Monday, November 7, 2011

Ten Things NOT To Say To the Childless

Through the past few months, I have come to realize that a majority of my friends have taken the plunge to have kids. My husband doesn't seem to realize, or appreciate, how I've been bomboarded with ultrasound pictures and countdown timers, texts about the size their unborn child is now in relation to fruit, endless showers, names and meanings, and Pinterest postings just to name a few. How do men always avoid this type of thing?

This experience has taught me a few things, namely the ten things not to say to peers who don't have children. Here are a few and please share if there are any I didn't include.

1. "When will you finally have kids?"
Very common, especially if you have been married for more then a week. I understand many people are happy to be childfree or waiting, but sometimes the situation is more heartbreaking. A couple could be facing infertility or in the agonizing position of having a spouse who doesn't want children. Maybe theyare in a complex struggle over the issue. At a shower with many strangers listening in may not be the ideal place to bring it up.

2. "We always wanted to have a family."
This expression is a pet peeve of mine. I wasn't aware that "family" equaled "children." Does that mean people without kids are family-less? Family comes in many forms: significant others, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, neighbors -- happily, the list goes on!

3. "We only invited other parents." 
Child-free friends can sometimes feel isolated or excluded from their friends' lives. So invite us to birthday parties! Sure, there are some people who just don't like kids and have no desire to spend an afternoon surrounded by them. They can decline the invitation, and the rest of us will cheer when the birthday boy takes his first bite of cupcake. This can make couples feel included and that our relationship is valued and they want us to be apart of their child's lives. 

4. "You can go out every night"
If you had kids when you were on the younger side, you may have transitioned abruptly from staying out to night feedings and Yo Gabba Gabba -- and years later, you may assume that we're still acting like our crazy twentysomething selves. But just because we don't have kids doesn't mean we aren't growing up.

5. "You're so lucky you get to sleep in/shop/travel."
We understand that you give up a lot to be the amazing parent you are -- and we do appreciate our extra cash and free time, and yes, the sleep. But the constant offhand comments like this make us feel like you assume the reason we don't have children is that we're lazy, selfish, or shallow. The decision is never that simple. 

6. "This must be birth control for you."
Parents often make this joke when their kid is being loud or persistent, and we understand it's because you're worried the situation is bugging everyone around you. Don't stress -- a good friend understands that your kid is going to have a meltdown once in a while. We can take it. And, of course, a crying toddler is not actually a tipping point in our decision to have kids. We're not that shortsighted.

7. "Your dog/cat/parakeet is your baby."
Pets are a huge part of many people's lives, whether or not those people have children. But it feels like a consolation prize when you put it like this. I recently heard a co-worker say to another, "you are smart to stick with dogs" while dealing with a problem with their child. I don't really see them as interchangeable, and I'm sure your kids would appreciate it if you took that approach as well. 

8. "I can't die; I'm a mom."
During a recent brief terrorism scare in New York City, a friend said, "I have to get out -- I can't die; I'm a mom." We know you have someone depending on you in an unprecedented way, but there are people who love and depend on us, too.

9. "I'm sorry it's taken forever for me to call/email/text you back."
Don't start every correspondence with an apology. Your life is insane and letting us know you want to make time for us is appreciated. But don't stress so much: My life is busy too, and more often than not, I didn't even notice a lag.

10. "You wouldn't understand."
First off, this is just bad communication in any circumstance. Really, just retire this saying from your vocabulary. 

Second, there are many things about parenting you will turn to your mom friends to talk about. And, honestly, with anyone other than a close friend, that's probably best -- I lose interest fast when someone I don't know well talks too much about their kids. But when we're real friends, don't let our relationship fade because you're afraid of boring us with parenting stuff. Just like we used to listen to you talk about your ex, we want to hear about what's important in your life now. And we hope you'll do the same for us.

Ok, I hope you find this informative and maybe see the situation from another pair of shoes. :-) 


  1. My husband and I are facing infertility that he's coping with by deciding that he doesn't want kids. It's a defense mechanism but it's understandable. The painful part is that the infertility is on my end and he makes comments about it, saying things about how I'm broken and I'm not giving him hi babies like I was supposed to, and that this isn't what he signed up for. It's painful for both of us. So, spouses, be caring in what you say to each other. :)
    Thanks for this post, though my comment is a lot late.

  2. Wow, I just saw this Molly. That's extremely painful! I'm sorry you are having to deal with that!