5 Things People Without Kids Just Don't Understand

by Meredith Hale
Originally Published: 
Small boy driving a kid car shopping cart in blue and yellow

I love my friends without kids. They’ve shared many special moments with my family, from first birthdays to my toddler’s latest meltdown over his shirt not being orange. But let’s be honest: If you don’t have kids, there are certain things you’ll just never understand. Even my friends with older kids have lost sight of some of the more surreal moments of raising young children.

Here are five things you can only truly understand if you spend your days surrounded by tiny humans who lose their marbles each time you cut their PB&J the wrong way:

1. Why I respond to everything my toddler says with, “Do you have to go potty?”

Recently a friend without kids visited my home and witnessed a conversation that went something like this:

Toddler: I want more cheese.

Mommy: Do you have to go potty?

Toddler: I like Thomas the Train.

Mommy: Do you have to go potty?

Toddler: I’ve discovered the meaning of life.

Mommy: Do you have to go potty?

My friend was taken aback. Why did every word out of my potty-training toddler’s mouth elicit a plea for him to run to the bathroom? Clearly I was going to give him a complex. What can I say? After spending a week scrubbing toxic messes off the rug and camping out in the laundry room, I’m pretty sure I was the one developing a complex. Potty training is one of those things you can’t appreciate until you’re knee-deep in it, wondering why you ever gave up those lovely, disposable diapers, and how much it would cost to cover your entire home in vinyl.

2. Why Mommy stays up so late.

Yes, I know I look like I spent last night dropping acid at Coachella, or more likely, calming a hysterical child convinced there’s a witch in her closet. But the sad truth is, it’s not the kids keeping me up. It’s Mommy. Those late-night hours, after everyone else has gone to bed, constitute my only “me” time—when I can binge-watch Gossip Girl without having to cover anyone’s eyes, or scour Facebook, or just stare at the ceiling until I pass out. This exhausting taste of freedom is addictive, irrational and unhealthy—and completely worth it.

3. Why I never answer the phone.

My kids are fascinated with my iPhone. My son likes to test how it stands up to gravity, while my daughter brainstorms new and “hilarious” ways to ask Siri if she farts. To keep it out of little hands, I tend to keep the phone out of sight. And, quite frankly, it’s a convenient way to keep it out of big hands as well—to avoid the guilt I feel every time I get sucked into checking Twitter or my latest blog post during family time. And when the kids aren’t around, frankly, the last thing I feel like is a conversation. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to you, or that I don’t care about your work dilemma or your new boyfriend. It’s just that having to return a call is yet another have-to in my life, sadly lumped together with “make dentist appointment” and “clean human waste off floor.” I promise to call you back—once I have the mental capacity to do something besides stare at the wall.

4. Why my grocery shopping is different from yours.

I see the look in your eyes when I say I spent two hours at the grocery store (and still forgot the bread). I know, you buy food too, and it doesn’t take two hours. But, pardon the pun, we’re talking apples and oranges here. You shop in a grocery store, where you follow an orderly list and go home. I, however, shop in the Twilight Zone, where I attempt to navigate a tank with some sort of car attached to it, trying to remember what was on my list before my toddler ate it. This feat must be accomplished while my toddler attempts to rappel out of the cart and my kids come to blows over who will press the deli button. Not that I can actually fit any deli items in the cart, which has been taken over by a family-size package of 30 paper towel rolls. I know, it’s just like your cart full of yogurt and coconut water.

5. Why I don’t envy your completely awesome life.

Yes, I see your photos on Facebook—you in a bikini swimming off the coast of some island in Greece, not a care in the world. You at a club, posing with a cast-off from Bachelor in Paradise. I’m scrolling through your photos in my puke-stained pajamas, trying to remember the last time I even thought about leaving the country, or my last night out. And yet, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I may not be partying in Europe, but I throw a killer nightly dance party in my living room. I fall in love every day, and just when I think my heart’s full, I fall in love again. No, my life may not be glamorous, but the truth is, I’ve never been happier.

I treasure my friends without kids. For one thing, they’re the only people in my life more interested in me than in my children. But there are a few things that, no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be able to explain to them. And in the long run, I think that’s OK. Because when your comfort zone has come to include in-depth discussions of fecal matter and binge-watching The Fresh Prince at 2 a.m., maybe it’s good to get pushed out of it from time to time.

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