Okay. If you want to know how to upset me, here’s how:
Post somewhere visible that people who don’t have children are not allowed to comment about children or have any opinion regarding any topic surrounding parenting, etc. Say something like, “People without kids shouldn’t say anything.”
Recently, a friend made a comment like this and it really upset me. Again. So, I started thinking about WHY it is so irritating.
On one hand, I understand what I think they are saying. What I think they are trying to convey is that parenting is something that has to be experienced in order for one to fully “get it”. And perhaps their intention at making such statements is to express their irritation at people making stupid remarks regarding parenting, something that someone who has been through what they’ve been through would never say, or at least would say with caveats and allow for exceptions.
But what is upsetting is the way statements like these categorically say that any opinion/idea/comment that a non-parent has is frivolous. Futile. We (the childless) have NOTHING to contribute to the conversation. We are UNQUALIFIED. Our knowledge and experience is far inferior.
Wait a minute.
So, you are saying that even if I raised a kid since I was a child, but do not have a *biological* child and do not have one *right now*, that I don’t have any experience with parenting? What about an elder child with a lot of siblings? Foster parents? Pediatricians? Pediatric counselors?
Surely some of these people might have something valuable to say on the topic of children.
I think what is meant is that people who are *ignorant* of children and parenting ought not to state their opinions. In the same way that people probably shouldn’t make unsubstantiated statements about other things of which they are unfamiliar. For example, I shouldn’t go out there and say on every physicist’s Facebook page and blog that String Theory is complete bunk and everyone who believes in it is stupid. I don’t know the first thing about String Theory. My ignorance will either be laughable or irritating, but not particularly welcome. And this is a topic which isn’t as personal as parenting, where people tend to get defensive and think that people are judging them. I don’t judge, but I understand that a lot of others do. That’s sad. And, unless someone’s really endangering their kid, most likely unwarranted.
This situation seems similar to when people say that priests shouldn’t say anything about married life or marriage, not being married themselves. My priests note that although they do not have a wife, they have probably more experience with the trials of married life than any particular married couple, as the couple only knows *their* experience, while the priests have heard hundreds of spouses’ experiences, both in counseling and in the confessional.
The other problem that I see with this type of statement, is that it unnecessarily divides people. It is Us (parents) vs. Them (the childless). And I haven’t noticed that situations where people are pigeon-holed into rigid categories work so very well to foster dialogue, compassion and understanding between the two groups. More often than not in this world, things are not black and white. Just because you are a parent, this doesn’t mean that you know everything about parenting, even if you have several kids. And just because you are not a parent, doesn’t mean that you are completely ignorant. There’s room for a whole spectrum of knowledge and experience.
So, instead of hurting each other with all the judging and labeling, why don’t we just try to be understanding to each person’s unique situation (there are no two lives that are the same; everyone has their own experience of the world, even if they live together), and love each other more?
Devaluing all of my thoughts on a broad topic is so close to devaluing me as a person. I’m worth something, even if I don’t have all of your experiences. You’re worth something, even if you don’t have all of *my* experiences.
I am terminally ill. Most of the people who might read this are not. Should I say that none of them have any right to say anything to me because they aren’t in my shoes? Of course not. You may not be dying, but you are probably familiar with being sick or injured or frustrated.
Anyways. I’ve vented my frustration and, hopefully, said something that might make sense.