Nine tips on how to talk to someone without kids when you yourself have them….
When you have kids you suddenly find yourself in a new sub-category of life, “parent.” For a subsection of people, parenting is huge. It’s easily just as big as say “cooking,” and even bigger than “relationships.” Parenting is a large subsection of life because it’s a puzzling and difficult topic that, if the parent is not careful, can be all-consuming. Furthermore, if you are one of those parents who have elected/chosen/been coerced into staying home, you are extremely well versed in the topic of parenting, not because you are an obnoxious know-it-all who is obsessed with their offspring, but because it turns out that it’s super helpful to read up on how to handle kids when you have them. When a stay-at-home parent talks to other parents, of any kind, they will have a great time, mostly because they will realize that they are not alone. They will find that other parent’s kids also won’t sleep through the night, eat their vegetables, or generally cooperate, and then these parents, kindred people connected by an underlying parental burden, will have a big laugh at the validation of it all. But I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about those times that occur every now and then, when a parent comes in contact with a non-parent.
Talking with a non-parent, if as a parent you aren’t properly prepared, will leave you feeling like a foreigner on earth. It can be an incredibly disappointing, depressing and even minorly distressing moment because it probably wasn’t that long ago that you too were a non-parent, and you probably feel like you should still be able to have a conversation with one. But you can’t. Not easily at least. And the reason for this is because being a parent changes you, often just in subtle enough ways that you aren’t even aware of. But it unquestionably changes you. Take a moment to accept this fact. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s okay. I’m here to help. Just imagine how baffling this all is for a non-parent. You have the kids, you are the one that is changed and you don’t even know how you changed. Imagine how hard this concept is for the non-parent to understand. They just listen to you talk and think, “What happened to this person? “Why do they seem so different?” And while this is running through their minds you are looking at them thinking, “Are we seriously going to compare Modest Mouse’s albums for eight minutes? Don’t they understand I haven’t been able to take a piss by myself for three years?” However, do not despair, you can avoid this awkwardness with the right preparation. Simply just follow along with my nine easy tips on how to handle a non-parent conversation:
1. No photos. Under no circumstances should you bust out photos of your child. Even when asked for them. Do not take the bait. Non-parents don’t really want to see your pictures. Not because your offspring isn’t the cutest thing on Earth. Not because they don’t like you or your kid. But because to people who don’t have children, all children look relatively the same.
2. Never mention your exhaustion. Oftentimes a non-parent will mention how tired they are. This is important, for when a non-parent talks about how tired they are, don’t interrupt and talk about how tired you are. Even though you probably haven’t slept through the night for the last two to five years, and definitely haven’t slept past 7am, just nod and tell them how exhausting it sounds to have had two concerts AND a brunch in the same weekend, and then still have to get up early for work on Monday. To a non-parent, a parent is a person who hangs around with kids. What’s so hard about that? Don’t ever get into a ‘who’s more tired’ match with a non-parent. Ever.
3. Complain. Always complain. Non-parents respond a lot better to a story about how pissed you were that your little hellion took off her diaper and peed on the floor than they will at how proud you are of them learning to potty train. Successful milestone stories are for other parents going through the same milestone at the same time. Non-parents don’t care that little Johnny just tried pears for the first time.
4. Lament. Talk about what you miss about not having kids. If you used to get your hair done every six weeks on the dot, and you haven’t even trimmed that shit since spring, lament about how you miss those pampered moments. Non-parents take comfort in knowing that their lifestyle is coveted. Never let on that the reason you haven’t taken care of business is because you’d much rather spend your Saturday morning doing puzzles and at a petting zoo, than stuck in a salon for four hours.
5. Try to be relatable. Do not go off on a tangent about childhood diabetes or the Core Curriculum, it’s off putting and really doesn’t give the non-parent an opportunity to talk. If you do want to talk about a child issue, stick to things everyone has opinions on, like whether or not we should spank our kids. It’s amazing how strong non-parents opinions are on discipline.
6. Avoid baby talk. Don’t talk about “wee-wee’s,” “binky’s,” “lovey’s,” or “nigh-nigh.” You sound ridiculous. Ignore the fact that these words may bring to your mind adorable images of your sweet little babe trying to communicate needs, and be conscious that you sound like a lunatic to a non-parent who doesn’t have a similar experience to draw on. To a non-parent it’s not adorable – it’s creepy and uncomfortable. So check it.
7. Leave the logistics at home. If you are worried that the babysitter didn’t remember to put on the humidifier before she put your baby down for bed, and now little Hannah will surely wake up without her white noise, text them about it in the bathroom. Don’t abruptly interrupt a conversation, no matter how utterly boring or irrelevant to your life, to talk to your spouse about the humidifier logistics, or grab your phone to start communicating back with home base.
8. Don’t over share. If you have a cute punchline about something your kid did yesterday, don’t start on the day he was born to give background, just stick to the punchline. Billy said, “I love my baby brother so much I want to punch him in the face.” That’s funny on its own. The more you tell about little Billy the less funny the punchline becomes.
9. Listen. If you really have no idea how many people have died in our country from Ebola, what ISIS is, that Derek Jeter retired and is developing his own multimedia company, or just who Kim Kardashian is married to, then just…shhhhhhhh. You don’t have to know everything. Just accept that at this moment your expertise is phonics games, flu shots, and the wheels on the bus. Just sit back and listen, enjoy the current topics your non-parent friends have to share, and have another cocktail. There will be more to learn from Elmo tomorrow.
JustaMom is not only a close friend of The Margin, but she is the author of one of the most honest and insgihtful Mom Blog’s you will happen upon. Find her revelatory musings here, at justamomdotcom.com.