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I'm not sure I'm qualified to speak for anybody other than myself, let alone for the sum of parents everywhere, since time began. Yet I nevertheless feel like I must apologize to childless friends of new parents for our uncontrollable need to talk about things of absolutely no interest to you when we get together, particularly in the company of other parents.
I see the glazed looks in your eyes when we discuss the consistencies and frequencies of our baby's bowel movements, a subject of infinite fascination to parents—especially new parents—and a subject of zero fascination to people who do not regularly check in with their partner, almost on an hourly basis, on what changes, be they minute or massive, in our baby's BM's could possibly mean.
I recognize the look of profound mortification that sets in on a childless person's face when they go an innocent brunch with friends and realize that a conversation about the expense, availability and quality of various childcare options isn't going to stop anytime soon, and may not end at all, instead spinning into an infinity of migraine-inducingly tedious parent talk.
Oh sure, we may apologize for boring you to tears with our endless discussion of matters only of interest to people who have procreated and whose lives are centered around the results for that procreation. To make ourselves feel better about being boring, we will probably jokingly acknowledge that what we're talking about is super boring to people who have not entered the ever-growing Cult Of Parenthood but that we feel compelled to discuss these matters all the same.
We talk about things we know damn well do not interest you at all in part because we suspect that there is a sexy childless world out there full of concerts and nightclubs and bars and dodgy romantic relationships and drug and lifestyle experimentation and that if we did not constantly steer the conversation in the direction of whether our babies are hitting their developmental milestones, you'll inundate us with stories that will make us nostalgic for the people we used to be and the lives we used to lead.
Parents talk endlessly about the experience of parenthood because it's a way of validating that the experience of being a parent is compelling and worthy of discussion and not as unbelievably boring as we fear.
Sometimes these stories even make us nostalgic for lives we didn't actually lead, and things we didn't actually do. My wife and I, for example, before we had our son Declan, were never the sort of people to go out, ever. Leaving our condo wasn't really our thing but we theoretically could have gone out, should we have chosen to. We could have hit up all sorts of concerts and festivals and shows and plays if we really wanted to. Now that door has been largely shut to us, which is often secretly, and not-so-secretly, a relief (see passage about never actually wanting to go out even when we could) but we also kind of wish that we still had the opportunity to do what we seldom actually wanted to do back when the option was still open.
Parents talk endlessly about the experience of parenthood because it's a way of validating that the experience of being a parent is compelling and worthy of discussion and not as unbelievably boring as we fear. And honestly, I'm not sure discussions of my baby's bowel movements are any less tedious than the endless discussions of the values of various art movies or rap albums I might have had before I had a baby.
When we're in mixed company (parents and the childless) we're excited to be talking to someone in the same stage as us, and facing a weirdly universal set of joys and challenges, even as we realize that talking about those shared experiences is liable to bore, if not alienate, the childless among us.
Childless folks living the dream, when we look at you, we often see the people we used to be and that brings about a complicated set of emotions full of jealousy, resentment, envy and weird, nonsensical anger (why aren't these people lives ruled by the same things that rule our lives? Why? Why? Why?!!).
We just hope that when you look at us you do not see ominous portents of the deeply tedious, baby-obsessed people you might someday become, and if you do, that you have a little sympathy for your future self. Because if you someday join our ranks (and I realize that we don't always make parenthood seem like the most exciting option) you'll understand that we talk about crap we know doesn't interest childless folks both because we want to, but also because we cannot help ourselves .