A few years back, during Game of Thrones season, I made the mistake of posting on a friends Facebook wall that I could not watch that weeks episode because I was sleep deprived. Another girl who went to high school with us immediately commented something to the extent of “why are you sleep deprived Mira? Do you have two children under five?”
After this they had a delightful back and forth about how I must have been partying every night when the truth is I had been at work for 14 days straight and was just wired. I said something and my friend eventually apologized to me (I know her intention wasn’t bad – and I do think she was truly sorry).
Fast forward to two years later, a similar incident where a former colleague got frustrated with a coworker for making a flippant remark about having to wake up at 6 to go to the gym when she had been up alone with two sick kids all night. A series of comments followed which mocked the said person saying things like “he probably needs to look good for his tinder date.”
Here too I made a comment on the amount of judgement, and got a lukewarm apology but mostly a justification that this was simply venting that made them, as parents, feel better.
For whatever reason she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, understand that judgement is not a healthy way of feeling better – because you’re basically making yourself feel better at someone else’s expense by putting them down.
I have immense respect for the parents in my life and while I can’t understand what they go through I can appreciate that it’s one of the toughest and most rewarding jobs you can have, and it tests you. If fate is kind to me, I hope to be a parent one day. But one of my biggest issues with some parents today is the amount of judgement they very liberally apply to people without children, especially unmarried.
I don’t party every night, in fact I hardly go out. My days are held together by my yoga classes, my job (and subsequent travels because of it) and my writing. Yes, I have time to pursue things I love, and I know I’m incredibly lucky. I can live life on my own terms and not worry about what anyone else wants or needs.
But ultimately this also means when the shit hits the fan, I am alone. When an army of ants invades my bedroom, or the carpenter still hasn’t come to fix the handle on my door, or the gas cylinder finishes, I am alone. When I spend ten days on the road, and come back at 11pm on a Wednesday, there is no food (because everything would have gone bad if I didn’t finish it before leaving).
It means there is only one income stream instead of two, for expensive purchases. And none of these things are big things in themselves but they add up. But more importantly it does get lonely.
Dating is a horrifying pursuit. Spending hours at restaurants or bars with people you barely know, who may be boring or irritating or as judgemental as some of the parents you know are.
Sometimes the people you meet make you want to crawl into a cave and hide for a few centuries or so. Sometimes you wish you had someone to come home to and it is just emptiness that awaits you. You cook one meal and eat it for six days because cooking for one is an art that most people don’t master.
It is free but it is lonely. And no we don’t party like we all used to when we were in university. Most of us stopped when you guys stopped because although we didn’t have children we all got to a point where we have to take life more seriously.
Maybe I go out for dinners or drinks, but truth be told by about 11pm I start to fade. I’ve not set foot in a club in at least five years but probably more. And yes, there are people my age that do still go out on the town, but that is more to do with their interests and pursuits. I know parents who also get out a lot. There are all kinds out there.
And it’s not about who has got it worse, at least it shouldn’t be. There are a hundred things I will not understand about what parents go through. But you shouldn’t need to put someone else down to make yourself fee better. Do you know how it feels when someone tells you that all the things that keep you up at night are really the single equivalent of first world problems?
We seem to be in this competition to prove that we have the most difficult lives, the most challenges, when the truth is that we are all lucky in some ways and unlucky in others. Each one of us has pros and cons to our situations, and you know what? It’s very easy to look in from the outside and brand someone in a certain way.
The silver lining is that not everybody is like this. I had a lovely exchange with my friend Mellissa and her friend Kasey yesterday – Mellissa a working mom who has to travel for work but has a super supportive family, Kasey who is single with a 20 year-old but now gets support from her retired parents, and me, a single woman without children half way across the world.
The article in question was about women drinking and I had pointed out that I thought the article referred to a very specific demographic which both agreed it did. What followed was a very healthy exchange of opinions with compassion and appreciation for what each one of us had that the others didn’t and vice versa.
I think the capacity to count your blessings is a gift, because if we have a roof over our heads and can put food on the table, if we can afford the internet to get onto social media and blogs like this, and create posts, we are blessed. We all have problems and however minor or major another person’s issues are is not for you to judge.
My best friend Dara has four children, yet still manages to make time for yoga and her other pursuits. Though we have vastly different lives, and have made completely different choices, we have nothing but respect for each other’s issues and challenges. She never throws my childlessness or my being single in my face, never so much as hints that my problems are not serious enough because I don’t have children.
She is one of the strongest women I know and I admire here immensely. We have the type of relationship that is a safe space for both of us. One of our other close friends Malorie, also, does not ever belittle me in that way.
But for each one of these people that don’t do this (there are others but I can’t name the all here) there are many who do, because they need to prove something about what they’re dealing with. It’s not like any of us look at you and decide you have it easy because you have tons of photos of your beautiful family on Facebook.
The fact is you don’t know that I’m single by choice. You don’t know about my heartbreaks – I don’t post that shit on social media – it’s not my style. You don’t know that I haven’t lost a partner to another woman or even illness or an accident.
You don’t know whether I may have wanted to have children and not been able to. You don’t know that I haven’t gone through expensive uncomfortable procedures to rectify this situation. You don’t know my financial constraints. You don’t really know me, so what makes you think you have the right to decide whether my life is easy or not?
I will never judge a parent because I’m not one. But just because you were not always a parent, doesn’t give you the right to judge me.