Plenty of parents have lamented a growing anti-family sentiment that makes mothers feel guilty for ever leaving the house and fathers feel embarrassed about taking an active role in their child’s life. Banning young kids from restaurants, the proposed child-free sections on airplanes and constant pressure from employers to put the job first all contribute to putting parents on the defense. Even when my daughter is perfectly behaved in public, I feel anxious and stressed. What if she throws a fit? What if she offends someone? This terror at the thought of being one of those parents, the ones with who are glared at disdain when their kids act out, has kept me home on nights when I want to eat out. It’s made me second-guess my travel plans. And if I’m being honest, it’s made me a little angry.
But ya know what it hasn’t done? It hasn’t made me believe that every childless person with an opinion is a horrible, ignorant piece of crap. It hasn’t forced me to judge every person without kids the same way that all parents are often grouped together. It hasn’t forced me to be a bitter, smug writer who condemns every piece of unsolicited parenting advice they’ve ever received. Unfortunately, the constant parenting pressure seems to have gotten to a mommy-blogger over at Babble.
“Mommyfriend” at Babble has written a piece called, “Dear Know-It-All People Without Kids, Shut The %$#@ Up.” In it, she gives a slideshow of thoughts for all those horrible child-free folks who dared to share an opinion about her parenting abilities or her children’s behavior. These little gems include, “I feel sorry for your future children,” “Please don’t tell me how tired you are,” and “I wish you a difficult child.” It’s filled with all the you-can’t-possibly-understand condescension that makes mommy-bloggers such a despised group by many non-parents. It accuses the rest of the world of being selfish, while staying completely blind to the self-centeredness of parents who want the world to bow to them. It’s rude, and once I got done reading the whole thing, all I could think was, “This is the reason that everyone else hates parents.”
Two of my very best friends happen to be child-free. They’re intelligent, strong women and I frequently call them and ask for advice when I face parenting problems. They may not have given birth, but they are fully capable of discussing behavior problems, schooling questions and daycare concerns. They reassure me when I’m nervous and they talk to me about my discipline decisions. If my daughter grows up to be as amazing as these ladies, I’ll be thrilled. Why on earth wouldn’t I want their opinions?
Possibly the best example of how much it doesn’t matter if you’ve had children of your own works right here at Mommyish. Our fantastic Deputy Editor, Koa Beck, hasn’t had kids yet. Thankfully, she still shares her insightful opinions about issues that affect children and mothers. Koa has written about the need for everyone to care about childrearing, saying, “Not everyone wants to parent, which is a choice that should be respected for both men and women. But if we only choose to interpret compassion for children as parenthood, we seek to dismiss the interest and efforts of many who are invested in the well-being of our kids.” I trust and value Koa’s thoughts on motherhood, whether she ever chooses to have kids or not.
The thought of someone telling my friends or my editor to shut the %$#@ up simply because they don’t have kids is offensive to me as a mom. It’s judgmental, which only makes the relationship between parents and childfree adults worse. If we’re feeling like people hate parents, this type of response only fuels that fire. The idea that you have to have kids before you can comment on parenting practices is wrong, plain and simple. And generalizing that all chidlfree adults with an opinion are rude, interfering jerks is just ridiculous.
Sure, I understand that parents feel a lot of pressure. I know that it’s hard to feel like the world wants you and your little ones to stay out-of-sight and out-of-mind. But responding by condemning all adults without children isn’t going to help anyone. Telling everyone else to shut up won’t make your message any stronger. If parents really want to confront the harsh judgment of society, they need to welcome everyone’s viewpoints. We need to encourage conversation, instead of trying to limit it. And we need to communicate our opinions with understanding, instead of snarkiness and anger.
Everyone’s opinion matters, whether they’ve had a dozen children or none at all. Parents aren’t the only ones entitled to have thoughts on parenting. Thank goodness, because I don’t want to miss out on the knowledge I’ve gained from listening to women like Koa and my dear friends.
I’m sorry Mommyfriend, but the problem with “parents vs. childless by choice” isn’t that the other side has opinions, it’s the idea that there’s any battle at all. We all should be in this together.