I Use Tips from Parenting Books to Deal with the Adult Men I'm Dating
And they work.
Dating as a single mom in New York City is the Major Leagues of dating. I consider myself a pro dater given all the BS I have to deal with constantly. As a stand-up comedian, this lifestyle has given me an endless source of cringe material, but one of the funniest things that's ever happened to me in my three years of divorcedom happened by accident one night. I went to meet up with someone I was casually seeing when I found the (cursed) L train wasn't running. I arrived late, and my date was pissed. Then I got pissed because I thought what kind of loser would hold that against me? I was annoyed that he wasn't being rational about it, that he wasn't being 'an adult' about it. But then I had a funny thought. I had been reading How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, which is hands down my favorite parenting book. I thought, what if I used some tips from the book on this grown ass man?
In the book I had read that when children are experiencing an emotion, you need to give them room to experience it and not try to minimize or rationalize it away. So I stopped trying to force him to see the rationale behind my lateness and said something embarrassing like, "You are angry that I am late, and that is valid." I swear to god, he immediately calmed down. All he wanted was for me to validate his emotions. Ever since, I have used this tip for my child. At first it was sort of a way to calm him down, but after a while I came to view his emotional outbursts completely differently. I stopped seeing them as a nuisance and learned they were always valid.
I know this parenting hack is a funny joke because all people who date cishet men know how it feels to be in relationships where you feel like you're raising him. Honestly, it's sad, too.
Most of us were raised in environments where we were being low-grade gaslit all the time. Like every time I fell down as a kid, my parents would scream "YOU'RE OK! STOP CRYING! IT'S NOT A BIG DEAL!" basically teaching me that my emotions were a nuisance to the important adults, I was constantly overreacting, and that I couldn't trust my intuitive feelings. By the time I was a teenager, I hid everything from my parents, and I suspect a lot of adults went through the same thing. That's why I assume this "trick" is healing for so many — we're finally getting the validation we've craved for so long.
I've read two other great parenting books: Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting by Laura Markham and Like A Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy by Angela Garbes. My main takeaway from both is that children need moms to take care of themselves first. I want to expand on this point, because the last thing I want is to sound like I'm saying women need to do work to become better for their men and their children. That is not something I believe in the least. What I learned through feminist parenting books is that to be a great mom or lover, you need to be selfish and prioritize yourself. You need to give yourself love and respect before you can authentically do it for other people. No one should read parenting books to be the perfect mom or girlfriend. If anything, people should read parenting books to soothe themselves and heal their own child self and stop worrying about the caretaking part. If you heal yourself, all the other stuff will naturally follow.
I'll leave you with one funny parenting tip that definitely works. I was hooking up with this hot bartender who never washed his hands. One time he fingered me after work and I ended up getting BV. I had just finished taking the last round of antibiotics when we were hooking up again and I saw those crusty bartender-y hands. I felt so awkward about telling him to wash them so I used this random tip I read: When your kid doesn't want to do a chore, turn it into a fun activity for the both of you. So I just said "Let's go wash our hands together! I got this new sexy smelling soap!" So then we had a weird sexy naked hand-soaping moment in the bathroom. Is that funny or disturbing? I don't know? But what can I say, it's my life.
Youngmi Mayer is a comedian and host of the Feeling Asian podcast. She lives in New York City.