The knee-jerk assumption of many parents is that childless couples have it easy. Sitters, doctors’ visits, and 4AM hockey practices aren’t things that need to be taken into consideration when planning one’s week. Then there is the whole disposable income situation which even I’ll concede is pretty cool. Speaking as a childless person, however, I can also say that we have more heavy lifting to do than we let on.
By definition, if you don’t have kids, you have more time on your hands. The other component to the equation is that other people also know that you have more time available.
I have been involved in situations with co-workers where I’ve been asked to be a team player and take on extra tasks so that they could make their kids’ next pageant, practice, party or pick-up deadline. I try to put things into perspective and write such requests off as an opportunity to shine in front of management. In most cases, you don’t really have an excuse to say “no” so, arguing about it becomes a moot point.
My question to the childless people out there is thus an honest (albeit selfish) one. Should our needs matter any less? Ever have a really rough day where all you could think about was getting home and curling up with your favorite book or movie? Ever have plans to meet friends in the city after work? How about a set of errands that you promised your wife or husband you’d run on the way home? Snow storms and freezing rain are just as dangerous for us to drive in, aren’t they?
Our freedom should not come at the expense of being branded as everyone else’s designated hitter – noble a title as that is. That kind of support should be available altruistically - not expected implicitly. I will go so far as to say that most parents are very fair when it comes to this but, there is a minority that can and do take advantage of their family status.
The Price of Peace & Quiet:
The travel and leisure industries really do place those with families at an advantage. Everywhere you look there are special promotions that cater to a family of 4 on everything from events to restaurants to travel. Kids under 12 eat/stay free, 25% off tickets for 2 adults and 2 kids – it’s all over the place. A couple wanting to attend the same event or eat in the same restaurant, however, is expected to pay full price.
Traveling to a place or dining in a restaurant that specifically does cater to “adults only” now carries a costly premium. Running under the assumption that we do have the money to spend, it does make sense to charge us more. This having been said, why not take a page out of how most casinos run things and reward the high rollers? Resorts and restaurants know that we’re going to these places to enjoy ourselves in the first place. Why not offer a little incentive to get us there? I promise you, we’ll come out in droves and likely be motivated to cough up a few extra bucks.
The Birthday Party Circuit or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barf
When your friends and family members start having families of their own, their schedules essentially get thrown out the window – especially when the kids are younger. Dinner parties or nights out become extremely rare and hot commodities. The childless couple, however, gets a new item added to their social calendar - “the birthday party circuit”.
My wife, bless her heart, is exponentially better at these things than I am. I’ve never been a roll-around-on-the-carpet kind of guy but, I have made peace with the fact that I’m likely to come into my groove as (gag) “Uncle Casey” when the little people's ages hit double digits.
As a guy, I’ve found that the key to surviving kids’ parties is to try to find the humor in certain situations. I first referenced this in the "Kindergarten Nonsense" article that I wrote for Rachel Thompson. If you can’t entertain others, entertain yourself.
Thanks to my friends, I’m now somewhat of a subject matter expert on drinkable apple sauce. I can answer any questions that you may have about the nutritional value, how the ingenious packaging keeps kids busy for hours on end and why some flavors are more popular than others. After listening to one debate between two dads that raged for over a solid hour, I curiously picked up one of the open containers and dragged a small drop of the neon colored slime onto my pinkie finger. Quite scientifically I tasted it and opined that it would probably be a lot better with vodka.
At another gathering, my cousin’s young son (whom I’ll call Max) had one too many hot dogs at dinner but, still insisted on inhaling a large piece of chocolate cake. With little more warning than “uh-oh”, I quickly found my feet blanketed in vomit. Having a notoriously weak stomach for this type of thing, I charged off to the bathroom and got violently ill myself. When I got back, Max, to his credit, was legitimately concerned for my welfare. “It’s OK, Casey – I feel all better now!” he chirped.
My deadpanned response is still being quoted over 5 years later: “Max, dude, you have no clue how happy that makes me.”
When everybody else has their “baby blinders” on, enjoy any opportunity you get to be the comic relief. Remember that many of the funniest moments on The Tonight Show involved a small animal pissing on or assaulting Johnny Carson. Just make sure to bring a change of clothes and lots of Tylenol.