How can I tell non-parents, “Wait and see until you have kids” without being cliché and obnoxious?

user3314 08/17/2017. 15 answers, 17.761 views

I am in my early 30's, married, and have multiple young children. I have a lot of co-workers in the same age bracket that doesn't have children but are on the path (newly married, or engaged, kids in the future in the next 5-10 years).

Often topics of discourse in the office revolve around childless couple talk like:

  • Taking vacations to romantic/dangerous locations
  • Annoying kids in supermarkets
  • Annoying kids in restaurants
  • Annoying Breastfeeding at the supermarket (see below)
  • Having hobbies
  • Reading books for pleasure
  • Friday night parties
  • Saturday night parties

When they ask if I am going out on the town on the weekend, my response is usually: no, I have children. They get annoyed and say that is what babysitting is for. Any other married w/ children friends get this. We can't afford, or feel comfortable, in using babysitting services on a weekly/daily basis for our children. We generally save those things for emergencies (which happen constantly with a family with young children, like babysitting so we can go to work and earn money).

Basically, how can I tell non-parents they just don't understand, and when they are a parent they will get it.

Breastfeeding update

Often when my wife breastfeeds in public we hear audible sighs, groans, side snickers, or laughs. This occurs often enough to be comical. As for the purpose of this question, we have seen/heard these occur from childless couples in the above age groups that odds are will have, or may have, children in the future. So the above question applies, "wait until you have babies that are hungry and you're at the supermarket".


For the sake of full disclosure, it would seem relevant to state in your answer if you are a parent or not.

15 Answers

apaul 08/29/2017.

There are some very good points in the other answers so far, but another thing worth noting is the change in priorities as you cross into this chapter of life. That's really the piece that non-parents often miss.

Of course, there's the outward signs, like not going out to the pub with your friends as much, but it's worth noting that that's the symptom and not the actual issue.

I remember being a young bachelor who scoffed at my older friends who got "chained down by the wife and/or kids". At the time my perspective was that they would surely rather be out having fun, and they probably would be if the wife would allow it.

What I didn't realize, till I crossed that bridge myself, is that it isn't really about "being allowed". Once I had a family at home, my priorities changed. A night out was fun, but I liked being home to tuck the kids into bed. I really enjoyed spending time with my family, and any chance to get a good night's sleep was absolutely seized upon because it made the next day with the kids smoother.

Also, my financial priorities changed. I wasn't just thinking about myself anymore. A night on the town was always weighed against next week's grocery bill or next month's birthday party, or the need to have a little saved away for the next emergency.


There isn't really a good, succinct, way to explain all of that to someone who hasn't experienced it.

What you can do on the other hand is make it clear that you're not staying home with the family because you "have to" it's because you honestly want to.

Sorry guys, I've planned on spending time with my family. Dinner, hide and seek, bath time, story time, and tucking everyone into bed.

Rather than:

I can't, I've got kids at home.

These two statements send very different messages to your friends.

Side note...

Do make sure that you're taking some occasional adult time. It's good for you.

Beofett 08/19/2017.

There are a lot of commonalities shared by parents, but not as many as most parents seem to assume.

"Wait until you have kids" assumes that other people will have the same experiences and restrictions that you do. That is not a safe assumption at all.

Some parents will have extended networks of family that they can (and will) rely on to babysit, allowing the parents ample opportunities for dining out, having a "date night", or even weekend retreats, without a kid. Assuming that because these things are difficult for you (and, in truth, many other parents), they will be things other parents will stop being able to enjoy once they have kids, is incorrect.

That aside, it will likely come across as dismissive.

Instead, I would explain why you can't do an activity in more detail.

"I have kids" isn't the reason you can't go out of town for the weekend. The real reason is more likely to be something like:

  • a hotel room for 4 people is too expensive
  • your child has a previous appointment that you can't cancel
  • bringing pre-expressed breast milk requires access to a refrigerator that the hotel may not provide
  • spending 3 hours in a car with a toddler is unpleasant for everyone involved.

Don't be afraid to say these things. People will be more understanding if you give them actual context, and are more likely to consider these things in the future. Additionally, there's always the chance that they'd be willing to make accommodations that may make some sort of compromise possible, instead of excluding you altogether.

As whether I'm a parent or not... I'm not going to explicitly say here, because I don't want to feed into the misconception that there's some special insight that you automatically get upon having children. I've met plenty of people who have no children, but who "get it", and plenty of parents who were completely (and tragically) unchanged by becoming a parent.

I'll say it once again: the life changes that happen to people upon becoming parents are not universal.

Stephan Branczyk 08/22/2017.

Here is 1/2 an answer, because I don't really have an answer to the breastfeeding question.

When they ask if I am going out on the town on the weekend, my response is usually: no, have children.

My response would be "No, no plans."

If they say you're boring. Just say "Yes, I am boring."

In other words, there is no need to explain, defend, or justify your decision. The more you explain yourself, the more you give them the power to second-guess your decisions.

Disclaimer: Based on the comments I have gotten thus far, I feel I need to clarify something. This kind of answer is only meant for friends/coworkers that are habitually giving you a hard time over this issue each time. In no way am I advocating that you respond this same way to friends who are not trying to start a recurring argument with you. After all, sharing personal information with each other is a healthy normal part of being friends. And I'm not against that.

Phil Frost 08/18/2017.

The problem is very much different experiences. Let me offer you the perspective of someone in the perfect circumstances to be a parent, and yet without kids.

I like kids, until they are pooping, screaming, crying, rolling their eyes, or being annoying in any number of other creative ways. I don't inherently dislike all kids: I would just never want to be stuck with them, for at least 18 years of my life. So you can relate: imagine losing your non-dominant hand. That's about how I would feel about having kids of my own.

You list several circumstances where "wait until you have kids" comes up, and they are not all the same.

  • Annoying Breastfeeding at the supermarket (see below)

This one deserves a question of its own. Not only is this outside the experience of childless couples, but also the approximately half of the population that doesn't have breasts. It's a complicated issue.

  • Annoying kids in supermarkets
  • Annoying kids in restaurants

Annoying kids are a thing. I'd imagine even among people with kids, there are still annoying kids. I'm pretty sure often it's their own kids that are annoying them.

enter image description here
Does this count as annoying?

There are circumstances where kid behavior is acceptable, like McDonald's. And there are places where it's not, like 7:00 PM at a table near a nice bar. There are parents who are able to effectively deal with their kids, or at least leave if the kids melt down. There are also some that will let a child cry at a restaurant full of adults that are trying to enjoy a quiet and possibly romantic evening.

If you hear some coworkers commiserating about this, why do you feel the need to say anything at all?

  • Taking vacations to romantic/dangerous locations
  • Having hobbies
  • Reading books for pleasure
  • Friday night parties
  • Saturday night parties

When they ask if I am going out on the town on the weekend, my response is usually: no, I have children. They get annoyed and say that is what babysitting is for.

These are the things childless people enjoy doing. It pretty much describes my life. I enjoy that life so much I've avoided having kids.

People enjoy sharing the activities they enjoy with others. Or at least, it's common small-talk fodder.


  • "Are you going out this weekend?"
  • "No, I have children."

Childless people will question your life choices if you answer this way. They can't understand why you'd decide to have children if it means you can't go out, which is what they enjoy. To the childless person, this is not a rational decision.

A little better:

  • "Are you going out this weekend?"
  • "No, I can't find a babysitter for the weekend."

This is a little better, since it's more an actual reason. But it still doesn't explain why you would choose to have kids.

Not bad:

  • "Are you going out this weekend?"
  • "No, I plan to enjoy some time with my family at home."

Now you're not a slave to your child: you just have a different idea of what you want to be doing on the weekend. People understand that.


  • "Are you going out this weekend?"
  • "Yes, I'm taking my child to McDonald's."

Not only are you going out this weekend, but your child is a positive part of it.

Rory Alsop 08/17/2017.

I'd suggest reframing this a little. Don't try to tell them they will understand when they are parents.

Would you want to do those things if you didn't have kids? If so, you could say that you would love to be able to, but childcare is not cheap or easy at short notice, and in any case they aren't kids forever so they may well be your priority for the next few years!

That said, we took our three kids hiking up mountains, off to interesting countries, climbing, flying, sailing and a host of other things, so perhaps you could see whether they would like to accompany you on an activity with the kids. (This works best if your kids are generally well behaved so your colleagues can see that while doing things with multiple kids is hard work and requires planning, it can still be fun.)

As regards the breastfeeding comment - that's a whole separate issue, which has major challenges in some countries and cultures. Where I live it is illegal to discriminate against breastfeeding mothers, so the challenge back on that point can be quite rigid :-)

KAR 08/17/2017.

What is your goal?

First, you need to consider what you actually hope to gain. Do you want people around you to stop talking about their child-free lives? Do you want them to stop pressing you about why you don't have exciting weekend plans? Do you just want to put people in their place?

Then you have to consider if this is actually going to help you achieve that goal. I think in all but the most rare of circumstances telling someone "Wait until you have kids" is going to come off as patronizing and is unlikely to change anyone's mind unless they're already open to seeing a new perspective. As the adage says, you can't control others, you can only control your reaction to them. So unless your goal is to simply put people in their place, I don't believe there is some tactful way of phrasing this that is going to achieve anything positive.

How can you achieve it?

Rather than trying to change people, you might consider changing your approach. You write that discussions in the office often revolve around "childless couple talk", but if the majority of people in your office are childless couples, then what they're really talking about is their lived experiences. They're almost certainly not talking about these things to intentionally exclude you, but rather because those things are important and relevant to them. If you're feeling left out, try adding in with something that's important and relevant to you. For example, the next time your coworkers are talking about books they've read, you might tell them about how all you've been getting to read lately is "Rosie Revere, Engineer" because your daughter is obsessed with it and makes you read it to her at least twice a day.

At least in my experience, asking a coworker if they have weekend plans is a pretty common form of small talk. Rather than saying no and shutting the conversation down, tell them something you do plan to do even if it's something boring. As a homebody who often prefers to have low key weekends, I've found humor can go a long way to masking those boring things and discourage people from wanting to convince you to do something fun. So if a coworker asks if you have plans to go out, you might say "No, but I am planning to clean out the garage. If I don't do it soon, the spiders are going to start claiming squatter's rights!"

Unless you get some sort of joy out of debates that no one can win, avoid getting pulled into arguments with people who have no interest in your perspective. Just as you are (presumably) unwilling to consider that the other person is right and you should just hire a sitter, your interlocutor likely doesn't care about why childcare is expensive, they just want to convince you that they're correct. When someone tries to start such a debate with you, don't engage them. Personally I've found a lighthearted brushoff combined with a question that redirects them to some other topic they care about is a pretty effective way of avoiding these sort of pointless arguments. Worst case, if the person really just won't let it go, find a polite excuse to walk away.

Regina Dentata 08/18/2017.

Another reason why the phrase "Wait until you have kids" may not be appropriate is that you can't know if the person you are talking to is trying to have kids and is unable to do so. A large percentage of couples have trouble conceiving ( and these kinds of comments may be very harmful.

One safe way to express the same idea would be something like:

It is difficult for me to do so-and-so because of my family situation.

Of course, you don't have to justify yourself for such personal matters and no further explanation should be necessary.

DasEmpress 08/30/2017.

It's not as if you seem to need yet another answer, with all the previous answers you've already received, but, I thought I would put a few thoughts down:

It's always seemed to my husband and me, that before we were married but while dating each other, no matter who our friends were at work, we tended to hang out Mostly with others like us: unmarried but in a committed relationship.

And when we married, then the people we did the most things with were just like us, married, but no kids. This wasn't a conscious choice, but I think in our case, it was just easier for everyone.

When there was a child, then our friends had them, too, and then we were all on the same page, and there tended to be fewer communication hurdles to leap over. But no one was ever excluded, but most single people aren't interested in spending time with other people's children, and that should be ok...

simpleuser 08/17/2017.

The very act of deciding to have kids means there has been a mindset change and shifting of interests or priorities. This, I think, is the root of the general "wait till you have kids" comment. Nobody young wants to hear it because it's taken as a tired old phrase, but often the focus of life has changed. To some degree it cannot be explained to someone until they, too, shift in a similar way, as there is often no comparable experience in younger people, so the "wait until..." comes across preachy.

That said, a comment like "the act of deciding to have kids causes you to reevaluate your priorities by its very nature" is at least explanatory.

On the other hand, saying a positive statement like you're spending the weekend with your family or watching a movie or etc instead of saying that "no", you're not going out of town should in itself be enough of an answer, and suggest to them the benefits (to you) of your current priorities, even if they don't understand them.

Cronax 08/18/2017.

Firstly, what are you trying to convey with your statements?

From your post it's not immediately clear what your actual problem is. As I see it, you're either looking to communicate your difficulties in participating in social outings or you're looking to communicate that you simply have other priorities due to your choice of having children and how you've chosen to raise them.

If you're trying to communicate your difficulties

You seem to have tried illustrating what your difficulties are but they didn't 'get it'. In this case, it might be worth going into more detail, for instance you might explain exactly what goes into an overnight stay at a hotel when your child is with you. Your goal is to explain your difficulties in a way that allows people who haven't experienced them to understand them nonetheless.

If you're trying to communicate that your set of priorities is different

In this case you seem to be muddling your point by trying to explain why you don't have the same hobbies the others do by saying "I have kids", as if that will magically explain it all. The problem you're running into is that for the people you were talking to, it obviously doesn't, so expecting them to 'get it' is unproductive. Instead, you should try to explain how it feels to have a kid.

Personally, I'm not a parent, but I'm pretty sure I have a very good understanding of the concept of having one or more beings whom you love so much that it's worth 'giving up' the things your coworkers mentioned, so that you can spend your time caring for, teaching and entertaining these beings you've helped bring into this world. I also understand that being a parent often has its ugly sides. I've seen tired parents that barely caught any rest because their baby was teething. I've sat at dinner with parents after their kid had been fussy all day, when they didn't have the energy left to keep the little one's tantrums under control. I have enough of an idea about the requirements of caring for (young) children that I know having any extended length of time to yourself, to read a book or play a game, is the exception rather than the rule.

I know these things because I've seen them happen, but also because parents have explained these hardships to me. The cliche of 'you'll understand when you have kids' exists for a reason: looking at it from the outside, it's hard to get a complete picture of all the little things and not so little things that come into play when you're raising a child and while there's no substitute for personal experience, a good explanation will go a long way.

dmckee 02/19/2018.

While it is not necessarily responsive to all the concerns in the question an answer to the title is make what you tell them about you rather than about them.

Specifically, if you say "Wait until you have kids." you are laying claim to knowing more about their own plans and psychology than they do. This is easily interpreted as both arrogant and demeaning, which isn't a great way to make friends or influence people for the good.

On the other hand, if you say "I used to feel very much the same way, but after my daughter was born my attitude changed" you are both accepting that their point of view is reasonable and suggesting that there may be more to the situation. They can't argue that you're wrong because your statement is about your internal life rather than theirs.

If the interaction develops into a conversation you can expand of the causes of your change of mind. Remind them that parents can neither control nor always predict the moods of their young children. That the groceries have to be bought and there is no way to know with certainty if they baby will let loose halfway through, but you can't just stay home forever out of fear of that happening.

And of course, you have to be prepared to admit that the change in your circumstances is to some extent your problem. When your child goes on a crying jag in a sedate public setting (fine restaurant, museum, film screening...) it is your responsibility to calm them or take them out.

Anonymous 08/17/2017.

When I was a kid, my parents regularly entertained or visited old student friends, sometimes taking me and my sisters with them, sometimes not, especially as we got a little older. We weren't particularly well off either, and I cannot remember having had a babysitter over ever. We were supposed to behave and generally did so. My father was an avid reader and my mother's hobbies included painting, knitting and gardening.

What I'm getting at is this: you may not feel like reading, having hobbies, going out with your former friends, going to parties and so on and so forth, but this has nothing to do with the fact that you've got kids as such. Until you dig inside yourself and find the real reason, you cannot have a sensible discussion about this with anyone. Saying ‘wait until you've got kids’, no matter how you phrase it, may be the worst way to go, since it's not just dismissive, cliché, arrogant and know-it-all-ish, but it's dishonest as well.

user2674 08/18/2017.

Stay POSITIVE! -- Having a Family is MORE fun!

Take the positive approach. I have eight children. Been there, done that, and doing it again.

Far more fun to play games with your kids - especially when they are young and the world is "new" - I would never exchange that for some silly "party" on Friday night with a bunch of jaded adults that confuse pleasure with happiness in a billion years!

When people make these comments, they ASSUME that whatever they are doing is more fun than what you could possibly be doing because they really don't know what they are missing.

Who can blame them?! You should not be negative to them. They just don't know.

So, just tell them: "I have far more fun with my family than I ever could at some party, so I choose the family." (For fun, say it in a Godfather voice to impress the importance of "the family". ;) )

As far as reading for pleasure - "I do that in the evenings when the kids are in bed, but you know what is more fun? Finding that mouse in Goodnight Moon with my kids!"

As far as hobbies - "I have a great time sharing my hobbies with my kids - it is so enjoyable to share them with others that appreciate them! And, so fulfilling when they do it themselves!"

As far as breastfeeding - "Hey, I want to give my kids BEST chance, and NOTHING beats a custom made drink from Mom!"


In other words, look at all the blessings, fun and happiness and share that (in a POLITE way) with the folks that look down on you.

threetimes 08/19/2017.

I respond differently to different things. The fact is I have been there and done that on romantic weekends, wild parties and deciding last minute to jet off to Las Vegas just because. It's fun. It's not meaningful nor fulfilling on the long run. Hobbies are great too, but unless you are missing them or feeling resentful on the lack of opportunity to do them, who cares? I don't bother entertaining anyone's complaints about anything related to other people in public exercising their actual rights, such as noisy kids, slow old people, breastfeeding, saggy pants or anything else. If the most you have happening in your life is other people annoying you in public, you don't have any real problems, so I just move along and don't entertain the conversation.

You cannot explain parenthood to non parents. You really can't. I loved kids long before I had any. I was very involved in the lives of many children, I come from a large family & have taken babies as young as 2 months for a weekend. I still had no idea the amount of change that would happen in my life when they showed up. It is a very large shift in everything from how much sleep you get to how much money you have and what you do with it to what you find yourself pondering and daydreaming about. I used to think about things like how I can rearrange the furniture to better flow in parties we throw and now I wander off in thought wondering if maybe goo gone might take that mystery crap out of my carpet that I think might be gum or maybe slime, or thinking putty. Parenting has made me far more practical, far easier to please in general (like I am beyond thrilled if I randomly find my dishwasher empty), and far harder to gross out. On a Friday night I am happy as hell if everyone goes to bed with no issue, no one wakes up puking on me and I get to watch a movie uninterrupted without falling asleep first. You couldn't really get me to understand that when i had no kids. I wouldn't understand how I could be this tired, this busy, this stretched thin, and still feel this fulfilled. I would have never grasped that anything could be this hard and great all at once. I wouldn't think it made sense to say sometimes I just want to run away, but I'd miss them the moment I got out the door.

So don't bother is my advice. You won't get through to anyone with plans of kids in the future. They can't know. It's been awful at moments and heartbreaking and scary but incredibly worth it. There is nothing like it.

witlore 02/20/2018.

Ah, the old situation: you've had a major, perspective-altering life change, and people on the other side of the invisible bubble simply don't get it. Are they simply unable to get it, would they get it if explained, or are they wilfully ignorant? A bit of each, depending on the individual.

I'm not a parent but I don't find it hard to empathise. With some imagination, and reading other's experiences, I can see clearly that being a parent is a huge responsibility, and many tasks you could once do on a whim are now major inconveniences.

However, most people are not especially empathetic. They are overconfident. They jump to conclusions. They're not aware of their own ignorance. They think that if they were in your situation, they could easily solve all your problems. It's annoying. It's especially common amongst people in their 20s, who've achieved some success and haven't been hit with any major setbacks or responsibilities.

(I am 28 but had a major series of blows in my mid-20s that gave me a lot of perspective. Many people my age now seem ridiculously sheltered, ignorant and arrogant. I'm surprised your coworkers seem to have kept that arrogance into their 30s, but maybe it's because they're childless).

Anyway, there's no snappy one-liner you can give that will make them realise this. If you can patiently explain and give some context, some people will get it. (Some won't, no matter how much you explain. They'll keep arguing with you and trying to convince you that they could run your life much better than you can). The best short answer, as noted in another answer, is to make clear that it's your preference:

No, it's another weekend playing with the kids. To be honest, once I became a parent, going out partying just wasn't as important to me.

Whereas if you say "I have to stay home with the kids", it sounds like it's a problem that's been forced on you, and people will trot out their solutions.

There's another subtext in your question that I want to comment on, however. You sounds resentful. Being a parent makes it harder to go out to parties. It shouldn't make it impossible to have hobbies or read books for pleasure. Saying that those things are "childless couple things" suggests that you think being a parent is incompatible with having any life of your own. If possible, you should look into fixing things so you have some "me time" built into your daily schedule.

Basically, how can I tell non-parents they just don't understand, and when they are a parent they will get it.

This might just be awkward phrasing, but it sounds like you are taking a confrontational attitude. There's this thing called "non-violent communication", and one of the principles is avoiding making negative assumptions. Your coworkers are making negative assumptions about you - e.g., that you could go out if you were really organised. In turn, you are making negative assumptions about them - "they just don't understand". This is a recipe for hostility. You'll have a more pleasant time if, instead of asking

how can I tell non-parents they just don't understand

you ask

how can I give non-parents a basic understanding of my situation? - Download Hi-Res Songs


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