If You Don't Have Kids, You Don't Know My Life

by Christine Burke
don't have kids
AleksandarNakic / iStock

Before I had kids, I was an expert on parenting. Really, I knew my shit. I mean, I babysat my way through high school to earn spending money and I took care of kids in my profession as a nurse in a big city hospital. I understood nap time and toddler tantrums better than anyone, despite never having actually lived with a human under 3 feet tall. I’d visit my friends who had kids and say stupid crap like, “Well, what if you tried [insert inane, highly ineffective advice here]?” or “You know, if you just did [insert laughable, uninformed view of parenting here], I bet your kid would behave.”

My husband and I wholeheartedly believed that our future kids would never suffer from bad parenting because we were highly knowledgeable in all things parenting. I’m not sure what we were thinking, because when our kids arrived, we realized pretty quickly that we’d been talking out of our asses for years.

It’s a wonder that any of my parent friends stuck around to help me survive the toddler years of my own kids. After the way I passed judgment on their parenting and all the times I offered up useless advice, they had every right to toss me and my high horse right out the door. I’m pretty sure (read: I know) it makes me an asshole to have thought I knew better than my friends about their kids and their unique parenting situation when I’d never dealt with explosive diarrhea in a car seat.

If you don’t have kids and are freely doling out advice to your friends who are parents: Just stop it right now. You don’t know what you’re talking about, and frankly, you sound like an ignorant idiot. I know that now. After having survived 13 years in the parenting trenches, I can say with authority that when a person without kids tries to give me advice about my kids, I roll my eyes so hard that I practically get a brain hemorrhage.

While unsolicited parenting advice can come from just about any source, there are a few groups of people that are regular offenders when it comes to passing judgment on weary parents.

Expectant Parents

We know, we know; you’ve read all the books on parenting. We understand that you graduated first in your Lamaze class, but please, for the love of all that is holy, just zip your lip when you see me corralling my kids at the playground. I don’t care that every single article you’ve read says that babies should only eat homemade, organic, grown in my backyard food.

My kid will only eat the red Goldfish crackers and when his mouth is full of them, I get peace and quiet for three minutes. In those three minutes, I am able to have exactly one uninterrupted thought. But you don’t understand that, do you? You have all the quiet and peace you need right now, don’t you? Come see me in six months, and after you’ve locked yourself in the bathroom to heave huge, heavy sobs because you haven’t slept in three days, I promise I won’t say I told you so. I’ll think it, though.

People With “Fur Babies”

I can say this because I have a dog: Dogs and kids are two totally different animals, so stop telling me about Fideaux’s sleep habits when I’m lamenting about my kid’s nocturnal shenanigans. I cannot stand it when people with animals try to “help” me parent my kids.

Listen, I get it, mothering comes in all forms and to mother an animal is a noble, altruistic endeavor. Truly, it is. And I will agree that some days, it’s harder to mother an animal than it is a child. But they are not the same, not by a long shot. To try to offer me parenting advice just because it works on your cat is only going to cause me to want to throw your litter box at you. I’d be happy to talk to you about how to get my dog to stop pooping in my room at 5 a.m. (seriously, any advice?) but I will not listen to you expound on your iguana’s eating habits in relation to my toddler’s.

“Experts” Who Work With Kids

There are so many professionals who help us raise our kids — and we rely on them to keep us from screwing up as parents. Nurses, doctors, police officers, and psychologists all have specialized training to help us navigate the choppy waters of parenting. But what about the professionals who don’t go home to precious snowflakes of their own? I don’t know about you, but when a doctor is advising me on how to feed my picky toddler food, I’ll put a little more stock in the advice of a doctor who has three kids and a wife who wants to deck him when he gets home at the end of the day.

I don’t care how highly educated you are, or how much on-the-job experience you have, you still don’t know how to really help me with my kids unless you are walking the same daily, relentless walk I am in similar parenting shoes. The same goes for teachers and daycare providers who don’t have kid — being with my kid during the day in a structured environment does not equate to the chaos and pressure of actually raising a child from birth to independence.

Parenting is hard enough when you are overwhelmed and exhausted, and kidless know-it-alls make it so much more frustrating. It’s hard not to second guess your parenting choices when some millennial with perky boobs suggests that perhaps breastfeeding is best done in private. Every kid is different, advice is not one-size-fits-all, and the more I do this parenting gig, the more I realize that less is more. Less mouth moving and less advice in favor of more listening and support and hand-holding. So unless you are opening your mouth to suggest a bottle of wine that pairs perfectly with working through your tween’s common core math homework, I will thank you to just shut up.