Since having a kid, I find that I need advice. A lot. Rarely a week goes by without a, "What are these pink spots?" or "Why isn't he eating dinner?" or "Is it really normal that he sneaks into the kitchen to eat banana bread at 5am?" Though I have plenty of friends with kids, I've noticed that I've been turning to my child-free friends for advice first. Counterintuitive? Crazy? Well, here's why:
- You don't have to be a parent to have experience with kids. So many of my friends, despite not having small ones of their own, have been teachers, tutors, nannies, babysitters, or even aunts, uncles, or older siblings. Who wants to overlook all that experience wiping up runny noses and cutting chewing gum out of pigtails?
- You don't have to be a parent to have been a kid. Probably the biggest hurdle in raising my son is that he communicates like a three year old. Because he's three years old. It would be great if someone who was once a kid and isn't biased by being a parent could remind me what he might be thinking and needing.
- Being outside of the relationship offers objectivity. Remember when you had that really needy, dependent boyfriend in high school? You lost some objectivity. Non-parents haven't been impacted by the mind control (and, you know, love) that takes over when you're in a parent/child relationship.
- Parents are sometimes blinded by their own experiences. Kids are so unique, one to the next. Though I have three years' experience dealing with a child of my own, that's it. I only have experience dealing with him. If you ask me how to get your kid to go to bed on time, my best advice is going to be what worked for my own son -- not necessarily what's going to work for yours.
- Parents are (occasionally) limited by parenting style/philosophy/books. With aisles of books packed with strict parenting philosophies and specific methodologies, some parents get caught up in the "right" way to raise a child. This can make it a little bit harder for them to give out unbiased advice.
- Parents are (sometimes) in an unspoken competition. I know it sounds crazy, but some very well-intentioned and loving parents get so wrapped up in "my kid is better than yours" that it makes honest advice impossible. Oh, little Aiden has slept through the night since birth? And Chloe has never had a tantrum in her sweet little life? It's well-meant. It's rooted in that fierce parental love and devotion for your child. But, man, it isn't going to help me at all. But, the biggest reason I feel I can turn to my child-free friends for parenting advice is:
- My friends are smart and kind people, regardless of whether they've had children. So much of parenting is logic and love-- both things that my child-free friends have in spades. I'd be missing a world of great advice and perspective if I thought that their intelligence and kindness isn't as valuable simply because they aren't parents.
What's the best parenting advice you ever received? Who gave it to you?
About Liz Moorhead
Liz Moorhead is a high school teacher turned work-from-home mom. An illustrator and writer, she blogs for a top wedding site and shares her own personal experiences at http://www.happysighs.com in between walks to the park with her toddler son – all just outside of Philadelphia.