Many of our identities are with us from day one, but no one is born a parent. A parent is someone you become — so, theoretically, we should all be able to remember the person we were before having kids, to empathise and see things from that perspective.
But whether it’s a result of exhaustion, overwhelm or the way our brains and identities change so dramatically upon becoming parents, it seems that in many cases, parents do not, in fact, remember what it was like before they had children, and they often end up doing things that drive non-parents up the wall.
Take “baby talk,” for example, which has been observed in many different cultures. The way caregivers modulate their tone, cadence and vocabulary when speaking to their children may not sound so cute to other adults in the vicinity.
In a recent survey of 977 people who were asked their opinions about baby talk, 69% reported that they found it annoying when parents use baby talk to speak to their children. An almost equal number of future parents (68%) said they did not plan to use baby talk with their kids.
The survey, conducted by Preply, a company that matches people with language tutors, found that these were the most frequently used baby talk words:
- Boo boo
- Poo poo
The characteristics of baby talk that respondents found most annoying were speaking at a higher pitch (75%), exaggerating facial expressions (53%) and singing their speech (51%).
Slipping into baby talk isn’t the only annoying thing that parents do. A different survey of 977 people conducted by the same company found that a majority of non-parents (70%) said they find it annoying when parents continually bring the conversation back to their kids. A similar majority (72%) don’t want to hear any details about your kid’s bodily functions.
There are also a number of phrases parents use that non-parents find annoying, the top offender being, “You’re not a parent, so you wouldn’t understand,” which 68% identified as a sentence they don’t want to hear, followed by, “You think you’re tired now, just wait until you have kids!” (51%).
The survey’s results suggest that parents aren’t the best recruiters for the job. Sixty-two percent of people who plan to have kids said that they are less interested in doing so after talking to a person who is a parent, and 39% said they do not typically enjoy conversations with parents.
We asked folks on the HuffPost Life Facebook page to identify the parent behaviours that bother them most. Some commenters wondered if the question would only lead to more division between parents and non-parents, but we think there’s value in parents hearing the perspective of people who don’t have kids, and vice versa.
Here are some of the most annoying things that parents do, in the words of HuffPost readers:
“Letting their children play handheld video games with the volume on in public places. Either mute it or give the kid headphones. —Alicia Griffiths, New York City
“Expecting childless people to work holidays or sacrifice planned time off because we don’t have kids so somehow our time is less valuable or our plans are less important.” —Kyndall Osterman, Ohio
“Not keeping their kids from running, and running into people in stores and other public places.” —Mara Viviano
“Assuming that people who don’t have kids, hate kids.” —Sara Panek
“Men who say they’re ‘baby sitting’ their kids — like bro, you helped create them.” —Regina Marie, Washington, D.C.
“Believing that they can shove off extra work, later scheduled hours, and holiday and weekend shifts onto child-free coworkers. Just because I don’t have children doesn’t mean I don’t have something that means a lot to me to do during those times.” —Laura Lovejoy, Pennsylvania
“Saying in front of you, ‘I never knew true love or the meaning of life until I became a mother.’” —Tamya Jo
“My pet peeve is when parents make zero effort to keep their kids from ransacking my things at my place or in stores/restaurants.” —Brenda Wood
“Using the phrase ‘as a parent’ about things that have nothing to do with parenting.” —Traci Lee
“Parents do not have a monopoly on fatigue or stress.” —Jade Hoffman, Pennsylvania
“Not making an effort to quiet your child at a restaurant, movie, church etc.” —Sandra Quintana-Silva
“That we can have no opinions on child rearing just because we don’t have kids ourselves!” —Jacinta Parer, Australia
“Allowing a child to kick the back of your seat on a plane. And expecting you to switch seats that you pre-booked to accommodate your family.” —Suzanna Miles, U.K.
“They’ll tell you having kids is the best thing they ever did after complaining about them nonstop and yelling at them all the time.” —Jade Boring, Ohio
“Justifying/excusing bad behaviour by sexist comments like ‘boys will be boys.’” —Diane Parker
“Acting like nothing you do in your life is as important as theirs because they have kids.” —Amy Peal
“Using their kids for social media clout, especially when it involves scaring or embarrassing them. Think: the egg crack challenge on TikTok.” —Casey Bond, Los Angeles
“Screeching. Please teach kids alternatives. And model other ways to greet friends, even when you haven’t seen them in a bit.” —Chris Reese
“When they say that the advice us non-parents give will change when we have kids, or what we say we’ll do for punishments will change when we have kids.” —Julie Patel, New Jersey
“Asking you ‘Well, are YOU a parent??’ when you point out their child is torturing a kitten.” —Wendy E. Cooper, Los Angeles