush about how great parenting is or how much it has enriched your life. If it has, great! Tell your significant other. Or your dog. Don’t annoy your kidless friends. There’s more to life than being a parent. If you don’t understand that, get a hobby. We have too many helicopter parents out there.
Guys often get a bad rap for not having empathy. Quite frankly, that annoys me. Dudes NEVER have issues with this topic. Why? We understand each other and don’t feel the need to boost our self-esteem or justify our decisions by cutting down our fellow bros. Sometimes that Y chromosome comes in handy. I have male friends that have kids. I have male friends that do not have kids. At no point do I ever feel the need to engage either group in a conversation about their decisions. No male ever feels a need to discuss this. We inherently understand the pros and cons, respect our bros’ decisions, and spend our time and energy doing something productive like being awesome.
For those that follow my advice, you’re welcome.