We’ve all seen it . . . snarky memes and condescending remarks about motherhood, sometimes directed toward non-moms. It seems to come from the need to express struggles and get us to understand what you’re going through. Totally understandable.
From what I hear, motherhood is challenging! Like I said in my last guest article, moms amaze me. I don’t know how you do all that you do.
But even if it’s not intended — and even if not directed towards her personally — the memes and remarks can be really painful to a non-mom friend. This may be especially true if she has been interested in having children, but it just hasn’t worked out. Some of these comments may be painful for other reasons, as life brings struggles no matter the path chosen.
So let’s take a moment to chat about some of the joy-stealing comparison comments I’ve seen online or gathered from my interactions. I hope this helps to bridge some gaps, and maybe encourages some positive open dialogue between friends who are moms and friends who are non-moms.
What NOT to Say to a Non-mom Friend
1. “You don’t know busy/tired because you’re not a mom.”
I agree; children can definitely make you busy and tired. At the same time, non-moms may have other reasons why we are busy and sometimes tired — like multiple jobs, health struggles, or other relational or volunteer roles. We may also try to be intentional about finding things to do that we can enjoy because we don’t have the joys and laughter that come with child interactions every day.
2. “I wish I had the time/energy to do XYZ.”
Since we’re not raising playful little people to be good humans, non-moms tend to look for other fun and meaningful things to do. It’s a trade-off either way. Personally, I sometimes spend time doing these things with hopes of building new relationships because of how many female friendships I’ve lost to the changes that come with motherhood and other life transitions. You’re likely welcome to join your non-mom friend when you can! Just tell us what you’re open to, as we want to know your interests and we know that your family schedule is your priority. We’re happy to invite you along!
3. “It must be nice to have a quiet, clean home.”
It’s true; non-moms may very much love our quiet and tidy homes. But we may occasionally wonder what it would be like if we had the daily fun and silliness, the snuggles and hugs, the playdates, and the built-in family activities that come with the loudness and the messiness. To some, we are missing out! It’s a lifestyle exchange that some non-moms might be happy with, and some might be struggling with. You might never know, and it might change daily, so kindness goes a long way.
4. “I don’t need your thoughts on parenting.”
I totally agree that people give too much unsolicited advice to parents. I think advice is generally best given in trusted relationships, and even then at a minimum unless permission is obtained. As such, I generally try not to give advice on parenting unless we’re really close and I feel like I have something unique to say. However, if a non-mom friend says something, please don’t automatically write off her thoughts. It’s possible that we have more knowledge and experience than you know about. While it’s not the same as directly raising children, you still might find something valuable in what we say.
Like any perspective shared, you can decide what to agree with; mom friends likely have different knowledge and opinions on things too! As a decent human, I understand that — as long as it’s done in loving, nonabusive ways — ultimately it’s up to you how you raise your children.
5. “I don’t know what to talk to you about.”
What do you talk to other moms about? We may not always know exactly the right questions to ask, but we can listen. We probably understand human emotions and interpersonal struggles. We can encourage you and try to find ways to support you as a friend. We also probably have some interesting things to share about our lives, with some adventures we might appreciate support in (as you’re able) — if you’ll ask and listen as well!
6. “Motherhood is the most important thing.”
I’ve actually had this said to me more than once. The people were speaking from their experiences and had no ill intent, but it still didn’t sit right with me as a non-mom working hard to do other important things.
However, I’ve also seen this as an encouragement to mothers amidst the seemingly mundane daily life of raising children . . . sometimes when they wish they could do more things that appear to make a bigger impact on the world. The heart behind this is beautiful. Motherhood is a high calling and may be the most important thing for you to focus on right now to make the world a better place. Please do that and encourage each other in that!
But as a non-mom looking in, I struggle with the phrasing of this in “absolutes.” Non-moms might be bringing life and “motherly” love to the world around us in ways that are just as important and impactful. We may have high callings and great purposes outside of motherhood, and moms might as well! I might suggest saying “Motherhood is so important, and good to spend your time and energy on doing well.” I think we can all agree on that!
7. “Just wait ‘til you have children.”
Sadly, this is usually said in a tone of warning of challenges to come. Your non-mom friends can empathize with your current challenges as a mom and try to be a support to you if you tell us what you need.
At the same time, we may have plenty of unexpressed challenges as well (because that’s just life). Your non-mom friend may have also taken on extra responsibilities instead of the responsibility of children. The challenges would change if we ever do have children: there may be responsibilities that we would need to give up or do less of in order to care for a child. Our current challenges — no matter what they are — can help prepare us to better handle our future challenges.
Beyond all that, I’d love to hear this phrase said more often in a positive tone of things you all love about having children! Future moms will thank you, and children who overhear the conversation will feel more secure.
8. “When are you having children?”
Children are a wonderful blessing, but I may not have any! That can be wonderful too.
I hope this helped to build some mutual compassion for each other as women, so we can all interact better and love each other well. Every person is different, so let this be a prompt toward more kindness in friendships and society — whatever that looks like for you!
About the Author
Originally from upstate NY, Stefanie and her husband have lived in Charleston since 2014. She is a Licensed Master Social Worker, currently serving as the Executive Director of a local nonprofit, Sanctuary of Unborn Life (SOUL). Stefanie is also a professional musician, writing and performing soulful, story-filled songs about things that matter most. In her spare time, she enjoys outdoor adventures, tap dancing, supporting the arts, and quality time with loved ones.