I’m sure we have all read handfuls of articles, blog posts, or memoirs lamenting the things we wished we could go back and tell ourselves before we had children. There are countless lists of “Things I’d Like To Tell My Pregnant Friends” and other similar articles circulating around the web, causing parents everywhere to nod their heads in unison.
But is this really helpful? Is it really necessary to give our single friends the lowdown on all the things that suck about having kids? The messes, the tantrums, the sleeplessness, the confusion? And are we really preparing them for what lies ahead?
This “advice” reeks of the tired old adage, “Just you wait,” a mentality I have never been a huge fan of. For one, it seems condescending, and for another, it’s not like cramming for the SATs. Just because you diligently remind yourself that one day you’ll be sorry you didn’t appreciate those lazy Saturday mornings more doesn’t mean you are in any way impacting your ability to cope once your leisurely weekend routines have been ripped away from you.
I’m just not sure there’s a point. After all, do I appreciate hearing an empty-nester tell me to savor every moment I can with my young children? This advice is all well and good, but right at that moment, I may not be reveling in lifting my urine-soaked toddler from her carseat.
However, I can’t help but indulge my inner hypocrite, so let me give you an example of the “advice” I would give my childless friends about the things they should really try to savor about their pre-child lifestyle.
- Enjoy running errands by yourself. Pretty soon, making more than one stop in any given afternoon will be more trouble than it’s worth. Appreciate the fact that you can visit the bank, the grocery store, and the post office without lugging a cumbersome carseat or dragging your whiny, sticky offspring behind you.
- Sleep is sacred. Sleep as much as you can. Under no circumstances are you to make yourself feel guilty for lounging in bed for an extra hour on Saturday. Pretty soon you will give anything to lay alone in bed and drink your coffee as slowly as you like. Be grateful that there are no small feet kicking you in the face while you prepare to greet the day.
- Enjoy talking on the phone without seeming like a basketcase while you still can. There is nobody screaming in the background, requesting that you wipe their bottom, or repeating every obscenity or confession that you frantically whisper into the phone. Be mindful of the fact that right now your phone etiquette is as good as it gets. Right now you aren’t muffling the mouthpiece to hiss at your child to stop teasing her sister. Right now the person on the other end can hear you without any distractions. Right now you aren’t going to abruptly cut off your friend mid-sentence to inform her that a gallon of milk was just dropped onto the kitchen floor.
- Go to Happy Hour. Like, daily. Happy Hour is soon to become Crappy Hour, a time of day that neither you nor your significant other will want to be left alone with your children. We veterans refer to it as The Witching Hour. Kids are whining, dinner needs preparing, and everybody is cranky as hell. Good luck slipping out to clink your BFF’s martini glass now, sucker!
- Enjoy eating. “What do you mean?” you innocently inquire, “Don’t parents get to eat?” Sure we do. But picture this: Imagine you are a waitress and the only meals you are allowed to eat take place at your restaurant. While you are still working. While you eat, you are expected to continue to wait on your customers, providing for their every need. But these aren’t the friendly, tidy, appreciative customers. These are the messy dipsh*ts who are dissatisfied with their meals, spill things, break things, and always need another side of ranch. Bon Appetit!
While this may be amusing, and perhaps even cathartic for the disgruntled parent who is picking up steam with every word, it’s certainly not instructive. Why on earth would a single 27 year old woman tell herself as she waits in the long bank teller line, “This is so relaxing! I could have a screaming baby with me, but instead I’m alone!”
It’s the equivalent of me waking up every morning and saying a prayer of gratitude that I didn’t have to sleep wearing a pair of Depends. Is there a day when I will look back wistfully at my urinary continence? Probably. But there is really no point in chastising ourselves for our lack of perspective.
Maybe we are all doomed to get stuck in the Hindsight Trap, and none of us can truly appreciate what we have until it’s gone.
Wow. That was intended to be funny, but to be honest, I’m feeling a little depressed. I’ll leave you with this parting bit of wisdom: Try to enjoy where you are, don’t beat yourself up for not being as smart as you are now ten years ago, and keep your unhelpful advice to yourself.
So- what did I miss? What things would YOU like to tell your friends without kids?
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Be in the moment. That’s wise advice. (I’m feeling a little blue as well this evening!)
Sorry about the blueness, but I bet we are not the only ones out there, huh?
You bring up a really good point. I constantly feel the whole “prayer of gratitude that I didn’t have to sleep wearing a pair of Depends” when parents of “NT” kids say that “at least you’re lucky Tucker doesn’t have ______.” Yes, I suppose I am. But I’ve not yet or ever will live _______, either and I will (hopefully ) never “get” that. Lucky? Maybe. But it is simply impossible to appreciate things until they aren’t there.
Thank you for this post, awesome friend of mine. Whatever it started out to be? It became what it was supposed to be. Just like all of us.
Your comment made me feel a little weepy. Seriously. Thanks, friend. Such good points.
Oh and I came here (because I thought I was still on your last post and didn’t see my new email notification yet) to tell you that I wrote about the power of music yesterday, and though about you the whole time. ‘Cause. Duh.
Love and so true to just be happy with the here and now, because we just can’t go back no matter how hard we try. Plus as much as things are crazy now, I don’t think I would be happy going back, because I would miss my husband and kids way too much!!
I am mentalling noting all the advice and will take it to heart!
Oh Stephanie, I just have to comment on this post as it resonated with one of my pet peeves: people reprimanding me for how I feel, warning me of what lies ahead, and telling me how lucky I am. When we had our first child (39 years ago), a good friend advised us that we’d start hearing, “Just you wait” from parents with older kids. He said it always seemed so dumb to him as what else can you do but wait? Thninking of that always helped me respond to the well-meaning (usually) but not always wecome comments by feigning a serious look on my face but with a laught inside my mind. Your closing line is going on my list of Important Thoughts to Save: “Try to enjoy where you are, don’t beat yourself up for not being as smart as you are now ten years ago, and keep your unhelpful advice to yourself”…with proper credit given, of course 🙂 Hugs, Mary Beth (an older momma)
Mary Beth, your comments always make my day. Thank so much for taking time to read, comment, and share your wisdom. I always love hearing your perspective- I appreciate it so much.
Today I will try to revel in lifting my urine-soaked 3.5 y o out of his car seat. So won’t. 😛
Ha! Thanks for stopping by and commenting, and tweeting as well!
You know what? I wouldn’t bother. They won’t get it. These are the little things you just have to experience on your own. Mommies who laughed while reading (like me) have already been there and have older kids. Mommies who felt depressed are probably still there. And pregnant-childless-Mommies are telling themselves – as if. That will never happen to me.
You nailed it, I think! I’m so glad you stopped by, and excited to connect with you for the next Weird Wednesday!
I think that it’s true…very condescending to say “just you wait” to those who want kids but can’t have them….because it won’t really be fair because they can never experience it. Thanks for sharing, Stephanie!
I have a pretty low threshold for advice, actually…
I remember when I was pregnant with our first baby, a good friend gave us a card that said “Go to as many movies as you can”. Probably the very best advice I received, honestly. This is a great post! The eating one made me snort with laughter!-Ashley
You know what? That actually IS great advice! Thanks for sharing, you guys!
“…enjoy where you are, don’t beat yourself up for not being as”… (fill in the blank)…”
Dude (ette) you have put words to:
make the ‘bad’ feel ‘not-as-bad’,
put the ‘good’ in a context that feels ‘even-better’,
the ‘goddamn, how-many-times-do-I have-to-put-myself-through-this’ be less of ‘an inevitability’ and
everyone’s ‘the everyday routine’ into a feeling that ‘this is a good day’
Clark, whenever you leave me a comment like that, I know I’ve done a good job. This one is going in the Clark Comment scrapbook… Thanks a million!
I think if we gave this advice there would be too many childless couples.
Ya know…all the reasons you’ve listed are many of the reasons I’ve put off having kids. LOL…I DO so love getting up at 8am and heading to “work” at my computer. 🙂 But parenthood has rewards that are beyond measure, I know. 🙂
Yeah, yeah… 😉 I was mostly being cheeky, but there is definitely some truth in there, too…
Things will get better for you, Stephanie. And remember, that even the urine-soaked diaper, tantrums in the supermarket and cupboards emptied all over the floor are possibly unrealisable but very precious dreams for some people. I think in all walks of life, the best advice is ‘count your blessings’.
Thanks so much for sharing your perspective, and for that reminder to be grateful!
OMG, it was funny! Perhaps not constructive, but gave me a good laugh out loud chuckle today so thank you for that!
My work here is done, in that case. 😀
This was not a depressing post, Stephanie – it’s a great reminder to live in the present and not wish it away. And I try to keep unsolicited advice to myself.
Thanks, Dana. I really appreciate you weighing in!
Ah yes, we called it the witching hour too! Now that he’s 7 there’a a whole new set of issues, although the running errand one, I suspect that will never change. You are right, the same thing goes of telling your kids “you don’t want to be a grown-up, you’ll have to pay bills, get a job….” they won’t listen.
I’m one of those no-baby people. It feels better to read an honest post like this than constant reminders of why I should enjoy being childless. After a while, it feels like that friend resents you.
I completely agree that it’s one of those you won’t understand until you have a kid. For the first year after my son was born, I spent that year telling every pregnant person (or person thinking of having kids soon) just to savor their freedom, privacy, sleep, and leisure time. Because it would be gone for what feels like forever. But expecting (or soon to be expecting) parents are too caught up in the excitement and anticipation. (Rightly so, or I suspect that no one would ever have kids in the first place!) I’ve given up on “dispensing wisdom” too. Now I just smile and wait.
Well, I laughed my head off at this: It’s the equivalent of me waking up every morning and saying a prayer of gratitude that I didn’t have to sleep wearing a pair of Depends. Is there a day when I will look back wistfully at my urinary continence? Probably. But there is really no point in chastising ourselves for our lack of perspective.
Perfect. Sharing immediately. 🙂
Deb, thank you so much! I really appreciate that!
I totally agree. Somethings are better left unsaid. Learning to embrace and be in the moment is what’s important. Of course, they say hindsight is always 20-20, but fore sight from the wrong lens or perspective is useless. Great post!
“Foresight from the wrong lens of perspective is useless”…I love that! Thanks for a great comment!
I actually thought that was a funny post! And I couldn’t agree more…the most hated piece of advice I received while pregnant with my first from my friends who already had kids was, “go see lots of movies. Because you won’t go to the movies anymore.” Well, I’m here to say they are wrong. I go to the movies all the time. They just happen to be animated — movies like “Toy Story” and “Monsters, Inc.” were two of my all-time favorites! And just to prove them wrong further, I once brought my 6 month old to the movies so that my 2 older ones could see “Shrek 2.” So what if I had to nurse him in my seat…at least we were all at the movies!!
I just went to a movie with my six year old daughter today- we do that every time she has an early release day from school, and I have loved the last three movies we’ve seen! Oh, and I totally brought my newborn to the Twilight movie. Yup, I’m that mom. I nursed her in the theater for practically the whole movie. High five!
Yup. You’re right. We need to stop doing this. The Hindsight Trap is way too easy to fall into, but we should appreciate things NOW…and not when they’re taken away.
But I’m with you on that urine-soaked car seat.
Sorry to hear you’re feeling depressed. I had that week last week. I hope today was a better day???
Yes, my depressive mood passed rather quickly after this post! I think maybe I’ll put post-its up around my house, reading: “Beware The Hindsight Trap!”
Being that I have both teens and tots, I have much wisdom lying dormant in my head. With the younger two now getting to be school age, I have become an old lady island amongst the sea of young moms. I have practically bitten my tongue off too many times to count, seeing as how I have a rule to never give advice unless someone asks specifically.
I never understood why people say, “just wait”, because that doesn’t help anyone. Why can’t we tell about the wonderful things to come instead of depressing tired, frazzled moms with young kids with doom and gloom of teens?
Well, you definitely count as one of my “Mom Heroes” that I put on a pedestal, so I feel like you may have earned advice rights. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to bite your tongue rather than offer unsolicited advice. I really think there is often a place for getting guidance and tips from veteran parents, but it’s all in the presentation. Something tells me you would be good at giving advice in a gentle, non-judgmental way.
Now I’m scared. Kids are still a bit in the future for me, because the idea scares me…at least I won’t go into it eyes closed, huh?
Don’t be scared! The good outweighs the bad…I won’t break my own advice and tell you to savor these years…oh wait, I guess I just did. 😉
I am so enjoying all these “little” things while I can! Sometimes I do tend to take them for granted, but I have friends with children and most often, I don’t. I really, really savour sleeping in and eating my food! 😉
I’m glad you are savoring those things- good for you!
Such a great list. I would also add (1) enjoy finishing a conversation without being interrupted and (2) appreciate the absence of ever-present guilt.
Yes! I second that! I also seemed to have forgotten “go to the bathroom in peace”…
Best statement ever: “It’s the equivalent of me waking up every morning and saying a prayer of gratitude that I didn’t have to sleep wearing a pair of Depends. Is there a day when I will look back wistfully at my urinary continence? Probably.” Oh… the guilt I feel at laughing at this.
I’m sorry you’re feeling a little down but I do want to thank you for the laughter you gave me today.
Oh I am SO glad it gave you a laugh! And honestly, I perked right up about five minutes after I read it! 😉
Wonderful words, Stephanie! I think the same when I read those articles, but you said it so much better!
Last night, my 1st time pregnant friend told me she was lonely because her husband was out for the evening. I remarked that I was going to remind her of what she had just said a year from now. It made me feel better anyhow.
I agree, we can’t appreciate what we don’t know we “have.” It is cathartic to write and think about it though.
A mom of teenagers once told me I should appreciate not having bleacher butt from watching sports games all weekend in the summer. I did take that one to heart.
I don’t fully agree with this. I can see where it is coming from, but having someone advise me to let certain things go, and to enjoy where I am because it doesn’t last (when I was beating myself up about certain things when my son was an infant) changed my life. Maybe it even saved my life.
Thanks for sharing your perspective. I actually agree with you that some advice is tremendously helpful am loving. It all matters where it is coming from, a place of true concern or superiority. My point is that it can go too far, and often it serves no purpose. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment.
ALL true– especially sleep. And I also agree it doesn’t help to share the advice in “real life.” It’s sort of like taking a breast feeding class when you’re first dating. Just too much info at the wrong time!
Also, the thing that it doesn’t take into account is people struggling with infertility. I mean, I’m a mom so I’ve lamented the sucky parts of parenting with the best of them, but…. But I have friends who want nothing more than to be elbow deep in whatever I’m complaining about, and suddenly I’m unintentionally hurting someone I care about. No bueno.
Thanks for reading, Celeste. That is a very good point, and I think there is a line between being grateful for what we have, our children, when so many others have experienced loss or infertility, and still being allowed to vent our frustrations.
Thank you! My husband and I have struggled for three years. We’ve been checked and have no diagnosis of infertility, just bad timing. I’d give anything at this point to deal with what some moms complain about.
You know what I actually find worse? Now that I have a baby, people keep telling me to “enjoy every moment” and that “this is the easiest and best stage.” Really?? Well, then I’m screwed.
I agree- that is a totally pointless thing to say to someone.
Spot on. It’s scary just how much of my life you captured there. And I agree with your take on preemptive “advice.” I’m not sure how much good it ever does to try to tell someone to force-change their perspective. That’s the thing about perspective- it gets altered with experience. And once it does, well- you’ve kind of learned the important things all on your own, no?
Thanks so much Sharon! Perspective is completely altered with experience, I definitely agree. What a great comment!
Amen! This post made me laugh, but also made me nod my head vigorously in agreement! Well said!
I’ll be honest:
There are some things parents point out that makes it seem like us childless people just don’t understand. Lack of sleep? Oh believe me, I get it. A crazy schedule and occasionally questionable health knocks me out. Running multiple errands all day? Yea, been there too and quite often with my husband. We may not have children but that doesn’t mean life is easy or cozy for us. I know it isn’t for us.
I think the world would be so much better if there wasn’t this constant comparison of “childless couples vs. couples with kids” with some (definitely not all because I refuse to over-generalize) parents acting like those of us without kids just don’t get it. Just my two cents.
Fair point. Thanks for sharing your perspective!
Your line: “Happy Hour is soon to become Crappy Hour” — amen, sister! So funny and so true!
Stumbled on your older post. This seems like a funny post unless you’re infertile. I’ve had friends tell me I should enjoy my life without children over and over again. When I finally got a diagnosis I cannot have children the comments have finally ended. It’s true, you have to enjoy whatever situation you may be in. I just had to point out this is not good advice for young couples, older couples, or anyone really. For those of you with children, please watch what you say to your childless friends– even if you think you’re giving them good advice.
Thanks for taking the time to comment. I often think about how a person who is unable to have children may view my posts. With all due respect, this blog is geared towards helping parents connect and alleviate their guilt over parenting ambivalence. I actually do not think, “enjoy whatever situation you are in,” is good advice. It is hard for people to stay that present, and it sounds condescending. Many of us do not enjoy every minute of our daily lives, and that is fine. Here is my two cents on parents complaining, as it pertains to childless or infertile friends. Do you have a job? Do you ever complain about your boss, your co-workers, your workload, or your schedule? Isn’t that sort of ungrateful? I mean, many people are unemployed and would give anything to have your job. Do you see what I mean? There is always a place for lighthearted venting, in my opinion. I mean no disrespect with this comment, and I am sorry that you are struggling with infertility. I have experienced pregnancy loss three times, and I know how it feels to want a child when people around you are pregnant or have new babies. I get that.
Stephanie, it was humorous, but maybe just for the parents. I thought I’d do more since I sent my 2-year-old to daycare, but dragging around a car seat is no more fun than chasing a two-year old, although a LOT easier. Before I sat down here, I was trying to figure out how many errands I could run between feedings tomorrow when my husband is home. Or maybe I should suck it up and go out now.
Thank you 🙂
Yes, yes and yes! Except I might add “enjoy taking dumps in privacy”… for lack of a classier way to express that sentiment =)
HA! You had me at “Crappy Hour” — and “urinary continence!” So funny!
When I was pregnant people told me all of these things. I still didn’t understand what they were talking about. I don’t think you understand what sleep deprived means until you have a baby. I mean, people would say sleep now while you can and I would laugh and take a nap. I had no idea in just a few months I’d be crying on the kitchen floor because I was so completely exhausted. I’m not sure people can truly fathom how much changes. It’s a shock no matter how many warnings you get.
I’m not a fan of “just you wait” either. It’s one of those phrases that sucks the joy right out of a room!
Be happy with yourself, being on your OWN, enjoy your freedom, explore yourself, live life to the fullest, do not pass any opportunity up!!!!
I just started reading your blog and love it!
I agree with dash – these comments are actually hurtful when you’re wanting children and not able to have them. Maybe you can “enjoy your sleep” but you’d give it up in a heartbeat to have the blessing of a child in your arms.
For Beth Ann (who’s probably well past the infant stage, now) – I don’t agree that the infant stage is the easiest! And what silly “advice” you received.
I am officially a fan! I found your most recent post “I’m glad they told me,” via Facebook. I couldn’t agree more. I had read the blog you referred to in that post…and I thought, how sweet for her. I could identify with the love she felt, but I couldn’t help but feel somehow inadequate, yet again. My child is 8 months old ( I am 44!) and I am still battling feelings of “Am I doing this right?” and “Am I worthy of this task?” From the delivery to breast feeding and beyond, nothing has gone the way I had thought…except the overwhelming love I feel…and even that took some time. I also believe there needs to be a more realistic dialogue about ALL the possibilities endured through childbirth and the postpartum experience. I signed up to receive your posts and I hope you don’t mind if I refer to your blog in my own writing. ? Your writing is wonderful and refreshing. Thank you. 🙂 Mary Lewis
Wow, thanks so much, Mary! I really appreciate that! Of course I don’t mind– I’d be honored! 🙂 🙂 Thanks so much for your comment!
Brilliant post! Lately my pet peeve whenever I complain about the stage of motherhood I am currently in (ie single mom to highly energetic and strong willed 7 year old boy who never stops eating!) and am told ‘just you wait till he is a teenager…you thought toddlerhood was hard, wait till you hit teenage years!’ Quite irritating! And yes, the Crappy Hour – so true 😉 My oldest friend is about to become a mother and I am wondering how honest to be about what is ahead. The book ‘The mask of motherhood’ by Susan Maushart (a highly depressing book IMO) discusses though whether it’s fair to not be honest about the experience of motherhood – as maybe people would think twice if they knew, or at least know what they are getting into – and not be so hard on themselves for not being blissfully happy at all times as a mother. But I think it is all in the way it is done. By the way just discovered your blog after reading your brilliant article in Brain, Child – love what you are doing 🙂