I was at a mixed picnic yesterday. And by mixed, I mean that there were people at said picnic both with kids and without. (Although admittedly the amount of guests without kids were few, as us parents know how hard it is to get our childless friends to give up a weekend day to come hang out with our children.) I was standing in a group of women explaining to them why my son was acting a bit erratic when I uttered the words, “We missed our nap today.” I cringed as soon as the words came out of my mouth, and I saw a nice young woman (sans children) flinch instinctively.
“I’m sorry, I hate when I say things like that. We did not miss a nap today (though I probably could have used one). Just my son missed his nap.”
When we become parents, our lives become so incredibly altered by these amazing little creatures, that we often forget that everyone around us isn’t as dazzled, in love, impressed, infatuated, etc. with our children. And thus, for future reference, I have decided to put together a list of things that should not be said or done within view of our friends without kids. Do not take offense if you have committed any of these crimes. I have, as well. Plenty of times. It is so hard to separate ourselves from the bubble of parenting. But I am trying to be more conscious of it so my friends will still want to hang out with me.
1. As above, the use of “we” in situations where “we” aren’t doing anything. Examples of this would be, “We are potty training,” “We haven’t napped,” “We are teething,” “We are pregnant.” No. No. No. And no. Say it to your fellow mommy and daddy friends and they understand. But unless in fact you and your husband and your baby all have new molars about to erupt through each of your gums, “The baby is teething” will suffice.
2. “We are trying.” While this time it is appropriate to use the word “we,” unless you are specifically asked, or it is a very close friend or relation, it is not appropriate to volunteer this information. What your friends without kids hear when you say this is, “Me and my husband, who you probably like to think about having sex about as much as you like to think about your own mom and dad having sex, are currently having a lot of sex.” A Facebook friend recently left a status update that sums it up as follows: “Oh, I’d love to hear about how you’re trying for a baby,” – said not one person ever.
3. Any updates, details, posts on Facebook (pictures especially!) of your child’s potty training progress. Look, I know you’re proud. When you no longer have to change diapers a gazillion times a day, you want to run around and shout it from the rooftops. And little Bobby or little Janie look so cute reading their board books sitting on the potty. Resist.The.Urge. While I understand that there are some things that kids do that are cute that are not cute when adults do it, poop is poop is poop. That is all.
4. Ask people when/if they plan to have kids. This one is more serious. In my own life I know some people who have gone through very difficult and very serious struggles trying to get pregnant. Being asked when you are going to have a baby for the tenth time right after you have experienced a miscarriage only compounds the pain of that miscarriage. It’s not your fault that you didn’t know, but unless you are very very close with the person, leave it alone. If they want to tell you, they will.
5. Anything along the lines of, “Oh man, you’re so lucky you have time to [insert activity of choice here- read, sleep, comb your hair, etc.].” Again, maybe the person desperately wants children and is struggling and might not be comforted by the fact that she still has “me” time. Or maybe she’s just a really busy person, with a demanding job, bills to pay, endless responsibilities, a dog and a cat, etc. Either way, unless she brings up her endless free time, it’s probably best not to make any assumptions.
6. “I didn’t really understand what life was all about until little (Sophie, Jacob, Ollie, Betsy) was born.” Yes, becoming a parent might be the most profound thing to happen in your life. It gives you a sense of purpose and meaning that maybe you didn’t realize before. But not every life requires the same purpose and the same meaning. Your friend might derive pleasure, happiness, meaning, nirvana, etc. following a passion of hers. And it’s not fair to imply that unless you have children, your life doesn’t have the same value.
Ok, admittedly some of the above is silly, and yes – who cares if you say “We are teething,” instead of “He is teething.” The main point is to try and be sensitive, because you really don’t know what everyone’s personal circumstances are. Additionally, when your friend has given up a Saturday afternoon to drive out to the ‘burbs and hang out with a bunch of people distracted by their children, the least you can do is give them a drink and spare them the gruesome details of parenting. That is, if you want them to come back!
Is there anything you’ve said to a friend without kids that you have immediately regretted? Did anyone say anything offensive to you before you had kids?