Just Wait Till You Have Kids!

I’m really getting annoyed with how often people address this statement to me as if it were some kind of a threat about a horrible eventuality awaiting me in the future.

“I just got an article accepted for publication and I’m super psyched about it.”

“Just wait till you have kids! That will put a damper on your research activities.”

“N. and I went out to this really cool new restaurant last night and we really loved it.”

“Just wait till you have kids! Then, you’ll have neither time nor money to go out.”

“I slept in this morning and it was just what I needed. I now have a lot of energy to finally attack that huge pile of ungraded assignments.”

“Just wait till you have kids! You’ll forget all about sleeping then.”

(These are all real conversations that I participated in recently.)

I’ve got to wonder why this sentence is never used in a more positive context. For instance:

“N. and I had an amazing time on our vacation to Florida last time and we can’t wait to go again.”

“Just wait till you have kids! Imagine how much fun you could have sharing that great experience with them.”

“I just read this amazing book and I can’t stop thinking about it.”

“Just wait till you have kids! Then, you will be able to read the book together and discuss it.”

“My back is killing me! I spent all day dicing vegetables for my favorite Russian salads.”

“Just wait till you have kids! Then, you could cook together and you’d be able to share with them stories about the Russian cultural traditions while they are helping you dice.”

I know that it is very possible to have fun with kids and see them as people who enrich your life, rather than people who make you perennially miserable. My father, for example, always insisted on taking my sister and me on vacation with him because he said it wasn’t possible for him to imagine having any fun at the beach without us. I’m seeing crowds of people whose lives were in no way destroyed by having children. Why, then, is this sentence always employed in such negative contexts?

29 thoughts on “Just Wait Till You Have Kids!”

  1. Thanks for this post. As a person who is childfree, I must admit to uttering this phrase at times. It is unfair to children and to parents really. Besides, it is not like haivng kids is inevitable. If you truly feel they would be a burden, don’t get them in the first place. If you do have kids, of course I don’t say that you should absolutely never complain about their behavior or whatever, but it’s not like the generalization “just wait till you have kids” in a negative ocntext makes much sense.

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  2. I think people learn it as a reflex. Their parents are so concerned they will have kids too young that they make sure to discourage. Then they reflexively say that about having kids.

    Others have a lot invested in the idea of parenthood as suffering, duty, etc., for a whole host of reasons.

    And yet, one is also supposed to be terribly upset if one doesn’t have them or can’t.

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    1. “Others have a lot invested in the idea of parenthood as suffering, duty, etc., for a whole host of reasons”

      – It’s the same kind of whining that the academic whining that we have been discussing, isn’t it?

      Oh, I think I just had an insight!

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  3. Oh yes, that’s an interesting parallel! They aren’t suffering at all, but they want others to think they are … and try to make the same activity *be* suffering, for others, so they can secretly do it and enjoy it and keep others from that!!! Hah!

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  4. As someone without children, I hear that kind of rhetoric all the time. To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t want to hear the “postive” spin either (though that is a nicer way to look at things.) What my experience would or wouldn’t be with children is is irrelevant. What is relevant is what my life is like right now. In general, I want to talk about what I, as a childless/free woman, experience–good or bad. And I think that my experience “counts” as much and is as deserving of recognition and discussion, as the experiences of those with children. I don’t mean to rant here. But it drives me nuts that someone people seem incapable of accepting my experiences or my life as legitimate and can only seem to tell me that if I had children that my life would be different or easier or more full of love or more “real” or more adult or whatever. Grrr. 😉

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    1. “What my experience would or wouldn’t be with children is is irrelevant. What is relevant is what my life is like right now. In general, I want to talk about what I, as a childless/free woman, experience–good or bad. And I think that my experience “counts” as much and is as deserving of recognition and discussion, as the experiences of those with children.”

      – Oh, I agree completely. I just always feel confused as to how I’m expected to react when people start with the “Just wait. . .” rhetoric. I always feel like saying, “Yes, your life must really suck. Poor you.” But that will be mean.

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      1. I reread the post and realized that it came out kind of wrong.

        In the post, I was trying to suggest that the “positive just wait rhetoric” should be addressed to people about whom one knows that they want children. Not to those who don’t or about whom you aren’t sure.

        I should have made that clear. My bad!

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  5. “I always feel like saying, “Yes, your life must really suck. Poor you.” But that will be mean.”

    Ha!!!!!!! I always have the same impulse. I don’t say that either. But I do think it. 🙂

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    1. I generally end up going, “I’m sterile. Besides, I have dogs, and they’re pretty awesome.”

      That at least confuses people enough that changing the subject starts to look like a really good idea. 😉

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      1. “I generally end up going, “I’m sterile. Besides, I have dogs, and they’re pretty awesome.””

        – I’m getting to the point where I’m about to tell people, “I’m barren. In my culture, this makes my family members consider me useless and a disgrace to the family.” Just to make people feel bad, you know.

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  6. Life with kids is somewhat different than life without kids. Sometimes I think people just want to be silly or make conversation, and that’s an easy way to do it. What they don’t realize is how it sounds to people who don’t have kids because they don’t remember those days.

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    1. “I think some of the things are just not duplicable in America, like the amount of non helicoptering.”

      – Why not? Because I was kind of planning – if I do get pregnant eventually – to not helicopter. I tried as hard as I could not to helicopter with my sister (when she was a teenager and I was her guardian) but then I discovered that even that was too much.

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  7. What they should really warn you is that it can cost up to $250,000 to raise a child over the course of 18 years, not including the cost of college. I don’t know how those quiverfull people get by.

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    1. I’m not at all convinced about these figures. I guess they’re technically true but in fact I’d put cost of housing, for instance at $0 – I’m in same smallish house with or without kids home – etc. And am not one to think I ‘need’ an SUV to transport a child in – they are actually rather small and can fit in small cars. But no, the quiverfulls mystify me too – although I think a lot of them have cottage industries and I gather some live really really badly.

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      1. One can always put the baby in designer nappies, buy diamond studs for tiny ears, etc.

        My mother is one of the quiverfuls. On the one hand, she wants me to have a child, but on the other, she tells me how my existence will be stunted by it. Which is getting me confused.

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  8. They do grow up, too. It’s not like they’re three years old forever. I think it is insensitive to say “Just wait til you have kids,” unless it’s in response to some childless person criticizing your parenting skills. You’ll see what I mean. Just wait til you have kids.

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      1. After Mr. X was born my research suffered and my social life became non-existent. And if I ever go to a party I fall asleep around midnight.

        BUT going to a park and doing the grocery with Mr. X is trully fun. And I mean it for real. Drawing pictures and writing words on the window is also a pretty amazing activity. I also laugh much more now than I used to now that Mr. X is in my life.

        People who say “Wait until you have a child” bore me to no end. I must say though that I might use that sentence if someone criticizes my parenting skills.

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        1. Look, I don’t have a kid but I stopped going to bars at around the same time you did. And remember how much we partied you know where?

          I think we are just getting older. I don’t mean it in a bad sense. It’s just moving to a different stage in life and enjoying it.

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  9. Really, I don’t understand why so many people feel the need to constantly try to dampen others’ happiness or enthusiasm in any way. As a college student, I get it all the time: “Oh, just wait till you get out in the real world!”

    Looks like once I do get out into the real world, I’ll start hearing comments like that about getting married or having children.

    Really, if being able to do whatever you want all of the time is that important to you, you can choose not to get married or have kids. But many people choose differently, and there’s no need to try to put them down.

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  10. In a word: Narcissism.

    Perhaps some mean the statement as a piece of advice, as if no one knows that children dramatically change your life, but for the most part it seems to stem from the speaker’s own personal unhappiness with parenting. It has nothing to do with the children themselves; note the language used – ‘your’ research, ‘your’ sleep, ‘your’ time and money. They want you to know how much having children affects you, and by extension, how much it affects them, without looking at the larger picture which includes the children themselves.

    Notice how in your counterexamples ‘you’ are referenced not solely in respect to yourself but to your relationship with your children and to your effect on helping them grow and mature. Most ‘Just wait till you….’ statements focus only on personal ramifications, not on those which affect everyone involved.

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  11. I react very poorly to such statements, and my unfair assumption is that the people that make them are suffering due to accepting a culturally-determined life-script that doesn’t actually suit them.

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