Happy Mother’s Day in advance, from a very happy non-mother. Is it my imagination, or have the media eased off the “moms versus non-moms” narrative over the past few years? It seems as though the trend stories are finally catching on to what you and I have known for a long time — women with kids and women without kids go together like champagne and Camembert.
I could write a love letter to my friends with children, but I won’t do that on Mother’s Day. You aren’t great because you’re mothers. You were already great, and then you became mothers, too. Motherhood changed you, but in idiosyncratic, not always predictable ways. Some parts of “being a mother” brought out precious ore hidden deep within you. Some parts of “being a mother” are a role you play awkwardly. But you’re never just a mom. You’re you, with kids.
And I’m me, without kids. And here, because of the differences in our life circumstances, are the promises I make to you, dear Lady Friends with Children:
If you start complaining about things like helicopter parenting and excessive scheduling, I’ll listen — and chime in only if I think you want me to. Since I’m not a native of Parentland, it’s not my place to critique the local customs, but I do have opinions.
I will never talk about my dog, when I have a dog, as though it were as important as your child. (The very fact that sometimes I have a dog and sometimes I do not gets at the fundamental difference here.) I may, however, attempt to bond with you over the annoyance of being in public with a small, cute, pettable being who may not want to be petted by just anyone.
I will take the lead in scheduling social events, because you’re managing more social calendars than I am.
I won’t think you’re a bad mother if you don’t want to talk about your kids, and I won’t think you’re a bad friend if you do.
Come the day you have a minute to yourself, I can tell you all the movies, television shows, and books you’ll want to catch up on. I can tell you which movies are worth getting a baby sitter for and seeing in the theater and which ones can wait for Netflix.
Then again, not having kids doesn’t mean my entire life revolves around work and pop culture. Non-mothers deal with holiday stress and doctors and that gunk that accumulates under the stove and rising grocery prices, too. Let’s kvetch!
When kids are invited to my house, I will be as clear as possible about what level of childproofing, entertainment, and specialized food service will be available, so you won’t have to guess. If you’ve got follow-up questions or requests, don’t hesitate to speak up.
I will never judge your brand of stroller.
Actually, I will never even notice your brand of stroller.
I will never refer to you as a “mom.” If I ever refer to you as a “mommy,” know that I have been taken hostage and am attempting to signal for help. And if I call your wine “mommy juice,” my body has been taken over by the Pod People, and I’m afraid a quick death is the only solution.
Friends without children have their shortcomings, of course, and here are mine:
If you have more than one kid close in age and I don’t see them frequently, I will get their information confused (“Oh, wait, Braden is the science-y one and Jaden is the soccer fanatic?”). I will probably call them by the wrong names in person, too. Secretly, I will be hoping that you already do that and that they’re used to it.
Though I’ve never wanted kids of my own, I’m more than happy to be part of the village that raises yours. But be prepared to tell the annotated version of any child-centric story. I may not be up on the current vocabulary of Common Core, Russian math, developmental gurus, and Pixar. If I don’t laugh, sigh, or get outraged when you expected me to, it’s not because I don’t care. Chances are I didn’t get the context.
On a deeper level, I don’t always know what kinds of behaviors in kids are just a stage and which ones represent a problem that needs to be headed off at the pass, pronto. You don’t always know that, either, I realize, but still, if I overreact or underreact to a story about your kid, this is why.
I have no idea whether that book or movie or show I was raving about is appropriate for your child. Non-parents don’t think about that question when we watch or read, so it’s hard to go back and rate our memories for child-appropriateness. I also forget that parents have their own filters, so it’s a good idea to ask me if a kid does anything horrible or has anything horrible done to them in anything I recommend. (My favorite movies from 2015 were Spotlight and Room, so draw your own conclusions.)
I will not necessarily step up in an emergency, because, to me, your entire life looks like an emergency. When there are times of unusual stress — well, I’d say “Use your words!” if I were the kind of person who likes to appropriate kid talk for mom-friends, but I’m not. So ask, already!
Robin Abrahams is the Globe Magazine’s Miss Conduct columnist. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.