Have you perused the comment section of a parenting site lately? I know, I know, don’t read the comments but we all do it. One thing that has become glaringly obvious to me is that the childless aren’t allowed to have an opinion on parenting styles. It needs to stop.
I’ll be the first to admit that this is something that I am guilty of. I have dismissed a parenting article simply because the author does not have children of their own. I have ignored their experience in working with children, determined to believe that it’s not the same when you can walk away at the end of the day.
In my perusal of the comment section I have noticed a common catch cry listed there. When the author suggests a parenting style that seems outside the norm there are cries of ‘I bet she doesn’t even have children!’. The commenters google the authors name looking for evidence that this woman couldn’t possibly know what she is talking about, because she is without child.
Why does it seem that it’s only childbirth that gives women this knowledge? There are countless articles written about mothers who aren’t sure if they are doing the right thing for their child. Yet those same women (and I have been one of them) are quick to cast the stone of judgement if a childless woman dares to have an opinion.
Before I became a mother I was an expert on what I would do as a mother, it’s true. I think that everyone has those same aspirations. We all know the things that we want to be if we become a parent. Maybe it’s that hindsight that causes such a great divide between the parents and the childless.
I have said before that there are parts of parenting that you really don’t understand until you are in the thick of it. However the same could be said for many other things in life. We see a psychiatrist who may not have had personal experience with mental illness. Our GP who is an expert in chronic illness does it because it’s an interest, not a personal experience. Despite this, the childless women are still told to keep their opinions to themselves.
It’s always the women who are told that their opinions don’t count. Why is that? Are we supposed to just trust the words and knowledge of the men who offer their parenting opinions? Does something change in a woman when she gives birth that doesn’t happen for a man?
Every man and their dog has an opinion on parenting, so why are the childless coping so much flack? Next time you want to dismiss someone’s opinion because of their childless state, I implore you to think twice. Ask yourself what it is about the opinion that really gets to you. Can you offer something more constructive than ‘you don’t even have children, what would you know!?’
Interesting thought. I guess for me, though I would never openly criticize anyones thoughts on parenting, I would honestly reflect back to how my thoughts on patenting changed when I became a parent. I have turned to experts for help though and never questioned their own parental status. Thought provoking, thanks.
People without kids can have an amazing perspective on a situation. I am happy to listen to any advice, doesnt mean i will take it but open to hear it.
I think we diss them because we think ‘how could you possibly understand, you don’t have kids?’, but like Natalie said above, often they see parenting from a different perspective and can offer valuable advice. We have to remember that even though they aren’t parents themselves, they were a child once and know what it’s like to be parented. x
Well my awesome comment disappeared!! I agree with Natalie, but I also think we need to remember that those that are childless were once children too and they know what it’s like to be parented. That experience can often allow them to see things differently.
Totally agree. I am childless. (Or childfree as I prefer.) People forget that I too was once a child, and also have parents, and am around other mums all the time, and am a very involved Aunty. It’s not the same as having your own, I agree but we are not idiots with no life experience or nothing to offer.
I think there are times when childless people offer useless advice because they have no experience or education in this area and others when they are educated and experienced- that’s the difference IMO!
I’m sitting on the fence, I like advice from parent-less parents if it’s coming from a non-judgmental place.
I’ve largely given up on commenting on parenting type posts because of this. But my opinion boils down to much what it does on other topics – if you’re a good person who is genuinely trying, it’s obvious.
I would never want to be Judgey McJudge of parenting styles, and that’s not because I don’t have kids, it’s because it’s not the right thing to do. Having taught young children for more than 15 years, lots of my friends do ask me for advice, but if and when I give it, it’s always with a healthy dose of sensitivity.
I absolutely have been on the ouch end of this. While I understand the whole “it’s different when you’re in the thick of it” side, it still hurts a lot. I think part of this is that it’s not my choice to live without my children (2 pregnancy losses that hit me hard), but also because I know that what I have to offer doesn’t lose its value just because I haven’t been able to put these things in place in my own immediate family.
What people miss is that often even being in the thick of it is completely different from one family to another. Ironically, not having my own kids here and devoting myself instead (over the years) to my partner’s kids (and grandkid), my brother’s kids, my friends’ kids, my kids at work (childcare), and my in-laws’ kids has shown me that in a way that I think is more available to me, because taking in/living with/dealing with SO many children from different families has required flexibility.
On a related note, I would love people to think about individual situations and possibilities before dismissing people like me. Fair enough dismissing judgemental criticism (beyond common sense — you shouldn’t have to be societally considered a parent to offer up a statement like, “it’s bad parenting to literally starve your child for a week unless he cleans his room”!), though — but don’t dismiss them as “they don’t have kids, so what do they know?”, I beg you — dismiss them as “they don’t have MY kids. They don’t have MY situation”. You never know whose heart is breaking *because* they don’t have kids, who might be reading that — cause it’s just another knife in that wound.
(I may have got sidetracked — apologies if this wandered too far from what you were looking for in comments! Please feel free to delete if it’s too left field and OT. <3)
I haven’t really seen any of this kind of vitriol directed at childfree women, mainly because I DO stay away from the comments section of parenting sites! I can’t handle the nastiness of keyboard warriors, regardless of who it’s aimed at. Personally, I think people who don’t have children can often have some great objective advice to offer, they certainly shouldn’t be discounted simply because they don’t have their own ‘test subjects’ to practice on ;).
Absolutely! It is quite shocking how serious this is in our society and how blinded we can be about it. I think sometimes the “childless” are far from being childless. They may be Aunts, Uncles, teachers, counselors, doctors, dentists, daycare workers….the list is endless in terms of people who have a significant impact and opinion about children, but may not have any themselves
For me, it depends on the style of advice/suggestion being given by the non-parent. “Have you tried X? I’ve heard it helps…” is a far cry from “When I’m a parent, I’ll NEVER…”
I guess it could be looked on similarly to that of a profession. Parenting is a full time job, just like any other. I would never profess to give my opinion on how someone runs their business, how a plumber fixes pipes, how a dentist cleans teeth, they are not my area of expertise. Also those that are childless really don’t understand the day in day out juggling and angst that parents have to go through. Yes they may have some experience and opinions, but it’s not the same thing as having to do it 24 hours a day.
I don’t like the divides that I see in society now (maybe I see it more thanks to Social media) in many areas. There are divisions about career, where you live, what you drive and so on. Now, and for quite some time (before SM as well) parents have considered they have the upper hand in the parenting of kids’ stakes. They probably do but it doesn’t necessarily make them experts..except for their own child/ren. Some teachers will say they became ‘better teachers’ once they became parents and by better, I am talking less judgemental. Good post, Tegan!! Thanks too for your reply to my comment on your blog yesterday. So good to read what you are up to with ACT and the post you linked me too was great. xx
I think expressing an opinion is the right of any person. I don’t think judgement is helpful, however. And when that judgement comes from someone who hasn’t experienced whatever is being discussed, I can see how that’s hard to swallow.
It’s interesting, I think maybe what you’re really getting at is people need to stop being so rude to people without children. I understand the rage, though – I’ve been on the receiving end of people who think they know how I should parent my children when they clearly have no understanding of the nature of children at all, or the difficulties of surviving as a parent in this world – these often also happen to be people who don’t have children. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for someone to get irritated for being told how to suck eggs.
Having said that, I think everyone needs to stop picking on other people for their parenting styles – whether they have children or not. And as a general rule, people shouldn’t dish out judgement on how other people experience something when they haven’t experienced it themselves. This goes for parenting as well as other experiences.
I remember when a friend brought her 3 kids (we used to call them the “hellions”!) over to our brand new house and basically let them run riot. They did things like carry red cordial straight on to the brand new carpet in the lounge (my own kids, when I had them, were NEVER allowed food & drink in the formal lounge); and one little boy thought a big vase looked like a great place to pee – caught him just in time … etc. Because it was before I had kids myself, I kept my mouth shut. In hindsight, I should have said something – and I should have been respected, even if I didn’t yet have kids, because it was my house. At the time I thought I would never let my kids do stuff like that … and turns out, I was right!
Visiting from #teamIBOT x
I agree with all your points and even half way through I was thinking what about the opinion of fathers. Most times we get put on this pedestal when we have an opinion yet it is no more sound or valid than a childless mother.
Great work as usual, love reading your threads.
I agree with a few of the commenters, particularly Amy. The key is in how information is shared. In truth, we all share about things we have no personal experience of all the time, but our opinions can still be valid. Imagine if we were only allowed to talk about things we had experienced — that would be so boring!