The Harmless Phrase About Parenthood That Makes My Skin Crawl
“Just wait until you have kids.”
The phrase makes my skin crawl, even now that I am a parent myself.
And it doesn’t end there. Recently while I was wrangling my daughter at the grocery store, another woman said to me, “Wait until you have two!”
It seemed harmless enough, but several thoughts flooded my mind. Why do you just expect that I plan to have another child? What if I was trying to conceive and could not—how would your comment make me feel? Why is it a competition to see whose trip to the grocery store is the most chaotic?
I just smiled nicely and went back to my grocery list, but I reminded myself that “just wait until you…” is a phrase I will never say to another person. When I was single, people said, “Just wait until you are married.” Numerous times I have heard “wait until you have kids.” Even thinking back to college, older, wiser people often said, “Just wait until you are out in the real world.”
I am now out in the real world, married, and a mother, and I still do not really understand the point people were trying to make when they told me to “wait until….” My life had purpose and value while I was in college, before I was married and before I entered into parenthood. Life is very different now, and there is more exhaustion as well as more joy, but it has purpose and value now, too.
We are constantly in a battle to claim we are busier than other people, have had less sleep than other people, or generally just have it rougher than other people. But guess what? We do not know every detail of the challenges other people face. Life gets tough. There are demanding tasks at work, relationship issues, infertility, illness, and a million other struggles people could be facing at any time.
I am not going to say, “wait until…” because it does not value what someone is going through right now. It does not value them as their current self. Instead it focuses on how much harder their life will be later. There are times when you just do not have to say anything. A warm, knowing smile that says, “I have been there, and you’re doing just fine” will suffice.
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