Thursday, August 11, 2011

I Wouldn't Understand...

Hearing the words "you wouldn't understand because you don't have children" is annoying. 

For starters, you're off on the wrong foot when you begin any sentence with "you wouldn't understand."  It insinuates that the listener is less intelligent/less emotionally sensitive/less awesome than thou (read: it's wicked rude).  When you're combining this patronizing phrase with the sensitive topic of parenting, you enter a danger zone.  Believe it or not, us non-parents are quite capable of sympathizing with you parents on a number of issues - exhaustion, time management and vomit and/or urine and/or diarrhea clean up to name a few.

It's also an assumption, and as my former office administrator used to say: when you "assume" you make and "ass" out of "u" and "me".  You're assuming that the listener doesn't have children and isn't trying to have children.  If you are wrong on either of these points than you most certainly have made an ass out of you.  You probably know whether your listener is a parent, but you might not know whether your listener is desperately trying to become a parent.  If the latter is true then you are rubbing salt in a serious wound.

Ever gone swimming in the ocean with an open cut?  It hurts.
image HERE

Turns out, I'm not the only one who has something to say about these 8 little words.  I googled the phrase "you wouldn't understand because you don't have kids" and got 30,700 results.  Here are the highlights:

  • It's listed on several parenting websites as the worst thing you can say to someone (even accidentally) who is struggling with infertility
  • Parents don't have a monopoly on busy schedules - restaurant owners, tax accountants and emergency room doctors are discussed as some of the more notoriously sleep deprived individuals...even more so than new parents
  • There's a whole host of people who have a very clear understanding of parenting though they have no biological children (examples: aunt/uncles, Godparents, older siblings, daycare providers) because of the depth of their relationship with a child.  In fact, some non-biological parents have a much greater understanding of "having kids" than biological parents.

I would like to think that when a parent says, "you wouldn't understand because you don't have children" that it's coming from a good place - a place of loving their child and loving their role as a parent.  Nonetheless, it's annoying.

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