The six highly annoying habits of new parents

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So, you’ve got young kids. Congratulations! 

But everyone around you already knows that you do. They can see it in your dazed, exhausted eyes, and hear it in the artificially optimistic tone you adopt when talking about how wonderful parenthood is. 

You probably assume that all your single friends are happy for you, and maybe a little jealous. On one level, they probably are. But on another level – and I hate to break it to you – they find you approximately as annoying as a Billy Ray Cyrus CD. That’s scratched, and skips.

(Note – that’s a very 1990s reference, because most parents haven’t been in tune with pop culture for at least the best part of a decade, and probably haven’t had time to figure out how to get music from the internet.)

In this column, you will discover all of the things you do that annoy your childless friends, but which they haven’t felt comfortable raising with you. Some of them may be delighted not to be going through what you’re enduring, while others may want to have children but be unable to for various reasons, meaning that you’re inadvertently rubbing it in.

So here’s the definitive list of the stuff you’re doing that’s driving your childless friends bananas, and which you should probably stop. And when I say “bananas”, I mean not just the fruit, but like when your child smears banana everywhere. You know what I mean.

 

1) Don’t talk too much about your kids 

Nobody is as interested in your children as you are, with the possible exception of the grandparents. Even your other friends who have kids only put up with you yammering incessantly about yours because it gives them license to do the exact same thing, and attempt to one-up you in the unspoken contest between all parents about which of their offspring is the best.

There’s nothing wrong with updating your friends on your children, of course. Like anyone who’s not a total narcissist, we like to hear what the people we care about have been up to. But there needs to be a time limit, particularly when this is generally a one-way conversation. When you start talking about feeding strategies and sleep difficulties and the tiny amount of developmental progress your child has made since the last time you updated us, we don’t really know what to say. So we just nod and say something like “Isn’t that lovely?”

It’s like when somebody tells you a dull story, belatedly realises and says “I guess you had to be there”, only you never belatedly realise. And we didn’t need simply to be there, but also be closely related to the child, and to have recently had our definition of “fascinating” rewired by sleeplessness and hormones.

Don’t get me wrong – you should talk about your kids. Of course you should. Just, and trust me on this, not for more than ten minutes per encounter. Oh, and to be clear – that’s not ten minutes per child.

 

2) Don’t bring the kids to unambiguously adult events

You’d be annoyed if someone turned up to your kid’s third birthday party drunk and started dirty-dancing on the hors d’oeuvre table, so the opposite degree of consideration needs to apply at events where that kind of behaviour would be appropriate.

In general, any evening function is a no, unless they’re young enough to sleep or old enough to play mindless video games and only speak when they’re spoken to for five seconds before going back to their game.

I recently went to an evening birthday party where most of the guests were parents, all of whom had ditched their kids for the night. As a result everyone had a brilliant time. If even one child had attended, all the parents would have felt a sudden rush of guilt and started leaving. Don’t be the parent that just can’t bear to dump little Timmy with their grandpa when the occasion demands.

 

3) Don’t let the kids take over your house

You know how when you’re on holidays at the beach, you come back and tread sand everywhere? That’s what children’s junk is like. That’s understandable. Kids have the attention spans of gnats, so they’re constantly tiring of one toy and bringing out another one without putting the other one away first.

Nevertheless, if you have your non-childless friends over, you need to tidy up. We don’t want to cower in between piles of children’s toys. Of course we understand that as soon as we leave, your children will empty several enormous buckets all over the living room floor, but please, while we visit, let’s just briefly pretend that there’s a semblance of control.

 

4) Don’t let them colonise your workplace either

Some colleagues decorate their workspaces with so much of their children’s paintings, photos and paraphernalia that it’s practically a museum display. It’s great that you love your kids so much that you want to be constantly reminded of their existence when’re sitting at your desk and look in any direction at all, but it’ll make people wonder whether you even want to be there.

The answer’s no, of course – we all understand that, and feel the same way – but in order to stay sane there’s kind of an ongoing agreement in the workplace to pretend that we’re all happy to be there. Turning your workspace into a shrine to your infants, if nothing else, reminds us of the outside world.

 

5) Don’t fail to control your kids in public

When your children misbehave, it’s not only annoying and noisy, but it makes us feel incredibly awkward. It’s not our place to tell one of your children to stop trying to assassinate the other. It’s very much yours.

Childless people understand there’s only so much you can do, and there’s no need to be some kind of brutal dictator because that’s embarrassing for everyone as well – but couldn’t you at least try to impose something resembling order? Otherwise we’ll have to say something and you’ll get all huffy and defensive.

 

6) Don’t put your kids on Facebook

It’s. Creepy. And it makes us look creepy if we accept their friend requests. Plus, when they’re teenagers and actually allowed to use the site, they won’t want all their parents’ pals in their friends feed, surely. Just post your inevitable, incessant stream of photos from your own account.

 

Dom's new book  Man vs Child   is out now. It's about comedy, commercial radio - and children.

 

 

174 comments

  • Hit the nail on the head. I also prefer to use the term child-free, rather than child-less, as it better sums up the situation!

    Commenter
    MichaelO
    Date and time
    August 09, 2013, 7:21AM
    • Agreed. It has been expressed ad nauseum that child-free is the preferred term, and yet many people continue to ignore this.

      "Childless" is kind of insulting.

      Commenter
      Blah
      Date and time
      August 09, 2013, 9:49AM
    • Agree entirely. I don't have children. I never have. But now suddenly - either because I have reached 'a certain age' or just because some of my contemporaries have children - I am labelled "childless", like I have lost something. Why should I now be defined by not having something that I haven't had my whole life until this point?

      I would add an extra point as well. (7): Don't spend all of your time as a couple together and with your children. It just exacerbates most of the other problems. If both parents are with the children all of the time they have nothing else too talk about other than the kids. You need to get out and do things that are not related to the kids to remain sane, engaged, and interesting to be around. It will also allow you to constantly bring something new to the relationship.

      Commenter
      Link
      Date and time
      August 09, 2013, 10:09AM
    • There's a kind of 'club' thing associated with having children and those 'in the club' seem to avoid those outside - at least I've found that so. As each of my married friends from around my twenties had kids they just avoided further contact. Apparently I was some sort of outsider now - didn't speak the language.

      The fact that I told them I can't stand kids - including their kids = might have had a bearing...

      Commenter
      MichaelH
      Location
      Mitcham Vic.
      Date and time
      August 09, 2013, 3:13PM
    • Nup - Say what you want but if you are without children you are childless.

      I have kids...and I am child-free whenever my mum has them overnight, when they're at school, etc. But I am never childless.

      Commenter
      Alex
      Location
      Geelong
      Date and time
      August 09, 2013, 4:06PM
    • I disagree.
      1) I will rant about how my child has completely screwed over my life whenever I want. The whole "baby" process was traumatic and I will vent this to whoever will listen. It is me coping with my PTSD.
      2) My Mr 4 is great in a pubs (he gets kicked out at 9pm), restaurants, BBQ's, etc. He is a human being, not a puppy/ipad to be left at home. If you can't treat him like a human being then I don't want to socialise with you anyway.
      3) He gets to take over 1/3 of the house. He is not property, we all have to share.
      4) He can colonise whatever his is capable of colonising.
      5) You make this sound like we have a choice. When a child is going off their is nothing the parents can do about this. All you are doing with this statement is making parents feel guilty about something they have no control over. I'm disgusted you suggested it.
      6) Don't worry, I've already blocked you. Most tweens open a fake account that their parents dont' know about and another account as a teenager to post naked selfies on anyway.

      Commenter
      Terrarocks
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      August 10, 2013, 7:50AM
  • I have just a few additions. 6 putting My Family Stickers on the car, 7. - expecting first dibs on leave at work. 8. Expecting friends and colleagues to be wowed at their wise and clever and advanced parenting skills, as young Orlando is enrolled a complete set of developmental opportunities like, flute and gymnastics, whilst everyday the parents cook up child friendly master chef like dishes according to whatever health food pyramid is in vogue. And 9 - smugly acting like having kids has made them the real adults and only they can understand what real responsibility is, and that by not having kids your not as wise and grown up, I.e saying things like "what do the couples without kids do on a Friday night?" or a patronizing all time favorite " you wouldn't understand, you don't have kids!"

    Commenter
    Inner Northbourne
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    August 09, 2013, 8:31AM
    • I would rather NOT understand not knowing what a couple can do alone on a Friday night in, than relate to it! Patronise away, I say! I'll just sit here in my post-coital glow, smiling to myself.

      Commenter
      Dana
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 09, 2013, 9:41AM
    • "One day, when you have kids, you'll understand" - the most patronising & insulting of them all.

      Commenter
      Blah
      Date and time
      August 09, 2013, 9:51AM
    • Re: a patronizing all time favourite " you wouldn't understand, you don't have kids!"

      I wouldn't ever say that to anyone - but I do believe that you just CAN'T understand how challenging and relentless parenthood is UNTIL you have kids... You can't prepare yourself for the fatigue. As rewarding as it is of course!

      Commenter
      Ronnie
      Date and time
      August 09, 2013, 10:18AM

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