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?