Most of my friends have gone down the marriage with 2.4 kids route. Great for them but it does eat most of their time/money.

Not having done that, I can afford a decent house, have a couple of holidays each year and to spend money on luxuries.

Sometimes when they ask what I have been up to, I feel genuinely awkward. I know they would do the same in my situation, so what is the problem? Believe me, I am not the bragging type.

What do I say without sounding like I'm bragging?

This question has got nothing to do with putting a monetary value on having children. I am NOT saying that not having kids is better than having kids. If I did then I wouldn't be asking this question.

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    Have your friends ever given you the impression that they think you (sound like you) are bragging? – Flo Aug 6 at 10:14
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    When your friends tell you about their first child learning guitar, the second winning a football game, and the third (or the 0.4-th) already starting to walk, do you feel like they are bragging ? – Evargalo Aug 6 at 13:53
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    What does "2.4 kids route" mean? – Pyritie Aug 6 at 14:22
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    Longstanding reference to having an "average" family life, supposedly at some point in the past the average number of children per household was 2.4. – Baracus Aug 6 at 14:32
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    They haven't given that impression, but when their news is they are having trouble getting money to fix their car and mine is that we have booked another holiday, I feel awkward. They made their choices years ago and I made mine. things just panned out differently. – ThirdPrize Aug 6 at 15:04

10 Answers 10

up vote 155 down vote accepted

I know a mother with two kids who frequently mentions how much she envies my career and my current relaxed life. But, of course, she would never even think about trading her life and her kids for mine.

Different life choices give different rewards. There is nothing wrong with showing photos of your vacation, while they show photos of their kids and homes.

The only thing you can take care of, if you worry about making them feel bad, is to show appreciation and interest for their sides. Ask about the kids, ask whether they redesigned the garden, whether they grow vegetables themselves, etc.. To convey the interest, you can try to be specific with the questions (ask for grades of the kids, the current harvest, whether the house stays cool during summer, ...)

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    I think @Lot means to ask what grade level they are in... meaning to ask how old they are. – Dan Aug 9 at 20:29
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    Not only ask, but remember. After learning that Kid1 plays football and Kid2 plays basketball, asking again will prove non-interest, while asking "how was Kid1's football today" proves interest. – Law29 Aug 10 at 6:54
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    I think @Lot means to ask how the kid's grades are in their classes. – Shawn V. Wilson Aug 10 at 19:29
  • Adding to @Law29, if you can't remember, then write it down the first chance you get to do it that won't be socially awkward. And definitely don't ask next time how Kid1's basketball was. – α CVn Aug 12 at 10:40

What makes you think it's bad to sound a bit bragging in the first place?

It's usually not advisable to brag out of the blue that you've been on your umpteenth holiday that anyone with kids probably can't afford. But that's not the situation as I understand it.

You were asked what you've been up to. This means they started with showing at least some interest. At this point it's socially acceptable to brag a bit. Talk about your vacation just like anyone else would about theirs. The fact that you can go on expensive holidays more often AND are still able to afford more luxury items as well has nothing to do with that.

Just pick the things to brag about. For example, my colleague has bought a new VR set that he had delivered to our work. Being in a somewhat relaxed working environment he even set it up so he could try it out there when everyone was watching. Of course, this was bragging. Not even hiding it. But it was fine since everyone else was interested.

We all know we could afford it if we didn't spend our money on other things like kids/vacations/... The fact that you can afford it without compromising something else is just nice on your part. If you would brag once or twice a year on something awesome you did (a certain trip, a new VR set, ...) and at most casually mention the other cool stuff I don't think anyone would really mind it.

If you notice someone does get somewhat jealous about all the cool stuff you can do and you start feeling like you're bragging too much you can turn it around to what they think is more important. Give them the opportunity to brag about something else, like what their kids achieved lately, something you won't be able to brag about in the first place. This should balance out the jealousy and keep the conversations in general pleasant for everyone.

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    "Ofcourse this was bragging." Why do you think it was of course bragging? – JiK Aug 7 at 13:17
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    @JiK in my example of my colleague it was obvious by the way he set it up and was talking about it that he was bragging about his cool new VR set. No other way to interpret that specific situation. Nobody minded it though, so not intended in a negative way here. – Imus Aug 7 at 13:56

Sometimes people like to live vicariously.

Yes, your friends have had kids and are unable to do some of the things they used to find enjoyable. Hearing about your adventures could be a way for them to relive their glory days.

This is more likely if they're always asking what you've been up to, and look a bit disappointed if you haven't spent the last week doing something awesome like playing sweet guitar solos while riding a rocket-powered skateboard.

You don't need to worry about appearing bragging in the first place.

If you were prone to bragging or arrogance then your friends wouldn't be asking what you've been up to. Furthermore, feeling awkward in response to being asked what you've been up to is not the response of a braggart.

This answer explores an alternative reason why your friends might be interested in what you have been up to, which gives another reason why you don't have to worry about appearing bragging.

  • As a parent i fully support this anwer. I love to hear about the adventurous travels of my childless friends (and the books they've read, the concerts they visited), especially since i will not be able to undertake any anytime soon. – Ivana Aug 10 at 12:56

The content of what you're saying isn't necessarily bragging, it would be down to how you say it.

So an old friend with a kid or two walks up and says, "So what have you been up to lately?"

Well, thanks to not having children I have really nice holidays each year and a really nice house! What have you been up to???

That's bragging, the way it's said, even when reading it, sounds like gloating, "I have something you don't". Just changing a few bits changes it from bragging to just chatting.

Well, I've got my own place, I work and go an a holiday or two a year, but then again, I haven't got kids so it's easier to do.

Both have the same basic content in what is being conversed, but one sounds arrogant and the other sounds sympathetic to family life. If you decieded that you don't want kids because it would effect you current life too much, be honest. If you add on "I just don't think family life is for me", it still sounds sympathetic and it shows you've thought about it at least briefly and decided to take a different path.

Body language as always plays an important role as well though. Provided you don't think you genuinely have the better life and therefore you are not trying to brag, by not bragging, your body language will portray that message as well.

A bragger generally makes themselves taller and looks over confidently at the person they are speaking to, while grinning derisively at them, while looking like they don't really care what the other person does or says. A caring person in conversation looks relaxed and interested in what others have to say.

Something also worth noting is taking the time to listen to them. If you explain about your life and then don't listen to them, that's definitely going to come across as arrogant and as you bragging, believe me. If they are parents, their personal time is far more important to them than yours is to you!

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    Why would you mention the "I haven't got kids". They did not ask for it did they :-)? Only express this when they ask about the reason of the reason you have lots of spare time and money to have fun. – Mathijs Segers Aug 8 at 8:31
  • @MathijsSegers, or in order to convey that you are not attempting to make them feel bad or feel that you are bragging, you could mention this as a brief and simple explanation. its not needed but has the potential to add understanding. – Blade Wraith Aug 8 at 8:47
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    My point is that this is presumptuous, you could also explain to everyone that you're eating a Pork sandwich because you don't have any religious objections for it. It's just unnecessary detail in my opinion. I mean, your example is based on a question, you don't have to apoligize for everything that you do right? – Mathijs Segers Aug 8 at 12:06
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    @MathijsSegers, its to do with empathy, as i said, its not needed, but its adds reasoning, no your don't need to do it, but then again you don't need to not brag, the OP is asking how to not sound like he's bragging. so this is A way, because it completely switches it the other way, – Blade Wraith Aug 8 at 12:31

The fact you've don't have kids isn't relevant. There's plenty of people with kids who have a nice house, go on holidays, and have luxury things.

No matter how much you're earning, there's people earning more who do have kids, and so enjoying the same (or more) than you, despite the cost of raising kids.

So – whatever you say you're doing right now – don't mention that it's 'because you don't have kids' or similar. You'll just sound nasty. Just tell them what you're up to, and leave your lack of kids out of it.

What's funny is that I've had the same question, but with the roles reversed!

I've been married more than 22 years to a wonderful wife. We have 6 kids ages 7-20. Our marriage and kids are a sources of great joy to me. When people ask what I've been doing lately, it almost always is something having to do with my family. If I'm talking with someone who is single and/or with no children, I often feel self-conscious and a little sorry for them that they don't get to experience the incredible blessings that I do.

Every state in life has joys and sufferings that are unique to it. One way to avoid sounding like you're bragging is to remind yourself that the person you're talking with may actually feel grateful that she or he is not in your situation. I explicitly work on cultivating a genuine interest in what my interlocutors are saying, what they are experiencing, and how they are feeling. I can then affirm and share in the good things that they experience, without drawing explicit attention to what I may (perhaps wrongly!) feel they may lack.

If you want to brag, focus on things (stuff, income, achievments, whatever) you do have and they don't.

If you want the opposite, focus on things they do have and you don't.

If they ask, answer honestly. If you regret the choice (you have sacrificed family life to live free), say or mention that.

I hope I read your question right and you are single. You have decent house, but there is no one to call it home. You go often on (expensive) vacations but do you have anyone to share your feelings there with? You spend money on luxurious things to make your life comfortable but do you have someone to make their life comfortable?

The different choices you and your friend made have different effects in different scales. You win in easy-to-assess wealth scales, they win in hard-to-quantify emotional scale.

Your friends have asked what you've been up to, you tell them. If they didn't want to know, they wouldn't have asked.

It sounds as though, you are concerned you may make your friends envious, that you have a better life than they do. However I'm quite sure it will not be interpreted that way.

You have a nice car, house, regular holidays etc. That's great, but hardly something that will drive your friends to envy.

Lots of people can afford these things, many can afford these things as well as having children. So if you consider it that way, it seems less special.

You're able to have a comfortable life, by sacrificing having a family. That is a big sacrifice to have to make, for some simple material possessions.

When you consider it this way, it seems your life is not so special that it need cause envy or jealousy amongst your friends.

An important realization here is that bragging is not about what or how, but about why.

There is no statement you can make which is intrinsically bragging if the reason you made that statement wasn't to gain the other side's admiration and/or to make them jealous/put them down and/or to reassure yourself.

Hence in order not to appear as if you're bragging when you're not, you simply have to make sure the other person understands why you said what you said.

Most of the time this will happen by itself. You can describe in great detail (even with exaggerations) what an amazing vacation you have planned given only a minor prompt ("Hey, sup?"). If it's obvious that you are telling me about it because you yourself are exited about it and can't wait, I wouldn't at all think you are bragging, even if I get jealous.


Still, there is another thing I have noticed good conversationalists do when they get a generic prompt while catching up with a person they haven't met in a while. They don't dump and endless enumeration of things or drill down in great details on any one thing. They list of three or four different things. If they had many more, they group some of them in categories.

This gives conversational hooks. The other person can now choose what sounded the most interesting to them and ask you a more specific question that lets you ramble about it more. Or if for some reason they want to avoid all of the offered topics, they will just tell you what they've been up to.

Make a joke out of it, and then give people the opportunity to follow up if they're genuinely interested in the specifics.

I had a friend who was a surgeon who had this problem when meeting women. If they said "So what do you do?" and he said "I'm a surgeon", he'd have people tell him he sounded arrogant. He switched to saying "I work in a hospital". If people then followed it up and asked for specifics ("What, like an administrator?"), he'd say "Oh, no, I'm a surgeon". That small extra step made a big difference.

With your friends, I'd be tempted to say "Ah, you know, normal playboy lifestyle". And then leave it at that unless they ask for more details. If they ask for more details, go to town.

People aren't always asking for information, a lot of conversation is surface-level and placebic. By putting information that might sound like bragging behind a "wall", and making people who want it have to ask specifically, you'll avoid sounding like you're bragging.

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