We’ve all been there. You see a child throwing a tantrum in the supermarket or at a restaurant and think: “When I have kids, I will NEVER let them act like that.”
Comedian Louis C.K. has a great bit on how becoming a parent changes our perspective:
“I never never never judge other parents now. I never do. I used to, but I never do. Like, you know when you see a mother in McDonald’s or in a toy store and she’s just melting down on her kid? She’s like, ‘Shut up. I hate you. You’re ugly!’ And people are standing around going ‘Oh my goodness, she’s a horrible mother!’ Well guess what? Those people aren’t fucking parents. They don’t have kids. Cause any parents who were in that store were thinking, ‘What did that shitty kid do to that poor woman?’”
It’s not until we have kids that we understand all the craziness it entails. As I see it, there are ten things about parenting that all non-parents need to understand:
1. Sleep deprivation is a hell of a drug.
If you haven’t had to wake up every few hours for months (or even years) on end, then you don’t understand what real sleep deprivation feels like. Our brains have turned to mush.
When non-parents come over to visit after the baby is born, they must wonder what has happened to us. Our hair is in shambles and it’s been at least a day since our last shower. We’re half mumbling as we tell them the same story about the baby for the third time.
The upside is that we don’t care what you think. We probably won’t even notice. The beauty of sleep deprivation is that we can’t be embarrassed by something we can’t remember.
2. Being responsible for another life is terrifying.
Nothing is more physically and emotionally demanding than being accountable for the well-being of a child all day, every day.
As parents, we become paranoid schizophrenics. Worst-case scenarios are constantly playing out in our mind. Parking lots become prospective death traps. Every new stranger: a potential murderer. It’s a dark side of parenting that we try to suppress, but rest assured it’s always there.
3. It’s almost impossible to gross us out.
No one warned me how disgusting this parenting gig would be. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say I’ve developed PTSD from some of the things I’ve witnessed. At some point we become desensitized because we’ve seen it (and cleaned it) all.
So, I apologize on behalf of parents everywhere when we talk nonchalantly about everything from placentas to potty training. Our filter is long gone — someone probably pooped all over it, so we threw it away.
4. Control is only an illusion.
I tried to get my toddler to take a nap for six hours once. SIX. She refused to take one and I refused to give in. Before I knew it, it was dinnertime — and she had won.
Another mom once said to me, “You have to come to terms with the fact that you can’t make them eat, poop, or sleep.” Only other parents understand how true that statement really is.
5. Our bad days are baaaaaad.
There will be days our toddler doesn’t nap and will wreak havoc wherever we go. The bad habits she learned at preschool will all surface simultaneously. We secretly curse the kid that taught ours to throw themselves on the floor for dramatic flair. Just when we think things can’t get worse, something does and then we crack.
If you haven’t ever wanted to scream and cry simultaneously, then you probably don’t have kids. After our scream/cry, the shame spiral begins. We are suddenly filled with the fear that we’re simply not cut out for this shit and that we’re doing everything wrong.
Luckily the bad days eventually end, and they certainly don’t define us (this applies to parents and non-parents alike).
6. It’s really hard to find balance.
Kids require so much of our attention that it’s hard to make time for anything else. Don’t feel neglected because we haven’t texted you back or haven’t responded to your Evite.
Any free time that can be squirreled away I try spending with my husband or actually getting some time alone in sweet, sweet silence.
So just know that we won’t return every call or be able to make every event. We may not be able to iron out all the kinks in our schedule for another 18 years or so, but we’re trying our best.
7. We will always be late.
It takes at least an hour to get kids ready, out the door and into their respective car seats. Even on the days we have it together enough to leave on time, we realize we left something behind (wipes, a blankie, one of our children) and have to return home. No matter what, we’ll always be at least half an hour late.
8. We pick our battles.
It’s so hard not to give in to a wailing toddler. We want to pacify them in any way necessary — ANYTHING to stop the madness. But we also know that if we reward a toddler for throwing a fit, that child will probably grow into a monster.
So we try to pick our battles. Sometimes that includes pretending to ignore a child who is losing it. A non-parent might see us as being unresponsive. But other parents understand that kids shouldn’t be encouraged for acting like asshats.
9. Unwarranted advice is unwanted advice.
That’s great that you help raised your cousins, your nieces or even your siblings. It’s a completely different ballgame when you have kids of your own. And if you try to offer any kind of advice based on something you learned while caring for your dog, we will not be friends for very long.
Yes, I know you have the best intentions. And there have been instances where I have asked non-parents for advice and it has been very helpful. I think the rule of thumb should be, unless we ask, please don’t offer.
10. Kid-free time is a precious gift.
We understand that time way from the kids is as rare as it is fleeting. Once we leave the kids with the sitter, the freedom clock immediately starts ticking away.
We plan to maximize this time in every way possible. So feel free to join us or get out of the way, because we will be in drink-guzzling, chandelier-swinging, table-dancing party mode up until the moment we have to return to reality.