analytic tracking code

Pracitcal Tips for Being Friends

Monday, October 11, 2010

Why I Put My Dog on the Phone

Panting, drooling, and weird unintelligible gnawing noises in between long stretches of silence, who wouldn't love to hear this on the phone?  Me. And everyone else, including grandparents, do not like being forced to listen to a baby on the phone. Yet parents seem oblivious to this.  So after "talking" to a baby, I will put my dog on the phone. A humorous way to get the point across, no? Apparently, no.

Am I complete idiot?  How dare I compare a BABY, a human child to   Can't I tell the difference?  All drooling creatures sound the same on the phone and I am sure the top linguist at the NSA couldn't tell the difference.

I am not bringing this up to clue in parents how tedious it is to be on the phone with someone who can't speak.  That's impossible.  I am calling attention to this because parents believe I and other childfree pet owners consider our animals to be our substitute kids. *Sigh*  This is what we get for trying to cleverly switch the tables by putting our pets on the phone? 

OK,  I can a little bit see how this happens.  We CF pet owners sometimes coo to our dogs, "Who's a good boy?" We worry about the diets of our cats more than we do about our own.  We include them in family holiday photos.  And I am sure we spend more time walking and playing with our pets than owners who have kids. So I can see why some parents think childfree pet owners have gone nuts and think our pets are our kids.  As a comment on one of my recent post (that had nothing to do with animals) admonished,  "They're not kids, they're pets!". And yet-- even the craziest Cat Lady, never for one second confuses her kitty for a kiddie.

We childfree pet owners understand that our pet will never require a $200,000 for college, won't wreck our car, or be anything but happy to see us 100% of the time.  There's no confusion on our end about the differences between pets and kids.

And it's not that we haven't been around kids.  There are (some) kids we like a lot.  For example, my husband and I love having our nephews and nieces visit. It's fun being the cool aunt and uncle.  And my husband volunteers as a Big Brother (where most volunteers do not have kids).  We love individual children.  And we love that we get to hand them back to the parents (and have a drink afterward).

Yes, we know we will not get the same incredible love if we had our own children.  We will also never have to understand the despair, guilt, and disappointment that comes with having our own kids.

And unlike most parents, we don't assume because we have a child we will be guaranteed of someone visiting us in our old age.  Most people in nursing homes are parents.  And nursing home employees can tell you many sad tales of children rarely (or never) visiting.   They know if you want a guarantee you will get a visitor that regularly sees you and will greet you with enthusiasm,  the only one you can count on is a  therapy dog.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Why Parents Hate Parenting and How Childfree Friends Can Change That

The most emailed article in New York magazine right now is Why Parents Hate Parenting. It mentions studies that show parents are less happy than their childfree counterparts and that when it comes to the pleasurability index, mothers prefer watching TV, napping, shopping, and even housework more than taking care of their children. Apparently though, this parent angst is fairly recent.
Back in the days before it was All About The Children, people had kids to contribute to the family income not drain it. Kids were doing real work like farming, raising livestock, and rendering fat to make soap so they could wash once a month. In fact, the reason the school is out during the summers is so that children could help with the harvest not so that they could be sent to summer camps that cost more than a new car. Kids back then actually made life easier and financially better for parents. And while this started to change as Americans left their agrarian roots, up until very recently, children still weren't the happiness black holes that they are today. Back in my parents' day, it was expected that dad would have a cocktail when he got home from work, mom would join him and we kids would be outside riding our bikes without helmets. Look at the parents in Mad Men. Do you think kids were cramping Don and Betsy Draper's social life?
The article also goes on about the usual suspects of not enough sleep, not enough sex, and too much stress as reasons parents are not living the Hallmark fantasy they thought it was going to be. None of this is news and it leaves out the real reason parents hate parenting: Because they are not having any meaningful conversations. Oh, I am sure there is an exchange of information that doesn't involve kids. (Honey, don't forget to pick up milk on your way home. Set the alarm for 6:00am. I think the toilet is clogged) But a deep conversation that doesn't involve (or is interrupted) by kids? Go ahead parents, tell me the last time you really sat down and talked.
Now you may think, Big Whoop. Who needs to have meaningful conversations? Well, according to a recent New York Time article, Talk Deeply Be Happy, anyone who wants to be happy. Or as the article says, "Substantive conversation seemed to hold the key to happiness". While it's well documented sex has taken a back seat in most parents' relationships, I think real conversation has been put in on the back bumper and is barely hanging on with some duct tape. Why? Because moms can get so wrapped up in discussing every facet about their kids, they start to live through their kids and then they start to lose themselves. What compounds this is moms tend to only hang out with other moms so they start to think it's normal to only chat about kids. And then, especially if you are living in a cosmopolitan high-income area, it starts to get competitive about everything from who's reading first to who is getting into the best kindergarten and it keeps going right into college. Exhausting. Moms, you're already so hard and judgmental on yourselves about the way you're parenting. Do you really want to be dealing with the sotto voce tsk-tsking of other parents because your child didn't get certain grades, finish as well athletically, or whatever the competition du jour is?
Fortunately, there's a solution to this. Start hanging out with your childfree friends. Step away from the mom friends for a moment and have a real conversation us. Because we're not talking about All Things Kids, we're more likely to be talking about something deeper than Sharpie pen mishaps on the carpet. And moms, guess what, we're not going to judge you at all because your kid didn't get into the most exclusive pre-school, magnet school, or college. Mostly, because we don't care. But also because we live outside of Parent World, we know those things are not nearly as important to your child's success as you think they are. So by eliminating all those conversation wasteland topics, we can discuss things that are more substantial. The NYT article goes onto say, "By engaging in meaningful conversations, we manage to impose meaning on an otherwise pretty chaotic world." And moms, you could probably use this more than me since I am going to guess your world is a tad more chaotic than mine.
I am not saying you can only have meaningful conversations with your childfree friends or they are any deeper than parents. What I am saying is that with kids it's much easier to lump having thoughtful conversations in the same "I'll get to it when I'm not so busy" pile as sorting all your old pictures, cleaning out the junk drawer, and regrouting the tile. Eventually, you almost forget how to have them and feel self conscious about doing something so selfish sounding as having meaningful conversations.
So my advice is to practice with people that haven't forgotten: your childfree friends. We love these kind of talks. And once you've practiced with us for a while, it will be that much easier to actually have them with your spouse and even your kids. Who knows, it may make parenting so palatable, it might possibly pass housework on the pleasurabilty list.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

So, When Are You Going to Have a Baby?

In China asking someone their salary is considered to be a perfectly nice conversation starter. In Parent World, asking people without kids when are they going to have a baby, is also considered to be perfectly OK chit-chat material. I am going to have to pull a Miss Manners here and explain that this is no more appropriate than asking someone when they are going to stop being so fat.

Parents—I know you can’t imagine your life without kids. In fact for many of you, it’s hard to imagine any type of small talk (or any talk for that matter) without it being All Kid, All the Time. But you must resist the urge to ask the baby question. With all stories going on in the world right now, I promise you there is something else to chat about besides the status of your friend’s uterus.

While I find this question irksome (not to mention unimaginative), I’m not just explaining this for my sake or even for my child-free sisters’ sakes. I am explaining this because you DO NOT want to ask a childless woman who is desperately trying to get pregnant but can’t. Hell has no fury like a woman who is completely amped up on fertility hormones, spending her entire 401K plan on IVF treatments, and thinks the whole world is laughing at her barrenness. Ay, yi, yi. You can’t even ask these women the time of day without getting a crying jag on how unfair it is that unmarried teenagers get pregnant just looking at each other. Just the possibility of an outburst like this would make people think before asking.

And yet, my husband and I still get asked. Even after nicely deflecting the question by explaining I am perfectly happy with my dog and being the Cool Aunt to my 19 nephews and 3 nieces, I really am astounded when people continue to push. I get the, “You’re athletic, you’re smart—you should pass on your DNA” and “Really, you have to have kids, it will change your life.” Interestingly, some of the people that push the hardest are people that seem to be the least happy with their kids. Is this a misery loves company thing? Because let me tell you, the happier parents aren’t nearly as pushy.

And to be fair, the parents that know me the best, don’t ask. They know my lifestyle—that I love playing with kids for about 30 minutes and then I’m ready for my cocktail. Also, they realize I am not a complete idiot. Of course I have thought about kids. Unlike many parents (and this includes ALL parents from my Mom’s generation and everyone before that), I actually have put a lot of thought into the question. I know I am missing out on something incredible. I also know how much I would miss my child-free life and relationship with my husband. You can only cut so many corners when it comes to sleep, work, and keeping some semblance of order in the house. What’s first to go is a fun, loving relationship with your husband and it usually doesn’t come back until the last kid has left for college.

So parents, in the interest of friendship and better cocktail party conversation, how about we make a deal. You don’t ask people without kids when they are going to have one and we won’t ask you why you look so tired all the time and when’s the last time you had sex. We can all stick to safer subjects. Like how much money you’re making.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Moms, your husbands are not complete idiots

Here's what you will never hear a dad say, " Oh I can't leave the kids alone with my wife, she doesn't know any of their schedules and who knows what type of mess I'll come home to." Once dad goes out the door he has enough faith in his wife that she will be able to keep the house and the kids in one piece until he gets back.

But moms do not seem to have the same amount of confidence in their spouses. In fact, they will almost gleefully point out that husbands can be like having another kid around the house. The big lovable dopes. Now here's the problem I have with this thinking. If dad can't be trusted to take care of the kids that means that my mom friend either has to cancel plans with me or she has to bring the kid along. And mimosa brunches are not that fun if everyone can't drink.

Moms: while I am sure that dad may not dress/feed the kids exactly as you would, so what? Is he really that much of an idiot? This exact question was answered by Ms. Magazine founder, Gloria Steinem. At a speech I attended, she mentioned that one of the top questions she would get is, How do I get my husband to help take care of the kids more? Her response was to actually allow him to do it. And not criticize the way he does it. I could tell this was not what the women in the audience were expecting. Why wasn't she talking about how irresponsible the men were? Instead, she told the moms they were partially to blame because they refused to stop thinking their way is the only way to take care of kids. Ms. Steinem pointed out that their husbands loved their kids and were smart enough to figure out how to get them dressed and fed. Maybe not perfectly but you know what they say about practice. The audience was somewhat outraged but couldn't really argue with the premise. After all, if we women want to claim that we're as smart as men, we can't really say men aren't as smart as we are. It's been years since that speech yet mothers haven't changed their way of thinking. M mom friends continue to protest (way too much) that their husbands won't do as good a job as they will. He won't prod the kids to do their homework correctly, he'll let them watch inappropriate TV, he'll feed them cereal for dinner. Once again, so what? You only learned to be a better parent with some practice. Let him learn. And ask yourself, is your need to be the Officially Best Parent, more important than having some free time away from the kids?

I think moms do know deep down that their husbands aren't idiots and won't let the kids leave the house with nothing but two mismatched shoes and a pair of swimming goggles. So what's with all the condescension? For moms who work outside the house, it's a way to assuage their guilt. Maybe they aren't with their kids like alpha stay at home moms, but at least they do a better job of taking care of the kids than their husbands. I discussed this topic with a working mom who explained that stay at home moms are especially likely to be sensitive about this topic. Because what if her husband is just as competent as she is at taking care of the kids? What's that say about her? He's got his big-ass important career. He has tangible proof-- the salary to support the family-- of his importance. So if he's able to figure out how to dress the kids then does that mean she's not as uniquely as important as she thought she was? Or, and here's the real deep secret, if he can figure out how to take care of the kids and have a success career, why can't she? So as long as dad never really gets the chance to take care of the kids, mom can safely say she's much better at it with no pesky proof to show her otherwise.

Moms, here's the big secret for you. No one, not your kids or your husband, is appreciating you more because you are always around. You're like running water. Extremely important, the family can't get along without it, but no one is grateful every time they turn on the faucet. You only come to appreciate it when a main water line bursts and you're without water for a while. So every once in a while burst a pipe-- just leave the house without planning for it like it's a space shuttle launch. Your kids will notice you more when you're suddenly not around (you know what the say about what absence does to the heart). And your husband will gain better parenting skills and more appreciation for how much you do. So let's go out to brunch. And if you still don't want leave your husband with the kids, who's the real idiot?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Unspoken Rule Among Parents

When I was in high school, I went out with someone who was into Dungeons and Dragons, a popular game at among the nerd/geek/dork crowd. I figured if my boyfriend (who was not a complete social dork) was into it, how ridiculous could it be? But that's before I walked in on a game and this was some weird other universe that I had no idea existed.

And that's the same feeling I got when I started to look into the Mommy blogs. It's a whole different world. When I searched for posts about friendships with women without kids, here's what popped up at the top from from Work It, Mom

Another change you can count on as a new parent is that within weeks after the new arrival, all of your old friends disintegrate and are reformed into a brand new circle of friends. Who all have kids. It’s the Unspoken Rule of Parenthood: breeders and non-breeders can’t be in the same room together without bloodshed and explosions. Like mixing ammonia and chlorine bleach.

Bloodshed and explosions? That sounds worse than a diaper blowout. Here's the deal. I don't think it has to be like mixing ammonia and bleach. Especially when there is vodka and cranberry juice around.

What I want to know is, do most moms talk like this or is this more on the extreme side? Is the separation of tribes this deliberate? Would love to hear from both sides.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Why don't kids affect men's friendships?

Can you imagine what it would be like for two women who are friends and get together every week for 18 years and not know the names of the other's children? It would be on Planet Never Would Happen. Because I find that women I barely know, whose children I have never met, assume I must know all their kids names, ages, and their allergies to peanuts.

Jeffrey Zaslow of the The Wall Street Journal, however, doesn't have to imagine what this is like among his male friends. He recently wrote an article about mens' friendships. In it he mentions that his good buddy, Lance, who he has played poker with every week for 18 years, has no idea what the names of Jeffrey's kids are.

Now I am not saying that men's friendships are any better or worse than women's. They are just different. And I think the biggest difference is that when a man becomes a dad, he does not instantly become friends exclusively with other dads. He will probably gravitate a bit more towards men with children. But he will be just as happy to drink some beers while watching the ball game with his buddies without ever feeling compelled to discuss diapers, getting into the right pre-schools, or anything else to do with kids. In fact, while dads love their kids, sometimes they want to get away and enjoying hanging out with their friends like they did in the Days Before Kids.

Moms, don't you want to do this, too? And who better to help you enjoy a Days Before Kids outing than the experts themselves, your childfree friends? So take a friendship tip from the Wall Street Journal. Leave the kid talk at home and come out and play with your girlfriends. And don't worry, if you happen to mention your kids, at least we will know their names.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

How to be popular with your childfree friends

Moms, want to be the "cool" parent among your childfree friends? Just follow these tips.

1. Edit all your kid stories-by 90%. The secret to great jokes, outfits, and everything important in life is good editing.
2. If you're talking on the phone, don't let your kids interrupt you unless it's an emergency. As in 911 or a plumber needs to be called.
3. Same goes for when you're meeting in person.
4. Trust that your husband knows how to take care of his own kids. If he's watching the kids outside while we're meeting in the living room, don't be looking out the window 99% of the time while continually shaking your head while muttering how you would do a much better job.