Wednesday, April 20, 2016

If You Have Kids: Be Gentle

Say you are person A. You have two kids. You are having a tough day, because let's face it, kids can be EXHAUSTING. You are tired and frustrated and at your wit's end. You call up your friend, Person B, who has four kids, and you tell them about it. And B says to you,

"You think you're tired? You don't even know what tired IS. Try having FOUR kids. When you have FOUR kids, you'll wish for the days with two kids! Two kids is a piece of cake!"

I think we can all agree that would kind of stink, right? First, it completely invalidates A's feelings and brings the attention to B. Second, A might never have four kids! Which means that their exhaustion or frustration will never seem paramount, or even legitimate, to B. A's feelings and experiences don't count. Ouch, right?

That's what it feels like when I mention that I'm tired or frustrated, and someone with kids says, "Just wait until you have kids! You don't even know what tired IS!"

It hurts. It says that my life isn't valid without kids, and my feelings aren't real. I know that's not actually what anyone means to say. But the message is loud and clear. Sometimes people say..."You don't know what LOVE is until you have children". Telling me that my love for my husband and partner and family is meaningless. Ouch.

The fact is, some of it's probably true. I don't know what being a parent is like. I can only glimpse into others' lives and get a shadow of an idea. But in the same way, others don't know what my life is like - what it's like to have my job and my body and my experiences. We don't have to delegitimize others' feelings to make our own feelings count. I would never dream of saying to a Stay-At-Home Parent, "You think you're tired? You only have two kids at home! I had to supervise an entire office of people and run a festival today! You don't even know what tired IS!" That would be incredibly insulting and insensitive, and I hope if I ever say anything like that I get punched in the face.

One day I might have kids, and if that day comes, I will probably feel a level of exhaustion and love that I've never felt before, and maybe I will dream of the days I have now. And perhaps a friend without kids will say to me, "You won't believe the day I've had. I'm SO TIRED". And while I might think those things, that they don't know what tired is, that they have no idea what exhaustion means, I hope that I will have the thought and then put it away in the back of my brain and say, "Tell me about it".