3 Arguments I Don’t Buy About Why The Childfree Can Give Parenting Advice

toddler tantrumI like to get my parenting advice from parents. There. I said it.

It’s an opinion. It’s a personal preference and it’s one I rarely voice because, I find, it is hugely offensive to a lot of people. Here are some of the arguments I have heard regarding why my own, personal opinion is bullshit. They appeared in response to an article I wrote about a man who wrote a book giving relationship advice to parents. He has no kids. I pointed that out. These are some of the reactions that ensued.

1. The “We’ve All Been Kids” Argument

Wow, you really went into the sanctimommy territory, didn’t you? Clearly, the childfree/less are already born as adults and are raised under a rock by a pack of house centipedes instead of human parental units, so they’re, like, completely unqualified to give any kind of advice on pregnancy, child development or parenting, even with specialized education. Right?

Yes, we have all been kids. So what? That argument makes no sense to me. Is being a child and being a parent even remotely the same thing? No. It’s not.

Having all been children, we can all somewhat relate to what it is to be a child. That’s wonderful. But relating to what it is to be a child and relating to what it is to be a parent are two totally different experiences. In matters of rearing children I naturally look to other mothers and fathers who have been in the trenches for advice. The people I am drawn to usually have a sense of humor and make me feel good about the struggles I am experiencing. It’s nice to read an anecdote and think, This person has been through the same thing – and they are still sane. There’s hope for me, yet.

2. The “You’ll Go To A Male Gynecologist” Argument

I’m always surprised when people get in an up roar over non parents having advice for parents. We don’t dismiss when a man is a gynocgist[sic]. Just because they don’t have the same parts ( in this case the parts would be kids) doesn’t mean they can’t have vaild[sic] and sage advice.

This one always confuses me, as I really don’t think male vs. female gynecologist arguments are analogous to parenting – but I’ll bite. I actually prefer to have a female gynecologist, so minus extra points for me here.

3. The “You Must Think The Childfree Are Stupid” Argument

Yep. That is a title I expect from The Stir, not from here where they do have childfree contributors and readers. There they really do think the childfree and incredibly stupid humans.

No. No. No.

I don’t think the childfree are incredibly stupid.

I was childfree once, and I had advice for parents. It was good advice. I’m not saying my childfree friends don’t give me “good” advice. But it’s a little harder for some of them to understand why “good” advice doesn’t always work. Basically, the only advice I want from anyone is the kind that ends with, “but everyone is different so this may or may not work.”

Parenting is a very humbling experience. You learn that all those great ideas you had, all the parental accomplishments you thought would be a breeze, probably aren’t going to work. I like to hear from people that understand that firsthand. It doesn’t mean I won’t take advice from people who don’t have kids. It does mean that I have a little voice in the back of my head saying, Look, it’s really not that simple. Maybe that makes me an asshole. Fair enough.

The real problem is that so many people do such a horrifically bad job at parenting that they undermine the rest of our credibility. Pretty much anyone can get pregnant or father a child, and because of that parents are never regarded as default “experts.” Anyone can look at all the morons in the news and think – Ha! Are you going to take advice from him? And the answer to that is, No, of course not.

There’s no shortage of anecdotes of the parents who let their “special snowflakes” run their lives. You can also rest assured that there will be a daily news story about someone doing this whole parenting thing wrong. It’s given the rest of us a bad rap. I do believe there are a lot of funny, healthy, functional parents out there and I prefer to get my parenting advice from them. I like the camaraderie. I like knowing that they too probably went to bed with spit up in their hair and have occasionally woken up in a panic because the gravity of being responsible for keeping other humans alive hit them like a ton of bricks.

Nevertheless, I’ve been wrong about pretty much everything else in regards to parenting, so I guess I could be wrong about this, too. So if you’re childless and want to give me an idea of how to stop my nearly 3-year-old from fully embracing his newly discovered inner-tyrannical-demon – I’m all ears.

(photo: nautile)

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