It’s been a couple of weeks since TIME magazine revealed its cover story “The Childfree Life,” notably depicted with a photo that’s been criticized for presenting a “deceptive fantasy of the child-free life” with “lazy yuppies.” For anyone who regularly reads articles and blog posts about parenting, “mommy wars,” and whether having kids makes people ebullient or suicidal (because there is no in-between!), this story didn’t come as much of a surprise. In fact, all that surprises me these days is the way people continue to eat up the media’s constant regurgitation of the same stale debates. I’m so bored by lists that compare raising a toddler to being in combat, or things you should never say to your friend who has one kid, or twins, or no kids, or whaaaatever. We are all responsible for our own happiness, whether kids enter the picture or not, and there’s no use in comparing large groups of people by generalizing about their “childfree” vs. “family” lives.
That said, I receive a large number of links to the aforementioned articles, and that tells me people are still affected by these debates. Women in particular are confronted on a daily basis about their “lack” of children or asked about their future family plans, and it’s hurtful and annoying. Part of what attracts a certain demographic to STFU, Parents are the posts about mommyjacking, which often pertain to people who are childfree. What’s compelling about the reader response is that it doesn’t matter if people are planning to have kids in the future but don’t have any right now (a.k.a “childless”), OR if they don’t want to have kids at all (a.k.a. “childfree”), because both groups are equally put off by intrusive questions and comments about becoming a parent. Society has told us for years that it’s normal to ask a woman “when” she plans on having children — not “if” — but many people (men and women) are not very comfortable with that casual conversation. So even if I’m a little tired of hearing about the debate between parents and non-parents, most people aren’t. And judging by the current climate and that TIME magazine story, the discussion is only ramping up. To help provide more fodder, here are five (more) examples of mommyjacking that demonstrate what NOT to say to your childfree (or childless) friends on Facebook (or ever).
1. You’re “ready” for kids.
No one wants to be told he or she is “ready” for babies, like life is merely preparing us for our one true mission: procreation. Yes, for many people, children are the future (at least, their future), but for many others, they’re not, so cut it out with all the assumptions.
2. Playtime is over
Greg is probably just joking around, but he comes across as dismissive of everything that Robin and her husband have achieved in the past four years by tossing out a quick, “Have a kid!” comment. It’s like he’s saying, “Who cares about that stuff? Masters degree? You still fit into your wedding dress? What you really need is a baby and a move back to your hometown! Now THAT’S a life worth living!” Maybe if he’d just acknowledged a single thing Robin posted about, he wouldn’t sound like an ass.
3. You don’t know stress “until” you’re a parent
Comparing kids and pets is a debate that will never go away – I’m sure of it — but if there’s one way to guarantee annoying a friend, it’s saying that caring for sick animals is NOTHING like caring for sick kids. Well, okay, of course it’s not. They’re animals. That doesn’t mean Tricia isn’t experiencing stress, frustration, and confusion like any parent might. Why bother comparing kittens to babies when you could just extend sympathy? You know, like a friend might.
4. You only have enough motivation to work out OR be a mom
Erin’s misspelling of the word “motivation” aside, this comment makes no sense to me. Some of my most athletic friends are parents, and they squeeze in time whenever they can to train for marathons or participate in various leagues. Jenna’s status update is pretty boring and straightforward, but Erin’s comment reeks of a strange backhanded arrogance. Exercise and parenting aren’t mutually exclusive.
5. You don’t know sleep deprivation “until” you’re a parent
“Sleepjacking” is an extremely common type of mommyjacking, which we already know, but Charity takes it a step further by getting into the nitty gritty. This is when someone explains why parenting is both awesome and terrible (when no one was even asking). I’m guessing that most childfree people don’t think when their parent friends complain about being sleep-deprived, they’re saying they regret having children. Hence, there’s no need to justify the complaint by saying that having kids is “worth it.” Some parents will back-peddle because they feel guilty for complaining or want to acknowledge that parenting is a choice, but really, no one needs it, especially at the tail end of a sleepjacking. Kids can be exhausting, certainly, but so are friends who provide constant reminders that you don’t know anything until you have a kid.