Thursday, May 23, 2013
The Palinode with one of our friends' children in 2007 or 2008
1. Non-parents get to go to bed late and sleep in like parents used to before they had children.
I do wish this were true, but it's not. Age, stress, and ill health are sleep-stealers, too, and I am lucky if I get four or five uninterrupted hours of sleep on any given night. In fact, I can't remember when I last did that.
2. Non-parents have the better and more plentiful sex that parents might once have had before they had children.
Sometimes non-parents do have better and more sex, but that is only true for those of us who are not stressed out or experiencing physical or emotional difficulties related to health or past history or ageing. I find that I am naturally less of a hedonist as I get older. Or maybe that's my ongoing insomnia.
All I know is this: whether parents or not, pretty much everyone thinks they are being robbed of better or a different amount of sex, and we all have conditions to which we can point and squarely lay the blame. Mine is a combination of age, body dysmorphia, depression and anxiety, and possibly that hysterectomy I had as a result of cervical cancer.
3. Non-parents eat better and more interesting food.
This is true only if you, unlike me, like to cook, have money to eat out every day, or haven't lost your taste for chicken nuggets and fish sticks. Maybe having had regular high-brow gastronomic experiences is peculiar to would-be parents, though, because it's not been my experience, at least not on a regular enough basis to make it a fact of my lifestyle.
4. Non-parents get to do whatever they want.
Oh, yeah. All the time, baby, except that I can't afford that southern vacation, I have work and family responsibilities to take care of, this damn mortgage doesn't pay itself, and my husband might not be so crazy about my dream to drop out of society and hole up in a cabin in the woods for the next two years.
No one is an island, even if they haven't made babies. Imagine that?
Me with a copy of Let's Panic About Babies! by Eden Kennedy and Alice Bradley
5. Non-parents have much more disposable income than parents do.
If only this were true, except that it's not true based on being parents or not, because of something we call "logic".
This would only hold true if each household, regardless of children, made the exact same amount of money, because then the addition of children would mean that your household would have less money relative to my household. This is not how our society works, though.
I know many families who are wealthier than I am, even after they factor in children and holidays and a house three times larger than my condo. It's because they make more money than I do, and children do not magically suck all the power out of the dollar bills in your bank account.
6. Non-parents don't know the true depth of human love.
Bleep blorp. My baby-less heart only knows carnal and romantic love. Boop bip.
Believe it or not, I have heard throughout my life, and I know a lot of you have, too. Non-parents are not like the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz, and children aren't our journey to get real hearts [click to tweet]. This line of reasoning is an insult that undermines the value of our relationships and human experience.
If you actually believe this fallacy, do not argue your position out loud. You will sound like a racist explaining the heirarchy of genetic differences. Please stop talking now.
7. Non-parents are not very busy and have time for all kinds of frivolous activity.
This is true for some people, parents or not, but this is also not true for most of the people I know, parents or not.
Strangely, people who are not parents sometimes have demanding careers or take on serious community work or go back to school or take care of other family members or spend their non-job time working on a skill to launch them into a career that means they can both eat and have a place to live. Non-parents spend their non-work time doing things that are more vitally important than shoe-shopping, experimentation with Arzak eggs, and going out dancing, and they have to fight for space to do these things, too.
Passionate and engaged living happens. It's not just for parents!
8. Non-parents get to bathe, and parents never do.
I am sometimes so busy that I don't get to shower, either, and also? You are a liar. I've smelled you, and you do not have the stench of someone who hasn't seen running water since your firstborn was in utero.
I do get that you cannot take long showers like you used to, and that you maybe don't often get to take a shower or bathe alone, and for this I truly feel sympathy, but don't tell me that you miss bathing altogether. I will demand proof of grossness.
Bon Stewart being a giant baby
9. Non-parents get to drink alcohol whenever they want.
No, we don't. Some of us have jobs. Some of us have family obligations outside our own homes. Some of us, like me, are alcoholics who have to actively abstain and work at not doing that very thing every day. And some of us just aren't fond of the stuff.
10. Non-parents don't have to deal with gross bodily fluids.
This is planet earth, and we are human beings. The gross bodily functions of others affect a good number of us, whether we birthed the person experiencing them or not.
I grew up with an older brother with multiple special needs, and my mother also ran a daycare out of our home. I have dealt with the urine, poop, vomit, and semen (yes, even that) of more people both related to me and not than most parents I know. You can't hold this one over me.
11. Non-parents own nicer things than parents do.
This hearkens back to the old Non-Parents Have More Disposable Income argument, which is patently false.
All of my lovely chairs and sofas are draped in covers I bought through Amazon to hide coffee stains, cat puke, and previous ownership markings. My living room's a flea market waiting to happen.
12. Non-parents get to keep the friends that parents lose after they have children.
I hate to break it to you, but major life shifts change friendships whether they involve children or not. Try suddenly making a lot less or more money, moving to a new city or country, getting married, or, in my case, quitting drinking. All of these things can change the dynamics of your friendships and even lose you a whole social circle.
Friendship loss after a major life shift is not confined to those who procreate.
Those were the days.
13. Non-parents don't have wrecked bodies like parents do after kids.
Oh, seriously now. Have you walked around out in public lately and taken a good look at humanity? We are, in general, kind of a wreck.
Also, forgive me if I snort at your insistence that it was only having children that destroyed your once gorgeous form and that non-parents don't understand what it is to have your body suddenly change. 1) You probably weren't as hot pre-baby as you thought you were, and 2) there are a number of things that wreck your body for you as life goes on. Cancer, addictions, and other health issues strike parents and non-parents alike, and they can make us all a little less bikini-confident.
The reasons behind your stretch marks and other changed parts may be different, but the outcomes aren't necessarily so unlike each other.
14. Non-parents feel so much more attractive than parents do.
Dammit. This is just another way I must be doing it wrong as a non-parent, because I have not been feeling that attractive since I had that minor bout with cancer. It kind of further destabilized what sense of body integrity I had managed to cobble together out of found string and white glue.
15. Non-parents have clean homes.
Ha! That's rich!
Oh, you cleaned your house before kids? Dammit. There I go doing it wrong, again.
16. Non-parents don't have to worry about anyone but themselves.
Ha! Again, that's rich!
We have ageing parents, nieces and nephews, dear friends, partners and spouses, pets, and other attachments, because, again, we are not like the Tin Man looking for our real hearts. We belong to entrenched communities to which we contribute deeply and meaningfully, even if that community doesn't wear a diaper and call us Mom.
17. Non-parents stay out until all hours.
While non-parents do have the greater freedom to stay out late and do things I've heard referred to as "clubbing", most of the people I know don't. Why? Because we are busy, and we have stuff to do, and we are tired, and most of us aren't 21 anymore.
If you're a parent, you might think this staying-out-all-night thing sounds like a happy idea, but, in reality, it's less adventurous and fun and more waiting to crawl into a warm bed and being irritated by drunk people.
You could do it, but, like most of us, you probably wouldn't want to most of the time, if ever. Isn't that what mommy blogging conferences are for, anyway?
From what I can tell, most parents miss the more care-free and spontaneous life of their early 20s before all the added responsibilities of adult life stepped in — related to finances, family, and ageing — to reshape and sometimes minimize their freedoms. I do, too, although, I will fully admit to the fact that I can still just step out my door right now and grab a sandwich at the shop across the street, and I love that, but I will not stand for being told that my not having children means my life is still pretty much equivalent to the chaotic and frivolous mess of some early 20-somethings.
When a parent sighs and says to a non-parent It must be so nice to be able to sleep in or I wish I could afford that thing you just got or You have no idea what my body looks like under this, it is beyond insulting. There are so many assumptions and prejudices wrapped up in such statements that unravelling them to explain just how much they have diminished a non-parent's life experience would take at least a book or two.
My usual response is to smile and say with faked humour "Well, that's what you think", because it is their choice to cut off connection with me, and I am too tired after 15 years of this to have to initiate several of these conversations a week with everyone from grocery clerks to close friends. It is their choice to tell me that I cannot fathom who they are, that my life experience cannot connect with theirs, that those who have similar outcomes due to their own major life shifts are somehow intrinsically blocked from that connection due to not having offspring. The assumption that my life is so easy that it would deny me the ability to understand another's experience tells me that the parent in question does not value my history or my experience. I am not valued or valuable.
Believe me, I sometimes wish all these assumptions about non-parents were true, because then I would be a wealthy, physically gorgeous, globe-trotting, sexual dynamo who had a clean house, great clothes, and was surrounded by all my old friends. This isn't how life goes for most of us, though, once we graduate from that magically unburdened post-high school youth we all imagine we came from. Take me, for example. I have weathered cancer, my husband's broken back, the loss of loved ones, addiction, depression and anxiety, and a few other hurdles. We all grow up, we change, and we experience things that are hard.
We may not be parents, but we are also not unburdened youth anymore, the ones we imagine as frivolous and selfish and disconnected, and I wish that the parents who make these assumptions about us would stop behaving as though we still are [click to tweet].
PS. The title has been updated from "17 Lies Parents Spread About Non-Parents" to better reflect the subject matter. I seriously misjudged the original title's inflammatory nature, and I apologize for that.
PPS. Please do not misread this blog entry, in any way, as a criticism of parenting. This is a criticism of the prejudice some parents show, yes, but not of parenting itself. I sincerely value parents and the level of work they do in their homes, their extended families, and in their communities. I mean that. This is a serious deflation of unnecessary prejudice against non-parents, but it holds no judgement against the work people do as parents.
PPPS. Also, please know that the title actually reads, in spirit, "17 Untruths SOME Parents Believe About Non-Parents", because we all know that 100% of a group of people don't all think the same thing at the same time, unless that group of people is a group of people who are a group precisely because they do all think the same thing at the same time.
PPPPS. Also, an argument that has been mentioned several times over the last 30 hours must be acknowledged. The argument states that only parents, having been both non-parents and parents, are able to see both sides of the non-parent/parent issue. This argument is entirely specious. Each parent had a non-parent experience that was unique to them, because each life is particular to the individual. To assume that any one parent's pre-parenthood life experience is equivalent to all of the lives of present non-parents, or even other parents for that matter, isn't logical.
2 adults + 1 or more children ≠ objective understanding of all life experiences available to humankind
In short, to argue, based on nothing more than one's own experience of being both non-parent and parent, that non-parents cannot speak to their own experiences of prejudice and poor treatment is galling. It simply underscores the prejudice that the experiences of non-parents are less valid without the addition of children, and, more than that, the argument goes so far as to say that our experiences are inconsequential in the face of parental experience, that it is only parents who get to say if non-parents are treated poorly.
This voice I was using to express myself? What a waste! I should have had children if I wanted it to mean anything.