If your friends are anything like my friends this is a question you've seen a gazillion times on Facebook.
And...I find it annoying.
Not because parents are asking for help. Goodness knows we can all use more help with nearly everything we do. And I have great admiration for the work parents do - work they do with inconsistent role models, no instruction manuals, no training. Nope, that's not it.
This is annoying because it presumes that those of us who haven't gone the parenting route don't have any experience that might inform their question.
Let me make myself clear.
- I'm trained in social work and public health. I spent four years studying and doing work in the field of mental illness, infectious disease management, human behavior change, and human and organizational development.
- I am a sexuality educator who has been trusted by complete strangers to help their pre-teens as they navigate the world of sexual and gender identity, sexual expression, and love of self and other.
- I worked in public education for nearly six years. In my work I regularly talked with families about their hopes and dreams for their children's education and aspirations. I also talked with teens about their experience of school and their aspirations. I was a generalist and was required to know the current trends and literature about the PK-12 educational process, special education, school choice, art and music education, recess and school lunch politics, PTA/PTO organizing, the college prep process, etc.
- Prior to this job I worked for nearly four years for a nonprofit that helped people of tremendous wealth come to terms with their financial circumstances. Many of these people were parents who sought to find ways to help their children have balanced and generous lives because of their circumstances. In my work I listened to them and directed them to resources to help them realize this dream.
- And now? Now I work for a nonprofit that helps parents of young children develop, practice and maintain habits of reading together as part of healthy individual and family development.
- I am an auntie to six little people on my side, and six on BMG's side - now ages two through 16. I've observed five siblings and their five partners parent twelve children. I've listened to each one work their way through the "disposable versus cloth" diaper debate, home school versus public versus independent debate, you name it, I've heard it.
- I also offer my own unique and supportive relationship to each of my nieces and nephews, as well as (although to a lesser extent) the children of my friends.
And, because I don't have kids, it is highly likely I have more time. Time to read your questions and thoughtfully respond.
And, because you are my friend and you have kids, I understand that much of you life centers around your children and your ever evolving role as a parent. Being excluded when you pose your Facebook questions just to other parents doesn't inspire me to learn more about the person you are as a parent.
So, when people direct Facebook questions about their parenting journeys exclusively to parents they are discounting all the experience people like me - who aren't parents - can bring to question with which they are grappling.
Dear friends. Keep asking questions. And please don't exclude me. I want to be involved in your life and I just may have a perspective that helps.