You know who you are

by Janelle Hanchett


Dear Certain Childless People,

I like you, and I appreciate all you add to the world, and I even, sometimes, envy your condition (only sometimes don’t freak out), but



Not because you’re dumb, but rather, because you’ve never done it. It’s very simple.

What? What’s that you say? You had seven younger siblings? That must have been fun.

But it’s got nothing to do with parenting.

Oh, you’ve been a nanny for 10 years? Impressive. I’m sure you know how to babysit really well. But did you have vacations and get paid for taking care of those kids? Yes, yes you did. And were you the ONLY PERSON caring for them? No, no you were not.

And therefore, you don’t know what it’s like to be a parent. I realize I’m being repetitive here, but there seems to be just so much confusion with some of you.

Hmmmm? You work with kids every day? My condolences.

But you leave at the end of the day, right? And you can call in sick.

So yeah. You guessed it. Not a clue.

My goodness, you have a degree in child development? Excellent! I love degrees.

But having a degree in child development without having watched your own children develop is  like having a degree in aviation without flying a plane: you may know a lot in theory, but you don’t know shit in practice.

And don’t you agree that until you’ve flown the damn plane you really have no idea what you’re talking about?

Not that you don’t know how children develop. I’m sure you do. What you DON’T KNOW, however, is what it’s like to parent those children who inspired your textbooks. You don’t know what it’s like, every day, on the ground. In reality. In life. In the home in the car in fucking everywhere.

And to continue my little metaphor…if our friendly aviation student started running her mouth to actual pilots (you know, people who have flown a plane) – telling them how it is, instructing them, criticizing and critiquing them (based on all the facts she’s read in all those great books) – the pilots would just stare at her aghast, then possibly fall over laughing at her delusional ass.

How are you gonna tell me how to fly a plane when all you’ve done is READ about flying a plane?

Are you catching my metaphor here?

I hope so, because those of us with actual children are getting mighty tired of those certain members of the childless population

advising, criticizing, proselytizing, professing, ranting, raging, judging, lecturing

on a topic they know nothing about.

Giving helpful information about something you know about children is, well, helpful, but criticizing the way we parent as if you have actually done better is just wrong.

I know you think you know how to parent, and you see how we’re doing it all wrong, and how if you had kids they’d never be annoying or pee on the floor or fight with each other or spill shit in restaurants. And that’s cool. I’m sure that’s totally true.  But maybe you could save all that preaching for when you’re surrounded with a bunch of your childless friends. You can all sit and compare theories about parenting (because sweetie that’s all you’ve got at this point) and feel super impressed with yourselves for having formed a staunch opinion on an experience you’ve never had. And of course, congratulate yourselves for the theoretical [perfect] children you will someday theoretically have.

And you know, how you’re just generally so much better than the rest of us.

Do you realize how insane that is?

Well, we do.

Because until you have had a child in your home 24-hours a day, seven days a week for years on end, and you are THE ONLY person there (well, and maybe your partner) to discipline, nurture and care for that child – the only one responsible for ALL their food, clothing, health care, education, love, nourishment and general well-being – until you’ve got somebody calling you “mom” or “dad” or, in other words YOU ARE ALL THEY HAVE…

Until you’ve done that, you don’t know shit about parenting. You do not know what it’s like.

And so, we cordially ask you, from the bottom of our hearts, to please, for the love of God, just shutthefuckup.

If you’d like to join the ranks of “people who know something about parenthood,” perhaps you could try, oh I don’t know, becoming a parent.

I know. Crazy talk.

But just think how much more effective your judgments would be if they were rooted in actual experience!

Because now? Well, now you just look ridiculous.


The rest of us.


P.S. Still not convinced? Alright. I’ll make you a promise: you stop telling me how to parent and I’ll stop telling you how to be an adult without kids. OH WAIT. I’ve never done that. Because that would be fucking craaaaaaaazy.

pretty much

  • Stephanie

    I worked in an Early Intervention program before having kids. I didn’t rant or rave or anything, but I did essentially ‘tell them how to do their job’. They generally didn’t get upset, though. I also learned a lot of strategies to employ once I had kids. So it wasn’t all bad.

    • renegademama

      Definitely not. And I think there is definitely a way to provide information or ideas about children without criticizing or belittling – and the fact that people didn’t get annoyed with you tells me you were doing it in a helpful way. I just get super tired of these people whining about all the terrible parents in the world – like we’re all just a bunch of incapable, ignorant pukes — and if THEY had kids, my my…the world would just be such a better place.

  • melissa

    My new brother in law (he married my sister in law) makes comments about my daughter, usually about how we cater to my daughter. no shit fucker do you want to fight with a 4 year old constantly? Because 4 year olds DONT FIGHT FAIR. He also makes comments about how easy its going to be having a kid. my sister in law agrees (never mind her saying constantly how my 4 year old wears her out after a day). They are in the biggest rush to.have kids and when they do and start to complain about how had it is or how tired they are i am going to laugh and laugh.

  • Jo Eberhardt

    Before I had kids, I admit to being fairly judgemental. Not that I ever ranted and raved at people, or accused people of being bad parents, but I’d certainly sit back and think, “When I have kids, they are SO not going to be doing that!”

    Now… well yes, I’m probably still judgemental about some things. I can’t lie. I still sit back and think, “You know what, you COULD have left the DS at home when you decided to take your 5 year old out to a fancy restaurant. You just chose not to. You chose to let him bring the DS instead of fighting with him about it. And, you know what? That’s fine. But don’t sit there and tell people that you “couldn’t leave it at home” or your son “wouldn’t leave the house without it” because it’s your freaking house and your freaking DS and your freaking rules and you made the decision to let him bring it.”

    See? Still judgemental.

    On the other hand, I have no patience for people telling me how to be a parent if they’ve never done it. I also have no patience for parents with one child who think that having multiple children is no extra work, and decide to tell me how I should be running my household. Having one child was easy in comparison. Having two children is like being the ringmaster of a particularly chaotic circus of destruction. Having more than two…. well, I have no experience of that, so don’t choose to comment. But I’m pretty sure I would need an extra dozen bottles of wine every week if I was going to cope with it.

    So, in short (ha!): Hear hear, Sister!

  • Julia

    I remember saying – when I have kids I’m going to still look nice when I go out – those moms really let themselves go with the messy hair and clothes and stuff – then I learned that you can do all the primping you want but after you get three kids (0, 2, and 4) and all their crap into the car and they sneeze on you, slobber on you and rub their boogers in your hair — you end up looking like a raggedy old security blanket. Which you kinda are. I also used to ask my Marine Corps buddies what they heck their stay at home wives did all day and now I work harder every day as a SAHM than my hardest day in the Corps. So I guess I got what I deserved! And at the same time more than I could have ever hoped for and could never deserve.

  • Deanna

    I actually overheard four childless friends at a party talking about toddler diets and how “Well, if you just don’t feed them junk, they’ll eat whatever you give them.”

    The outburst of laughter from me and my husband scared the cat away. Apparently they didn’t know that if a toddler doesn’t want what you put in front of them, they will HAPPILY STARVE TO SPITE YOU.

  • Dawn

    And it’s even better when said childless experts are in your family…oh yeah, fantastic. Being a retired high school teacher doesn’t mean you know crap about parenting, especially the younger kids.

  • Sheena

    Could we also include people with grown children who have forgotten what it is like to try to get out of the house etc with a 2 year old? “What do you mean it will take you at least an hour to turn around after work? Your really making a project out of yourself?”

  • kim

    Coming for a former judgmental know-it-all bitch (studying Child Development), this is spot on. But I’d expect nothing else from you, lovah.

    I’d also like to add that in general, parents or not, people should stay out of a family’s business. Do you live in my house? No? Then shutthefuckup, you don’t have a say in these matters. And I’ll do the same for you.

    Not YOU, of course. Other people. Kisses.

  • Christina

    I agree with Kim… To all people not currently living in my house shuttthefuckup…. Thank You! AAhhhh! =}

  • annie

    When I was pregnant with my last child, I had a childless customer compare her horse ownership to having a baby. Yes, HORSE. Having a giant animal that lives in a barn and eats hay and doesn’t give 2 shits about whether or not you are around is EXACTLY like taking care of an infant. All I could do was smile and nod enthusiastically at the dumb bitch.
    In other words, I hear ya.

    • Jo Eberhardt

      This is like those people who say things like, “Oh, I know exactly what you mean! My dogs are exactly the same!”

      To which I feel like saying, “Yes, having kids is just like having dogs. You train them, cuddle them, love them, and when you want to get out of town for a while you lock them in the backyard with extra food and water and ask a neighbour to check up on them from time to time.”

    • Anna

      I had someone quite seriously compare owning a PARROT to having a child.

  • Alison

    Ooof! I just discovered your blog and have been loving it (the “baby sprinkles” post had me literally laughing out loud, thank you for that!) — but this post caught me in the gut.

    Because I hear this kind of shit being directed at me All. The. Time. Why? Because I’m a step-mom. And we don’t count as “real” parents.

    My husband has four amazing, awesome kids and an ex-wife who thinks she’s Super Mom (such a super mom that everyone else must therefore be treated as a child, including the man she was married to… until she started banging her old college boyfriend in their marriage bed, and got herpes, but I digress….).

    Pretty much from day one, I was just simply not good enough (according to the ex) because I hadn’t actually physically popped a kid out of my vagina. (When she rushed through the divorce so that she could marry the old college boyfriend, it didn’t matter that he’d never contributed even a single sperm to the whole endeavor, he was immediately promoted from boyfriend to “daddy”…. when I met my husband, we had a fun time explaining to the kids that I wasn’t going to force them to call me mom and, no, he and I weren’t going to get married right away after only dating for a few weeks.) I’m not saying that popping a kid out doesn’t hurt like hell, and I’m glad I’ll never do it. (We can’t afford it, and four is enough for me anyway.) But I will say this: I’m calling bullshit.

    In my experience (if “step-parenting” is allowed to count as an experience), what really makes parenting hard is imagining that you’re all that the kids have. You’re not. Especially not in our blended-extended family, where they have four parents (two biological, two step) and more grandparents than you could shake a stick at. Even if you have your average 2 parent, 2.4 kid household, your kids probably have relatives, teachers, babysitters, friends’ parents and so many other people in their lives. Or they should, anyway. Raising a homo sapien offspring is hard. Biologically, evolutionarily, it was never designed to be a one-person job. Trying to be the only person in your kid’s life, trying to be in charge of all all those other adults so that they always fall in line with how you want everything to go…. is the quickest way to the loony bin.

    The first time the kids stayed with us for an extended period of time, their mom was freaking out, worried that I wouldn’t know how to care for them, secretly expecting me to fail and run screaming in the opposite direction, convinced that if I wasn’t stressed out of my mind it was because I was doing something wrong (because all good mothers are super-stressed all the time, right?). But it was actually much easier than I expected, and it got easier the longer they were with us. Sure, they drew on the walls with crayons sometimes, and they got diarrhea sometimes, and they generally didn’t understand the concept of “personal space when step-mom’s in the bathroom”…. But it wasn’t as hard as all these Super Moms try to make it out to be. I was working part-time and swinging the mom thing, along with my supportive full-time working husband.

    So. Just saying. 🙂 I love your blog. I love that you’re snarky and obnoxious. But I wanted to throw some back at you. I can’t stand know-it-all youngsters who’ve only ever read books, either. But I also think a lot of this Super Mom talk is bullshit.

    (P.S. I have a cat. I call him my “fur-baby.” So does my husband, who’s a Real Parent of four actual human kids. I don’t see why the terms of affection we use for our pet should be a problem for anyone else. On the other hand, my cat will never grow up to be president. So it’s like having a cute, cuddly, furry bit of company (who bites and will poop in a box for the rest of his life), but without the pressure of screwing him up and having him grow up to be a politician. I figure that’s win-win.)

    (Sorry to slam your blog with a post-long comment! Did I mention I love your stuff? ::buttering you up so you won’t be mad:: 🙂

    • renegademama

      I should have included Stepmothers! Stepmothers count!!! My bad.

      It’s the types who have never had kids – been responsible for them – and bemoan the state of ALL children and ALL parents…those are the ones that fueled this post. Also, I wrote a post called “My kids have seven parents”, where I talk about this exact thing. I’ve never believed – nor have i ever acted as if – I’m all my kids have. Not really on principle, but rather because I CAN’T DO THIS ALONE. Never have been able to do so. Would never want to.

      I find this mothering gig extremely difficult. I’m not particularly good at it. I need all the help I can get and frankly, don’t have the energy to micromanage every adult in their lives. I mean holy shit, that’d be a lot of work. This post wasn’t about doing it on my own and not wanting help – nor was it a declaration of my independence as a “super mom,” rather, it was a statement that people who have never actually been a parent (or stepparent! 🙂 should probably withhold judgment until they’ve taken a few steps down the crazy parenthood path.

      And thank you for reading, and for your compliments. Very appreciated.


  • Mel

    Not sure if you read comments on old posts. I went searching through the archives to find this, after a stand-up fight with a friend of mine yesterday. She’s been great to me and my daughter but, man, girlfriend likes to give ‘advice’.

    Yesterday, my 7 & 1/2 month old daughter was “learning to manipulate” me because I cuddled her when she got upset (very normal ‘separation anxiety’ stage; 10 minutes later she was happily crawling all over the place). According to my (childless) friend, I was “making a rod” for my own back. What kind of a friend would she be if she just stood by and said nothing when she could tell me what needed to be done (leave the distraught baby, with big, fat tears rolling down her cheeks, either with her or on the floor) in order to improve my life. She was trying to help me and I was being ungrateful!

    What I wished I could have said (social graces notwithstanding):
    1. There are things I think you’re doing wrong in your marriage. Shall I, an unmarried person, tell you what they are? You know, to help you.
    2. Remember when you told me how frustrating it was when well-intentioned people gave you advice about how to treat your infertility? As if you didn’t really know anything, hadn’t explored lots of options, couldn’t make decisions about what worked for you and your individual situation. Um, yeah. I agree. That IS frustrating.
    3. If I want parenting advice, I’ll ask for it … from a fellow parent. And probably from someone who doesn’t think that I need to leave my baby to cry so that she ‘gets used to it’ and doesn’t try that whole ‘manipulation’ palaver again.
    4. Shutthefuckup.
    Actually, probably number 4 would suffice.
    Yours in imperfect parenting xx

  • Jessie

    I think Stephanie and Alison made some of the points I’d like to make very calmly and effectively. Unfortunately, I feel like I was just punched in the nose, so I’m not sure that I can do the same. First of all, strangers should not be giving you parenting advice, obviously, unless you’re actually abusing your child in front of them. But your tone in this post is incredibly divisive. Perhaps you’re genuinely only talking about a certain group of non-parents (“Certain Childless People”), but I have a hard time believing that, because you’re too skilled of a writer to have used so broad of a brush stroke if that was your goal.

    And, “If you’d like to join the ranks of “people who know something about parenthood,” perhaps you could try, oh I don’t know, becoming a parent”? Really? You do know, right, that this isn’t an option for some people, however much they want it? It’s that line, more than anything, that makes me feel like you’re buying into some sort of selfish childless person/long-suffering parent dichotomy that is total bullshit.

    Excuse me if I sound angry. As someone who loves children, has worked with children, and is childless, NOT by choice, your rant just really hurt. From what I’ve read of your blog, you’re struggling to give yourself a break for your imperfections, and I applaud that. But in this post, you’re not extending that courtesy to other people.