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Charles's avatar

Do childless couples feel "talked down" to by parents?

Asked by Charles (4815points) May 24th, 2012

Do childless couples out there ever feel like you’re being talked “down to” by parents? Is it as if they know some secret to life, and you can’t possibly understand? Or, that your life/time commitments are somehow less important because you aren’t responsible for a child?

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9 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

The simple answer is “yes”. The more complicated answer is it often goes both ways: it’s like the opposite of ‘greener pastures.’

Broad generalization here:

Many childless couples look down on those with kids for a) adding to the population, and b) restricting their lives by having kids. On the other hand, parents look own on childless couples as if they were missing the sole purpose of living.

JLeslie's avatar

I am childless and I don’t feel talked down to, but I do sometimes feel that people with children say stupid insensitive things to me. I know they don’t mean to, don’t have ill intent.

OpryLeigh's avatar

Sometimes I have felt that friends of mine who have recently become parents act like, all of a sudden, they are some kind of superior, enlightened being because they have a child and I don’t. By the second child that attitude tends to fade though so I ride it out if I consider them good friends. I have found that, in my circle of friends there are two types of parents. The ones that feel the need to preach to others about how things should be done (because all of a sudden they know everything ), these ones tend to be the types to claim that people without children can’t understand real emotions (love, pain, fear etc) and then there are the more laid back ones that are happy to admit that they do things wrong and don’t take themselves too seriously. They will admit that they feel frazzled from time to time but do not dismiss the tiredness/stress of those who don’t have children as being “nothing compared to how stressed you feel when you have kids”. Thankfully most of my friends are the latter.

marinelife's avatar

Not talked down to, but outside the fence.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

Before I had a child I don’t ever remember being talked down to, although I do recall being told I won’t know real love until I have children. That wasn’t an entirely untrue statement. It’s definitely a different type of love. A more unconditional type that I would never feel towards a significant other, husband, etc. Now that I’m the one with the child and I have many friends who are childless, I never try to talk down to them. The only time I get a little irritated is when someone with no kids tries to give me parenting advice or critique how I’m raising him. When people get overbearing I usually respond with “When you have a baby you might understand better why I choose to do it this way and not that way”.

Blackberry's avatar

No, or they shouldn’t, as their reasoning is usually total BS. There’s no logical way to persuade someone that havings kids is better than not having kids (and vice versa).

wundayatta's avatar

Can you ever truly understand something you don’t have experience of? I’ve found that people who have never experienced mental illness can’t truly understand what it’s like to have it. There’s something about the depth and despair of depression that maybe you can’t possibly imagine until you have it.

People with cancer don’t feel understood except by others with cancer. Alcoholics form support groups with other alcoholics. Maybe it’s the way of things. Maybe you have to experience some things in order to understand what that life is like.

So perhaps parents feel that those who do not have children have no idea what they go through. No matter how much they might try to explain.

So if a childless person offers a parent advice, the response is, “What do you think you are saying? You don’t really understand. You’ve never been in this situation.” Then the parent might lecture the childless couple about their situation.

Of course, this isn’t the only place where this happens. As I mentioned, there are large areas of experience where either you have it or you don’t, and it seems like the ones who don’t can’t possible understand. But is that true? Do the childless have nothing of value to say about parenting? Do the mentally healthy have nothing of value to add to conversations about coping with bipolar? Can a teetotaler tell a drunk anything useful?

I’m not sure I know the answer to these questions. I want to say that of course we have things to say to each other that can be helpful. But there are certain things I hear mentally health people say over and over again that indicate to me they don’t know what it’s like, and therefore it makes their advice kind of pointless.

I don’t know if this is true in other areas, like parenting. Non-parents can make excellent teachers and care-givers. But it does seem to me that there are things you can only learn with experience with kids. I can’t even explain what these things are. It’s almost like it’s an aura of parenting. So much happens with children. It’s impossible to articulate it all, but it is very apparent (sorry about the pun) when someone hasn’t had experience, because they couldn’t possibly say that if they’d ever lived with a child. Or so it seems.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Yes, constantly. My favorites are “you’ll change your mind when you’re older” (that’s more childfree than childless), “you don’t know love until you have a kid”, and “non-parents have nothing valuable to say on parenting, and should just shut up”.

dabbler's avatar

Make that all relations and plenty of other child-spawners too, who may annoy you with that, “Aw….” look, if not downright pouty sadness because you don’t have children.
“You just can’t understand <some thing they experienced with their kid(s)> since you don’t have children.”

That’s condescending and narcissistic by golly ! It’s just possible I’d understand it well enough to relate to your story, sympathize etc.

I wouldn’t treat them like invertebrate mud-dwellers if they haven’t built at least one their computers, or they haven’t been to <exotic place>, or the classic : aren’t married.
If they’re left behind in a story I’m telling, I’m telling a self-centered story. Just talkin’ out loud instead of communicating.

We used to get that sort of thing in the first several years of our marriage and still a bit.

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