Advice on Parenting: Should Child-Free Women Stay Quiet?

advice ran a post titled “Parenting Advice from a Childless Woman” that’s circled round the web to me several times. It’s a measured rant about shopping malls as babysitters and the rude or nonexistent manners seen in so many kids out and about.

The writer is Ageleke Zapis, author of A Childless Woman’s Guide To Raising Children. Ms. Zapis is clearly comfortable opening herself to Mom-fire. The rest of us? Probably not so much.

NotMom girlfriends offering unsolicited parenting advice can be walking a perilous path, but it can be a case-by-case thing, too. Even with an accepting Momfriend, presentation matters. “Why don’t you do such-and-such” may not be heard as well as “What if you did such-and-such” instead.

My childhood memories include several of NotMom relatives who drove my mother buggy with “Elizabeth, you should do this,” or, “Really, Elizabeth, you’re doing this wrong because…” I didn’t want to be that person. Ever.

As a result, I probably leaned too far the other way, staying quiet when a suggestion may actually have been appreciated. The example that’s always first in my memory happened when my goddaughter was in her teens and preparing for a summer in Ghana. Her mother asked if I thought the trip should be cancelled in light of troubling headlines in the region. My response: “I don’t know how anyone lets their child out of the house to go to kindergarten. How could I possibly advise you on this?”

I’ve come to believe that every woman without children has at least one story where her opinion was dismissed because “you don’t have kids.” The impact can be painful, yet some of us, like Ms. Zapis, are up to the task. Is that you, or are you silent on the sidelines?

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12 Responses to “Advice on Parenting: Should Child-Free Women Stay Quiet?”

  1. Lisa T says:

    Oh heck no should we keep quiet!

    The reverse is when a parental couple has a night off, because they have a babysitter for the kids and want to know the hip, cool places adults do adults things, you know with adult friends? and ask your advice… do you decline them saying they’re not good enough for you to advise?
    No. So why do we do this to childfree folks?

    • Karen M Wright says:

      LOL! For me, it’s a case-by-case kind of thing. And if I do say something to the parent, it’s as gentle as possible and I only say it once – no big discussion. Good friends handle it, others get frosty. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Barbara Howard says:

    I have worked and been around animals my whole life. These animal parents can teach us a thing or two about parenting. An undisciplined colt will grow up to be a dangerous horse. Same for a child; maybe more so. I usually phrase “suggestions” in that frame of reference of what animal parents do. That usually brings a smile, but gets people thinking too.

  3. Joy says:

    I caught myself giving a lot of advice to parents of teenagers in the past few years, some solicited, some not. I also noticed one friend pulling away from me in the process. I fretted to another couple friend of mine and apologized for shooting my mouth off when I myself wasn’t a parent. They both said to me….but you were a teenager. Ever since then, I try to make sure my advice is rooted from a child’s perspective. And its helped. One friend of mine was struggling with her daughter leaving for study abroad and the distance that started before she even left. But she said when I talked from her daughter’s perspective it helped her a lot.

    I suppose it is age dependent in my case. But I have found a way to keep close to my friends, even when the conversation shifts to children and I have none.

    • Karen Malone Wright says:

      Re-positioning your words to reflect the child’s P.O.V. makes so much sense. Glad it works for you. And thanks for commenting!

  4. Beth O'Donnell says:

    I generally preface anything I say about kids with, “It’s easy to be the perfect parent when you don’t have children.” Mainly, though, I just don’t say anything. I have come to realize I don’t know enough. I have a continuing struggle with my father because I don’t call him often. I hate to talk on the phone. It’s not him (entirely). One day it hit me that I have no idea what it is like to want to talk to your child. It’s not a need I developed or even comprehend.

    All that said, there is no excuse for rudeness, regardless of age (2 – 120!), marital or parental status.

  5. I often feel odd about offering advice, but for the most part I’m not getting too down and dirty – I’m offering the same sort of common sense parenting I use with my dog… and my husband!

    • Karen Malone Wright says:

      Good to know, but you raise an interesting thought: How do married women feel about marriage advice from their single girlfriends? Is it a comparable comparison? Thanks for your comment.

  6. Jen says:

    I have a PhD in child development and those who know me often ask for my advice about parenting given my knowledge of the subject as an objective academic. Given that I’m a NOTMOM I often wind up insulting myself saying “oh, what do I know but the research says blah blah blah” as a way to protect myself. I have had people, upon hearing what I do for a living, say “how can you give out child and parenting advice if you don’t have kids yourself?” I usually THINK…..”Right–because you shouldn’t go to a male gynecologist and should only go to a neurosurgeon whose had a brain tumor or an oncologist whose had cancer. ” But I usually do feel a little insecure about it, I have to say!

    • Karen Malone Wright says:

      You have chosen a fascinating path for yourself, but you already knew that. And the comparison you offer (male GYN) is perfect. Thanks for your comment.

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