To those of you who want kids but fear or know you'll never have anyI'm sorry. I know it's not your fault or mine — sometimes circumstances just stink — but you have my grief along with yours. I know how blessed I am, and I know I don't deserve it. At the same time I'm envying you for your ability to stay out late and hang out with your cool single friends, I realize that you might be, unbeknownst to me, envying me for the diaper bag slung over my shoulder and the glassy look in my eyes that signals my sleep deprivation. I apologize if you become offended hearing me complain about my kids or my partner; sometimes I do that out of an attempt at camaraderie, and sometimes I just need to blow off steam or make a joke. I really do love my family, and I know how special they are. Know that I don't think you're incomplete just because you don't currently have kids or perhaps a partner. You never know how kids or partnership might eventually come into your life, but I understand that letting some of your dreams go must be very hard and that I'll never fully comprehend your sorrow. Regardless, I hope you know how very much I value the contributions you make to my family and my life. I don't take your role as alloparents lightly, and I appreciate all the different voices my children get to hear.
To those of you who don't have kids and never want toThat's cool. I totally accept that it's everyone's choice whether to have kids, how many to have, how to space them, and so on (to some extent; consider that sometimes we don't get a choice one way or another, so I've been trying not to judge any family or individual from the outside). I'm not jealous of you, and you're not jealous of me, and so we can live peaceably. We each have chosen different priorities, and that's fine. You're not selfish just because you wanted to prioritize a career, or relationships, or travel, or getting through an entire novel in a year without hiding in the bathroom, and I'm not selfish just because I take my kids into public places or because eighty percent of what comes out of my mouth is something about my little ones (sorry! They're just … all-consuming in these early years). I used to be like you, going out to plays without worrying about whether my milk would let down and frequenting art museums more than Chuck E. Cheese. And time will continue to turn in the way it does, and eventually I will be more like you again. These early years with kids are fleeting, so excuse me in my obsession for now, and I'll be back with you soon enough, both of us wiser and more interesting for the years and experiences we've had in the meantime.
To those of you who plan one day to have kids but aren't ready yetIf I ask you if you're going to have kids, trust me — there's no pressure behind the question. If it irritates you, just tell me to stand down. I'm just curious, is all. It's a subject of much interest to me, along the same lines of asking fellow parents if they're planning to have another. It's not because I'm arranging marriages and playdates in my head; it's just to get another perspective as we make our own plans and choices in childbearing. I hope you enjoy coming alongside our family in whatever capacity you're comfortable with. Kids are pretty easy to befriend, and I won't at all be offended if you want some time caring for a practice baby.
To those of you who want children soonOk, I'm opinionated. To the extent that I usually say nothing about parenting styles or tips. I know — that doesn't seem to make sense. But I just get so overwrought when certain subjects come up (circumcision, breastfeeding, birth choices, discipline) that it's hard for me to stay calm, deliver information, and keep on my hat of objectivity. That works out pretty well for you, though: If you want to know something in particular, ask. If you don't, I'm not likely to butt in, so you're set. Once things get under way, I see you as the parent, anyway, and you get to make your own decisions. I respect that, and I learn something from all the parents I come across. If you ask me for advice and I stammer and trail off as we're talking, reassure me if you actually want to know. And then maybe I'll just give you a business card pointing to my blog, since, honestly — I do a lot better with writing.
To those of you raising children without a partnerMy heart goes out to you. There aren't too many circumstances where someone arrives in your shoes without some heartache behind you, so I'm sorry about that. You're really impressing me with your endurance and grace. Again, I know I don't deserve my life with a partner, just as you don't deserve your life without, so let me know if there's any way I can help, or be more sensitive. Your children are blessed to have you.
To all of you — childless, child-free, couples, singletons, happy, un-, satisfied, hopeful — I respect where you are, who you are, and who you will be. Who you are right now is good enough, in the best sense of that phrase. Having a partner, having children — they're part of some lives, but they're not the sum of anyone's life. All our identities exist in fluidity, flowing more toward one or another pole through time. Who we are apart from those aspects and who we are as a greater communal whole are both just as worth celebrating and exploring. You already know that, but I want you to know that I know it, too. I see you as capable, contributing, fascinating people, just as I hope you see me. We all have a place here, and I appreciate your presence in this world and in my life.
Want the song stuck in your head, too?
What (nice) things would you say to people in your life who are in a different place from you? What do you wish people would say to you?