A lot of internet trends get under my skin once I’ve scrolled past the thousandth share on social media, but the one that irritates me the most is probably “parent-splaining,” or, parents explaining parenthood to their non-parent friends. I long for the day when I can go online and not haphazardly come face-to-screen with yet another post outlining why parenting is the best gig ever, why parenting sucks donkey balls, why parents are so tired, why parents hate their non-parent friends, why parents miss their non-parent friends, why parents wish their friends would understand how important and all-consuming parenting is…you get the picture. Every day, a new piece of “brilliance” makes its internet debut, and I, for one, am bored of watching this never-ending parade of explanatory nonsense march past my constantly rolling eyeballs.
I know I don’t have to read these trend pieces. I could choose to do anything with my time. I could read a book, paint a watercolor inspired by my systemic rage, or start a hardcore band and write songs like “10 Reasons Parents Think They’re Fucking Martyrs.” But instead, I dutifully open my laptop each morning with the vague hope that I won’t come across yet another list or rant that’s been picked up by a mainstream outlet and has 300 thousand shares and is titled something like,“Once We Become Parents We Don’t Want to Hang Out With You Anymore (But Not for the Reasons You Think)”, or was posted on a personal blog and has been circulating online for years, like Jason Good’s 2011 post “To all my friends without children” (last posted by a parent in my Facebook stream three weeks ago). I don’t always click on these bait-laden traps, but just knowing they’re gaining traction can send me into an existential downward spiral.
Mostly, I wonder why so many parents feel inclined to dictate to their friends what any rational person already knows: Kids change your life. Kids change your schedule. Kids make it so that you can no longer “party into the night” because there’s shit that needs to get done. I’m actually surprised more mothers don’t wear those cheeky t-shirts that say stuff like “Ain’t nobody got time for dat! I’M A MOM!” or feature a drawing of a frazzled looking mother with “Because kids.” written in bold lettering underneath. We’ve managed to elevate motherhood (and parenthood in general) so it’s not only normal foradvertisers to extol the virtues of selfless child-rearers, but it’s also normal for parents to become Master Explainers the second they “cross over” into parenthood. It’s an oddly antagonistic yet remarkably passive-aggressive way of telling all the clueless, childless folks that they don’t know shit. If parents aren’t penning their own special essays to “explain” all of the changes that have occurred post-baby, they’re linking to those viral “Let Me Break It Down For You Idiots” posts on social media — a subtle but friendly jab masquerading as “tips” for friends without kids, not to mention an “AMIRITE, parents?!”, high-five moment for those who do.
Recently, parent-splaining had its tiny screen (is that what we call YouTube?) brush with fame after hundreds of people sent around the video “Friends Without Kids.” When a video like this — which is lightly funny, but nothing especially revelatory — gets close to a million views despite the fact that its subject is so ubiquitous, you have to wonder if the trend will ever die. Parents think that they’re exhausted? Please. Watching this nonstop cycle of parent-splaining spin for the past few years has left me dazed and wearied. I may need to change my own diaper.
Besides, what would the response be to a bunch of “well-intentioned” articles with titles like “Once You Become Parents We Don’t Want to Hang Out With You Anymore (But Not for the Reasons You Think)” or videos called “Friends With Kids” that depict how unbearable some people become after procreating? More than likely, those things already exist, but they don’t have the same cachet as the parent version. It’s not that the sentiment isn’t felt; it’s just that it’s not as accepted for non-parents to “humorously explain” things to parents as it is the other way around. The media drives this validation, and new parents enthusiastically take advantage of that online climate. When BuzzFeed, of all places, runs the “Friends Without Kids” video with the headline ”This Mother Of Two’s Message To Her Friends Without Kids Is Something All Moms Can Relate To” with the sub-header “Preach.”, it sends a clear signal to parents that whenever they want to “explain” something to their childless friends online, it will be celebrated and re-posted, because not enough people already know why their parent friends are busy and tired.
So, here’s to several more years of parent-splaining! To commemorate my realization that this trend is here forever, here are five brief examples of parent-splaining on Facebook. Click ahead, uninformed childless readers, and you just might learn something!
1. Don’t Ask Parents To Go Anywhere
Scherrie does not appreciate the invitations to hang out with her friends who don’t have kids when they KNOW that Scherrie DOES have kids. Like, duh. What is she supposed to do? Hang out with her adult friends and leave her poor children at home with their father or with some kind of babysitter? Um, no thanks, “friends.” Way to cause distress, not to mention upset Scherrie to the point of having to call people out on Facebook. She probably didn’t want to do that, but after facing these kinds of hurdles, she pretty much had no choice.
2. Parents Keep It Positive, Bitchez
Aww, “Lovelyn.” How I wish to smash a pie in your face. Not that I condemn harnessing positive energy or weeding the negativity out of one’s life, but you know what makes that practice really effective? Doing it silently. Channeling the positivity, omitting the negativity, and keeping the self-righteousness all to yourself. I wonder how many of Carmen’s friends ‘hid’ her after reading her illuminating update?
3. Stop The Party Train Or Get Out Of Courtney’s Life
I’m all for Courtney trimming the friend fat, especially if “partying” involves smashing empty whiskey bottles in abandoned parking lots or sharing dirty needles under an old bridge, but I would also appreciate it if she learned the difference between “your” and “you’re.” Is that to much to ask?!
4. Story Hour: WWASAHMD? (What Would A Stay-At-Home Mom Do?)
Nothing lulls me to sleep faster than reading an exhaustive list of daily tasks written by a stay-at-home mom. I’ve seen this type of status update over and over, and each time it just sounds like a typical busy day in the life of a mom. What do the women who write these diatribes think their friends think they’re doing all day? Personally, if I had to take a guess, I’d probably go with: Feed child, bathe child, play with child, read to child, wipe child’s ass several times a day, clean up messes made by child, run errands with child. And what do you know? Those guesses are right! Glad I know now. Again.
5. LOLOLOL Non-Moms Think They’re Busy
No one ever said that having kids made anything easier or more fun. In fact, I think the consensus for the past 400 years has been that kids slow your roll. That’s what happens when you’re responsible for carting around a baby who can’t hold up his own head or a toddler who can’t control his own bowels. And yet, amazingly, parents still continue to marvel at just how much kids cramp their style. “The other day, it took us over an hour to get out the door! Can you believe that???” Why, yes, in fact, I can!
6. Unconditional Love Has Its Conditions
Nick wins for Douchiest Douche in today’s column, so I hope he’s soaking up all that unconditional love he shares with his family. He gets zero love from me, and there are many conditions as to why that is. Thankfully, Jake has outlined that rationale in his well-reasoned comment, which I hope he wrote just before purchasing a custom dart board with Nick and Michelle’s smug faces on it.
The worst irony to parent-splaining is that you can’t help but remember when your friends got married and you bought them a fancy gravy boat, and then they got knocked up and you bought them some fancy crib bedding, and now here they are a few weeks or months into parenting, and they’re basically telling everyone without kids that they can’t comprehend love. It may be condescending to say, but they stand by it. And yes, they are more than happy to explain why.