We've all heard the idea that it takes a village to raise a child. Sometimes however, as a Dual Income, No Kids couple, also known as a D.I.N.K., my husband and I aren't included in the village. It's often assumed that we can't have an opinion about how to raise children, as the message is, “you can’t understand, you don’t have kids.”
I get it! You don’t want to be told what to do, by a person who hasn’t been in the trenches, and I don’t blame you! I don’t give child-rearing advice unless asked. I don’t heap onto parents my unsolicited commentary or judgement. I’m okay if they never ask for my opinion and don’t want it, need it, or value it. I've so much respect for what good parents are doing each and every day, and would never diminish the enormity of the challenge.
The thought is simply this: maybe the village could be enriched by those of us without children, who can take a helicopter view, who have a different perspective, and who aren’t in the same trench, day in, day out.
There are certain people, your 21 year-old brother who's still partying, and can barely take care of himself, who may not have the best understanding of raising a child! When intelligent, self-aware, and caring, albeit childless members of your village, offer insight, it could be helpful to drop defensiveness and resistance, and stay open?
Opinions aren’t just formed by doing. They're formed through self-awareness and observation, and the practice of living. We make inferences every day without always having a direct, visceral experience. Childless people come to an opinion the same way you're making decisions about your kids: common sense, looking at cause-and-effect, sourcing out other parents or their own, and looking at what they want the long-term outcome to be.
What I feel parents are really getting at is this: you don't know how hard this is. You cannot possibly understand the intensity of how much I worry, or think I'm doing it wrong or how I often feel like I'm letting them down. You don't have a clue about how much I miss sleep, or being able to pee by myself, and you cannot possibly understand the magnitude of love I feel, and how I would do anything for them.
You're right. I'll never have the experience of that love, the sometimes impossible decisions, crazy-making, hard work that being a parent can be, however I'm human, was a child and I have parents. I understand cause-and-effect, and I've dedicated my life to studying human behavior, human needs, and relationships at all levels. I coach and counsel kids, comprehend the drivers of behavior, and have become a very good predictor of outcomes based on choices made, here and now. This is my trench. Sometimes my trench offers an advantage.
Maybe there are others around you, who are living well, who care, and could offer a view from their trench? Stripped of the emotional weight, the intensity of the job, and the self and societal judgment that often riddles parents, the options and solutions the childless offer can be more easily weighed with a simple question: “What's the best way to ensure growth and self-awareness and a well-functioning kid? Is my advice often easier said than done?
Hell yes! But, that's exactly what parents are wanting me to get. It's hard! But being hard, tiring and overwhelming isn’t the point.
When someone needs to lose weight or they'll die sooner than necessary, the doctor knows that the recommendations aren't easy, but it doesn't make the opinion any less valid. When I coach a client who needs to leave an abusive relationship, and I offer support and ideas, I know it isn’t easy.
Not having a personal experience with being obese and never having been in an abusive relationship, doesn't mean the suggestions are less true or less valuable. It just means I've the luxury of overlooking the concept of “hard” in favor of the choices and behaviors that'll support the best outcome.
So here's my suggestions to those of you who don't have kids: Be kind and considerate. Listen to and validate parents and the journey they're on. Drop, you know what you should do, and the judgments, and be supportive and encouraging. Only offer suggestions from a place of genuine care, and only when asked for.
For those of you who do have kids: Pay attention to the people in your life who are living well, are happy and well-adjusted, are curious about life and who care about you and your family. They're obviously mastering some cause-and-effect. What could they offer, if you stopped seeing it as judgment and sourced it out?
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