A handful of my friends have become parents this year. Consequently, and as expected, I don’t see them very often any more, and when I do, it’s for brief 30-minute “passing by” visits just to see how they and their rapidly developing Von Neumann machines are doing.
I’d like to invite them to larger gatherings and events, and shape these gatherings so that new parents feel like a) they can take their kid without feeling like it would be a distraction or burden b) they could genuinely enjoy themselves c) the setting won’t be too chaotic even with multiple adults and kids d) the kids themselves would be comfortable, happy, and safe e) travel wouldn’t be inconvenient.
I live in a major metropolis where apartment space is coveted, so the home setting is limited.
But I’d just like to give my parent friends opportunities to socialize and do really fun things without making any implicit unreasonable demands to inconvenience themselves. Not having kids myself, I’m looking for best practices to provide that.
And to parents in the awkward army, what would something like this look like to you?
-Friend to new families
CommanderLogic here at your service.
Boy howdy do I feel you on this. I’ve got two Little Logics, 2.5 and 1 years old, and getting out to see friends with kids this age is hard. It just is. Even when our friends go the extra mile to make it easy for MrLogic and I, it’s still too hard sometimes, or something kid-related comes up and we have to bail. But I cannot tell you how much we appreciate the efforts our friends make! You are doing superb friend-work even thinking about this, so kudos to you.
The Challenges You Face
Parental Bandwidth (and the lack thereof): The social calendars of myself and the other parents I know aren’t especially full. This is because a full social calendar requires either leaving the house (ugh) or having a shit-ton of people at your own house (UGH).
Our MENTAL calendars, on the other hand, are stuffed to overflowing with things that MUST BE DONE – work, shop, cook, eat, keep tiny humans alive, keep tiny humans clean(ish), keep tiny humans happy(ish) – so the work involved in entertaining adult friends (as opposed to collapsing on the couch with laundry, wine, and Netflix) can easily be overwhelming.
Naptime: Unless your friends are all using the same daycare, or somehow coordinated to make their routines line up (HOW?), all the kids are gonna have different nap schedules, and it will FUCK WITH EVERYTHING. Some people are like “But what is a skipped nap here or there?” NOAP. NOPE. NOOOOOOOOOPE. Yep? NOPE. If the kids are under 4, and the parent tells you it is naptime – even if the kid seems wide awake and cheerful – trust me, it is naptime. The parent is sparing everyone from napless horrors.
Development: The under 3 set is always changing. ALWAYS. You look away for a week and suddenly the cuddly, immobile, everyone’s-my-friend baby will be a holy terror that only wants DADADADADA and will climb into every pointy bit in your apartment to reach their parent.
Everyone is Goddamn Different: This goes for the parents and kids alike. Some parents are going to be gung-ho about social activities, some are going to insist their children can’t be exposed to Outside People. Some kids are outgoing or able to collapse into a nap anywhere, some are nervous or unable to fall asleep without a frillion carefully timed procedures. No matter what I tell you, nothing will work for everyone in every situation. You may just have to ride it out for a couple years while the wee Von Neumann machines turn into semi-logical humanoids that you can shove into a room or outside with some toys and expect not to destroy themselves or everything (too much). It will be easier, and it will really not be that long in the scheme of things.
Here are a few coping strategies for Friends of Parents of SMALL Children to keep in mind, (*) will be included for those strategies that only work for couples. Single parents, you are impressive beyond my ability to express. Amazing.
1 – Embrace the Open House. If people can cycle through on their own (or let’s be real, their kids’) schedules, they’re more likely to come by.
Open Houses can be at your house, or at a park (“We’ll be at Moomin Park by the big blue play structure from 12-5! Come by whenever, leave whenever.”), or a beach, or other places the commentariat will doubtless suggest. Televised sport events are great for an open house. Or a board game day. Or a Terrible Movies marathon. The point is that people don’t have to be there exactly at a specific time, or stay to the end.
2 – Expect last minute cancellations. This can be hard. It will feel like a comment on your friendship, but it is NOT. Babies are assholes and they know, THEY KNOW, when you want to do something and will choose that moment to be epically sick.
3 – Set aside a Quiet Room, stocked with a comfy chair, something to function as a changing table, and room for one or more pack’n’plays. It may not get used, but this is way more helpful to parents of small children than a set aside Play Room. When you set up a Play Room for the under 5 set, what you’re really doing is setting up a situation where the parents are going to hang out in the Play Room instead of with the adults. If the kids are there, they’re gonna be partying with the adults. Count on it.
4 – Offer to come to them. It will feel SUPER WEIRD to invite yourself over, but as I said, most new parents’ social calendars aren’t very full, and by offering your presence you’ve made it possible for them to socialize without adding One More Thing to their mental calendars.
The Captain and her Gentleman Caller do this frequently and we love it: they come over around nap time and hold down the fort while MrLogic and I go out to a movie. Or they make us dinner. We all play with the kids. When the kids go down for the night, we hang out and play board games.
Here’s how you make it happen: “Hey Friend! I’m free this weekend, can I make/bring you dinner and we [whatever is your jam] after Little goes to bed?” “Hey Friend! I can come over during Little’s nap and stand guard while you go run an errand or see Fury Road on IMAX. Let me know if there’s a time that works best!”
1* – Resign yourself to seeing only one of your friends at any given event, or expect that they’ll tag team it. Finding babysitting is annoying as fuck, especially if your go-to babysitters are in your friend group and are probably also invited to the event. Frequently, MrLogic and I will decide who is more interested in (or has more energy for) a given event and only one of us will go. The parent left behind is usually rewarded by getting sleeping-in dibs, the most precious dibs of all.
2 – Give as much lead time as you possibly can, and be SUPER EXPLICIT about it being adult-only. This gives your friends the info they need (I need a babysitter) and the prep time to make it happen (SHIT I NEED A BABYSITTER).
3 – Change your go-to events/times. I can’t do brunch at 11 anymore. How about 7:30AM breakfast instead? I can’t go to a party that starts at 9PM but REALLY gets going around midnight. Let’s do a lunch during the workweek instead, while the kid is in daycare. I can’t go out to the club, why don’t you come over and we’ll watch one terrible movie and drink no more than a bottle of wine? Basically, my energy times are all out of whack with what they were when I had no kids. I have to be up and sober at 6am because a tiny person is going to yell at me regardless of my condition. Ask your friends what works best for them and try it out. tbh, 7:30 breakfast is some of the best brunch in the city.
4 – Try a standing-invitation event. (A variation on the Open House) This is kind of 400-level social maven advice, and heavily dependent on one person birddogging it, but it has really worked for me: Have a once-weekly Thing to which people are invited. It must be flexible enough to accommodate ALL the invitees or only one showing up. Maybe it’s a weekly potluck. Maybe it’s game night. Maybe it’s weekly rifftrax. The goal is to have something that is attractive to your friends, reliable on their calendars, and easy to say “shoot, I can’t make this one but I hope I see everyone next time.”
NOW, as a haver of small children myself, I also have some suggestions to the parents out there who may be feeling a bit trapped. THE POWER IS WITHIN YOU.
Everything I recommended to our LW is something that YOU TOO can do. As I said, I myself host a standing-invitation event on Wednesday nights, and it’s THE BEST. People I love come to me, I feed them dinner, I put the kids to bed, and then we talk about stuff and watch Project Runway.
We’ve had open house parties that our kids weathered like champs.
I go to breakfast and weekday lunch with my lady friends, sometimes at their invitation and sometimes at mine.
Our friends with kids come over and play board games while all the littles are sleeping.
But having a social life is work. It is. It doesn’t happen by wishing one of our friends would set something up and inviting us at just the right time (though that’s definitely great!). We have to make the effort of inviting, too. So parents, this is your permission to invite people over for delivery food and Netflix. Host a poker night, or even harass a few of your friends to download a poker app from one of those online casinos that allow PayPal deposits and get them into a game. Ask your friend to take your kid to the park and get some ice cream so you can nap, please, and maybe can that be a weekly Sunday thing? Ask a friend out to breakfast.
Having a social life doesn’t require you to be perfect. It doesn’t require you to have a perfectly kept house, or perfectly behaved kids, or perfectly so anything. All it requires is that you ask for what you need. You need adults sometimes. Invite them in!
330 thoughts on “#743: How can I be a good friend to my friends with kids?”
I have had a lot of success with two socializing-with-a-two-year-old methods:
1. Standing, rotating, EARLY (like 5:30 or 6pm) dinner party: We and two other couple friends (one of whom also has a two-year-old) take turns hosting dinner, and everybody else brings sides. It can be as fancy or low-key as the kids need it to be that day; the baby-free couple has lots of prep time to baby-proof their house; and everybody is prepared to take turns chasing toddlers. The kids can play (as much as they are able to) and the adults can stand around nearby drinking wine. It’s not always super relaxing, but it’s definitely easier than going out.
2. Hosting after bedtime: Movies, board games, come-over-and-drink times. This is by far the easiest socializing method for me and it has made me MUCH more into having people over. Especially if they don’t mind their hosts greeting them in pajama pants.
yes, I haven’t seen much reference to baby-proofing here, and that’s a big deal. My kid was very well behaved, if I do say so myself, and she still managed to set her hair on fire when she bent over a candle to look at it (but carefully was not touching it). For the next couple of years, anytime I visited a friend with her, I’d go through the house and blow out any lit candles.
Yes, babyproofing! Nothing had me on edge like going to someone’s house with my twins and having to constantly scan through every room looking for potential breakables.
I have 20-month-old twins, and this is my life. Friends can do a huge amount of preparation and it won’t be enough or quite right, because what it means to be “babyproof” is evolving constantly. A year ago it was small items on the floor that we were worried about them swallowing. Now, they’ve gotten much better about that but we can’t keep our kitchen chairs upright when not sitting on them because the kids have taken to climbing up on the kitchen table if we turn away for more than 5 seconds. They are now tall enough to grab things off of kitchen counters. They think sticking their hands in the toilet is hilarious. Someone else’s house is not going to be a relaxing experience, unless that person has kids the same age, and even then we’ll have to be on the lookout.
I am terrified of the upcoming winter, because so much of our social life currently takes place in parks and on playgrounds. We’re happy to have people over, but I hate having to make everyone come to us all the time.
Ha! My kid did too. You have never seen a group of adults move so damn fast. Actually you have!
Ha. My grandparents built a big in-ground pool (and a hot tub, that’s separated from the pool by a very narrow ledge) on their property when I was about 5 years old. Starting with my youngest sister, SO MANY kids in my family have fallen into that pool around age 2-3, and so many of my aunts, uncles, and cousins (beginning with my mother) have dove in after them wearing party clothes. It’s not a deep pool by any means. But that whole area is far from childproof.
i have a 1 year old and your #2 suggestion is what has kept me social. he goes to bed early (7:30) so perfect for late dinner/drinking/gaming/etc with my non-parent friends.
so happy to have people over to my place because i’m on my own turf and everything is babyproofed. when he happens to be up, he can wander around and play and i don’t have to hover constantly.
I will absolutely second your board game suggestion. Especially handy for larger groups and shorter games (aka: NOT Battlestar Galactica) because if the baby starts fussing it’s easy for one parent to step out, soothe the baby, and then step back in. Especially appreciated when they were organized at our house as a ‘let’s get together and order take-out!’ (I don’t have to cook, I’m in the environment where my baby is most likely to be soothed, AND I can see friends. Bliss!)
Also things that worked:
– Combine errands. ‘Let’s go grocery shopping/run errands at these 5 stores on the same street and then get ice cream/go to costco for diapers/etc’ Very convenient for multiple parents with small children who live near each other: if you’re only going to have the spoons to get yourself/your baby dressed/de-puked/out of the house once that day, groceries NEED to happen and socializing does not, but if you combine them, you can get errands done while chatting for a bit, and that’s better than nothing.
I’m told things improve once the children are mobile and can entertain themselves for a few minutes… but with babies, you basically take what you can get. 🙂
it is so welcome and i am so grateful when a friend offers to ride along on my errands. if the baby is sleeping, they can stay in the car with them, or if the baby’s awake, they can help amuse him in the store!
I never would have thought about this, but I’m totally going to start offering it as a hang-out suggestion!
When my friends’ kids were little, I did a lot of hanging out and folding laundry with them just so I could see them.
As the kids have gotten older (but babysitters are still expensive), we have moved to, “We will come to your house with supper and we will all eat together.”
There is also the, “I will hang out with you while you watch (yet another excruciatingly boring sporting event that I swear my parents never attended when I was a kid) and distract you.”
There is nothing, however, to be done with the, “Sorry – I can’t hang out because this Saturday, as every Saturday, I have to take my child to a birthday party and stay there the entire time.”
I have a friend who does/did both! He has a poly household (himself and 2 women), though, so I guess it’s easier. He now has kids 9, 9, and 3. I remember when his first boys were preschool-age, he’d have dinner parties, early, like you said. The boys would “help” cook and develop their manners by eating with us, then the guests would talk or have after-dinner wine while the boys got put to bed. After they went to bed, then we would play games/watch a movie/etc.
My friend set doesn’t have children yet, but I am absolutely bookmarking this. Thanks, CommanderLogic and letter writer.
Mom of a 1 and 2 year old. I just want to add that it would be helpful if you really develop a good sense of patience and a sense of humor. If you’re hanging with me and my kids, they will interrupt constantly. They will be demanding things from me left and right. They will be naughty on purpose to a) try and impress you and b) get attention from me. My 2 year old is toilet training so chances are good I’ll be in the bathroom with him a lot.
In other words, be prepared for our conversations to be interrupted constantly with me having to correct bad behavior, give “good manners” reminders, get food, clean up messes, screaming & crying from them and so on. If you need time for serious venting or a lot of active listening you might not be able to get it from a mom-friend like me.
Also, be aware that when I divert my attention from you to my toddler over and over for a few seconds at a time, I know it breaks up the conversation annoyingly, but it’s partly for your sake & the sake of continuing the conversation at all. It’s maintenance and prevention. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t sense the neediness rising; if he was happy playing, I would happily ignore him. But when he is feeling needy, ignoring will lead to crying and the end of the conversation. Interruptions are preferable.
This is for a toddler. Older kids (not sure yet about what ages!) can get more of the “The grown-ups are talking, dear” boundaries and be OK. Toddlers can’t really grasp that.
Yep, and that’s when we’re teaching them manners so they don’t grow up savage and people are all like “Didn’t your Parent ever teach you manners??” Totally agree: interruptions happen.
I’d say this is pretty awesome advice.
Activities my best (childless) friends manage with me:
1) Going to the park with the kids and chatting while they play.
2) They come over for dinner and after the kids go to bed we have a glass of wine and a chat.
3) We take the kiddos out for lunch/dinner and are sure to pack crayons and such so we can talk.
4) Grocery shopping! We both have to do it- we can do it together.
5) One set of friends actually keeps a small storage box with art supplies, bubbles, and such for their friends with kids. So awesome. We can sit on their building’s porch and let the kids run bubble wild.
Totally using #5!!
Mama of an 8-month-old. We are the first ones in our (local) friends group to have a kid. I enjoy going to social gatherings because all of our friends LOVE to hold / play with our little one, so I can pass him off to one of the handful of people asking if they can hold him, and then go across the room and chat with some other folks. It would be super less enjoyable if everyone’s attitude was, “Yes, you may bring your kid as long as you personally tend to him and keep him out of the way,” which is actually how it tends to be at a lot of family events.
I am less happy about our one friend whose go-to outing is to invite everyone to the local bar, especially because every single time he’s like, “What do you mean you can’t bring the baby?”
My kid has always been super portable and fun to take out IF she feels included (starting at 8 months, she’s now a year and a half old). I mean: sit in your high chair and socialize with everyone for a 2-hour-long dinner? Not an issue, UNLESS she feels like she isn’t included, and then it’s the fuss of doom.
This means that if you want us to leave the house, knowing that we’re going somewhere that’s child-friendly and where there are other adults willing to play ‘search for the baby’ (advanced peek-a-boo), or pat-a-cake, or read her books for 5 minutes at a time… this is key. Otherwise, I’m signing up to shlepping what seems like half of my household goods to a place where neither of us feel comfortable and I can’t interact with others anyway, and at that point staying home is just so much more tempting.
tl;dr: if you interact with my kid, you make it possible for me to also hang out with friends.
I don’t have kids, and my friends don’t have kids, but I feel like this is the most helpful part of my retail job during back-to-school time. While parents help the older ones pick out clothes/try on shoes, I spend some time playing peek-a-boo with the ones in the stroller to keep them from pitching an epic tantrum because nobody is paying attention to them and there’s nothing to do.
Oh, so true. Grown-ups being comfortable with a little small-child-interaction makes all the difference. Just a little is enough, as long as the group as a whole is cool with it (and basically trustworthy and not totally clueless with kids so they’ll scare them badly by accident or something. Man, I’ve had a couple of those…) It’s good and refreshing for the grown-ups to get social contact with a little kid, the attention “cost” is spread around so it’s not stressful for anyone, and the kid goes home super-happy (and probably wired but what the heck) from all the attention from people outside the family. (Which is good for the kid socially too.)
Where I live, it is not a problem to take a baby to a bar. 🙂
I have several pictures of our eldest at our local bar. Sometimes ON the actual bar.
Now that we have three, we don’t go there in that same capacity as often, but we were there recently for a fundraising thingie, and one of the regulars actually came up to me and told me how much he loved seeing him there as a baby, and how big he had gotten. So, not as weird as it may seem initially.
Yeah, that was a nice thing about living in the Netherlands. Not many kids in my home city (it was mostly students) but when I’d go somewhere like Amsterdam with my kid-having friends, it was no fuss for the adults to sit and have a beer while the kid sat and had some juice. Made things easier for the parents.
Of course, there were still some bars I’d never take a kid into…
It is great advice. The evening visit with kid socializing over dinner and adult socializing later works really well, and so do park/hike dates.
Advice for parents (I am a parent): be firm about bedtimes and your right to evening kid-free time. That is your friend time and your reconnecting time and your talk-about-politics uninterrupted time and your book/Netflix time and you should openly protect it against your kids, who won’t see any reason why they shouldn’t go on being told stories for an hour and a half or more as a condition of sleep until they are about ten. You can have a loving bedtime routine that is 20 minutes long. Hold the line and you’ll be glad you did.
Yup. I grew up in France and among my kid-having friends are French couples. We were all taught, and they are teaching their kids, that there is such a thing as parents time or grown-up time. This goes not just for bedtime but also for interrupting conversations (unless kid has a pressing need, obviously). There is an analogy to be made here with the boundary-setting and preserving techniques that are explained so well on this site. And, just like all other boundaries, there are successes and failures day to day.
This is a thing I find tricky, as a freefloating adult with childed friends — I love and find their children interesting as well, and I want to build relationships specific to each child, but I also want to have adult time with the parent! So, balancing the usually parallel conversations between me and child and me and parent: is not terribly easy.
I’ve noticed that timing my visits around dinner time is pretty good for my friends – I come over a bit before dinner and entertain the kids, which gives my friends time to relax/get projects done/chat amongst themselves. We all pitch in to make dinner, usually with 2 people cooking/eating and one feeding the kids (we rotate), read bedtime stories and put them to bed. Then it’s adult time! I get time to play with the kids while my friends relax a bit (there are times when the kids see me walk in and my friend will say, “Look, kids! The entertainment’s here!”) AND time to see my friends. Keeps it from being too distracting for either kind of conversation.
The interrupting thing!! . I very clearly remember when my Mom started teaching me about not interrupting. But I have a 12 year old cousin who does not seem to understand that any time an adult is in the room is not an opening for her to just start talking to said adult. You’ll be mid sentence and it’s all “OMG POWNIES.”
I feel like a horrible person saying “It is rude to interrupt people when they are having a conversation.” BUT SERIOUSLY IT IS. I don’t care how quirky and adorable you are.
And honestly, teaching kids this when they are young benefits them too. This is a socially awkward trait that eventually she’s going to have to train herself out of, and it will probably be less pleasant than it would have been when she was 4. She has not learned how to people properly and that is her family’s fault for always dropping everything any time she wants to talk to them.
I’m a parent, and I also do a lot of volunteering with kids. It’s probably never too early to start getting kids to understand what interrupting is, and working with them on waiting for their turn to speak. Most of them won’t start to get it until they’re at least six, and even then, it takes constant repetition – but it’s worth it.
I work with eight and eleven year-olds, and some will just step right in front of another kid and start talking over them while I am in mid-sentence. That’s when I give them my Halt Hand and say, “Edwin? I am talking to Heloise now. I’ll get to you next.”
If Edwin continues to interrupt, he gets the Halt Hand in his face, and I ignore him until I am finished with Heloise.
If Edwin waits quietly for me to finish, I make sure to thank him for his patience.
With friends I might be less formal, but they still get the Halt Hand and “Hang on, buddy, wait ’til I’m done.”
One hint I remember reading for parents adding a new baby to a previously only-child household is to make sure the older sibling sees that they get priority sometimes, too.
“No 2-year-old, I can’t get you juice now, I have to change 8-week-old; you will have to wait 5 minutes.”
“No 8-week-old, I can’t get you out of the bassinet yet, It’s 2-year-old’s story time, you will have to wait 5 minutes.”
The newborn isn’t going to get it (or give a toss), but it’s important for the older kid to see that it works both ways.
“It’s probably never too early to start getting kids to understand what interrupting is.” Yes. It’s amazing how young they can start saying “please” and “thank you” and put their hand on yours instead of interrupting.
With very small persons, I didn’t make them wait long. As they got bigger, so did the wait time. I’d pat their hand with my other hand and give them a smile or kiss on the forehead while continuing my conversation (either listening or talking). Then *I’d* interrupt the conversation, tell my adult friend that Little Galore had something to say, and let him say or ask it. We’d listen, respond and then *it was our turn again*.
Little Galores got reassurance and low-grade attention while not interrupting, and then had a chance to join the conversation. Most of the time that’s all they wanted. More than a few times they told me about something truly important like diaper or potty needs or that the dog had puked.
For those occasions, we worked out a code. They could squeeze my hand twice and I would immediately interrupt my conversation with “Excuse me, LG says there’s an emergency.” It wasn’t always, of course. “Oh Little G, THAT’S not an emergency. Now go play.”
This made actual conversations possible at the supper table, and BOY did it impress the grandparents!
This (and the tips from Carpe Libarium and Proffe Galore) all sound awesome. Much better ways of handling kid-interruptions than the Extreme Irritation and reminders that I Was Not Important that I remember from when I was a kid (especially Proffe Galore’s part about having a code for true emergencies; I remember being TERRIFIED as a kid about what might happen if something was on fire–because we had so many fire safety drills in school–but all the adults were having an Important Conversation).
I also wonder if techniques like this would eliminate behaviors like the ones I hated in my Terrible Entitled Interrupting Everything Always Ex-Boyfriend from ever existing.
Yeah, that works really well for older kids too. My parents and two other couples used to take turns hosting every Friday or Saturday night, pretty much as soon as their babies started sleeping through the night. We’d all go over, chat and have drinks, the kids (all 3 families had them) would play video games and hang out together, then the home kids would go to bed and the visiting kids would climb into sleeping bags in the empty dining room and the adults would crack open the booze (each set of parents took it in turns between them to be Designated Sober Parent/Driver) and play card games until the small hours, then the visitors would pick up their still-sleeping kids, buckle them into the cars and take them home.
We all loved those evenings 🙂
Seconding your ‘advice for parents’, especially with older children.
For babies, things might be different, but once a child has reached the point where they can lie down and get to sleep on their own, bedtime is bedtime (for our house, anyway). True fact: this has saved me from howling in frustration from lack of time to do ANYTHING, because all of a sudden there’s 2 hours between my kid’s bedtime and my bedtime, and omg so much can get done when you’re not consistently interrupted by a small creature demanding books/water/heat/cold/cuddles/hugs/bathroom/water/etc…
I didn’t realize when my daughter was a wee one that there would come a time when she would go to bed at a reasonable hour and I wouldn’t be stuck with her on my boob until the middle of the night. So I resented my husband whose life hadn’t seemed to change and was playing on his computer or doing as he pleased. When she suddenly started going to bed at 7 and staying asleep for 5 plus hours, oh. my. god. It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders because suddenly I had me time back.
It was only that memory that really kept me sane during the first few months of my son’s life — knowing that we just had to get through this stretch and things would get better.
On topic, I recently had a friend come over for an evening when I was home with the kids, and I invited her over for a time between the bedtimes. I had the toddler in her pjs and I let her spend a bit of time socializing with my friend before I took her upstairs and put her to bed. It kept the toddler happy, since she got to be a part of things, and she still got her story when I took her upstairs, and my friend had no problems being on her own for the few minutes it took me to get my daughter settled. It helps that she has kids herself, I have no doubt.
We’ve also had group events where all the kids present played together in whatever configuration they so chose, and then one parent would split off with the kids when it was time to leave and the other would stay to socialize.
I am a parent whose kid was always something of a night owl. From infancy. I always had been a night out myself, so I had an attitude of “Well, that’s just how he’s wired, like me” and l shrugged and didn’t try very actively to address it.
I wish I had. I’m not sure how effective it would have been, but we should have tried.
When I compare our social options and the “adult time” in our marriage and our ability to watch something like Game of Thrones when it’s airing…. compared to friends whose kids conk out early, they are so much better off. They really are. Now he’s a teen so it’s less of an issue (or, actually, its a huge issue but everyone says it’s normal for this age).
Early/reasonable bedtimes are a huge benefit to the family/parental sanity/child health so I strongly encourage parents to do all they can to make this happen.
Strictly enforced bedtime is THE BEST THING in our lives. Ok, the kids are the best thing in our lives, but having them sleeping at 7:30 is a very close second. Pro-tip: offloading the responsibility onto a light-up clock has made things easier for us. “I’m sorry honey, I know you want another book but the clock says it’s time for bed. Mommy’s hands are tied. Yes, the clock is very mean.”
My parents took this trick to a wine other level: they didn’t teach me how to tell time until way after other kids my age. They could pretty much tell me it was bedtime whenever they wanted and I didn’t know enough to object.
Heh. To a wine other level.
I used to set the clocks ahead when I babysat. (This was easier when there were not microwaves and DVD players around.)
My daughter’s doctor just told her that she can’t climb into bed with us anymore. YESSSSSSSSSSS. Now instead of mean mommie it’s all, “Sorry kid, but you heard your doctor. She knows best.”
Bed time. Heaven yes. When our (currently 15 month old) started sleeping consistently at 7pm and we had 2-3 hours to do dishes/laundry/watch tv/talk to each other like adults it was the BEST THING EVER. I got my mother-in-law to change the time of traditional sunday dinners (with 20+ members of a huge extended family) because I will not budge on bedtime.
Unrelated. The Commander’s advice on play areas is spot on. We just bought a new house that I loved partially because it had this great space that was easy to gate off and make a designated play space. And it’s an awesome space! But my vision of parties with kids in one area and adults in the other hasn’t quite worked out yet. Everyone (or at least half the adults) is in the play space. Our friend set has lots of kids between 1 and 5 years of age. So hopefully in a few years it will balance out more that way. But my kid can play their safely while I cook and that works wonders for me.
This starts to balance out someone around the seven to nine age range if our kids group is anything to go by. And once you get a couple of older ones you can trust then to keep an eye on the younger set. (Up to a point; at some point this becomes babysitting and the older should be paid.) Really, past five, it got a lot easier, and if the kid is a reader, it’s even better.
Wait, how do you use the light-up clock? It’s time to move to this step but I have been stymied on how to make the timekeeping external to me.
The one I use is the “My Tot Clock.” It is programmed to turn blue at 7:30, so at about 7:15 we make the move to the bedroom, change diapers and PJs, putter around, and aim to be reading a book in the rocking chair when the clock turns blue. “Look, WeeLogic! What does the clock say?” “Bedtime!” We finish the story, turn off the light, sing the good night song and go into the bed. In the morning, the clock lights up yellow and WeeLogic knows that means it’s morning and she can demand we get up.
There is ALSO a feature where you can make the clock go blue early. I try to use that rarely, but not gonna lie, every once in a while bedtime needs to be at 7PM. I did not use this feature until WeeLogic1 had seen it turn blue a few times without any interference on my part.
Note: YOUR CHILD MIGHT NOT SLEEP. All the clock means is that it’s time to be in the bedroom with the lights off. No one can make a child sleep.
Best of luck, and I hope your little takes to the bedtimes with gusto!
Seconding this so hard. No kids, but as a child we had a clock with pop-up rabbit ears. When the ears went down it was bedtime, and it was not ok to disturb mum & dad until the ears popped up. It felt very regulated and soothing, and we really loved the weird clock.
My husband’s parents used the timer on their central hearing. The kids were not allowed to leave their bedrooms in the morning until the radiators were warm. My mother-in-law laughs about how they used to hear the patter of tiny feet crossing the room from bed to radiator and then sounds of disappointment and little footsteps going back to bed 🙂
We have a Gro-Clock. It is the best invention ever. The ‘sun’ comes up at 6.30 am and it has worked like a charm. Even if he’s up early he just entertains himself reading or playing. No more wandering in for a cuddle at 5.30. I don’t mind the cuddle bit but not at 5.30 am!
As long as we’re mentioning great inventions and ideas, my parents put my sister to sleep in front of a clock radio playing, so that she wouldn’t get the idea that the room had to be silent for her to sleep. I did the same thing with my kid and it was awesome. I assume my parents did the same thing with me, because I can fall asleep in parties and rock concerts.
slfisher, I went to a new family to babysit. First thing I wanted to do was to turn down the stereo because the baby was sleeping, but the dad said, “No! He needs to learn to sleep through noise!”
My 14 year old self thought that was brilliant.
Light-up clock? Please please share this wonder so I can begin to train my toddler who will not WILL NOT get on a schedule!
Here you go! http://alphamom.com/parenting/toddler-parenting/best-kids-clocks-to-stay-in-bed-longer/
We use the “My Tot Clock” – it lights up blue for sleepytimes when we’ve programmed it to, and when it’s yellow, WeeLogic#1 knows it’s time to be awake. Good luck!
Thank you thank you! My kid loves clocks at the moment, but does not understand trying to go to sleep when there’s fun to be had!
But as with any parenting advice, one size does not fit all! Not all kids do respond to set bed times, and not all parents prioritise getting child-free time at the end of the day.
True. We co-sleep, and it works really well for us. The plus for me is that I can excuse myself from events *in my own home* when it’s time to take the littles to bed. “It’s been great seeing you! Please enjoy dessert/another round/the movie with [the other household adults], but I have to get these babies to bed. G’night!” Ahhhh, sweet, blissful retreat for this introvert. 🙂
My fiancé’s friends are mostly older than we are by a couple of years, so there are a few kids (three and under) in the social group. (None of my friends have children yet, at least two couples, neither of whom live in our area anyway, seem like they aren’t planning on it.) It’s made spending time with those friends difficult, because a) all of them have moved out of the city to the suburbs, many of them before even having kids, and tend to not want to drive into the city with the kids (they also mostly work out there, so it’s reasonable for them to have moved) b) they all seem to feel like it is a huge hassle to do ANYTHING AT ALL with kids in tow and c) a number of them refuse to use babysitters (these same people put their children in daycare, because they work, but babysitters are a no-go).
We try to make our apartment accommodating – we’re lucky enough to have a second bedroom/office, which we set aside as a quiet nap/playroom when people do come over. We also have a number of kid-safe toys and books – I’m quite fond of picture books and keep a few of my childhood favorites on the shelf, and we have a lot of soft stuffed toys (in fact, the last time we had people over, the three kiddos took the Squishables I pulled out after one of them started jumping on our stuffed Chewbacca (he roars when you squeeze him – I wasn’t sure that his electronics could take repeated blows), piled them against the end of the hall, and ran down it to fling themselves into them. (We live on the first floor, so no neighbors to bother below.) We still don’t see a lot of these friends, and often only get invited to see them when a little one is having a birthday.
I have to say I find it a little baffling. I get that Tiny Humans can be exhausting and difficult to care for, but they are also portable. My parents didn’t let having kids make their social lives revolve around us (though it did sort of inevitably happen, as their friends had kids and we started going to school, that things became more friends-with-families-oriented). My parents took me to “grown-up” parties as a baby. I have literally slept in people’s closets because it was nap time/bedtime. They took me out and about hiking and doing all kinds of things – yes, not as easy as before kids, but doable. I had babysitters. I feel like they treat their children as immensely fragile – and I kind of fear becoming that when I have kids, too.
We’re getting married next year, and we’ve picked a venue that’s a bit of a drive from the area where most of these people live. My fiancé is worried that a lot of them won’t come because it’s too far and they’d get back so late. I’m all for providing childcare, and the venue has space that could easily be set up as a place for kids to sleep, but he really thinks a lot of them won’t come just because of the kids.
As the mother of a tiny human, I have to say your fiancé would be sadly correct in my case. My daughter only sleeps in her bed – she cannot and will not sleep in a car seat, and will yell at the top of her lungs in protest before dissolving into a sobbing mess – and if she doesn’t have her nap she becomes incredibly moody and wired and that in turn means that she’ll spend the night with the toddler equivalent of insomnia, waking up every two hours. (Weird thing about tiny humans – when they are overtired, they find it harder to fall asleep, not easier.)
Also, while she has a decent attention span for a child her age, 45 minutes in the car is about her limit; at that point she’s likely to start melting down, even if I’m sitting in the back seat with her, bribing her with snacks and toys.
Well, I think you get the picture. It’s not that she’s fragile – it’s that she’s not yet two, and young humans aren’t shy about expressing their displeasure. Within the hours she is normally awake, we do all kinds of things. But lack of sleep in a toddler upsets the whole household, which is already rather short on sleep.
I love that you are willing to have small humans at your wedding – so many people are adamant that such events are for adult humans only – but if you were our friends, we’d probably either choose one of us to act as family representative, or send you a lovely gift and simply not attend.
(It would have been far easier to do when she was a young baby; then, she could sleep pretty much anywhere. But toddlers have Opinions, and the means to express them.)
And, ultimately, it’s a case of where to spend one’s spoons… and one’s child’s spoons. Your event would require a lot of spoons.
Oh yes, the childs spoon allowance. Sometimes its fantastic. Sometimes its minimal. Sometimes my spoons dont extend as far as his.
I like Tiny Humans, and I also see weddings as a family event – the idea of disallowing them never really crossed my mind, though I know it’s something some people do. Both my partner and I have young family members, though mine are all at least in the 3rd grade at this point. His cousin has two daughters who will both be under three at the time of the wedding, and they will be welcome (we’re not sure if they will be in attendance, as my fiancé is not from the US and the majority of his guests will be coming from overseas, including his cousin, but if she chooses to bring her daughters we will be thrilled to have them there).
We agonized a bit over our choice of venue – it’s not particularly convenient for locals, but offered a better balance of what we wanted vs drawbacks than any other place we looked at. Unfortunately it’s also to the north of us, and most of our friends with kids live to the south of us, so they have that added distance. We’re also not planning an all-nighter. (And also, every kid is different – as a toddler I often would not go down for my nap *without* being driven in the car, to the point where my parents just kept a baby monitor in the garage (I’d wake up if I was taken out of my carseat), and to this day tend to fall asleep during car rides.) We really want people to be able to attend but there was literally no way to avoid inconveniencing *some* subset of guests no matter where we decided to go (one of the reasons why we are getting married near where we live is because moving closer to one set of guests means moving further from another and we decided we didn’t want the hassle of planning a “destination” event).
It’s not just the wedding, though – I’ve suggested outings to my fiancé like hiking (not the strenuous kind – there are plenty of easy trails within a short drive of our general area, and even within it), and every time he says no one will go, because of the kids.
On the one hand, I’m beginning to think that your fiance is a bit of a wet blanket and maybe you should propose some of these outings to your friends and see whether there is interest, and what kind of time or other constraints are involved.
(And on the other, I’m a single person with no children, who finds attending a wedding to be quite a bit of hassle for the amount of fun involved, and can imagine that bringing small children to the wedding ups the hassle more than it does the fun. Sometimes it’s worth it, sometimes not. )
Seconding that maybe it would make sense to just suggest outings directly to friends and see what they say. Maybe your fiance is right and they wouldn’t go because kids, but it seems a little odd to me that he’s making that call for them? (Unless they have told him they aren’t up to social outings right now, period, and they’ll be in touch when they get their heads above water or something.) Though on the other hand, since these seem to be fiance’s friends rather than yours, maybe that’s on fiance to sort out?
I concur – just ask them anyway. It seems like the worst that will happen is they will say no.
Your fiance’s approach, actually, is what worries me most about one particular friend-couple of mine. They are not planning on having children but my fiance and I are, and I have a vague suspicion that they will start “helping” us by not inviting us anywhere. Which would bum me out.
Er, have you considered the possibility that your friends “seem to feel” that doing things with kids in tow is a gigantic hassle because it is, in fact, a gigantic hassle?
All children are different and have different needs. You could sleep in someone’s closet when you were a kid; great!. I would have been terrified out of my mind because 1) closets were objectively terrifying back then and 2) sleeping away from home was scary enough that I would often silently or not-so-silently cry myself to sleep, even as an older child (4 or 5).
Reliable babysitters can be very difficult to find. I don’t even have kids, but if I did, the idea of leaving them with a stranger would probably scare the shit out of me. I’d want it to be someone I know… and if everyone you know is also being invited to the thing, that sort of leaves you up the creek without a paddle, doesn’t it? Daycares come with references, licensing, certification, etc. Babysitters do not. It’s a different ballgame.
This. THIS. The “they all seem to feel like it is a huge hassle to do ANYTHING AT ALL with kids in tow” made me grit my teeth. Yes, it really is a huge hassle. Kids are portable, but not all the things that keep them happy and calm (including the comfort zone of their own home!) are. I’ve had to leave social events after less than an hour because my daughter was screaming inconsolably and couldn’t settle for the nap she desperately needed. My friend’s children are 3 and 6 and whenever she takes them anywhere it’s impossible to socialise because they interrupt every conversation to ask questions every ten seconds. And the spoons, oh crikey the spoons. When you’re at home, you have safe places you can put your child and more or less forget about them for two minutes while you have a quick glass of water and reset your brain a bit. Outside? Nope.
I’ve been trying to explain this to my parents, who want me to come and visit them several hundred miles away with my baby daughter. I can’t drive and I live in London and would have to travel across the (very crowded) underground network and then a train and a bus while carrying the following:
1) a carry cot, because it is generally not safe for a baby to sleep in an adult bed or anywhere other than a cot or moses basket (although there are some exceptions)
2) nappies, a changing mat, nappy sacks, baby wipes
3) several changes of clothing for both myself and baby, bearing in mind that babies can get through several sets a day because yuk, and generally need at least one layer more than adults and comfortable night clothes
4) a big box of formula milk, around 5 feeding bottles (because feeds are frequent and bottles have to be sterilised between feeds), plus breast pump, milk storage bags (I’m combination feeding; it’s complicated)
5) pacifier and toys, because she will get agitated in an unfamiliar environment
6) toiletries, because babies have sensitive skin
7) at least 2 blankets, 2 bibs and 2 muslin cloths because puke (there will always be at least one of each in the wash)
8) the baby herself, carried in a sling because I can’t manage the buggy on the Tube.
Getting all that stuff together will take hours because baby will demand my attention constantly and will probably throw up/poo herself at least twice and have to be changed in the meantime.
During the train journey, I’ll need to get up to change her regularly, which means trusting random strangers not to go through my bags. I’ll also need to walk down to the buffet car to pick up cups of hot water to warm up her milk, assuming I can’t breastfeed (probably, because my milk production has dropped off).
And while we are there, because we won’t have her favourite reclining seat, she will have to be carried or sit on someone’s lap almost all the time she is awake, because she can’t sit up yet but gets reflux if she lies down too much.
Does that not sound like a massive hassle to you?
We lived 2 hours away from my parents. My mom’s strategy to ensure the ease of frequent visits: she equipped her house. She had a carry cot set up in the spare room, an extra sack of nappies and wipes, sample packs of her soap and washcloths, muslin cloths and blankets, bibs, toys… Basically, I had to pack up the baby, her clothes, bottles and formula, and that’s IT. (Consequently, we visited much more often, becuase we genuinely like my parents and it wasn’t that big a hassle).
She has continued to equip her house now that we live closer: my daughter is now 16 months old, and my mom has a basket of toys, bath toys and toiletries, and a high chair, as well as basic childproofing done. Going there for dinner involves grabbing the kid, a bottle, and her diaper bag: all other makes-life-easier gear is at mom’s already. And we’re over there at least once a week for dinner or brunch or a mid-afternoon weekend hang-out.
I’m DEFINITELY not expecting everyone to make their houses baby-equipped for other peoples kids… but if you have reason to think that you might have a kid in your house frequently (grandchild you want to see, for example) a bit of prep work makes it SO much more feasible for the parents (who, let’s keep in mind, are trying to raise a tiny tyrant into a well-behaved person, while usually holding down two full-time jobs and on less than 6 hours of interrupted sleep a night… spoons are in short supply, and having gear on-hand can make the difference between ‘we might be able to swing a weekend trip!’ and ‘no way in hell can I handle anything else right now’).
(And, final comment: carry cot, high chair, toys, etc: check Craigslist/Kijiji, there are always people who are selling used ones for less than 20$ around here, and they’re perfectly solid and less than 4 years old and meet safety standards… You can totally do the kind of set-up my mom did for less than 80$.)
I was invited to my longtime BFF’s wedding on the other side of the country when my son was three months old. I told her that if she could borrow a carseat, a stroller, and a playpen of some sort for him to sleep in, I’d be there. She did, we went and it was a little bit strenuous, but a great time for all.
Agreed! My parents and my in-laws both have supplies stocked up at their houses, and it makes taking our daughter to visit the grandparents so much easier! It helps that both sides are expecting future grandchildren to use the high chairs and toys. But most of the stuff was pulled out of the attic or bought used, and I’ve brought a stash of diapers and wipes to keep at their houses (I switch when she seems to be growing out of a size). All it took was a pack-n-play (used, $40 each), a portable changing mat (~$10 new), an old high chair (free from the attic/a friend), and old toys from the attic and used at consignment sales. I bought enough sippy cups that I could leave a few there. I’ve even left a baby sweater or jacket at my in-laws because the weather there is so changeable and we take a lot of walks. When she was tiny, they each had a baby swing too, both found used from friends whose grandkids had outgrown them.
The other suggestion I have, amberxebi, is that your parents ask their friends or neighbors with children or grandchildren if they can borrow baby things for your visit. My mom has done that twice now for her friends with grandchildren. My daughter has outgrown her infant car seat and the matching stroller, but we’ve kept them for future children. They’re with my mom’s friend this week so that the friend’s kids didn’t have to haul theirs across the country. We also lent a box of toys. If your parents want you and baby to visit often, they can find ways to make it easier. And once you’re out of the infant stage, there’s less lugging of stuff everywhere. My 16-month-old needs a sippy cup, a change of clothes, ~4 diapers and a small pack of wipes, a little pack of snacks, and a toy or two, and we’re good to go for a day. It all fits in my purse. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions if we’re doing anything special!
Traveling with a baby by public transport is a huge pain, and I’m sorry there’s no easier way between you and your parents. If you don’t have to bring a cot, and if they can get a supply of formula for their house, you could probably pack most of what you’d need in a rolling suitcase. Bring a shoulder bag or backpack with a bottle of water for you and a bottle of water to make formula and to keep a change of clothes, a blanket, and a burp cloth close, and you shouldn’t have to get up and down a lot. Baby may think she needs warm milk, but actually she can drink it lukewarm! Try to convince her of that before you travel. I’d suggest that your parents just come to you, but I’m guessing the cost of finding a place to stay in London is a bit of an impediment.
It is entirely possible to make a safe bed on the floor for an infant. It requires a safe floor where no one will step on the baby, and a firm but soft surface like a folded quilt with a sheet tucked tightly around it. The main concerns for infant sleep safety is that they not be able to fall out of bed and that there be nothing that will block their breathing. If you keep those goals in mind it’s not too hard to find something. We had our daughter rest in a laundry basket with a folded quilt on the bottom at one point. It sounds terribly unsafe but actually it had plastic mesh sides and a firm bottom and was hard to tip over, and was at least as safe as her cot.
If you need inexpensive baby supplies, try rummage sales, consignment sales, resale shops, and Craigslist. Babies change so quickly that most of the big items are in great shape, and there are always plenty of books, toys, and clothes!
I realize this doesn’t address the issue of actually carrying the child itself through the Underground, but might your parents be willing to buy themselves their own copies of 1-4 (you could even stash some of your own clothes at their place), 5 (maybe not the toys but certainly they could get identical pacifiers to the kind you have), 6 and 7. That stuff isn’t free but they could probably get a whole baby is-coming set for a couple hundred pounds (or dollars) which, depending on their financial situation/desire to see their grandchild/your willingness to travel once they’d made these accommodations might be worth it for them.
We live in Chicago and have a newborn, and when we fly to the coasts for the holidays this fall/winter we are planning on just having Amazon deliver a box of baby supplies (probably just the disposable stuff, maybe some blankets and clothes) to our destinations so that they’ll be there when we arrive.
Thanks for the suggestion! The other set of grandparents have done exactly that. For mine, it’s too much money/hassle/whatever, especially as I can never visit them more than a couple of times a year (so stuff would probably be used only once or twice) but they have at least agreed to get in stuff like nappies and formula. I’ll still need some for the journey of course.
Oh pet! New parent solidarity hugs. My little girl is ten and a half months and half of this isn’t relevant to us any more (we can relax on the bottle sterilising, and eating is pretty messy but we can just about make it with one set of clothes a day, unlike when she had bad reflux.) It changes SO QUICKLY, and so many of the things that seemed massively overwhelming six months ago are much less so now. (Replaced by “oh god how did you get halfway up the stairs that quickly oh god” and other fun things, of course. I hope you are still enjoying the babying, and especially that things like the reflux get better soon.
THIS. Many hugs to you, if you want them. Thanks for putting all this out there. It IS a big deal.
Yeah. My kid is actually better-behaved in large gatherings than she is at home with just me (she likes the entertainment? IDK), so I have some motivation to haul her out to events (and I have a car), but it’s still a chore. It’s a worthwhile chore at least some of the time, but I definitely go out even to kid-friendly events a lot less than I did before she was born, or even when she was a baby. Toddlers demand a lot of attention, and they’re mobile.
It’s also possible that fiance is being a bit of a wet-blanket here; I think it’s a better deal to just ask the friends directly and let them say yes or no. For me, the best thing has always been that people make an effort to ask me to things even if I can’t always go.
Also, as a parent, I tend to prefer to be with my child most evenings because /that is our time together/. I work so it’s not like I see her all day. We have started hiring a nanny part time (mostly to expose her to a second language) and I actually prefer she come in the day time when our daughter is with grandma because then I don’t feel like I’m fobbing her off. I dunno, working parents don’t actually get to spend that much time with their children. Outings with the children are much preferable to outings without.
As far as daycare vs babysitters, a daycare is a business with oversight and training and health and safety requirements and such. Babysitting is letting a person into your home unsupervised alone with your kids. I don’t use babysitters either. Maybe once the kids are old enough to understand their own rights and safety (at least somewhat) but for now it’s too high risk. And as a personal comfort thing I don’t let ANY person unsupervised in my home, let alone some maybe-somewhat-known local sitter so maybe we never will use one. For now we plan our non-kid socializing around whether and when the grandparents feel like having them over for a few hours.
Agree. Also, we pay for daycare precisely so that we can work. But paying for babysitting so that we can enjoy leisure time is not necessarily what we are choosing to spend money on right now.
Also, people who don’t have kids, whose memories of babysitting are 50 cents an hour back when they did it, may have no idea how expensive it is now. It’s not at all unusual for it to be $50 for an evening.
I think that’s actually on the low end, depending on how long you’re gone. I occasionally babysit for friends and family, and the agreed-upon rate around here (in the Midwest, in an area with a very low cost of living) seems to be $10/hour.
Or you had one parent who stayed at home full-time (like my mom), so going out for an evening and having a babysitter wasn’t at all the same from having a child go from day care to babysitter.
Also I miss miss miss my daughter when she is in nursery, and paying a babysitter to look after her would not be fun for me!
(Nursery is brand new for us, so this may change, but right now the concept of wanting time off from my daughter completely incomprehensible. I want more baby, more more more!)
The only reason my parents were comfortable with me being babysat when I was small was that our babysitters were close family friends with some serious skills to offer – a lesbian couple where one partner was a pediatric nurse and the other was an ER nurse. Not everybody has an easy to access and intensely trustworthy person to call on for babysitting, especially when kids are still very tiny.
One thing that strikes me is that finding babysitters is a very different sort of task depending on what size of community you live in. If you grew up in an extremely small town (like me), there’s a good chance that you know not only the babysitter but every person in that person’s family, as well as every person they’ve ever babysat for in the past. That kind of tight network can make finding someone extremely well-vetted much easier (if not actually of higher skills.) The idea of finding a babysitter in a larger city is quite intimidating to me.
Totally. When I babysat as a teen I lived next door to the parents and they had known my mother for years. I live in a huge city now with no family. If my bestie can’t sit, I’m SOL. Sitters here also run 10 to 20 an hour plus tip.
I got a great babysitting gig in college after meeting someone while was walking her dog on the college campus. I thought the dog was adorable and struck up a conversation. I said I pet sat. She then asked “Do you take care of small children, too?”
I was 100% a random stranger. The only thing I had going for me was some coursework that I did required me to have a background check done because I worked with children. (not that a background check of an 18 year old brings up anything). I suppose I also had a CPR cert. And from then on, I took care of her kids for 1-2 nights per month for nearly 4 years.
When I graduated, I connected her to younger students. I assume she was able to continue finding babysitters that way until the kids grew up.
But yeah, that’s a lot of trust to put into a stranger! Who you met walking your dog! I completely understand that many people would not be up for putting such trust in a stranger.
(Also, interesting part of that experience: the kids were wonderful and the dog was wonderful, but the dog DID NOT like the children. At all. So once the kids were in bed, the dog came out from his hiding place and would plop down next to me and be incredibly affectionate. It was my first real lesson in dog-toddler dynamics, and has made me nervous about getting a dog prior to having kids.)
Yeah, I don’t know how my parents found some of the baby-sitters they did back when I was a kid, but some of them were…pretty terrible. There was the dude who roughhoused ALL THE TIME. The woman who accidentally locked 1-year-old me inside when she went outside to smoke…and then lied about it. The woman who constantly joked about how my sister and I must’ve gotten dropped on our heads as babies. The woman who was just constantly demeaning and belittling about my clothes, hair, music choices, random weird kid things I said, everything. A teenage girl who would basically play my sister and I against each other. (She got better with time, but wow.) And then there were some good ones–the one who taught my sister and I how to make our own clay, for example, was way cool; and even though she could be a bit overdramatic, the one who made up a game in which I got to be the President was pretty fun.
And I pretty much never said anything about the bad ones, because even from a young age I knew that I had no chance of being believed.
Okay, so, you mean well and seem kind, but “my parents did _____ with me, why can’t you do ______ with your kids” is Not Getting It, and is going to piss off your parent-friends mightily. And rightly so, if it’s tinged with an undercurrent of contempt for their parenting ineptitude. You as a kid are not their kids. You as a kid were not looking at what your parents did with adult eyes and adult objectivity about those memories. You as a kid are not your friends as kids, and their memories of being taken to adult parties may be much less benevolent than yours.
Please assume that when your parent-friends do not behave just as they did pre-kid except for having s sort of exotic pet in tow, they are behaving that way for reasons which you may not know and which may well be very good reasons.
Your friends are not being not-party-time singles anymore AT YOU.
Having a separate room and a few toys is great? We had that too for my niece and nephew for when they visited. But it’s… just really not all you need? Kids are not dolls and they’re not all the same. They won’t be always at peak performance, they won’t all or always be quiet, they won’t all or always just not-touch-stuff, they won’t just always sleep anywhere and some will never sleep anywhere but at home, if at all. Even the quietest, sleepingest, easiest kids still need a lot of attention. Babies or toddlers, you can’t just leave them in a corner and go have adult time.
My parents, when we were young, when we were visiting their friends, would have to be busy with us and include us in everything during the daytime, for a lot of the time. And they were *lucky* that in the evening after dinner, we *would* sleep somewhere so they could have adult time. And we were not even very demanding kids, we were the kind that would often, and for fairly long periods, entertain ourselves or each other, and not be grabbing and breaking people’s stuff all the time. On the other hand, we had to be accompanied mostly everywhere, we were autistic and anxious, and playing inside on our own if we were used to a house was fine, but going outside to play? No way. Not being attached to a parent for the first 2 hours of a visit? Nope.
It’s tough because every kid is different. I know a lot of kids sleep in the car, but my oldest didn’t. From the moment we strapped him into his car seat, he would scream, until the moment we unstrapped him. He would scream until his face turned blue and he couldn’t breathe. And then he would scream some more. He would scream non-stop for hours, until we took him out of that seat.
My friend was really offended when we said we didn’t want to drive to her party. It was a family event! There would be other babies there! Babies sleep in cars! Her baby slept in the car, if we just drove long enough, ours would too!
No. We hit traffic. My kid screamed for three hours straight, blood-curdling screams, like he was being stabbed with a knife. When I got to that party, I locked myself in the bathroom until I could stop shaking. After that, I just said no to outings that required long drives until he outgrew that phase.
Oh, you have my sympathies! My SIL and BIL have a son the age of my daughter who’s been out and about at multiple places since he was tiny. He can sleep anytime, and anywhere, and gets along with everyone. My daughter is splendid when she’s had her sleep – I’d say she’s actually calmer and more resourceful than he is – but she will not sleep in the car. Ever.
So sometimes we have to remind them that the drive-somewhere-during-naptime plans they have simply won’t work for us. Cartime can double as naptime for them, but not for us.
Yes, exactly. Friends who got their shorts in a knot over “why can’t you be as cool and carefree as you were before you had kids”, or who were unable to understand that not all kids are alike, are no longer friends.
Wow. 3 hours?
I’m really, really impressed that you stuck with that and apparently didn’t chew your arm off. (If you did chew your arm off, still kind of impressed.) I would have been going back home even if I had to drive on the boulevard grass to do it.
It is very, very important to keep in mind that a baby/toddler/preschooler is not a small human who doesn’t know any better, but a small human who can’t know any better because those physical brain parts are not yet finished coming online. When they are Done they are Done. It is impossible to reason them into not being Done because they have come to the limits of the capabilities of their brain tissue and there is no more.
Hell, my kid is sixteen with social anxiety disorder, and I had to force her to go into the quiet room at a gaming convention because she couldn’t cope with the crowd anymore, and couldn’t get that she wasn’t coping, either. So a kid doesn’t have to be a wee human to be Done.
I would like to embroider this in a pillow and leave it in the guest room for when my partner’s parents visit. His nearest grandmother is a narcissist who doesn’t remember her own kid’s childhood before the age of 4, and she takes it personally when our 2yo son toddlers at her.
Another datapoint to add here: If our kid is representative, you can do lots of things with babies that you can’t do with toddlers. When ours was under about eight months, it was easy to take her to restaurants — we could set the detachable carseat/carrier next to someone’s chair out of the way so the waitstaff wouldn’t trip over her, and she’d mostly sleep. Or, at worst, someone would need to take her to the bathroom for a couple of minutes to change her, or she’d be awake and want to be held quietly and look around, or just bat at the little toys hanging from the handle.
Then her brain developed to the point of being able to get bored. And suddenly she was a _lot_ less portable, and we mostly didn’t go out to restaurants with her for a couple of years, because someone would need to be full-time paying attention to her, and she simply couldn’t sit at a table for the length of a full-service meal without becoming far too frustrated to behave.
Yes. Many of my friends who have kids refer to that stage as “the suitcase stage”, because you can take a baby pretty much any place you could take a suitcase, and all you need is a safe place near you to put the suitcase.
But some babies never are that portable, and even for those who are, that stage only lasts 6 months to year at the most. That stage ends when the baby (like Brooks’ baby) develops the ability to get bored, or the ability to walk/crawl, or even (in the case of one friend of mine) the precocious level of fine-motor skills necessary to unbuckle her seat belt and escape from the child carrier.
Some babies never are that portable <- yep. Our baby screamed nonstop while awake for the first 3 months. Nothing was ever found to be medically wrong. He just screamed. All day. All night. He stopped screaming to eat and when he got so exhausted that he would just drop off to sleep.
And then 3 months, boom. Didn't cry. Turned into a portable baby for a few months until he worked out crawling.
Babies! They don't make sense.
I read a book that claims they take three months to get over birth trauma & that’s why they space out & don’t smile till then. I have NO IDEA if there’s any validity (it was a bit of a weird book), but if so maybe yours was just expressing himself about it more than others? Who the heck knows. Anyway I hear from a lot of people (incl me) that 3 months is when they finally get happier about being out in the world, for one reason or another.
Some friends of mine recently had their first child, and they spent the first four months of her life travelling across Japan, Europe and Canada. The mother of the sprog and I had a chat recently and I asked her if it wasn’t hard to travel with a baby. “Yeah, but it’s still easier than travelling while pregnant,” she replied. “I can give the kid to my husband to look after and she’s not kicking me in the kidneys any more. We’ll have to stop once she’s walking, though, or we’ll lose her in an airport somewhere.”
Yeah, I basically do not take my kid to restaurants. Even very low-key, casual, friendly restaurants are just…either she’s going to climb down and wander around trying to make friends and knock things over, or I’m going to have to pin her to my lap while she screams her head off, or we’re going to have to leave. There’s no option where she sits quietly in her seat and eats or plays with her toys. In the interest of not being justifiably murdered by other diners, I don’t take her to restaurants.
It truly is a huge hassle to do anything with children in tow. The logistics of it can be very daunting, especially with multiple children who haven’t reached an age where they are reasonably not trying to kill themselves every minute of the day. The difference between me going to the store/restaurant/visit a friend’s place and going with my 3 children is astounding (I have a 5-year-old and two 2.5-year-olds). With just me, I basically grab my purse and I am out the door, with kids in tow here is a short list of all the things that need to happen:
Make sure diapers are recently changed
Make sure eldest has used the restroom recently
Make sure I have a diaper bag and changes of clothes in the car (I just keep a small one in the car at all times for ease, but you do have to remember to update to appropriate sized clothes and diapers every 3-6 months)
Have snacks and drinks if trip will be longer than an hour (again I have a goldfish container that lives in my car for snacking and the youngest are old enough now they can drink with assistance/supervision from a water bottle or cup with a straw, so I can be more relaxed here now, with babies, if you aren’t breastfeeding exclusively, you have to bring bottles/formula/etc. and if you are breastfeeding exclusively, you may need to bring your pump and bottles depending on the situation)
Make sure to have pacifiers, loveys, etc.
If my children are going to sleep (or attempt to sleep) somewhere, bring pack-n-play, blankets, stuffed animal, etc. and they still may not sleep
Make sure to have any necessary medication (I have a child with severe food allergies)
Make sure I have my double stroller, lives in my car typically but sometimes we take it out to haul large items (This is not necessarily a must if you don’t have twins or only have one child, if you have more than one under 3, I wouldn’t go anywhere without a stroller)
Get everyone collected from what they are doing in the house into the mud room (this sounds easy, but it is not with toddlers)
Get everyone wrangled into shoes (and also possibly socks, coats, hats, gloves, etc. depending on the weather)
Get everyone from the mud room to the car
Strap in all the carseats/booster seats (you get pretty good at this, but it still takes a lot of time)
Drive to destination hopefully without too much screaming, loud singing, seat kicking, etc. Depending how far, may need to stop for eldest to use the restroom.
Get to destination and unstrap everyone from carseats and get into stroller if necessary
Now that I am there, watch kids like a hawk and move items from low to high if they are dangerous to kids or likely to be broken (if they are in stroller, keep them away from things they can grab). Even when folks make a good/amazing effort to child-proof, no house is set up like your own house which typically has a room or two that kids can be left in alone for a few minutes and be safe. When I’m at somewhere not home, I’m constantly having to watch kids, constantly jumping up to keep them out of stuff, etc. People that invited you may be good about distracting/entertaining/etc. kids and that is a gigantic help, but this is not always the case, especially at events like weddings and so on and understandably so. It is extremely tiring to do this and also means I get to enjoy little to none of the event. I made a call a few weekends ago to not attend a fun event as my husband could not go too. I realized that me going with my three kids would be zero fun for me
I would re-read the post, Commander Logic really expressed well how difficult it is with kids and the fact that you have no mental energy is huge. I don’t want to pick on you with the info dump above, just trying to express how difficult it is. And that does not include much if any kid-specific stuff like maybe someone has a baby like my first who would scream for an entire car trip until she was about 11 months old. Most babies love and fall asleep in cars, but not all. Kids all have their individual quirks and they are often changing too as they develop so fast.
I too make a big effort to socialize because it is so nice to see people, but it is an effort. I prefer to host at my place, but that is hard too because then I have to clean and most of the cleaning needs to be done in the 1-2 hours before people show up or the kids will wreck it all again 🙂 But yes, I very much encourage parents to try and host at their house, especially when you have younger kids, after they are in bed board game night, movie night, etc. work great.
Your attitude is maybe… a bit privileged? Just because something seemingly in hindsight worked for you doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. And do you have any idea how hard it is to find a good babysitter and how much they cost?
I hate to join the pile-on for this, but I did want to add one thing that I have often observed about the “in my day” brigade. Almost invariably, they are talking about events that they remember, which typically means at least age 6+ and often ages 9-12. What kids are like at those ages is just not like what kids are like at under 3. Even if their parents are parenting exactly the way your parents did, it’s tough to haul them around to parties. I get that you remember sleeping in a closet, but do you remember getting your diapers changed in a strange place? Having a potty accident at the party because you were scared to ask where the toilet was? If you don’t, then you’re probably not remembering the same age as these kids you’re talking about.
Also, the inevitable thing about “in my day” is that you remember the GOOD stuff. Yeah, of course you remember the times you slept in closets! But y have no idea how many other invitations your parents turned down (and to be honest, they probably don’t remember either, so don’t necessarily assume they’re reliable narrators.). Of course you remember the times that your parents told you that you were to be quiet and well-behaved! You do not remember the times that you were over-excited and noisy and your parents were avoiding everyone else’s eyes because they were Those Parents.
Also, you are remembering it from the perspective of a kid. I know that as a kid, I had no clue how much prep work my parents must have been doing to get me ready for things, how much effort they were putting into making sure I had snacks, and sweaters, and didn’t forget my favorite toy, or set the host’s house on fire (no joke – the Lamp Incident is legendary in my family). I also had a childhood with a lot of what you describe – but it’s now that I understand how much work it must have been for all the adults involved.
Reminds me of something I read at another forum in which a wife asked plaintively how some women kept their homes spotless and sparkling the way her husband’s mother had always done when he was a boy. Somebody suggested that she ask her mother-in-law–who promptly called her son and chewed him out for trying to make his wife work to the standards of the Good Housekeeping photo spreads he thought of as the home of his childhood. Of course he hadn’t noticed the black grout, the dog hair, or the piles of dirty laundry that grew and grew–when he was nine.
Same. I definitely slept on couches at my parents’ friends’ houses during parties when I was a kid, but we’re talking like ages 6-10 here. A 6-year-old has at least the beginnings of a rational brain. A 2-year-old does not (and most kids are mobile long before 2).
I remember an after-party I went to once where a tiny girl in an oversized tee shirt was crying herself to sleep with her dolly on a sofa in the foyer of the hall the party was in. I asked if she wanted me to find her mum, and she sobbed out “yes please miss”, so I–semi-miraculously, because this child was very small–got a name and description from the tot (after asking everyone in the area if they knew whose child this was, and no one did) and finally found the mum, chatting away to some friend of hers. “Hi,” I said, “Are you So-and-so? So, your daughter is in the foyer crying because she’s scared and lonely, and it might be kind of nice if you moved out there and socialised so she can see you, or brought her in here and let her fall asleep here.”
“She’s FINE,” the woman snapped at me, “she’s VERY USED TO PARTIES”, before turning her shoulder on me and continuing with her conversation, a little more loudly than before.
I’m pretty sure that that mum (this was probably fifteen years ago, and I’m sure that child is almost 20 now) thinks that her kid was immensely adaptable and she was definitely doing a great thing for her by taking her to parties that went on til 3am.
That poor kid!
That story is so sad. 😦
I don’t know your fiancé’s friends and all that, but actually going anywhere with kids can require vast amounts of stuff.
For example, change(s) of clothing, first aid, toys, special foods. (And before they’re housebroken: diapers, cleaning cloths, changing pads…). Also bottles or pacifiers, strollers et al.
So getting somewhere can be HARD!
All superb ideas. One teeny gripe: as a single parent, I really grit my teeth every time I get the you are AMAAAAAAAzING speech from partnered parents. I know it is well intentioned but it always feels a bit pitying and slightly to imply every day must be a narrowly averted house fire or something. Parenting is hard for everybody. I like my version of it as much as you like your version of it, which is to say, I adore it. It does not feel like a miserable slog. It is hard but so is your version. I really prefer solidarity (wow, 3 year olds, right? Etc) to sympathy (HOOOW do you dOOOO it) from people who are not my close friends. I know know know people generally mean well with this but I have dropped certain budding kid-based acquantanceships like a hot potato when other parents lay it on too thick (“I could NEVER do it” is the nopiest for me: yeah you could. Said mentally in peevish Burt Reynolds on jeopardy snl skit voice).
This rant is not really directed at Cmdr Logic. It just gave me an opp to air mah grievance!!!! Other single parents might really appreciate those kinds of statements, maybe it is just me who does not.
No, it’s not just you. Though it doesn’t super bother me every now and again I look the person dead in the eyes and exclaim “Yes, it’s truly a miracle how my inability to make an adult relationship work has turned me into a super hero!” I am kind of an asshole though… but “Hoowww doooo you DDDDDOOOOO ittttttt???” can be fucking annoying.
I haven’t really ever been anything but a single parent and as far as I can tell it’s not any more difficult than having more people to make every single decision with. Its actually pretty nice to not hold any resentments over having to compromise on how I wish to live my life and raise a child. (Ymmv of course)
As someone who was a single parent from 18 months on (and, frankly, was often a single parent before then, even if there was another person over the age of majority in the house), I have to wonder, what is it they expected us to do, throw in the towel and take the kid back to the hospital? It’s like the people who tell you when you have a chronic disease or disability, you’re so brave, how do you do it? Well, you do it. It’s something you need to do, so you do it the best you can. You play the cards you’re dealt.
I understand, they’re expressing sympathy in the only way they know how; they’re not literally suggesting, I hope, that it’s impossible or that they wouldn’t be able to do it should they be put in that situation.
I’m not a parent yet, but I know how much “I could never do that!” grates on me when it’s someone’s response to me being poly or moving to California or whatever, because what can you say to it other than “Good thing no one’s forcing you to”? So I will try to keep that in mind, and when what I’m feeling is a very vulnerable feeling of “I’m terrified that even a ratio of three parents to one kid will not be sufficient to keep our tiny helpless offspring alive and healthy”, to state that vulnerable feeling out loud instead of disguising it under genuine-but-not-the-point admiration for people who do more with less.
Thanks for this reminder that, as Commander Logic said, everyone is different. I, personally, really appreciate it when people show empathy or admiration for my efforts as a single mom of 3 kids (who is also fully disabled). It’s definitely not easy, and just like with a “real” job, it feels good when people recognize my hard work and accomplishments in light of my many challenges. But I can see how others might view what I see as empathy as condescension, pity, etc.
As far as the “Good thing no one’s forcing you to?” comeback, though; it seems a touch harsh for the single parent “sympathizers”. Partly because, of course, most of us single parents are in this situation because someone did in fact force us. In my case, my exhusband (kids’ dad) abandoned us when I became disabled (he is now completely MIA on the parenting front). I realize that some people go into the kids thing intentionally as a single person, but I’d suggest that something like, “it’s amazing what you can do when you have no choice” or “when you’re a parent and you love your kids, you’ll do anything for them” are a little more sensitive.
As for the LW, I’d add that one more consideration re getting together with (especially new) parents is financial resources. Kids can be such a huge money drain, that oftentimes there’s nothing left for nice restaurants, children’s museums, or babysitters. For that reason, free or cheap activities (park, potluck, board games, etc) are especially good for get-togethers.
My flatmate has expressed the opinion that single parenting is probably actually easier than if she’d stayed with her ex. (Having met her ex, I suspect she’s totally right.) She does have a lot of friend and family support, of course, so I’m not sure how that affects it.
I had a mom-play-group buddy with three littles under age 4 (!) when she divorced her husband. When I told her how I felt silly griping about kid issues because I wasn’t doing them alone, she said “the only difference between now and when Ex was here is that now I don’t have as much laundry to do.”
No, I get it. Similar to MrLogic being super annoyed when he’s out with the kids doing basic parent things and people are like “WHAT AN AMAZING FATHER.” It’s all parenting, folks. It’s not rocket science. Unless you’re building rockets with your kids, which sounds like a lot of fun… but I digress.
Mainly, I didn’t want to put out advice about “just leave the kid(s) with your partner! 😀 😀 :D!” because – obviously – not everyone is parenting with a partner. True fact, parenting is hard no matter how many people are involved.
Oh your advice was a great read 😊 and honestly I wanted to stand up and applaud at the thoughtfulness of both you and LW because in my life, to date, the majority of my friends have lauded me for being able to go out with them and do adult things without revolving my life around my child and I’m a little heartbroken at the fact that they would consider it a source of pride that I keep my heart so close to me because I know he’s not really welcome in the land of the child free. (Er, that might not make sense to anybody reading sorry)
I really appreciate your advice when you give it.
This is a small pet peeve for me, too. The ladies who work at my son’s daycare are always telling me what an amazing Dad my son has, asking when Mr. G is coming back, telling me how lucky I am that I have a husband who is so involved with our baby. I asked “Mr. G” if they ever say those kinds of things about me…no. I guess it’s just expected that I will be a “good” mother, but not the other way around.
Yeah. Certain people in my social circle always look at me in a puzzled way if I turn up without daughter and ask where my baby is, who’s looking after her? I’m like, umm, she does have another parent and they sometimes say stupid things like “oh he’s under orders to babysit, huh?”
Well, fuck those guys. My husband is as much a parent as I am and we decide together how we look after our kid and he does not babysit his own daughter. Also fuck those guys because a man in the same social circle whose daughter is around the same age as mine NEVER gets asked where she is, because it’s always assumed she’s with her mother. Huh.
Oh wow. My ex’s sister’s husband always got rightfully pissed when people asked him if he was “babysitting” his kids, too. He’d respond, “no, I’m parenting.” It’s so bloody irritating.
You can also make the opposite kind of mistake. When my supervisor sent out an e-mail that his second child was born, and the next day I met him at school, I was so stunned that I spouted “what are you doing here?” instead of a greeting. If his wife was at hospital with the second, I automatically expected him to stay home with the firstborn. By involving the grandparents and coming to work, he took me by surprise.
Not regarding single parenting, but my brother has special needs and I’ve watched my parents get the “how do you dooooo it? I could NEVER have a kid that needs extensive therapies/doesn’t talk/has frequent hospitalizations” from so many people over the years and it’s so frustrating to hear. My family does it pretty easily considering its the only reality we have. (also people apparently sent my parents sympathy cards when my brother was born. Friends of Parents, if your parent friend has a special needs child DO NOT DO THAT.)
People sent your parents sympathy cards when your brother was born? That is horrifying. I wish I could say that I am surprised by that, but I am sadly not surprised.
I work in Special Education, and people say similar things to me about my job. I hear “I could NEVER do that” and “You’re an angel” and “You must have the patience of a saint!” I do appreciate it when someone praises me for doing what I’m doing, but there are ways to do this right (in my opinion):
1) Notice the effort that I put into this, and acknowledge that what they are admiring is a deliberately developed skill, not some innate special talent. Patience is a skill. Communication is a skill. Compassion is a skill. These skills might be easier for some people than for other people, but nonetheless, when someone says “I could never have the patience that you have!” what I hear is “I do not want to develop the amount of patience that you have!”
2) Recognize that I am human, so I have boundaries and limitations and needs. I am not an angel; I am a person who has developed a set of skills necessary for working with people who communicate non-verbally. I am not an angel; I still need to eat and sleep and take breaks from work. In my experience, the people who call me an “angel” are often the same people who assume that I am doing this entirely out of the goodness of my heart, and therefore don’t have such human needs as a living wage, medical insurance, and paid vacation days. And in my experience, the coworkers who try to “do it all”, who try to act like super-humans, who don’t recognize their own boundaries and needs: those are the coworkers who crack under the stresses of this job.
3) And similarly, remember that the people I work with are human; if I must be a saint or an angel to work with people who have disabilities, what does that say about how people with disabilities are perceived?
I am writing this from the perspective of working in Special Ed, but I think a lot of this can also apply to being a single parent and/or parenting a child with special needs. The main difference is that I chose this path, but although many parents do not choose be single parents and/or parents of a special needs child, they rise to the occasion and make the best of it.
Also, I am curious if any single parents or parents of special needs children have noticed an overlap in the Venn Diagram of “people who say that you must be a super-human for doing what you do” and “people who do not want to provide a safety net (welfare, affordable medical coverage, respite care, paid family leave from work, etc.) for the actual humans involved”.
I suspect the overlap there is so big that it basically looks like a circle. Individual solutions to systemic problems, and all that jazz.
Wow. Just…wow. The “I could never do that” people are implying that your parents chose to have a disabled child, and the sympathy card people are basically saying…all kinds of horrible, horrible things. I’m sorry. That sucks.
Sometimes they really are saying that ie trying to imply they would have chosen abortion or even sometimes that the parents should have
Disclaimer: not a parent. Never gonna be. Don’t really understand how Littles work. however I am mobility impaired so can’t travel far to visit parents in their home.
Things that have worked for me: various friends letting me know when they and their Littles will be in my area, then I find something suitable for us to do. Eg Friend 1, who attended a weekly baby activity class in my local library, then we met for lunch in a cafe. Standing invite, super informal, could just message each other on the day if we weren’t up for it. Friend 2, who on hearing I’d be at the pub for [event] brought his entire family. This was fab! with a bit of sharing of children duties and the inevitable bag of cheap distractions it was lovely. Friend 3, who sometimes joins me for a dog walk, and dog and child run about (supervised of course!!) while adults chat. Friend 4, who has occasional drop in sessions at the cafe of a children’s play centre, open to all, parent or otherwise.
The thing is that some parents will be practical, they will fit their kids into their schedule, and find ways to still socialise and, amazingly, do nearly as much as they did before. Others may insist you can only visit if youre 100% well, and not to touch their child without sanitising your hands first. That’s entirely their prerogative. But you never know which ways things will change and who will become which type of parent (and why; the child of the more protective mother was very sick early in life). So, you just have to put yourself out there a bit.
I love Commander Logic’s suggestions so won’t repeat them per se, but there can be a lot of – to an outsider – frustrating waiting around for them to sort out a routine, etc. Ride with it. Because just as you think you’ve got some cool regular socials sorted out, the child will be starting school and everything will turn on its head again! Keep in touch with text messages to let your friends know you’re thinking of them, to let you know if they’re passing and have time to stop for a chat, and to keep the contact going. Don’t forget they might be knackered and hectic… Or feeling alone in the house. So keep reaching out and be a good friend to the parents.
Sorry, i just realised that sounds like I’m expecting parents to do all the work. I’m not – that would be the opposite of the question! But because I can’t easily travel to them, I try to keep in touch, am interested to know when they’re in my area, and suggest fun things to do. How it works with each parent-friend is a bit different in each case. But all still rewarding with their company. 🙂
Don’t worry, that came through clearly on the first read!
It does in fact sound as though you’re saying if ONLY those parents were “practical” and made some effort, they would totally be able to do “nearly as much as they did before”. Please, just, no.
I think you made a lot of sense. 🙂 It’s absolutely valid that parents have restrictions, and more than others! But, non-parents might also have restrictions that are just as real, and sometimes it just isn’t possible to make a compromise work, or it can feel super frustrating on both sides for awhile. The hardest part for me is when people expect me to automatically know what their restrictions are and get very huffy if I suggest something that’s outside of them, because that makes me really anxious and not want to make any more suggestions in case I accidentally step in it again!
Parent of two here, ages 3 and almost 6. The Commander gives good advice, but I would like to also point out something I see about your letter, LW: there’s a section where you list, from a to e, the benefits you’d like to help give your friends who are parents. What this says to me is that you, dear LW, are methodical, and what the tenor of your letter in general says to me is that you are a careful planner who is truly concerned for the health and well-being of not only your friends, but also your relationships with them. That was also me, in the Land Before Children.
When kids arrive, it is very, very, very likely that the parent(s)’ relationships with their friends, especially childless friends, and especially especially single friends, will change drastically. That’s just what spawning does. You have this little person entirely dependent on you for everything, and despite what you may read on the internets, there’s really no instruction manual which adequately prepares you for the unique challenges (and joys, but mostly challenges) a newborn brings. When the rugrat(s) are 2, or 4, or 6 (beyond this zone I have not yet traveled), there are still almost as many challenges, and they change day to day, week to week, year to year. And because every one of them is different, as the Commander says, there’s rarely ever going to be a way for the parent(s) to maintain relationships in the way they used to. At least I know that was true for me, and my siblings, and my friends.
In fact, as I write this in bits and pieces, I’m trying to soothe my 3 year old, who was in bed until 80 minutes ago, which means I’ve been out of bed as long as she has, and she is just now starting to be drowsy again. In fact, the moment my darling is asleep again, whether I’m in the middle of a sentence here or not, I’m posting and leaving for bed, because while your enthusiasm is wonderful, and you are clearly a very caring person, I wouldn’t be replying here if I could choose to be back in bed. My point in saying this isn’t to be funny (well, maybe a little, because I’m tired and think that’s kinda funny) but to say that if/when any of your friends say something like “I appreciate how you’re trying to be helpful, but please lay off for a while” don’t think that it means they don’t like you anymore. They just don’t have the spoons for people other than the kiddo, and may not for some time. Believe their words and leave the invite open, but maintain zero expectations for them. Their child is providing them with quite a lot of expectations already. When they want to reconnect, if you’ve left the door open, they’ll do it. Like someone else saidbefore, you have to be patient and to realize that your relationship won’t be the same anymore. Sometimes being a friend to a new family means only cheering from the sidelines.
Especially single friends? Getting coupled up doesn’t put you on a half parent state automatically and it also doesn’t make you magically more understanding than those selfish, partying singles. I probably am being hair trigger here but that kind of thing is exactly why single people so often feel rejected and marginalized by their other friends.
Yeah, I’m not understanding the logic behind the “especially single friends” part. Why would you be more likely to stay friends with a coupled person but not a single person once you have kids?
Something I also don’t understand!
Though I can say that there is lots of weird biases around this. One of my best friends and I recently did an 8 week trip together, just us. (We are really, really close!) We had a lot of time to openly talk about pretty much everything. One thing that kept coming up for her, which really surprised me, is how much she and her bf are hoping to find other couples to be friends with. She kept reassuring me (and I believe her) that things are somehow different for me – we are closer, I’ve even known her bf forever, I am “good” at not being a third wheel, etc. And I was like – okay! Okay. That is all true, sort, and you are allowed to want what you want.
But all the same, I kept urging her to examine why the friends need to come in romantic couples. Would adult siblings who are really close, or best friends, or roommates, or her, her bf, his good friend, and her good friend, not be suitable ways to hang out? Why privilege couple-ness? We are in a progressive social circle so I noted – would you really want to miss out on a good friend because they are poly and don’t easily fit into a twosome, or single by choice? Which, she does not really have time for a lot of new friends, so if she is specifically targeting couples, that could happen.
My friend doesn’t even want to have kids, like ever. Childless by choice. But she also fell pray to the urge for couples. It made me sad because, while I know I would never lose my place with _her_ specifically, it made me very aware that for many people, I will only ever be a single hanger-onner until I’m not. I am queer, poly, and not likely to get married anytime soon, and oh so fine with it. I am also a great person to be friends with, even to friend’s with kids, if they can give me a few pointeres and show me the ropes (I didn’t grow up with kids, so I don;t know how to change a diaper, but I am happy for you to teach me, etc!) I am happy to come hang out, help out, clean your house while you put your kid down for a nap, go to the playgroup, buy your kids toys and do their math hw with them when they get older (I’m a teacher.) The sun doesn’t shine out of my ass, or anything, but I’m not a bad friend to have around if you are new parent. I am not going to ditch you for the club or insist that you come out for my boring-to-kids dinner party. I’ll come to you. I’ll go that mile. I’ll do what we need to do. Etc.
But! If you are going to write me off as “harder to be friend with because I’m single” then neither of us will ever get that chance. Unfortunate!
Yeah, I’m actually a single person* who is good with kids, who enjoys spending time with them, and who has parent friends who appreciate that. Not all of my friends who became parents have the bandwidth to hang out a lot and that’s totally fine. I understand that. Others do, in kid friendly ways, which is also great. I don’t take either style personally. However, if you’re assuming that I can’t be good with your kids because I’m single but if I’m married I could? You are, in fact, doing it “at” me. That’s just offensive in addition to being illogical and untrue.
If it’s actually that you want to devote your limited bandwidth to other couples, that’s your decision, but I don’t really get it or, honestly, respect it. It seems like a really limited way of approaching human interaction. Maybe it would actually benefit your kids to be exposed to people who have chosen a variety of life styles? I wish I had grown up around more awesome single adults and poly adults instead of just an endless parade of (almost exclusively heterosexual) couples.
* For a variety of reasons, but many of them deliberate and due to my own choice. I like being single.
I often find it EASIER to be friends with my single friends because that’s only one person to coordinate schedules with. And super much easier to be friends with my single no-kids friends because we don’t have to try to coordinate several schedules plus several nap schedules. Single friends are the best! Getting married and having kids has only made me closer to and more thankful for my best single friend.
My schedule+my kids schedule+ my friends schedule is a lot easier than my schedule+husband’s schedule+my kids schedule+ my friend’s schedule+ her kid’s schedule+ her husband’s schedule.
I agree. I am a 30-something, childless, single lesbian. I would very much like to have a partner and a child, but I don’t have either of them right now, and it makes me sad that some couples with children don’t want to be friends with single childless people. I’ve seen that dynamic as well, and it confuses me.
As boutet says, it can be EASIER to be friends with a childless single person because, since I don’t have to accommodate my partner or my child’s schedule, I can work around your partner’s work schedule, or your child’s nap schedule, or whatever you need. I can be very flexible about things like that, so please use that to your advantage, parent-friends!
Also, given that I am a 30-something single lesbian, I know that having my own child is going to involve a lot of money, time, effort, and careful planning. I want to be a parent, and sometimes I wish that having a child was something that might “just happen” in my life, like it seems to happen for some of my friends. But my chances of finding myself unexpectedly pregnant are pretty close to zero, and so I feel extra grateful to my friends who allow me to hang out with them and get at least a little dose of baby-holding.
My idea of a GREAT evening with friends can totally include the following: I read “Where the Wild Things Are” twelve times in a row to a four-year-old, while my friend puts the baby to sleep; later, we have pizza delivered and I share the meal with my friend and the four-year-old; then I do the dishes while the four-year-old gets ready for bed; and then I get to actually talk with my friend for a few minutes until my friend starts to fall asleep over the laundry. I don’t need to be “entertained” in order to enjoy spending time with my friends.
So people like that really actually exist? I thought a couple wanting to have couple friends was just something that existed as a sitcom plot?
I never really understood this desire to have couple friends. I think it’s one of those things that probably has super hetronormative gendered origins that don’t actually apply to a lot of people, but they still feel they need to do it because that’s what you do once you’re in a couple. I mean what’s the thought process? It has to be another couple so each person has someone to talk too, because obviously men and women can’t be friends with each other or enjoy the same activities.
Me and my husband meant in college through a mutual friend and consequently have always had a pretty sizable mutual friend group. There are people in that group that me and my husband both have the same level of closeness with and their are other people in that group that generally only hang out with one of us. It’s never really mattered to us or our friends, if the group comes in pairs or not or if we have a “third wheel” situation. we just did a 4 day trip with a group of seven, there were two couples in the group and the only time it really made a difference was when were figuring out bedrooms.
This reeks of that “if you’re not Partnered you’re not a real adult” crap that occasional wafts through society.
I think sometimes there’s also an undercurrent of “if you aren’t partnered you’re a threat to my relationship.” After I was divorced, I noticed that one of my still-partnered friends didn’t really want to include me anymore in her group activities, but her husband was very friendly to me when she wasn’t around. I drew some perhaps uncharitable suspicions from that.
Oh how I hate that.
Yeah, I’m partnered but terrible with kids and my best friend is single but awesome with them!
Look, as a new parent of a newborn, my relationship with my single friends has changed, not because I am suddenly too good for them or that I don’t want them around but because our lives are now in different stages and at different speeds. My relationships with everyone has changed, but it feels like more with my single friends. I have a lot less time to be involved with anyone, because I have zero spare time and I can’t keep up, and my single friends have more changes going on. My best friend is dating someone new and I’m not a good sounding-board for her dating excitement, so she talks to people who are more responsive and I’m left out of her feedback loop. Another friend just left to start grad school: I couldn’t join in on any of the “saying goodbye!” events. I don’t intentionally snub them, and I try really hard to make sure my friends, coupled or not, childfree or not, don’t feel like I’m just nonstop bombarding them with “MY LIFE IS ABOUT BABY NOW.” But it is about my baby now, and it means my stage of life is different, and it means we don’t match up completely, and it means things have changed. And the change of stage is more dramatic compared to single friends than it is coupled-with-no-kids friends. This is descriptive, not prescriptive. My life isn’t objectively better than theirs, but it is different, and the difference is more, on average, for single friends of both genders. And I can’t make sure this comment won’t be misread or polish it carefully — or maybe my experience of my life is offensive to commenters here and I don’t see it — because my daughter just woke up and is headbutting my chest and crying and there’s poop everywhere and I have had no sleep, so this is what I’m working with.
I don’t think your experience is offensive to people here. It’s valid. It’s just anecdotal and not generalizable. Some single people–especially young single people who are in an unsettled phase of life–are dating new people and going to grad school and just want to do things related to that. But that’s not going to be true for everyone. Some coupled people are planning their weddings and starting grad school and just want to talk to that. Some single people are older and stable. I think the problem people are having–at least the problem I’m having–is that talking about single people as if they’re unsettled implies that being single is a phase you go through on the way to being married, and that being married and childless is a phase you go through on the way to having kids. That’s true for some people but an awful lot of people don’t go through those steps and will always be single–or at least will be single past the conventional age or will not be single but then will be single again. It’s really wearying to never, ever be considered part of a community or part of adult life. Many of us are settled and not obsessed with dating or partying or new jobs or school, and many of us would like nothing better than to spend Saturday morning at the zoo with you and then leave when the kid is done. The generalizations to the contrary are frustrating because they are marginalizing for those of us who are constantly being told we’re not “real” adults or a real part of the community.
The problem I see with your perception as described here is you’re talking about “stages”. You are at a different (which is going to be read: more advanced) “stage”. It strongly implies that people are single, then coupled, then have children. And nothing you’ve written here clarifies the idea couples without kids can relate more to parents than single people without kids.
Of course, having a baby is going to eat a huge amount of time (I have no spare energy as it is, if I had kids I’d drop right off any kind of social calendar) and it will definitely have a huge impact on a lot of relationships. You are in a different place to people with no kids. Yet. It still makes no sense to me that two friends couldn’t talk to each other about their dating experiences *and* unexpected trials in childrearing. Because I want to talk to my friends about things that they care about even if they’re not my experiences.
I’m a 30 yo undergraduate biomed student with a 49 yo partner, no interest in marriage or children, a house full of animals and a 16 yo sibling we care for full time; my idea of a good time is playing Scrabble with my family and I have got drunk once in the last 3+ years. If I could only mesh well with people at the same “stage” of life as me that would be approximately no one.
I know you’re coming from the perspective that you really are living with this cooling and morphing of relationships and probably feel that people are being unfair but for one thing there absolutely are parents who will communicate a clear decision to cut off non-parents as friends, which is hurtful and the experience of some here. And for another it reads that you have internalised a, yes, prescriptive idea of how life goes.
Yeah, it’s the talking about stages like they’re a very rigid progression that’s actually the problem. I am living my life backward, so I experience the disconnect between normative experience and actual experience with a lot more immediacy than many people do. “Stages” used in the way you do implies a progression, with one end of the progress being less progressed, and one end being more advanced, and that’s not a very useful way to look at, much less judge, other people’s lives. 🙂
I think these are fair points, but would note that this process can go one of three ways:
1) The friendship changes a lot, and the friends without kids can’t handle that, so they do goofy things like (a commenter’s example above) expecting parents to bring the baby to happy hour and not understanding why that’s not really gonna work.
2) The friendship changes a lot, and the friends WITH kids can’t handle that, so they go out of their way to surround themselves only with other parents. Non-parents, whether single or coupled, are systematically dumped. (If you think you detect a note of bitter but resigned personal experience here, you think right!)
3) The friendship changes a lot, and both sides roll with that, planning get-togethers that work for everyone and understanding that sometimes there might be some lag time involved, especially when the kids are little. The adults maintain friendships that they invested time and emotions in. The kids get cool aunties and uncles. Everybody wins! And honestly, most people I know have managed this.
No. 3 is your target, people, and patience and empathy on all sides is how to make it happen. Non-parents, don’t be No. 1. Parents, don’t be No. 2. Well, OK, I mean, you do you, but I like to continuously make and keep friends throughout life whenever I can, not drop handfuls of them and pick up entirely new ones in response to any life change, whether it be mine or someone else’s.
I would also point out that there are other very challenging life changes people go through BESIDES parenting that a)result in a slowing down of communication and b)deserve empathy from your friends. Parenting is just the longest-term (aka, life term) one. If you need a friend to be hands-off while you are dealing with a newborn, that’s cool, and in return you can not get ticked off when that person moves to a new house, gets a new job with crazy hours, or goes back to grad school and is MIA for a little while.
This is very well put. Life happens; people don’t stay the same, even if they wish to. A good friendship is one that can adapt to the changing needs of the people involved.
To the “especially single friends” piece, because I see a lot of people who have read this and are hurt/upset about it: I want to acknowledge that hurt/upset, because I can absolutely see how this line reads as marginalizing and, well, hurtful and upsetting.
From the other side of it, I’d like to offer that as someone who lost every childfree, single friend once I had kids … it happens, and it’s possible that’s where nameless today is coming from. No, they weren’t being selfish; no, I didn’t think less of them for wanting to go out to the places they went; no, they weren’t less empathetic or capable of being friends to me. But our priorities did change in drastic ways that those friendships didn’t survive. No fault, no foul play – and these were friendships that I thought I’d have for life! And yet.
My kids are older now, nearly 7 and just past 5, and in our new circle of friends we’ve got a diversity of people with children, people without, coupled and partnered and single and poly, and we’re in – I‘m in – a better space, bandwidth-wise, to keep up with them all.
So one of the ways I’ve heard this kind of idea expressed is that when people go through big life changes (like having kids but also moving, new jobs, new schools, acquired disabilities, new relationships, and on and on) sometimes it makes it harder to maintain the friendships they had before, at least in part because their lives are now different from those friends’lives in ways they weren’t. And for someone who is partnered and has children, it may mean that their single childless friends have two strikes in the difference department, whereas their partnered childless friends only have one. And maybe these people don’t have any single parent friends I guess, and forget that not all parents are partnered?
I kind of think though that while this may be statistically likely, thinking it’s inevitable probably discourages some folks from making the efforts that could maintain some of these friendships. 😦
We have a 2.5 year old. Many of our friends have kids of similar ages. We are all busy – both with independent social lives, couple and family social lives and managing the burgeoning social lives of our kids.
Today while Mr 2.5 was at daycare and I was filling in my morning before lectures, I went and took a meal to a friend who has a Miss 2.5 and Mr 2weeks, and spent half an hour talking to her and her lovely daughter.
Connecting with both other-parent and non-parent friends is very much about the little things as you can do them. It may be that you have friends you now only see in passing in the street plus once a year at dinner.
I definitely find that the hardest part is seeing those parents you love, whose kids you just dont enjoy being around. Its a really tough balancing act!
Some quick tips for the older sets:
– Saturday mornings will usually not be good if the kid plays a team or competition sport.
– similarly, many kids in the 4-10 age group will have friends’ birthday parties during the day on the weekend. This gets very busy in some kid’s social sets. Fortunately, as kids get older, sleep overs start to happen and parents might be free on those nights (bonus if more than one kid has a sleepover on the same day!)
– 4 or 5 to approx 11: Somewhere that the kids can play is good. This might be their own home. Parks with age appropriate playgrounds and preferably no water courses, lakes etc near the playground. Play cafes were wonderful when my kids were this age. (Coffee for me and a friend, jumping castle etc for them!)
– KId is able to use an ipad or computer and has one: anywhere with wifi is good for a short period of time (up to an hour after feeding them). Can amuse teens for longer periods. (However very dependant on economic resources of parents)
– local libraries with story time are good, if you can chat elsewhere in the library
– at someone’s home with movies or a gaming machine and age appropriate games is good for up to the early teens. Get takeaway and make a place for the kids to nap later in the night.
– for teens and parents: decentish restaurants start to become OK again, but preteens can get bored after a while. Somewhere with wifi can be good or if the kid likes books, they will be set if they bring a book (maybe that was just me?)
– from about 12: can the kiddo take friends to a movie (eg in a cineplex or shopping centre)? You can have coffee during the movie time.
– can you do something that is 2 for 1, eg doing exercise or shopping while you chat? Sometimes gyms have babysitters. Sometimes shopping centres have kids activity spaces (at least in school holidays in my area).
– be prepared for shorter visits for younger kids or build in play and snack breaks.
Of course, teens can be left home alone in some areas (YESSS!) and parents become flexible-ish again, subject to the teen’s probably busy social life, work and school assignment & activity calendar.
When I was a bookish pre-teen my mom would take me to the bookstore that had a coffee shop and leave me to wander the YA section while she got coffee with a friend. Considering it took up to 2 hours for me to choose a book, she had ample time. Plus after, I had a new book! Well played, mom.
SHADES OF MY CHILDHOOD, from age 8 onward. Heh. My mom also trucked me along to her library board meetings from a very young age (5?) and once I could read I was entirely self-sufficient.
There is the small issue of accidentally leaving your child in the library (heh) (it was a small library, all was well.)
I was that kid, but my mom acknowledges that she was lucky. At 8 years old, my twins knew how to read but they still would have dismantled the library in 10 minutes flat without supervision.
I could walk to my parent’s local library without ever crossing a road – in fact, I could go through the neighbour’s backyard and be in the carpark. As long as I let someone know where I was, my family was happy for me to walk there by myself as a small person. After all, I couldn’t carry sufficient books to see me through a week, and requiring me to have an adult in attendance would be very disruptive to their schedules… 😛
Mine as well. Ah, that was idyllic.
Hah, my mom and me are both bookish. We’d go to bookstores for outings. Sometimes there’d be friends of hers there too. She’d leave me in a YA or fantasy/sci-fi section (I’m always a little worried that nowadays, people find that irresponsible, but anyway, she knew me, I knew me, and it was clear when I was old enough to be left alone and I knew what to do if anything happened) or with some books in the coffee section, and tell me when she’d be back, and go browse books herself or chat with friends. I could usually buy 1 book on her money, more if I was willing to spend some of my allowance. Sometimes we’d be spontaneous and she’d buy a whole stack of books for both of us. Then we’d take the train back home, laughing with glee.
When we had small kids, we had a potluck/RPG night with our friends every Saturdayat our house. It was awesome. Hubs and I are both introverts, and without that we would have had no social life at all. For me, given that our friends aren’t bothered by a little messiness, it was great to have our friends come to us so we didn’t have to drag our kids away from all their stuff.
I also totally corroborate the assertion that while a new parent may have a calendar that looks clear, their headspace is NOT. Sometimes even when you can get away from them, you can’t quite remember how to think of anything else.
I am the childless friend trying to stay close with parents.
Things I have done:
Offer to babysit for a couple hours while they go do whatever, then hang around afterwards just to chill with them. (If you can get a few friends doing this round-robin, so they get to go out with some people while somebody else sits, and then the next time somebody else sits, that can be really cool for everyone.)
Offering to just go along while running errands and be an extra pair of hands for kid-wrangling or holding stuff or whatever might be handy.
For newborns, gone over for a couple of hours during the day so the parents who’s at home that day can grab a shower and a meal they can actually finish. (Naturally not a thing you can do if you work an 8-5 job; I don’t do those.)
Specifically plot with one parent to give the other parent a couple of hours off to go do stuff as a surprise treat.
Also have gone over to make people dinner many times. People are Big Fans of this.
Another friend of mine, who has a little one herself, holds open house events a couple of times a month, one on a Sunday afternoon (tea and social) and one on a Friday night after the kid has gone to bed (horror movie viewing). Open houses don’t have to be weekly, that can be a lot of work, but a regular monthly thing can be awesome.
You sound like a wonderful friend! 🙂
Except when I do things like get completely flaky and forget that today is Moving Day and I should, y’know, show up. Which happened last month.
It helps that I LOVE kids and also LOVE cooking.
LW, you are AWESOME.
I have a three month old baby and have found that LOADS of my friends suddenly started inviting themselves over. Normally this would freak me out but since baby has been around I LOVE it. The logistics involved in getting myself and baby ready and getting stuff together and carrying it all and getting somewhere can be…daunting. Getting my house in a vaguely presentable state (and sometimes even baking scones or something) is, at the moment, surprisingly easier (nap time for the win). YMMV.
Also, when I’m stuck at home so much of the time, rather than giving me cabin fever, it becomes a big comfort zone thing. Other new parents I know say the same.
So big thumbs up for visiting us. Another thing I’ve liked is when people don’t assume I can’t do [social thing] because I have baby. Luckily for me, I have a husband, and he is awesome. We can cover for each other at home. Also, even when I can’t do something, I REALLY appreciate still being invited, because I had been worried about being left out of the social loop and forgotten about and not being able to get back in when I next have the time and energy. This is why you, LW, are AWESOME.
One thing to remember is that new parents are TIRED. If you take me to the movies, I might fall asleep. If you ask me to come for an epic bike ride, I… well, I’d probably say yes but I would be stupid.
Babies and young children love music. If you have an event at your place when people come over, that might be good. I love the suggestion of a quiet room; I’d add my own suggestion of having white noise (a fan, an off-station radio or similar) playing in there. Babies are magically calmed by white noise, it helps them sleep if they’re overexcited at nap time and can help soothe them if they are overstimulated. Parents will adore you forever.
Another quick data point – I am childless and not especially kid-friendly, and my best friend has two Smalls. When they were very little, it’s true that we didn’t see too much of each other even though I live nearby. I don’t babysit and my house is very much not kidproof. However, I did some of the suggestions above: bring dinner and stay after the kids are in bed, meet them in a park somewhere, bring children’s books, occasionally come round with boxes full of casserole or help with cleaning when Smalls were especially tiny. Keeping that connection going has paid off because after the initial immersion in nappies and naptime and exhaustion, Friend now wants someone who doesn’t just want to talk about babies. She is reclaiming some of PersonFriend, CareerFriend, etc, and doesn’t want to be just MommyFriend anymore. Our friendship has changed but it has endured.
Plus, First Small started school this week and oh, the pics of him looking tiny and vulnerable in his wee uniform. I DIED.
This is such a great comment because it shows how you two met in the middle … friend is reaching back out beyond her momness while you are making a place in your heart for the Smalls.
My good friend has a sweet almost-2-year old. When we want to meet, we usually go for a walk together with the kid. We chat walking to the park, we talk when the kid is on the playground (while keeping an eye on him), I get to play on the playground with him (yay!), afterwards we all go for some ice-cream (he usually nibbles on the cones). It’s great, I get to visit all the parks I wouldn’t normally be bothered to go to, I earn some cool auntie points, my friend gets to talk to someone who can speak full sentences.
I think that joining friends with kids in what they would normally do is great. They would go on the walk no matter what,sometimes they like some company in their routine.
This. And the advantage of doing it with a non-parent friend is that they can actually stay with you and chat; when I go to parks with my parent friends, we have to keep dashing off to follow our little ones as they do their thing. Conversations tend to be in very short bursts, and it’s hard to have a sustained discussion of anything.
Yeah. When my friend’s little one (who btw is an uncanny minature of his father) dashes off towards his next adventure we both rush off with him while continuing the conversation. If he’s rushing into the fountain I stay guard of the stroller. 🙂
We have a 10 month old, and our difficulty socializing is compounded by the fact that A) we are a same sexy couple in a nation with very limited means for gay couples to have kids, thus none of our gay friends have kids, B) because of fact A, our son is younger than the kids of all our straight friends who started much earlier, and C) As is the case in many areas, our friends are from various financial backgrounds and cannot afford to entertain at all even when there weren’t kids in the mix.
Our solution, so we didn’t die a social death, is to host a dinner at our house every Sunday night, with the food starting right after his bedtime, and the invite about an hour before so that our friends or family can interact with our son for a bit before he sleeps. We have been maintaining this tradition for about 5 months now, and I love it. I get to play Mr Homemaker, we see our friends on a rotating basis, and our carefully cultivated schedule goes uninterrupted.
Same sex couple with a ten month old twinsies! 🙂
I’m a mom of a 3 month old baby. Crazy about him. Going crazy.
He’s being exclusively breastfed and not taking well to bottles, so a sitter isn’t exactly ideal. I can’t reliabally be away from him physically for more than an hour or so. Bur I still see my friends on a pretty regular basis,and here’s what works for me:
-Lunch dates are great in noisy places– Chipotle is a favorite right now. Just please accept that I may be 10 minutes late. I hate being late, but diaper blowouts happen juuust before I walk out the door. Also, please be willing to keep an eye on baby while I refill my drink.
-Late night is awesome. My place, cause he won’t actually sleep anywhere but on my chest or in his crib. But once he’s down at 9 or so, he’s probably gonna sleep until 1 am. Or not. Be cool if feeding him interrupts the hanging out.
-Afternoon coffee is awesome as long as I’ve got advance notice. I can try to coerce a slightly earlier naptime. But don’t take it personally if it doesn’t happen.
Bottom line, I WANT to get out and have mafe friends a priority. But some weeks I can’t even shower or grocery shop. It’s nothing personal. Please be understanding and know that your friends love you, and one day their lives won’t be ruled by fickle tyrants.
Another good solution I found when my kids were small was to go to places that had outdoor patios, weather permitting. You can just pull the stroller right up to the table — no messing about with highchairs. And if screaming ensues, you’re already outside and it’s easy to take a walk around the block.
You’re in the fourth trimester! No one is judging you if you never leave the house (but it is great that you are).
From my parents: Bridge is surprisingly good for parents.
Bridge generally has ¾ people actually playing the game—the remaining ¼ can change with each round, but it does mean that you can have a spare adult about to handle emergency baby things. You can also hold the game between rounds, breaks while people eat or feed the baby, etc. without disrupting the flow of the game.
I have a few memories of a few times them doing bridge/sleepovers (so they’d be playing bridge/socialising with other couple, us kids would be playing and them be put to bed, they’d stay up and do a bit more socialising with their friends, who’d them kip down on the sofabed). The fact that I remember it means I couldn’t have been properly tiny and there was enough space to have the sofabed for the adults and all us kids in the same room, though.
Maybe this is why so many people played bridge in The Old Days…
I don’t have kids so this is coming from a place of trial and error with my parent friends. I’ve found that a lot of my friends are really worried about being rude or annoying, and also worried that non-parents will be rude or intolerant to things like naps, so I try to be explicit about wanting to meet their needs. Things I’ve found that work with parents of littlies:
1. Explicitly telling friends that you will ask to come visit them / invite them out and that they should feel free to say ‘no’ and you will just keep trying. I did this for the first time with a friend while she was pregnant and she recently commented on how much it took the pressure off for her (so far she hasn’t actually wanted to say no, but she appreciated knowing it would be cool if she did).
2. When making plans, starting with ‘What is your kid’s nap / food schedule?’ and then constructing plans around that.
3. Being flexible about changing plans if for whatever reason they aren’t working, and being alert to signs that parents would really rather do this but are too polite to say.
Parents: the biggest thing you can do to help is to tell us non-parents what you need. My friends definitely seem prone to getting in the politeness trap – I had an uncomfortable 5 minutes with friends where we were heading to a cafe for brunch, and their toddler was in a grouchy mood and I could see them getting steadily more panicked about the prospect of their kid melting down but being too polite to say. I happened to read the signs in that case and just suggested a change of plans, but it’s not always as obvious to other people when your kid is approaching a ‘this just won’t work’ moment and it’s definitely cool to just speak up! I know parents are wary of this for a reason – said friends had had some difficult experiences with family members being dicks about the nap schedule – but it’s really super helpful to know that parents WILL speak up in such circumstances.
I’m not a mother, but my parents did something pretty interesting during my childhood and my sister’s. We had ‘Quiet Time’, which happened right after lunch for about two hours, and meant that the children remained in their bedrooms napping or playing quietly, and the parents were free to sleep, watch movies, etc. They continue this until now, though obviously once we grew up there wasn’t much of a napping expectation and we didn’t have to stay in our rooms. But it was a great way to encourage everyone to have a rest from each other and provided a nice little daily routine.
Bookmarking this for future Littles. This sounds so lovely and refreshing. My parents allowed me a lot of quiet time as a child, which I loved because I would hole up in my room and read a ton.
I’m surprised no one has mentioned the early mornings yet. Babies and toddlers are often the most happy right after they wake up until their first nap. Having a standing get together that occurs during that time is often the most comfortable for everyone as the littles are less likely to be cranky. For me, if there was a party that started at 7-8am I would ALWAYS be there, happy and ready to be sociable.
Before kids I was a night owl, but guess who doesn’t have that opportunity anymore? New parents.
As a parent of a little explorer, I especially appreciate it if events can be held in an enclosed area so that losing sight of the kid isn’t as big a deal. It can at times be impossible to socialize with him around because one of us HAS to keep an eye on him the entire time, and at best it’s a distraction.
Argle blargle. I have a niece, almost three. She is delightful and, yes, comes with all the attendant two-almost-three frustrations (i.e. she’s very busy and sometimes moody and also very fast and able to get into many, many things.)
I am finding that arranging time with my niece is interacting badly with certain aspects of what, for lack of a better phrase, I will call social anxiety. What I mean is that I really don’t do last-minute plans with people I don’t feel exquisitely comfortable with (and my sister-in-law is not in that category.) I need ~1 week, but preferably more than that, to mentally/emotionally prepare for spending my free time with not-me people.
Is there any way to convey, “Hey, if something toddler-related comes up, we can *cancel* last-minute, but I cannot *make plans* late minute?”
(Of course, there’s also some weird resentment in this situation, but, eh, if it hasn’t come up in words I’m not dealing with it.)
It might help to say really explicitly “I need to make plans in advance in order to clear my schedule to do things with you and Niece, but it is always okay for you to cancel, I genuinely won’t mind, and I would rather plan something in advance and have to reschedule it six times than try to make plans at the last minute.”
I’m guessing that your sister-in-law is trying to avoid having to cancel plans with you (because she feels that’s rude, especially with someone she’s not hugely comfortable with herself), and so she’s waiting for times when Niece is being cooperative and in a good mood, and seizing the moment to say “let’s go do something RIGHT NOW, because I am pretty sure we won’t have to cancel going to the mall in an hour, but predicting whether we can go to a movie in two weeks would require a crystal ball.”
You might try making plans for several future outings, or making a standing date to do something on a regular basis, and then making it clear you’re fine with her cancelling as often as she needs to — that may feel easier for her to do if she cancels on one thing but still has other plans with you in the future.
I have a one-year-old. Please please please offer to come to my house. We were probably planning on being there for whatever time you are free. It is kid-proofed already. There is a place for her to sleep if she gets tired. Everything we need is here. I can offer you a meal for less hassle and cost than going out to eat.
Yep, I have a one-year-old too, and we end up hosting most get-togethers. It’s just easier!
I definitely agree that babies about 8 mos and under are SUPER portable. I remember taking our 3 week old out to dinner with us and he just slept in his car seat the entire time. It felt amazing. I was also very comfortable with visitors while on maternity leave, especially the good friends who allowed me to nap just the tiniest bit while we supposed to be talking…
Also yes to hosting at home. For us, that’s the best way to see a large group of people. We are thankful to have a good sleeper with a 20 minutes bedtime routine, so it’s easy for one parent to slip away, put the kid down and come back to the party. We also tend to bring our son, a year and half old now, with us to things like potlucks and casual friend gatherings. I always make sure the host knows my kid is coming, and I have snacks, a sippy cup, the obvious supplies. I will suggest, as I’ve seen other commenters suggest, when it’s dinner: 5:30 or 6pm, please! Any later, and I’m probably going to feed them ahead of time, which results in me not eating with you because I’m playing with a kid who’s already eaten.
Yes to the naps, too. We are firm, firm, firm with the naptimes, but have found we can stretch bedtime quite a bit, even up to an hour or later. So let us come to your potluck that starts in the 6ish area, we’ll make sure our kid doesn’t climb your tables and he’s really quite friendly once he spends a few minutes with you! We will take that drink, yes please, we’re so happy to be out of the house and hanging out with you.
“I will suggest, as I’ve seen other commenters suggest, when it’s dinner: 5:30 or 6pm, please! Any later, and I’m probably going to feed them ahead of time, which results in me not eating with you because I’m playing with a kid who’s already eaten.”
What we used to do for dinner socialising, from toddlerhood to mid-teenagehood, was to have a “special” table set for the kids. Usually with different food for them. They’d sit down at kid-meal-time while adults attended to their needs and also talked to the cook who was preparing the adults 7.00 or 8.00 meal. No issues about kids interrupting adults while they’re talking over dinner. No worries about kids disliking unfamiliar food the adults want – because their food and meal time was specifically for them, all preferences accounted for. And it’s a bit like a kids party from their point of view. But nicely relaxed for the adults.
The kids could watch a video or read books or whatever, depending on age and preference, while adults ate their main meal. When the kids were a bit older, you could sometimes make them feel important by getting them to help serve dessert, or the cheese and nuts with coffee. They’re part of the event but not expected to behave like mini-adults.
There’s some great advice here. One thing I’d add is that LW seems to want a recipe for making things “kid-friendly”, and in my experience as a parent, there’s really no single recipe that will work. I’ve got twin toddlers, and at 5 months their meal and nap schedules were super restrictive but the kids themselves were very portable. Then they learned to crawl and some of the venues that worked earlier stopped working so well. They went through a put-everything-in-their-mouths stage that made it really hard to spend time outside with them (curse you, playgrounds covered in wood chips!). Now they’ve outgrown that but are more energetic and restless and they really need space to run around. They’re currently in a defiant age where they know that they aren’t supposed to do something but try to do it anyway while watching to see if I’ll stop them, so they can be pretty destructive. Even seemingly innocuous spaces that aren’t explicitly designed for young children require intense supervision – it’s not enough to cover the electrical outlets and move the glass sculpture off the coffee table, because they’ll try to pull all the books off your bookshelves and keep making a run for your bedroom to pull your clothes out of your dresser and pull all of the snacks off the dining room table unless we ignore you to be fully engrossed in entertaining them. Someday they’ll outgrow this phase but be old enough to whine about being bored, and that will require yet another set of accommodations when making plans.
I’d also mention that the adult-to-child ratio in the family (or at whatever hangout/event) matters a lot. When both parents attend an event with their one child, especially if that child happens to be a particularly easy baby or the kind of older child who is happy in the corner with a book, it can seem like this whole parenting gig really isn’t that big a barrier to a social life. When my two-kid family spends time with my friends with three kids, whatever we do has to be intensely kid-focused and adult conversation is very fragmented. My toddlers are independent little explorers, so if we don’t go somewhere fenced in/babyproof, it won’t be possible at all unless both my wife and I are able to attend, and we’ll be so distracted that it probably won’t seem worth it to come at all.
Also, based on a frustrating experience seeing one of our non-parent friends recently, don’t be blase about how well your dogs do with children and figure it will all be fine. Young children and dogs are an uncertain mix, even if the dog is a calm one and the main danger is the child being terrified. If you invite friends with young kids over, you have to be absolutely, genuinely willing to keep the pets out of the space where the kids are. Otherwise, just meet up somewhere out of the house.
Holy crap, your mention of being blase about dogs + tiny kids is TERRIFYING. Even when the dog and the kid LOVE each other, each of them can get pushed over into ” this is way too much” sooooo fast.
I know relatively little about children, but I unfortunately know something about the combination of children + dogs, and in general: TRUST NEITHER OF THEM. Very agreeable children can’t necessarily read animal body language, especially if they are excited to see PUPPY! Very sweet dogs are not necessarily got to react well to having their faces/eyes/ears poked.*
We have MULTIPLE crates for our puppy, and when my niece comes over it depends on how each of them is feeling on that day whether he goes in a crate in the middle of the living room or a crate in a bedroom (sometimes puppy behaves himself, sometimes puppy does not. Sometimes niece is feeling up to dog interaction, sometimes she is not.)
*(personal rant: for the love of God, all people with dogs and children: DON’T LET THE CHILD TOUCH THE DOG’S FACE. This is how horrific dog bites happen.)
I think people have a lot of misconceptions about kids and dogs. We like to romanticize the relationship between the two groups, but in reality, dogs can be very scary for children, and children – with their less-predictable movements and higher energy levels – can make a lot of dogs nervous and jumpy. A dog who is perfectly well-behaved while out-and-about in society might still be very uncomfortable if a child just runs up and starts touching it.
If I had one piece of advice for parents, it would be to really try to instill in your child the rule that they need to ASK before petting a dog. I know that this is difficult to enforce 100% of the time, but in general, it’s a good way to prevent unhappy child/dog interactions. I have a 26-pound dog who, because of his size and general adorableness, is a kid-magnet when we leave the house. I really appreciate it when kids ask if they can pet him, or, failing that, if the parents of a child who has made a beeline for my dog say something like “Johnny, you need to ASK before you pet the dog”.
I have been in more than a few uncomfortable situations where children were unsupervised in a venue that was both kid- and dog-friendly, and where parents left the supervision of the dog/child interaction to the dog-owner. I dislike being placed in the position where I may have to come off as “unfriendly” to a child and tell her/him to stop touching my dog, but if the child is making my dog uncomfortable, I will do so to make sure that neither the dog nor the child is in any danger. Parents can help out in these situations by being generally aware of their child’s location if they are in a dog-friendly venue, and by making sure to teach their kids that NOT all dogs are friendly, so they need to ask before petting them.
I would agree about the misconceptions. I tend to come down on the side of “protecting dog from kid,” but the opposite is equally true — I actually did not like dogs until about age 8, because as a little kid I LOATHED being licked in the face and/or knocked down. Which is understandable! (This led to an awkward situation where I always wanted to pet my uncle’s vicious Chow, not his lovable Golden Retriever, because the Chow didn’t JUMP on me.)
I often walk dogs from our local shelter in the nearby park, where there is play equipment and, ergo, frequently children. I am the Meanest Meanie to ever Meanify, but I pretty much have a blanket “no” when kids ask if they can pet a dog — I’d feel kind of anxious and uncomfortable with MY OWN dog, with whom I am well-acquainted, responding appropriately to a strange kid, but the interaction of unknown kid + not-very-well-known dog is just too unpredictable for me.
Yes to this whole thread but especially Jane. I do come down on the side of “protecting dog from kid” because dogs get killed for these things, not that I don’t have a lot of empathy for parents and kids who get hurt. Even dogs who *love* kids will almost definitely be overwhelmed by strange kids in their face and so few people are very careful about giving them their own space the kid isn’t allowed to invade.
(I tend to fall on the side of over-paranoid and my dogs would get to say hello then be in a separate room if small people ever visited us.)
YES, this. I live in a super dog-friendly neighborhood and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched, horrified, while a parent lets a child wander up to an unattended dog tied outside a store and pat them. I grew up with many, many dogs and always, always, always ask before patting a dog. Even a normally friendly dog can be aggressive when on a leash or without their owner.
I recently went to a backyard barbecue that had three dogs (two large ones, one of which is barky/aggressive, and a small one that kept snarling at the two large ones).
There was a young-ish kid there, maybe 5? Who kept barking at the aggressive dog, who would start hackling and moving towards him with his teeth showing. Neither the dog’s owner nor the kid’s parent said/did anything. When the two larger dogs started playing, the smaller one kept trying to attack and snarling at them, and the larger ones would start turning on him, and not in a playful way, or try to drag him out from underneath the table where he was hiding (the table we all had our legs under). NO ONE DID ANYTHING. No one put the dog inside; told the kid to stop barking at the larger dog, nothing.
I finally got the fuck up and went home because I didn’t want to end the night by seeing a kid get bitten, or end up with a dog bite in my leg if one of the dogs went for the other one and my leg happened to be between them. I was honestly horrified by the behavior of the dog owners and the parents and will likely not accept another invitation to go to this person’s house.
I like dogs. I like them more than I like kids. I’d rather have a dog than a kid in my house. But seriously, put the dog away. It will not kill the dog to be in a separate room for a while. It will not crush the child’s spirit to be told not to antagonize the dog.
Holy cow. That must have been horrid to watch.
This, absolutely. One of our firm household rules is that we don’t touch or go close to dogs we don’t know. We live in an urban area and there are a lot of dogs out and about, so having my toddler stay back from them is as important as her not walking into or across streets. I also don’t want her to be scared of dogs, so avoiding a possible situation where an unfamiliar dog freaks out at her is important.
“…so having my toddler stay back from them is as important as her not walking into or across streets.”
I think it would be GREAT if more parents put “Do not pet or approach strange dogs without asking” as high up on their safety lists as “Do not talk to strangers” and “Hold my hand when we cross the street”. It would be a service to both kids and dogs, in my opinion.
I know very little about dogs, so this is super-useful to read! Thank you!
Dogs are wonderful. I love them. My family had a lot of them, sometimes all at once. But dogs and children can be a hugely volatile mix, and I have no patience for either parents who won’t/don’t teach their children safety rules around dogs, and dog owners who refuse to restrain or contain their dog when they have guests or children over.
Even the most friendly, loving dogs can bite if a kid who doesn’t know the dog goes for a toy, or their food, or their face.
INSTILLING DOG CAUTION IN CHILDREN IS VERY IMPORTANT YES- there was an awful awful case in Australia earlier this year where a (supervised!) 8-year-old stuck her hand under a fence to try to pat a dog and lost the hand.
Oh my goodness, yes.
Back before I had a kid, I had a dog who hated kids. (Like, long before. I got her when I was ten.) And now I have an almost-three-year-old, and I am extremely stern with her about asking before trying to pat anyone’s dog. A lot of dog owners seem genuinely bothered by it, like I’m somehow impugning their dog’s character by implying that the dog might be anything but sweet and gentle, when — no, really, I have known and loved good dogs who would snap at children anyway, this is a safety issue.
Yep. My daughter was around two when her grandmother’s dog, around which she’d been for months, suddenly took it into his head to bite her face for absolutely no reason that I could see. Thank God he didn’t break the skin.
Another parent here who trained the kid (before that, even) to always ask before petting a dog. Fortunately we never got any guff from dog owners — that’s astonishing that people would complain — and in fact we had a number of people thank us.
@ slfisher: I read somewhere that this is a pretty natural parenting behaviour for dogs: Grab the puppy’s muzzle if the parent dog thinks the pup is misbehaving. Puppy freezes, dog lets go. Puppy struggles, dog tightens hold until pup freezes and signals intent to comply.
This is apparently why so many dogs grab kids on the face. Even non-vicious dogs who are just trying to stop being poked are likely to go for a face grab to discipline the child/puppy (from the dog’s point of view). The problem of course is that kid’s faces are not strong dog muzzles and kids freak and struggle so the grab turns into a serious bite, even from formerly “safe” dogs.
Who knows what the dog though was naughty? As humans, we can’t always predict that.
This is why our very sweet staffy will NEVER be left alone with a kid, even though the dog is one of the sweetest and least aggressive dogs I have ever known. She has a strong mouth and I never want a kid hurt by her.
I also would never subject a kid who is a bit afraid of dogs to having to interact against their will. That will never end well. Dog goes out (or is shut in) away from people who are not comfortable with dogs.
Oh, that’s interesting! It was a boy dog, fixed in fact, never had puppies, but perhaps it’s something instinctual? Thanks for explaining.
Yeah. Dogs and kids are NOT often a good mix at all, especially because unlike with an adult, kids really don’t know that dogs can be dangerous (or even what ‘danger’ really is) and a dog hurting a kid frequently does give them long-lasting trauma and phobic reactions.
Any tips for when you’ve tried to do all those things and been super duper accommodating and your childed friend basically goes radio silent on you?
If it’s just the one friend, you may have to chalk it up to “Everyone is goddamned different” with a side of “It might get better as the kids get older.” Some friends are going to drift, and the drift current with small kids is exceptionally strong. If it’s any comfort, it is probably not about you!
If you want to strengthen the friend bond, offer to come to them maybe three more times before calling it off. If you just want to maintain ties until they’re out of the weeds, continue inviting them to larger gatherings but don’t count on them coming until the little(s) is/are more grown. But then again, maybe this friendship has run its course? Choose your own adventure, friend, and good luck!
Commander Banana, I have much commiseration, but my advice is merely speculative.
I had in my head before moving home that I would use this opportunity to bond with my toddler niece. That has not worked out super well, because I have discovered the following:
1. When I am working full-time, I am pretty much exhausted most of the time I am not at work; my introversion also ramps up dramatically, and I can’t really deal with many people on my off-hours
2. My niece, though wondrous, is extremely exhausting for me to be around for more than about an hour
3. My sister-in-law is not interested in making plans much in advance (all requests for me to babysit have come day-of or day-before, and all of the things I have proposed she has turned down, without offering any alternatives)
4. My sister-in-law doesn’t come our way (I live with my parents) on weeknights or on Sundays
(In addition, my SIL usually makes a jibe or a couple at me when I visit about how I’m not good with kids or not a real adult, so it’s tiring + tense.)
I have lots of unflattering theories about why things are the way they are, but regardless, it seems that we are at an impasse. To be blunt, regular interaction with my niece/brother/SIL is not important enough to me to spend a lot of energy for the privilege of being overly tired, pressed for time, and extra stressed in the rest of my life. And since they’ve shown that they aren’t going to reach out to me, we just don’t have much of a relationship. We both get to have our priorities.
Some people (like my parents) don’t really maintain friendships past having kids. They sort of withdrew into their own little world and stopped communicating with people outside the nuclear bubble. It’s sad, and it probably hurt their old friends’ feelings, but I don’t think it reflected badly on anyone in that situation. People grow apart, and sometimes kids are the reason. Friendships *can* survive parenthood, but that doesn’t mean they *will.* I think when your friends become parents, you should try to have reasonable expectations (babies make lots of noise! toddlers run around! everybody has bathroom disasters!!) but that *still* doesn’t mean you’re obligated to twist yourself into a pretzel for people who are not putting themselves out about you.
In my case, I’ll probably try again when niece is older — hopefully she’ll like to read, so I can get somewhere giving her books and book recommendations. I know that I’m going to have to let go any resentment I have about the lack of effort on her parents’ part should that time come to pass. While your main relationship is with the parents, I feel like the same logic might serve you — you might have to draw back for a while, let yourself be sad that you’re not a priority in your friend’s life anymore, and let it go. Then . . . try again, maybe, in a couple years?
I feel you here. I don’t have kids and don’t expect to ever have them. My sibling and spouse have 3 kids, ranging from maybe 10 to 14. I wanted to be a big part of the kids’ lives, but it hasn’t happened. I live a couple hours’ drive away, and I went through 3 years of cancer treatment and have had limited spoons since then, particularly when it comes to travel. So I rarely visit them.
And I simply am not a priority for my sibling, so they never make a trip to visit me. Period. The best I can hope for is when they visit the in-laws who live close to me, and then they may make time to come over and join me for a meal. But that only happens if I manage to catch them just before the trip and make arrangements with them. They generally don’t initiate contact. If I don’t call regularly, then I just don’t find out about such trips, or milestones in the kids’ lives, etc. Once in a while over the years, they may call me the day before to invite me to travel up for a milestone, or to the in-laws to join in big holiday gathering, but my schedule isn’t really flexible or open enough to deal with 24-hour notice.
I’ve tried to arrange things like Skype calls with the kids, and they even gave me a webcam as a gift in support of this idea, but somehow that hasn’t materialized, because I can’t install the software and create an account for them remotely. And I tried buying books to build on the kids’ interests, but when the parents aren’t readers, it’s not surprising that the kids aren’t either, so I’ve largely stopped trying that approach. Gift giving always feels like a crapshoot in terms of whether the items will match where the kids’ interests are right now. Plus, I have no sense of time, poor memory, and hate shopping, so birthday and holiday presents tend to be delivered months after the fact.
I am very sad that I don’t really have much of a relationship with the nieces and nephews. I don’t know what’s going on in their lives, and who they’re developing into, what their latest enthusiasms are. But I also recognize that it’s a combination of the parents’ lack of interest and my lack of follow through. Plus my absence on social media. The burden’s always going to be on me to reach out regularly, and I am not so good with consistency. But the little time I do spend with the kids is a delight every time. I just promised to send postcards in Spanish with the oldest to help him practice. So now I need to actually follow through…
Speaking as a former child who had relatives who didn’t want much to do with me… The lack of follow-through is not nothing. I’d have relatives I never saw be all interested when they saw me and want to be closer, but then never return my letters or otherwise make any effort afterward. I wrote them off. I had a lot of absent relatives & poverty growing up and as a child it’s not on me to maintain relationships. I’m not saying your family is correctly avoiding you but if you make a promise to a child and don’t keep it, the child will remember it. I understand good intentions and I’m sure my relatives think fondly of me when they think of me but lack of follow-through, poor memory, no sense of time is not compatible with building a solid relationship with a child.
I agree–if I make promises to one of the kids, then I need to follow through. It’s that sort of shit that makes noncustodial parents persona non grata in their kids’ lives. I get it. Been on the receiving end of that kind of stuff, so yeah. But the postcard to my nephew really is the first time I’ve made an offer directly to one of the kids like this.
My lack of follow through is more with the parents–calling at regular intervals, continuing to pester them to set up the video chat, checking in to see when they’ll be in this area again, that sort of thing. Because I am not communicating consistently with them and they do not reach out to me, I miss out on a lot. And the children do not reach out to me either–that’s part of why I wanted to set up video chatting–they’re getting old enough to maybe form relationships with me independent of their parents. But I can’t make it happen from their end. I can only keep bringing it up. When I remember.
I totally feel you on the time/energy thing. It’s hard. I’m also introverted and adults exhaust me, let alone kids. And I’ve for a baby, so very limited spoons and sometimes no Social Interaction Spoons at all. One thing people should avoid: my friend offered to come over and I jumped at the chance to see a friendly face and helpful pair of hands without having to spend my spoons on getting myself and Small ready to go out, etc …what my friend neglected to tell me (please don’t do this) was that she was bringing her three-year-old with her.
Basically I spent the time they were here all keyed up and jittery because her kid was CONSTANTLY running around, yelling, throwing stuff (my house is not yet toddler-proof; ours can’t even sit up yet), putting his messy hands all over my french windows and glass coffee table (they say forget cleaning while you have a baby, but they don’t think about those of us whose anxiety goes through the roof if there is dirt/mess in the house), interrupting the conversation to ask hundreds of questions and petting the baby like a dog just when I was finally managing to get her drowsy for her nap.
It may not sound like it, but I adore this kid. I just need to know when he’s going to be anywhere near me because the spoons oh gods the spoons. My friend does not understand this. I think she spends so much time around her kids that she’s kind of forgotten she exists without them.
If the birth was recent (this year, but especially in the last 6 months) this woulnd’t surprise me in the least, especially if it’s the first child. Eventually they’ll come back up for air and they’ll be shocked and thrilled that the world beyond babies still exists.
If the kid is older then commanderlogic’s comment has you covered.
I’d want to know the nature of the radio silence, because I think there are two options here. Do you know (either via social media or more old-fashioned means of communication) whether your friend is socializing with other people? Particularly parent-shaped people?
If you have a sense that that’s not happening, then she’s probably just cocooning a bit. Even if it takes years, a good friendship can weather it if both sides decide they’re willing to. A nice handwritten note, or some other out-of-the-ordinary-these-days method of communication, can keep the lines open: “Hey, I know you’re totally underwater with Baby, so I just wanted you to know I’m thinking of you and not to worry” and a standing offer to bring over some takeout. Then leave it for awhile. Patience and empathy.
If you have a sense that it IS happening, well. My story here (hinted at in comment above): I am single, no kids. A good friend of mine of several years, after she and her husband struggled with fertility issues, adopted a baby boy and everyone was thrilled. I spent quite a bit of time with them until he was about 2, occasional babysitting, hanging at their house or child-friendly outings. I was Auntie GMG, and life was good. Then Baby Boy #2 was adopted. Suddenly their family was complete and it was apparently time to dump the childless friends and acquire an almost entirely new social circle. Slowly over the course of three years or so, we all got the same treatment in turn. Among the tactics to accomplish this were the aforementioned radio silence, “forgetting” to extend invites to larger social events (but then mentioning it later, just to make sure the kidless knew they were being left out), and pointed comments about how weird it was to hang out with someone who actually has a lap free to hold a child, etc. Yes, I wish I were making this up.
It is unavoidable that friendships will change when one friend becomes a parent. It is NOT unavoidable that they will end. That’s a choice by one side or the other (and I stress that I am well aware this is a two-way street; the parents here have plenty of stories about non-parents “not getting it” and worse, not trying to). I’m thankful that this only has happened to me once, but once was enough to hurt.
Oh man, GMG, that really sucks and sounds very hurtful. I’m sorry that happened to you.
I actually started drafting emails to the Captain about this several times, and abandoned them because they felt so whiny. Long story short, my oldest-friend-since-middle-school had twins about a year ago. We haven’t lived in the same city for over a decade but kept up through a lively email exchange, texts, and infrequent visits. It was a rough pregnancy and the babies were very premature and fragile, so obviously no visitors for a long time. They’re doing wonderfully well now though and she’s home with them full time.
I tried really, really, really hard to stay in touch with her without expecting anything in return – sent emails, mailed her care packages, cards, etc. After the babies were in better shape and she’d started having family over, I asked to come visit her for a bit. Super low key visit, basically, my expectations were to watch them so she could wash her hair or run to Target. I even offered to stay in a hotel if that was less stressful (they have a large house).
Because of my work schedule, I can only take vacation at two different times during the year, so I had a window of about 5 weeks to plan a vacation. She stopped responding to me entirely, waited until it was too late to either plan a trip to see her or for me to actually take a vacation on my own, and then emailed to say that visits were too stressful and could I not come?
Anyway, this has gone on for a year, and she’s basically entirely stopped answering emails, texts, etc. I know she’s in touch with other people because we’re Facebook friends. I’m going to her city in about a month and planned an extra day to see her, but I honestly am expecting her to bail the day before and leave me stuck trying to find a hotel (she lives about 45 minutes by train outside the city, so getting to her house is not all that easy, either).
At this point, I figure I’ll see how the visit goes and then decide whether I want to try staying in touch with her anymore. I’m leaning towards no, honestly, but I worry about her because she had a lot of postpartum depression after the boys were born, and she and her husband had just moved to a suburb away from their friends/family before she had the kids, so she’s mentioned more than once how isolated and lonely she feels.
I find it just kind of weird…I know having kids, especially twins, especially fragile twins! is super exhausting and taking care of toddlers leaves you barely any time to breathe, but the uncharitable part of me wonders why she can’t find time to write a quick email or respond to a text in between Facebook updates.
Assume that instead of twin babies, she had a severely demanding job or a family member requiring caretaking (and the postpartum depression was severe work stress or caretaker overload). Would that change how you look at the situation or explain her behavior any differently?
No. We’ve both been in demanding job/caretaker/severe depression situations before at different times in our friendship.
Personally, in that situation, if someone rejected me that many times, I would assume they were wondering why I wouldn’t get the hint and go away and stop annoying them, and that they’d rather be more of an acquaintance than a friend, and that if they thought of me at all it was to think ‘isn’t my life stressful and busy enough without TO_Ont following me around like a needy puppy I have to try to be kind to ‘?
I don’t know if that’s just me having a couple of painful experiences of rejection, or if it’s universal. But few humans want to feel like they’re unwittingly the unwanted person or that people who are important to them don’t see them the same way.
Then yeah, it definitely sounds like this is a new thing. I’m sorry.
I wonder if she’s got trapped in the guilt cycle where she knows she dropped out, she feels bad about it, and it’s easier to drop further out than to try and mend things? It’s a really easy thing to do if you’re depressed, and it’s a pretty easy thing to do if you’re not properly depressed-depressed but just utterly exhausted. Engaging with people who want things from you, even on the most basic level of “hey, I just want to see you and meet your twins!” can just feel totally overwhelming and it’s easier to block it out for another day and bury yourself in the immediate needs of the babies. Which are obviously *massive* with twins, and it’s incredibly easy to get to the end of the day and have done nothing but baby.
I don’t know where that leaves you, mind you, because I think any attempt to reach out might still trigger her “oh but I can’t doooooo thiiiiis nooooow” circuits. Are you friends with her husband too? If you were, then you could probably check in with him to try and figure out whether Friend has the headspace to meet up with you now, “hey, I am hoping to see you and Friend in a few weeks, but she’s obviously super busy with the kids and hard to pin down – realistically, is it likely she’ll manage to come out? I would so love to see her and meet the babies, but just wanted to get your opinion on whether it’s better to leave it for now.” If it doesn’t come off, I would try and get into the headspace of genuinely not feeling annoyed or slighted, and then perhaps follow some of the Captain’s advice for dealing with a Too Depressed friend: just send her a message letting her know that you’re going to stop trying to organise things because it’s not working out and you don’t want to be pressurey or a source of stress, but you would love to hear from her whenever, even if it’s literally 2018, and then in the meantime just send her little low-pressure “hey, saw this and thought of you!” messages that don’t require an answer every so often.
But that doesn’t mean I think yout are wrong to be hurt by it: it is sad and upsetting and of course you miss your friend! But I think it may be utterly legitimate does-not-have-the-headspace right now, and the not-having-the-headspace extends to having the ability to actually communicate about not having the headspace. Even if she’s not depressed, I think treating her as that friend who just Can’t Even Right Now may be the way to go. But only if you think you can, of course: if you feel too hurt and rejected and don’t feel like you’ve got the energy yourself to give her more time, that is completely legit.
Yeah, as I wrote that comment kind of the answer came to me, that I have to let this friendship go, at least for now. We’ve both struggled with depression and I have definitely been the “can’t even bring myself to answer an email, shame spiral!” friend before, so I hope the commentariat believe me when I say I am engaging with her with a tremendous amount of empathy. It’s just that the nature of our friendship changed radically and suddenly when the babies arrived, in a way that it never had in the nearly 20 years I’ve known her.
You definitely don’t need to convince me that you are engaging with her with empathy! I hope that the 20 years of history means that the two of you can pick up some time in the future and mend things, but if it’s apparently too hard for her right now and that makes it too hard for you, then withdrawing and putting your energies elsewhere is completely the right thing to do. Best of luck.
I just read this comment and….do we have the same friend? I wonder.
I do actually have a friend whose current situation is exactly – but, EXACTLY – like the one you describe here. And this friend has gone through many depressive episodes through the course of our eighteen-year friendship. During these times, she has completely dropped off the map – no responses to emails, phone calls, etc. I got used to it after a while; that is how she copes with overwhelming fear/grief/depression/anxiety/postpartum.
This time, though, I am feeling like the guilty one, because I go to City frequently, but never make the effort to go that extra 45 minutes on the train to Town Outside City. So while there is radio silence, I am kind of slinking around guiltily in it, wondering when the F I’m going to pony up and get myself there to visit. Sounds like you have made a great deal of effort, and you are perfectly justified in drifting a bit to see whether the “uncharitable” part of you (which, for the record, I don’t think is actually uncharitable) settles into equanimity.
(I am speaking from my own experience of having a new baby here, and from some experiences my friends have shared with me – I know some people find it easier than this, but it does sound like BananaFriend has not had it particularly easy. Also, sorry for how long this got, I hope it’s not just a huge derail.)
I was wondering how old your friend’s twins were, and having gone through the first year myself (a while ago now!), it sort of makes sense to me. I know a year sounds like a really long time, and from here I can totally imagine how hurtful it’s been, but my daughter’s first year was an absolute blur of oh-god-how-do-I-cope – and I had one happy, healthy, easy baby, rather than premature twins. Even after the very early stage, once we had feeding established and the absolute basics figured out, I was just getting through each day.
It’s hard to express how much having a baby can turn your world upside down. More so with two of them, more so when they have a rough start to life, more so with post-natal depression. It’s the steepest learning curve of your life. The responsibility is instant, terrifying and vast. You have to protect the tiny humans at all cost, and you don’t really know how to do that yet. You have also been blindsided by this immense protective love that means the idea of *anything* happening to those tiny humans is intolerable. But you have to think about all those things that might happen, because you have to figure out how to stop them happening. The terrible things play on a constant cinema reel inside your head. Plus you are sleep deprived, horribly, for months. You are trying to do the most crucial and demanding task you’ve ever done, learning from scratch, and you are so tired you can barely remember how to put your own socks on. You’re also trying to adjust to the knowledge that your life will never, ever be the same again.
Add depression into the mix and now you have an illness that can devastate a person’s ability to cope with life’s ordinary demands, but you STILL have to handle the comparatively huge needs of a baby. Or in this case, two babies.
I can still only compare the first months of parenthood to some of my roughest prior episodes of mental illness – anxiety, especially. It was crisis that I had to survive. A constant parade of images of myself fucking up, someone else fucking up, something awful happening to my tiny helpless child. Is she breathing? Am I going to fall on the stairs with her? Shit there’s a button missing from my shirt, where is it, is she choking on it? When my daughter was four months old, my mum took her for a walk in the buggy while I stayed at home. I wanted to cry the entire time they were gone, because it was windy and I was convinced the buggy was going to blow over and tip my baby into the road and she would get run over. (My mum not only raised me and my brother but also *works in childcare*, by the way.)
So I know I rejected various friends’ offers to watch the baby, or to do other things that would sound both reasonable and helpful to anyone outside of babyland. I know there were times I just couldn’t cope with the idea of visitors at all, especially for whole days at a time or even longer. In hindsight they probably didn’t know why and quite possibly it was hurtful to them. They were trying to be kind and helpful and to stay a part of my life, how could that be stressful to me? But the mental battle between “so exhausted by baby” versus “BABY NEEDS ME OR SHE WILL DIE” gave me no resources left with which to regain a sense of perspective. I mean, you know when you’re so stressed and busy with a task that you can’t actually figure out how to delegate part of it to someone else, because that would mean keeping all the plates spinning *while* figuring out which ones that person could usefully take on *and* explaining what needed doing? It was like that, but 24/7 for months on end. Not just the first few weeks, but for a serious chunk of the first year. An offer to help felt like another impossible demand.
Even an invitation or suggestion sometimes did, too. Certain things I knew I could manage – a walk to the park, a meal in a pub. I’d done those, we’d all survived. I knew how to do those with a baby. But a new suggestion required me to think, plan, work out how to keep the plates spinning – and sometimes I couldn’t manage that. Just didn’t have the headspace.
I also found Facebook updates way easier to do than emails, though again I can totally appreciate now that it doesn’t fill the same need when it comes to maintaining a friendship. At the time it was all I could muster. It felt like making a small contact with everyone at once, I only had to figure out one thing to say, I could come back to it as and when I had time.
Around the one year mark is probably when I started to surface again and feel like a human being.
None of that means you shouldn’t be hurt and sad, or that you have to wait around and be completely selfless with this friend for as long as you both shall live. I think I’m just trying to express how, even though it seems totally reasonable that your friend could have stayed in touch better, it is very possible for this lapse in communication to be unintentional and nothing at all personal.
Ugggh, I am having immense comment regret now because I went on for ages and made it all sound absolutely terrible, and parents-to-be will be reading, and probably I look like a giant drama queen, and argh. This is how I experienced it. It’s not how everyone experiences it. And the scary exhausting first year of barely functioning was *also* a year filled with more joy and love than I knew what to do with.
I’ll shut up now.
Yes. I was like this too. It wasn’t just the PPD (though there was that), I spent the first two years of my oldest’s life in a sleep-deprived haze of rage. Having the kid was hell on my marriage, I was overwhelmed with how much I had to do and how little my partner was helping me, and I was too embarrassed to want to talk about it with my closest friends, so I mostly withdrew from everyone. A couple of friends who are local knew when to call and when to stop by and were lifelines for me. I just couldn’t deal at all, and then the shame spiral would kick in. It got better, but it took a while to climb out of that place.
This is how I experienced it.
That was my experience too, so I’m glad to see that you’ve shared this. My first baby was actually easier, and it was having the second that brought on postpartum depression, but even without being depressed it was still a rough first year with our firstborn.
Oh sweetie, you don’t sound like a giant drama queen at all! Don’t apologise – your experience totally is legit and important, and there will be lots of people reading and going, “yep, sounds familiar, definitely recognise that!”
First three or four months were like that for me, and then around four-five months someone said, “You look so much better! Are you feeling better?” and I was about to put on a brave face and say, “Oh yes, I think things are starting to…” and then I suddenly realised it was TRUE! Things actually were better! I think the biggest thing was probably that I was finally getting 6+ hours sleep a night, often up to 8 hours, in 3-4 hour chunks, and, for me, that just made everything else SO much more manageable. And post-tongue-tie (which affected feeding) and reflux (which affected sleep), my daughter had suddenly gone from seeming like a very challenging, high-needs, clingy baby to an easy-going, social, smiley little bee.
And you know, I 100% think that both the difficulties we had to start with and the relatively easy time we’ve had since February-March are just *luck*: it wasn’t our fault that our little girl had a tongue-tie and reflux and that feeding and sleeping her were hard, and we can take a little credit for her being much more settled and happier for the last six months, but it’s mainly just because she’s That Kind Of Baby. I’ve another friend whose little girl hasn’t ever slept well, and that’s been really tough on all of them: sleeplessness turns things which are objectively relatively minor “problems” into major Can’t Evens, when you’re literally crying over spilt milk. I don’t think less of her for having had a tougher first year than I have, or congratulate myself on having done it “better”.
(Also, hee on the buggy thing! The very first time the baby went out of the house without me was when my in-laws took her out for “about twenty minutes”. First ten minutes: BLESSED FREEDOM. Next ten minutes: Aww, da baby. *looks at photos on phone* Next ten minutes: Really ready to have the baby back now. Is that them I hear? Oh, no. What about that? Is that them? By 40 minutes: They’ve been run over. The baby’s been killed. They’ve literally got on a plane back home rather than come and explain to me what they’ve done. OH THANK GOD THEY’RE HERE.” And I can semi-joke about it now, but I’m still thinking about deleting the sentence “the baby’s been killed” because it’s so awful to contemplate that even writing it feels like tempting fate.)
Ha, this is me. My daughter also had tongue tie and reflux, and then suddenly my breast milk almost dried up for no apparent reason. So I was using a breast pump every couple of hours in an effort to stimulate production, then keeping the expressed milk to feed baby at night when I didn’t have the spoons to make up formula and listen to her screaming while I frantically tried to cool boiling water to lukewarm and then settle her after she’d screamed herself fully awake…and then one day my breast pump fell apart in my bag and all the milk went everywhere and soaked my stuff and I was crying and laughing because I realised I was literally crying over spilled milk.
Is funny now 🙂
Oof, I sympathize. Especially with such a longstanding friendship, that is really hard. I have a couple of other friends for whom parenting has been particularly overwhelming, I think a combo of their own tendencies to be high-strung about things and the fact that the kids take after them in the high-strung department. 😦 And it at times has been a challenge to plan things with them, but one reason for that is because it’s really important for families of that temperament to stick to routines, to keep everybody soothed and the high-strungness as much at bay as possible. One piece of advice I might offer is to just assume that your friend can’t or won’t be able to host you overnight. Get a hotel near their house for one night, if there is one, or just plan on the schlep out from the city but not to stay there. If you take that part of the burden out of the equation and just say hey, looking forward to popping by and spending the afternoon with you, it might relax her a bit. I hear you below when you’re saying you think the friendship might be kaput and that it’s hard to put all this work in and feel like nothing is coming back. But if you’re going to be there anyway and feel like it’s worth a try … fingers crossed for you!
Oh I sympathize! We had some pretty close friends who had babies a few years ago… we hung out a lot with baby number 1, but when number 2 showed up, they sort of dropped off the face of the earth. We would occasionally touch base via email or facebook but got VERY little response, barely even a hello. I was worried because I always wondered if I wasn’t “proper” enough for this couple, even though I love them to bits. I thought maybe they thought I was a bad influence on their wee ones!
Fast forward 2-3 years; just a few days ago, they had us to their home, where we got to play with the wee ones (ages 2 and 5) and then hang out and have dinner after they went to bed. It was wonderful seeing them, and it turns out it really wasn’t us, it was them. We reconnected like no time had passed, and the kids were old enough to actually enjoy spending time with us. I’m glad they thought enough of us to reach out, even after a couple years of radio silence.
All of this is to say, that radio silence sucks and really hurts (because even if it’s a justified, unintentional rejection, it’s still rejection, and ouch), but with any luck, it is just one stage in the natural development of adult friendships.
I’m wishing you the best!
When my oldest friend had her first, we offered to babysit. Starting when the kid was 6 weeks, we took him, then his brother. For at least a couple of hours. Every week.
This meant Friend and her husband got some time together.
We’d bring kid back to parents, or they’d come by, and the adults would hang for a bit.
An idea from Brigid Schulte’s “Overwhelmed” that I love and have employed as a currently-childless couple hosting people and their tiny children: have RIDICULOUSLY low-key dinner parties. We invited our friends and their toddler over for a dinner that consisted of heated-up frozen things we’d bought at IKEA. The toddler was happy to eat meatballs and the parents got a night when they didn’t have to cook or clean up and could enjoy some adult conversation. There was no pressure on anyone to be like “DINNER MUST START AT 7:08 OR THE SOUFFLE WILL BE RUINED”. Heck, you don’t even have to cook – tell the parents to text when they’re on their way and you’ll call for a pizza.
I love a fancy-schmancy event from time to time as much as the next person, but if you save all your hosting energy (and the parents save all their babysitting money) for those times, you’ll barely ever see each other. Honestly I would recommend this for hosting people regardless of whether they have kids. Assume that your friends want to see you for you and not for your wine glasses and spotless kitchen floor.
Some friends of ours have a monthly board game open house, where we are regulars. My husband was working insane hours and started skipping it a lot. We had a two-year-old and a six-year-old, now both diagnosed as autistic but then just inexplicably exhausting. I always worried about bringing some contribution, even if it was just a bag of popcorn picked up on the way to the party. One day, as I was apologizing for having come empty-handed, she told me that she wanted to see me, and that it was totally fine to come with nothing, and to ask other adults at the party to help me with the kids. Or not ask, because they all loved me and loved my kids and would just do it unasked. It was such a gift. She probably has no idea how much it meant to me at the time – I should tell her.
It might not be possible to get all your friends with kids together for the same larger gathering. Especially if they all became parents this year. (a lot of stuff gets easier as the kids get older). Before approximately now (this month or so, he’s 1,5 years old now), we couldn’t really take our son anywhere after 16:00. Even with naps, which were always too short because he was a bad sleeper during the day, by then he was just… barely fit for being awake at home, let alone company. Other times of the day were made hard due to nap time, which he could really only do at home or at the home of one set of grandparents (or in the car, but really only if we were driving for at least an hour). So we could come by 1 or 2 hours early in the morning (before 11:00), or very briefly for an hour around 14:00. It was better if people visited us, but even then: not so fun if people stayed after 16:00. And he’s like us, probably (we’re both autistic), or at least, there’s fallout for us to handle even after the briefest, nicest visits where nothing goes wrong. There will be daytime naps to deal with until he’s 3-5 years old, probably (that varies per child).
We did those visits with family and some friends not to lose touch, but it was just… at least as much stressful as it was nice (not that it wasn’t nice). Now, he sleeps for 1,5-2 hours once a day, which is easiER, but he takes about an hour to get somewhat used to people he doesn’t see every week, so that eats up some of the visiting time (an hour of crying). We *can* however now take him with us in the evening, and we are people who don’t mind that, every once in a while, he goes to bed at 21:00 instead of 19:00. So things change a lot. Yesterday he went with us for the first time when we went out for dinner with a lot of family, and he did very well. He was very proud at sitting at the table with all the bigger people. We started that dinner at 17:30, luckily restaurants here all open at 17:00. And we couldn’t stay long after we were done. Stuff like that does mean he won’t sleep as well or as much as usual, he’ll cry more and more easily, will be more difficult about everything and will hurt himself more easily because he’ll be less careful of his surroundings and more… move-y, running et; it’s just too much too many of people and of new places. Depending on the child (and the parent), that means people will sometimes just not do it, because it’s too much to handle for them and/or the child. Even with pleasant outings where everything went as well as it could, there is usually some fallout for people to handle. For some people that’s a lot of fallout, lasting 2-3 days or more. Really. It happens. Way, way worse than what we have to deal with.
Mostly just believe/accept people’s word about what is or is not a good idea. The people who don’t and insist that they know what we or our child can handle better than we do, we don’t see them very often at all.
And all in all, for now and the foreseeable future, it’s a lot easier if people visit us, but we’re not comfortable always asking them to come to us. It’s easier with the people who get it, whether they actually visit or not ( we realise other people have circumstances too). Then, the not-seeing-each other is easier and doesn’t feel like losing touch, there is understanding and we will see each other when we can.
I am so, so scared that in a few years all my friends will have kids and I will be alone forever. I really hate dealing with kids. I hated dealing with my sister’s kids. The mere proximity to a child making noise is enough to make me grind my teeth angrily to myself. I can’t do it, I just can’t. And they make me awfully resentful — they eat up time, and parents responding to kid issues cancel everything and send all the signals that YOU AREN’T IMPORTANT TO ME ANYMORE even if it’s not true. But it is true — they have some weirdo incapable thing in their life that demands all their time and attention and that is, in fact, more important than their BFF. You are now third priority — after the kids and the partner — not second. It’s a major shift.
Meaning I will never, ever endorse these kids coming to my house. Adult-only gatherings for me. That means any friend-parents are not getting anywhere near me with their kids. Meaning near me at all.
I will fucking *hate* my 30’s.
If you can’t learn to love or at least tolerate the kids of your dearest friends, your relationships with them *will* alter if they do have children. I think to be a good friend you don’t have to have everything in common, but you do need to be open to hearing about and celebrating the things that are important to the other person, and it would take a better person than me to deal with a big pile of resentment and jealousy from a friend when in the middle of choosing such an intense and life-altering step. How long could I hang with someone who said “I like you, as long as you never mention your stupid blog or making movies or teaching?” How long could you hang with someone who resented the hell out of the things that are the most important to you? If you want a lifelong friendship with someone, you have to make space for the fact that things change over a lifetime and you won’t always have “proximity” or “exact same life circumstances” to be the glue.
You don’t have to ever have small children in your house if you don’t want to, but staying connected in your friendships might involve spending a large amount of time at their house especially when the kids are very small (as described in the OP). I hope you can either work through some of this anxiety long before it gets to that day or find a radical child-free collective to hang out with. If you have more to add on this topic today, I would like you to take it to the forums, since this is not a “kids: the worst, right?” thread.
How long could you hang with someone who resented the hell out of the things that are the most important to you? If you want a lifelong friendship with someone, you have to make space for the fact that things change over a lifetime and you won’t always have “proximity” or “exact same life circumstances” to be the glue.
I wanted to thank you for this, Jennifer. I’m childfree, but there a lot of things in my life that I’m deeply passionate about, and I learned a few years ago just how hard it is to stifle these passions for people who essentially want…me without the me. In recent years, your blog has been a valuable resource towards helping me put those people further and further out of my mind and embrace the things that I actually do like about myself, but was consciously or subconsciously taught not to.
So I have very similar feelings as you regarding kids. I just really loathe being around them in just about any capacity, and the site of me makes most babies I come in contact with cry (that is not an exaggeration, but I also don’t know why). Some of my closest friends are also child-free, which of course if convenient, but that’s not all of my friends and those who want kids are starting to have them which means I need to evaluate my relationships with them and the like. I guess I’m going to threadjack a little here to talk about how you can hate kids and still maintain the friendships
The first is that I’ve decided not to entertain children in the apartment I share with BF. If they want to stop by quickly that’s fine but we are incredibly limited on space and the amount of time it would take to childproof everything vs the amount of time children would actually spend in our tiny apartment is not worth it for me. I also have horrible visions of a young child overstepping boundaries with Friendly Cat and one of them becoming injured and that straining the friendship.
But so far I’ve found ways to maintain the relationships. In some the friend lives very far away so we both make accommodations to our schedules so that I can stop in and have lunch if I’m in town. That might mean she takes the hit from adjusting her kids naptime or I leave for home later in the day or I just swoop in for a quick hug while dodging legos.
It’s the friends that I live closer to where it gets a little bit trickier to find the balance with. I’ve been lucky that when I say “kids make me uncomfortable and also seem to hate me” that they say “we’ll make this work.” I’ve found actual outings to be the best way to manage this- one of us hears about a free event that has a “fun for all ages” feel. The last one we went to was at a local artisans center. Were the jewelry making demos interesting to the kiddo? Not really, there was also live music, glass blowing, and other children and kiddo was interested in those things. Occasionally I was left alone with the kid so that mom could check out one of the less enthralling displays or use the bathroom, and she didn’t feel bad if I wandered off somewhere for a moment. And yeah, the kids can be a topic of conversation but in the same way that major portions of my life (like my job and my cats) are- the conversation is dominated by baby talk. And yes, it involves a lot of “sucking it up” because every time a kid fusses even a little bit I want to be three states away from it. But I’ve decided to prioritize my like of friends over my dislike of those younger than 17. And there are relationships that weren’t that great/important to me to begin with and when kids came into those I didn’t feel that bad doing the fadeaway.
It is absolutely okay to kill all your friendships if your friends have kids, if that’s what you want to do. But keep in mind that that’s *you*, and that it’s you making a *deliberate choice* to kill a friendship because your friend had kids. Your friends are not/will not be having kids at you. It has nothing to do with you. And maybe that’s a tough thing to realize, that your friends don’t prioritize you above themselves, but it’s one of those things that is very important to realize as we grow up, and sometimes away from, people we know and love.
You get to make choices about those with whom you associate, and if you want to make that an exclusively child-free list that’s okay. But be very clear about what you’re doing and don’t put the choice in those cases on the people who are pretty much just living their lives.
I want to emphasize again: you are (I presume anyway, I could be wrong) an adult, and you get to make choices about whom you are friends with, and you get to make those choices on your own priorities, and if you want to only be friends with people who don’t have kids that’s absolutely okay. What you do NOT get to do, however, is then complain about the friendships you made the choice to end, because that’s unreasonable. 🙂
While this is entirely correct – one thing that jumped out at me was “and parents responding to kid issues cancel everything and send all the signals that YOU AREN’T IMPORTANT TO ME ANYMORE even if it’s not true”. That’s way, way beyond a lifestyle mismatch or not enjoying the company of children. Aurora, what it sounds as if you’re saying is: even though you know your not-even-a-parent-yet friends wouldn’t be having kids AT you, or parenting AT you, even though you intellectually know that taking care of kid issues is not about you or a judgment on you, you still have enormous feelings of anxiety at the though of “my friends might choose to put someone else’s needs first, and that means I don’t matter to them.”
That sounds like a whole package of other problems that probably aren’t limited to your friends having kids.
I want to emphasize again: you are (I presume anyway, I could be wrong) an adult, and you get to make choices about whom you are friends with, and you get to make those choices on your own priorities, and if you want to only be friends with people who don’t have kids that’s absolutely okay. What you do NOT get to do, however, is then complain about the friendships you made the choice to end, because that’s unreasonable. 🙂
All of my close friends from HS have kids. They actually have a great thing where they all hang out and all their kids are around the same age and they love it.
But my friends have told me specifically that they like it when I come to town, because then they have a good excuse to do non kid things. I will still come over for an evening hang or whatever while the kids run around and go to bed. But I think they like that sometimes they have a reason to get a babysitter because they know I don’t want to spend all night with their kids. So if you can find some tolerance and understand that friendships are still important even if they aren’t the MOST IMPORTANT then you may find that your friends enjoy having a childless friend to get away from the endless goo goo ga ga of parenting. (Fortunately most of my friends do NOT want having kids to be their whole lives.)
I actually find that while I don’t like “kids” in general, I’ve come to enjoy some of them as people. They are not all the same, just like all your friends aren’t the same.
I will say, that kids were actually MUCH less of an adjustment for me, than the early 20s, serious relationship & work diaspora. By the time my friends started having kids, I hadn’t been the most important thing in their lives in a long time. We both have romantic partners, and our friendships are things that buoy us, but not necessarily the driving force in our lives. And that shift is hard to navigate because there is a lot of insecurity. But the people and relationships that you really care about will last, it may only be a phone call every couple of months, but it is still an important friendship. So you wait while your friend’s kid cries on the other end of the phone, because talking to her is worth it.
I feel your pain here, though I am in my early 30s already and (luckily for me) so far a lot of my friends haven’t had kids..but I can see it coming, the summers are full of weddings now …I wish, I really wish that I could flip a switch in my brain that makes me find children adorable, not annoying! I’d love to be able to do this, but the reality is I just don’t enjoy being around them. I don’t know if I’ll do better with my friends’ kids. I haven’t so far, but the friends with kids have been less close, so neither of us were super invested in the relationships.
I’m pretty sure I’ll feel irrationally resentful in the same way I do when a friend comes for what i thought was one on one time with their new boyfriend, sister visiting from out of town etc. All of these things that new parents are sayingI ? I get it, I really do, and I have read and heard many people explain these things, but I don’t know if it’s able to change my instinctive reactions. I hate feeling silently resentful when a baby shows up somewhere and then everybody’s attention is totally focused on the baby and nobody wants to continue the awesome conversations we were just having…because I realize that baby-time is fulfilling and awesome for everybody but me! I just would really like if I could flip that switch.
I also have/had enormous anxiety about being around children. Almost all of my friends now have young kids. Guess what? I sucked it up and gritted my teeth because I wasn’t prepared to become completely socially isolated over huge life choices that my friends had made which were a) 100% not about me and b) known well in advance as most of my friends had been open about wanting families.
I got a lot better about tolerating children and have even held babies, which was huge for me. if you decide you really cannot handle it (and I had periods when I was depressed and absolutely could. Not. Deal.) that’s fine, but please take responsibility for that choice.
I feel like you’re kind of setting yourself up for a self-fulfilling result here. Regardless of how your parents feel about their child vs their friends in the abstract, they’re definitely going to prioritize their kid over a friend who hates and resents their children and refuses to be near them ever. Is there any way you’re having a bit of a “you can’t fire me, I quit!” thing going on here?
I don’t really know where I’m going with this, I guess, except that you seem very determined that this terrible thing is going to happen and you are distressed about it. So I guess where I’m going is that I think your life would be immensely better if you looked at this possible future as something to work on, rather than a giant wave that is inevitably going to hit and kill you. Maybe you work on developing some kid tolerance. Maybe you develop a new social circle made up of entirely the childfree. Maybe a little bit of both.
Parent of a 11 month old here. We have people over almost once a week, for lunch, in a time frame that stretches but doesn’t kill the second nap (on the other hand, we haven’t been to a full morning service at our synagogue in a while, because of nap).
But travel is hard- even fairly short travel times mean that, added on both ends, it will inherently make a hash of nap time or bedtime, if we want to actually see you for more than an hour. We can push it on occasion, but know that we’re risking a lot of parental suffering, if it doesn’t work out this time. (My baby is not a great sleeper, even at home- out is much worse.)
Friends who will come to me/my general area- amazing. People willing to have an early dinner, or do lunch instead- great. Willingness to meet in the park where my little one can wander on the grass so that we can talk? Super-duper. I don’t know what I will do for sanity/getting out once it’s winter.
I know your little one is possibly too young for this, but something to keep in mind for next winter: My friend and I met up at the McDonald’s with the Playplace. Her daughter could run around, it was a confined area, and we were able to chat as long as we liked. It was actually a really good spot for us and her daughter absolutely loved it! She’d get apple slices and milk and then play – it was a pretty sweet deal.
I have two sets of close friends with kids. The parents of the 8-year-old invite people over after she’s gone to bed, because she’ll never get to sleep if people are already there, and the parents of the baby often just want people to come by and hang out with them during the day while they try to prevent the increasingly mobile one from killing himself or annoying the dogs. LW, the best way you can start is by asking your friends what would make it easiest for them to socialize. While the kids are tiny that might change on a weekly or daily basis (not long ago the friends with the baby could just put him in his play area and ignore him for a while, because he couldn’t move anyway, but then he started rolling and then crawling and then…), but the parents will know best what kinds of outings or hang-outs they can manage.
I have several childfree friends who create “kid rooms” when they have parties. These semi-childproof rooms stocked with games, art supplies, and a TV with kid-friendly videos are within hearing range, allowing us and other parents to keep an eye on things and intervene as needed, while still being able to hang out in the “grownup room” having grownup conversations, as well as making it possible for both parents to attend without hiring a babysitter. We have also left a party shortly after arriving because Child was in tantrum mode and refused to calm down, we weren’t about to inflict his mood on other kids or adults.
We have also hosted a monthly open-house Sunday afternoon brunch for many years. People with kids stop by as their kids’ needs and schedules allow–it’s gone from “X is a pain unless he’s had his nap” to “Z and Y have to leave for band practice at 2,” but with 12 opportunities to hang out a year, we do see both childed and childfree friends on a regular basis. We do it as a potluck so the supply of food expands with the number of guests, but bringing food is optional and we keep things pretty basic.
Also, we found that daycare workers and preschool teachers make great babysitters. They are trained to deal with small children; they like kids enough to work with them every day; they know our kids, and our kids know them; and (unfortunately) they are generally underpaid, so the chance to pick up a quick $50 on a weekend night is often appreciated. We’re past the years of needing a sitter, but it worked well for us back in the day.
Finally, it completely depends on the kid(s). Every kid has their own personality, needs, and style of interaction, some are more dependent on routine than others, some sleep easily, others don’t. And the same kid will have different needs at 3 months or 2 years or any age…they change and learn. It’s important that parents teach their kids to be good guests (as they get old enough to learn these things), and that childfree friends learn that sometimes, the kid just has to come first.
Good luck, and good on you for trying to keep these friendships alive. My husband is an only child, and I don’t live close to my siblings, so my friends have become aunts and uncles to my kids, and I appreciate that enormously.
As a childless spinster (haha) and favourite honorary auntie to a hundred million kids (okay, maybe a slight exaggeration), I have to say that the most important thing you can do to support your friends is to BE EASYGOING. Like Logic says, don’t get pissed if your friends have to cancel at the last minute. Don’t get upset if you are in the MIDDLE of a conversation and suddenly a big NOPEsplosion (of the bodily or the emotional variety) happens with a toddler and those guys have to hightail it out of there. Just chill and show them that you aren’t fazed by it.
One of the biggest adjustments, for me, was accepting that I wasn’t going to host that much anymore. I’m the person who hosted the majority of dinners, parties, impromptu gatherings, board game nights, BBQs, and so on, for much of my twenties. Now I nearly always go to the houses (or locations of choice) of my friends-with-kids. I do a lot of the “go over to friends-with-kids early, hang with the kiddos for a bit, hang by myself (or with one of the parents if there are two) while the kiddos get put to bed (super bonus if I am cooking or cleaning up after whatever they have cooked for me), reconvene with parentals and cocktails after everyone is settled down” thing. I’ll admit that, at first, I bemoaned my status as Consummate Hostess, but you know what? My house is a LOT cleaner. And I don’t actually want to babyproof my (quite small) house, so I’m not going to ever invite more than one set of parents and their kiddos over, not ever.
Also, and this is important too, make sure that you have some time with your friends who don’t have kids. It can be hard, sometimes, to be childless/childfree, even if it is your solid, joyous, personal choice. So book a date or two to drink cocktails or eat fancy tapas at some hipster bar with another one of your friends-without-kids, or a scotch night in, or whatever your particular mode of grown-up unwinding is, to avoid becoming resentful about always having to do the kid-related stuff. I’ve got loads of friends who are older, whose kids are grown (a product of my profession), and they’re great for that. As an aside, try to keep your spidey-senses open for those magical moments when one of your friends-with-kids actually has a free moment to join in on this kind of thing. It can be hard to keep asking when they say no 99% of the time, but don’t stop inviting them (unless they ask you to). If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my friends-with-kids, it’s that they’re desperate for adult time, too. They just can’t usually manage it.
So much of this is about attitude. It is obvious that the OP wants to do the right thing, and I think that will be clear to the OP’s friends. Listen, be responsive, don’t take things personally, be flexible, and be honest.
I find the hardest about this as a parent and as a friends of parents is sometimes managing the different needs of different age groups of kids. The difference between 2 and 9 is huge. I find establishing an environment with house rules really helps as kids and parents may not realize that the rules at your place are different than at other environments. First question I ask when were at someone’s place is what are the house rules (no jumping on couches or whatever) and that is the first thing I say to kids and parents when they come into my place.
BTW: Once naps because less than mandatory it gets a lot easier.
This may be obvious to some, but when you are invited to a child’s birthday party, go! My husband was so confused when we first started getting invitations to his friends’ kid’s parties. He was like “…but I am not a child, and we don’t have kids, so it’s weird for us to be there.” I explained that it’s not the CHILD asking him to come, it’s the PARENTS. We recently attended a pool party for a 2-year-old that was attended by mostly friends of the parents, and it was one of the best, most fun times we’ve had with that group of friends.
Oh definitely. My little buddy’s 1st birthday was a total blast.
Small children with cake smeared on their faces is a source of delight for me. So to be invited to both drink craft beer with our friends, and delight in the presence of joyful kiddos, is a win-win!
Yup! In our circles, a baby’s or toddler’s birthday party is a potluck with possibly a few presents, plus some cake at the end.
Kids birthday parties can be great adult socialising events. We both hosted and attended kids birthday parties that turned into adult dinners with drinks, snacks, adult conversation and laughter until past midnight – 3am for one memorable occasion.
Even when they don’t, there’s often a kids’ party version of happy hour as parents successively arrive to pick up their kids and greet others who happen to be there and the host/ess offers drinks and/or party leftovers as snacks, then they leave according to their own individual timetables. (It can turn into a relaxed recipe swap or just a chance to comfortably catch up with people you normally wave at as both of you hastily get kids on the move to get home or to music or swimming or whatever – or literally be a stress relieving, no tasks, no obligations, no dress code happy hour.)
This can work really well because the kids already know each other from school or kindy – that’s how the invite came about in the first place. So adults are needed only intermittently as game referees, shoe tier-uppers, spilled drink wiper uppers or etiquette enforcers.
Thanks LW, and Captain for your thoughtful letter and advice. I don’t intend what I’m about to ask as a derail, so if this isn’t the right space to ask it, I apologize in advance. It seems connected to me.
I am a single nonparent person with an increasing number of friends with kids. I work with (older) kids in my job and I am “good with kids” semi-professionally. I used to nanny, for instance. I love kids and I understand (to the degree a non-parent person can) exactly how time consuming and thought consuming they are. I am unsurprised and TOTALLY FINE when my friends with new kids fall off the face of the earth for a while or only want to see me at 7:30am in their pajamas. I get that, it makes sense. I will be taking the advice the Captain gave LW to heart in terms of thinking of ways to create more kid-friendly social gatherings.
My question comes from a more fraught space, however, and I’m not sure how to phrase it without it all sounding like sour grapes, but here goes: Is there a point when the “but we have kids!” explanation for a friend or pair of friends missing every single social thing that they are invited to is something I can and should take as evidence that they aren’t interested in being friends anymore?
Some background: I’ve always been the “planner” in whatever social group I am in and so have spent most of my life knowing I am willing to put in more effort to see people than they maybe would to see me. I don’t love that, but it’s been true across so many social situations I’ve accepted it and hey, there are worse fates than being social glue. And there are bonuses: rarely am I doing something I don’t want to do. But kids are a whole new level of social complication. I have some friends who just never show anymore, whether the event is kid-friendly, or planned several months in advance or whatever. These people still talk to me online and send me emails and like my FB doings, but it’s getting hard not to feel like I’ve failed to miss some cut off. There is virtually no reciprocal effort to see me ever and I’m using the most bare bones definition of “reciprocal.” I can suggest lunch dates near their offices and that still won’t happen.
I will admit that part of this might be product of a disconnect between how I was raised and how my peers seem to be handling kids. I was an only child and my parents prized their almost-weekly nights out either on a “date” or with other friends. I was also, I gather, “easy” in this respect because I always loved getting to have a babysitter and pizza and maybe an extra half hour of tv time, but I also supposedly didn’t mind when I was a baby either. Not all kids are like that, not all kids are like that all the time, babysitters cost money, etc. I can’t and don’t expect other parents to be this way, but when they are also turning down kid-friendly things or lunch-time things (too busy!), it starts to hurt.
I know I am not a big priority right now, nor should I be, but my own personal history also means I need to be protective of myself around uneven relationships and factoring kids is making my warning system go haywire. Is kids under 10 really a decade long get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to social obligations? At what point can I say to myself, hey, you know what, they are too busy to be your friend right now, time to move on and think of them as email-friend instead of in-person friend? I keep reading all these blogs and columns like this one stressing how understanding we all need to be of parents and I really hope this doesn’t sound like I don’t want to be understanding, because I want to be, but it’s also a lot of social effort on my part for–in some cases–virtually no return.
I think that, if it’s past that desperate WTF baby stage, it might be worth considering what you suggest at the end of your note (i.e. you are an email/fb friend, not an in-person one). I had a friend who actually “did me the honour” of informing me that she would no longer have time for me, as she would want to build friendships with people who had kids. This prized morsel of information was given to me (and my then-partner) when we came over with a bouquet of flowers to celebrate her announcement of pregnancy (she hadn’t had the baby yet, in other words). I was pretty hurt by that, but you know what? She lived it out. I tried a bunch of times and she just wasn’t interested. I got over the hurt, eventually, but she is not on my list of people to make time for, or to visit when i go to [City Where She Lives, Where I Used to Live]. Sometimes people won’t do you the courtesy of announcing their intention quite so clearly (or so hurtfully), but the sentiments might be the same.
YMMV, but friends of mine who have had kids and still want to maintain friendships have done so. If you are cutting them loads of slack but it still doesn’t feel right, my personal advice would be to leave them be, at least for a little while.
Yeah, this is the situation I’m in with my one childed friend that I mentioned above. As a result, I’m also dreading when my other friends have kids. I don’t plan to have them, and I don’t want to end up getting phased out of everyone’s life because I’m not also planning to procreate. And it really sucks when are you are already doing all the things suggested here and really making a good faith effort to make things as EASY AS POSSIBLE for your childed friend(s) and there’s still no reciprocity. Or not even reciprocity, just…them showing up.
“I’ve always been the “planner” in whatever social group I am in”
I am also A planner (of a few in my social group) so I get the stresses you’re under. The weekly event I host? Usually around 3-5 people come over. Sometimes as many as 10! Sometimes just 1 person and we get to have a heart-to-heart. And every once in a while – probably about 2 or 3 times a year – the odds are just not in my favor and no one at all shows up. I have to remind myself that this is not a commentary on ME or my friendships, it’s a function of many things over which I have no control.
“Is kids under 10 really a decade long get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to social obligations?”
Eh, it depends. Again, file it under “Everyone is goddamn different”. Some people have a very difficult child. Or they have “easy” kids only six of them, so they’re in that “WTF BABY” haze for a decade. Maybe something really has come up at the last minute every single time they’ve had to bail (see original post re: Asshole Babies). Maybe they don’t know how to gracefully bow out of a friendship. Maybe they’re terrified of losing their last, childless friend but don’t know how to get you back. To borrow from Ms. Mallory Ortberg: WHO KNOWS? Life is a rich tapestry.
“At what point can I say to myself, hey, you know what, they are too busy to be your friend right now, time to move on and think of them as email-friend instead of in-person friend?”
When CAN you say that? At literally any time. For real. Think of your non-reciprocating-friends however you want. Think of your actually reciprocating friends however you want. Your life is your own and no one knows what you are thinking inside your head.
But what I think you’re asking is what the Official Rules are for such a thing. ‘When SHOULD I be around them less.’ The answer is the same. You can go your own way. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, or being an active jerk to people, do what you need to do to be content in your social life.
Jerk: “I’m not inviting them because they have kids and kids are timesucks.”
Not a jerk: “I’m not inviting them because we’ve kind of drifted apart. Glad to hear they’re doing well, though!”
Good luck out there!
There’s also a thing I’ve run into (twice, so far, but maybe I’m either very lucky or very unlucky) where you are friends with someone for yonks and then they have a kid and you realize “Holy shit, my buddy is a TERRIBLE PARENT”. And maybe that resolves into “the kid needs someone around to be an auntie/uncle and I am it” and maybe that resolves into “OH GOD BEES” and either way you do your thing, whether that’s gritting your teeth about the parents and being there for the kids or whether that’s just fleeing, pursued by a cloud of bees that are all buzzing “BUT YOU PROMISED YOU’D BE HERE FOR ME”. And I think either way is fine, as long as you’re not a jerk about it.
Ugh, the BEES. “YEAH NO, WE DRIFTED APART [frantic rowing] LOOK HOW WE DRIFT OHNOOOOES.”
Yeah. YEAH. Thanks for understanding–I feel like there is less sort of acknowledgement that this is a Thing that Occurs than is helpful for people who are currently in that situation. I finally said something to another pal, who had kids, and she was like “Oh no, when that happens, you have to get out of it. Leave them to it and just bail. Nothing you could have done would help.” Which was a HUGE relief to me.
THIS, ALL THE THIS!! When you’re at their place, and you’re cringing because, well, the kid is only doing what you’ve trained them to do, and NOW you’re yelling at them trying to get them to stop?
Having said that, I was convinced most of my life that, because of our interpersonal Issues, my sister would be the worst parent ever. And now that I have the Most Adorable Nephew Ever, she’s actually pretty good – as good as her chosen profession and the associated time issues allows, and better than a lot of people I know. And I’ve learned things from her which hopefully I will have the opportunity to use someday (one of our common traits is researching like whoa because that makes the anxiety go away; this makes her a good resource which, despite our interpersonal Issues, I will totally use, because good resource). Also, my nephew, at three, owns more books (including reference books) than my sister and my brother-in-law combined (and will soon be reading independently, assuming he follows the family pattern), and that will never not be hilarious and awesome to me.
People will surprise you, sometimes happily, sometimes not. I know people that I thought would be great parents who turned out to be disinterested caretakers of tiny people inexplicably living in their house demanding space they’d rather be keeping books or craft supplies in and time they’d rather be spending doing basically anything else, and it was kind of a horrible shock. Well, for all of us, I guess, considering.
Thank you for replying, CommanderLogic, and apologies that the shoutout in my original comment was to Captain A, rather than your lovely self. Thank you!
I wrote and rewrote this comment, but I’m not finding good phrasing today* that balances my yes, I understand Babies Gonna Baby and priorities shift! Of course I can be flexible with plans! with the hurt and disappointment when you/your friendship drops entirely off the radar.
So, yes, emdashing, in addition to loving your name and punctuation, I completely understand where you’re coming from with this post and wanted to offer Jedi Hugs if you want them. It does hurt. And the rhetoric (not in this post) of “just keep reaching out! years will go by quickly and eventually the parents will want to be your friend again!” doesn’t take into account the toll of having to do all the emotional legwork in a friendship.
Commander Logic, I really appreciated not only your suggestions of how I can better accommodate my New Parent friends but also the reminder that New Parent friends can also choose to reach out to me. Thanks as well to all the lovely parents in this thread who have helped to maintain friendships with their non-parent friends.
*Long story short: a New Parent Friend cancelled some many times rescheduled plans today in an especially thoughtless/hurtful way.
Oh man, I do not think this is a child-specific question! I think it is important to understand that parents will change how they socialise, and that they have a whole new set of responsibilities and challenges that mean that they are making compromises and decisions that they wouldn’t have made pre-kids, but, you know, only in the same way that the same sort of shift happens between university and first job, or in other change-of-circumstances situations.
To me, it shouldn’t be about saying, “you have to give way to the parents because you are the one without children”, but about saying, “it used to be that because she works there and I work here, meeting there meant we’d both made ~equivalent effort to see each other~, but now the ~equivalent effort to see each other~ means me travelling right over there, on a weeknight, which isnt ideal, and her planning two days in advance what she’s going to cook and organising Tuesday’s work so she can get away in time to pick up the baby early so she can start cooking”. The person without children shouldn’t be making ALL THE EFFORT, just appreciating that the person with children is doing more paddling under the water than they used to be.
But AS SOON as you start feeling that you are making more effort, something has gone wrong. Because that sucks, and it makes you feel rubbish. There is definitely no magic period of time when parents get a free pass to make no effort to maintain the friendship and expect you to take on all the inconvenience: it’s just about understanding that there is probably some effort going on on the parent’s side that didn’t used to be there. But it’s also quite possible to get stuck in a habit where small children meant that they were making LOTS of invisible effort to still see you, and then gradually the kids got bigger and slightly less needful but they’d just started taking it for granted that you did all the running.
I think if I were you I would triage your friends into the ones where you feel you can start having meta-conversations about the friendship: “hey, so, I just wanted to raise this – I feel like our friendship is getting a bit one-sided, with me making all the effort, (but I’m also aware that maybe I’m not seeing all the effort to go to to maintain our friendship because it’s about organising stuff with the kids to make sure we can still see each other). Can we talk about this a bit?” Hopefully there are some friends where you feel confident that that conversation would go reasonably well, and either you’ll realise that actually they are making a lot more effort, or they will fess up to taking it for granted that you’ll do all the running and be better friends in future. And there will probably be others where you are pretty sure that conversation would go badly, and it is legitimate if you just want to let those friends drift a little.
I also think that the Captain’s standard advice of “OK, I’ve suggested A and B, and you can’t do either of those, so I’m going to let you take the lead on suggesting something else” could be a good one here. I think if you’re talking about close friends where you can have a bit of meta-conversation about the friendship, it might be good to try being open about how you’re feeling, but fundamentally, I don’t think the friendship rules change dramatically when one or more parties become parents.
(Am a parent, but as one of the latest ones in mine and my partner’s friends’ groups to have kids, I feel like I have been on both sides of this!)
Yes. I can see that it’s somewhat normal for people with new kids to not reach out to you, to not show many or any signs of wanting to interact, or even to dismiss anything you say about difficulties in you own life, and for it to be really because they’re just busy and overwhelmed but actually they still want to have a relationship with you and just need you to do more of the initiation for a while and be very flexible and interact with them in ways that are easier for them. BUT relationships also change and it also happens that friends (or family) grow apart and that sometimes people you used to have a friendship or relationship with stop particularly wanting to spend time with you that much and genuinely stop seeing a relationship with you as being very important in their life. And I’m sure people with kids aren’t exempt from that.
So, how do you tell the difference? How do you interpret the signals, which are all screaming ‘I don’t hate you but I don’t actually mind if I don’t see you for six months’ and tell whether they actually mean ‘I am a little overwhelmed and my life has changed a lot and I hope my friends and siblings and cousins don’t abandon me’ or whether they really do just mean ‘we’ve grown apart and you should just stop bugging me’ or ‘I don’t feel like I have energy to make space for as many people in my life, and to be honest you haven’t really made the cut’??? If it’s the first, then I can handle a relationship that seems outwardly a little one-sided. But if it really honestly is genuinely one-sided — if I like them way more than they like me, or want to be close to them more than they want to be close to me — then that’s not such a nice situation to unwittingly be in. And the symptoms seem rather similar sometimes.
Have you considering including “Hey, I know you’re super busy right now and I just wanted to check and see if you want me to keep sending invites?”
As the parent of a 12-month-old, I want to heartily second the suggestion to set up a Quiet Room. If the total time involved in a get-together, including travel, is more than a few hours, our kiddo’s going to need a nap (the Loud Monster of Tired Crankiness is not a fun party guest). We were not blessed with one of those babies who can sleep anywhere—our guy needs to be alone in a safe space where he can flip around and find implausibly comfortable positions to fall asleep.
We’re also much more likely to make it to an afternoon event that ends with an early dinner than a party that starts with dinner and gets going from there. The latter requires a babysitter or having one parent stay home, because we are not going to mess with bedtime.
And please please don’t expect us to be able to make it to last-minute events. We use a great babysitting service that we trust, but they require a week’s notice.
Not all pre-toddlers can be schlepped around.
My older son (who FWIW was later diagnosed with Asperger disorder) was particularly difficult when he was very young. We tried visiting our old friends in NYC (commuter train + subway), but we noticed that while he loved all the new experiences, it also wound him up to the point that he could not relax except by screaming for 15 minutes and then collapsing. Actually, pretty much anything he wasn’t familiar with would do that. I got really used to holding him while he thrashed and screamed until he collapsed. He was more or less over that by the time he was 6 or 8 months old, but it basically meant we couldn’t go much of anywhere with him.
He also had a really, really hard time going to sleep, even when he was exhausted. At night, I would lie down next to his crib until he settled down and fell asleep. (It didn’t help that his mother didn’t believe in structure or bed-times.) So going somewhere and “putting him down for a nap” were not possibilities.
Needless to say, babysitters weren’t a possibility.
When he and his brother were older, babysitters weren’t a possibility because they weren’t as docile as most babysitters require. (They were definitely high-mantenance.)
As someone seriously considering procreating this thread has kind of sent me into a panic. Is there anything good about raising (not asking about having children, just raising them) children and/or socializing with them? Is it just heinous for the first 5 years and I should suck it up? That’s kind of what I’m getting from the comments. If anyone has a moment and it’s not too derailing can someone maybe share a positive story or thought of social interaction with a kiddo in tow? It would be much appreciated.
1) If a particular thread is causing panic, my 1st suggestion is to close it down and step away. It’s intersecting with your mood in a particular way, and refreshing won’t help.
2) Go back to the OP, where Commander Logic is pretty damn sanguine about the idea that you *can* have a social life with kids and you can have a mutually supportive/fun social life even if you don’t have kids. It takes choice and effort and maintenance, but all friendships do that over time.
3) As a childless person, it turns out I LOVE my friends’s kids. Even the little ones. Even when they vomit on my shirt (wee-est Logic, I have forgiven but I will never forget). An evening with the Logics is pretty fun. Change doesn’t mean BAD change. I didn’t know how much I would love them.
It will be ok. Book rec for you: http://www.amazon.com/Why-Have-Kids-Parenting-Happiness/dp/0547892616
Thanks for the comments everyone. I will sit with them. I really appreciate the time it took to share them and especially the very nice story about the funeral. Best wishes to everyone.
And I’ll definitely read that book! Thanks
If I can add one more thing: One and Only is a book on having an only child. It may help if you’re thinking about just one. (There’s a lot of stigma to only children and, surprise, it’s all factually incorrect.)
Even babies that are more difficult to deal with are adorable and happy-making in their own way. My sister was not a happy baby pretty much until she could walk (which she did very fast–she apparently skipped crawling altogether) but she still had a huge variety of adorable, beautiful, joyous moments. Her first non-mama/dada word was ‘pizza’. One time, when she was at one of our grandmother’s houses and screaming her head off, and grandmother’s super-fat super-cuddly cat Georg came over, sniffed her, and sat next to her, purring as loud as he could. She stopped crying and eventually fell asleep cuddling Georg.
And even infants have their own special personalities. I don’t have any kids, but some of my relatives do, and getting to know even very small babies is a treat. Some of them are very very introverted and want lots of alone time to babble to themselves and do things alone (under supervision, but alone). Some of them are very gregarious and charming even from babyhood and want to be held by everyone and get talked to all the time. Some of them like Mozart better than Chopin. As a baby, I apparently LOVED Beethoven as well as pop music. I also really liked SNL and Buffy. I used to stim with all sorts of different materials and objects, some of which I still do because flannel is awesome.
Watching babies learn whatever language/s they’re learning is also fascinating. Even babies that are autistic like me and/or don’t develop language fast learn language, smell, voices, who people are. Babies that learn to sign in whatever sign language are adorable! My cousin’s baby developed their OWN signs for some things–‘smell cucumber’ for pickles is one I can remember right now. Babies have *everything* be new to them–cotton thread, lipstick, tattoos, beards. And babies *do* interact with their environment and want stimulation.
And even when babies grow up, they don’t become less adorable and precious and amazing. They become themselves. Watching people grow and become themselves is a privilege–at least for me.
If it’s possible, might I suggest that you volunteer to spend an hour or two with a friend’s under-5 child?
I am very frightened by the *idea* of children, but my actual niece or Familyfriendson are not frightening as people, and they are often wildly charming. Though I am pretty dedicated to not having kids, I have to admit that the process of watching them figure out the world has been . . . well . . . rather entrancing.
Niece storytime: Her (and my) favorite game to play together when she was thirteen months old was “Whazzat.” Rules of game: niece throws out her tiny hand to point at something random and says, “Whazzat?!” and I respond with “That’s a door,” “That’s a double-paned window with argon fill,” “That’s the infinite void of space,” “That’s an elderly dog,” “That’s my elbow,” “That’s a soup tureen dating from approximately 1875 with a blue and white transferware pattern,” etc.
Also hilarious (if a little frustrating) is the fact that niece thinks I am 100% full of shit whenever I try to tell her the French word for something. “Noooooo, that’s not what it’s called.”
Also she gives me hugs! I don’t know, that just makes me feel special. You can get pretty far on “This small person thinks I’m COOL.”
ALSO SHE CALLS THE PUPPY “DORGE” INSTEAD OF GEORGE HEEEEEE
Omigosh isn’t that stuff fun? I was still saying “tiss” for “kiss” LOOONG after my toddler learned to say a “K” sound properly…
Jane, I LOVE “That’s the infinite void of space”. One of my favorite small-child moments is the first time that they really grasp that the universe is SO MUCH BIGGER than just their home.
One of the stories I treasure is from when I was trying to strap a 14-month-old into a car seat, but she was not having it. After a few moments I realized that her struggle was not just due to stubbornness, but because she was trying to point at something and ask about it. So I picked her back out of the car seat and asked what she was pointing at. She flailed around, trying to gesture towards every single skyscraper towering over us in the heart of downtown.
“Those are skyscrapers. Very tall buildings, as tall as a hundred houses. Each light you see is one window, and there are rooms full of people behind each light. All the buildings together are called Downtown Seattle.”
She whispered “Dowtow Saaaal.” And after a few minutes of staring around her and trying to comprehend it, she was ready to sit back in her car seat and go home. Her mom told me that for weeks afterward, every time they drove downtown, the child would repeat parts of my explanation to herself as she continued to grasp the enormity of the concept.
This child also mixed up words, such as mittens/minutes, and snow/sin. She got the right consonants, but in the wrong order, and it was adorable.
I used to ask my daughter every day what she did at daycare just so I could hear her say, “Oh, we played and we singed and…”
That story just slayed me with the cuteness.
That is AMAZING.
I think your distinction between “children” and “that small human I happen to know who is a child” is important. Pre-daughter, I was not really a “kid person.” I didn’t dislike children; I just found them a bit baffling. (Heck, even as a child myself, I found other kids puzzling.)
Now that I’m actually living with a young human, though, I find that I understand other young humans a bit better (though I still find older ones daunting). And my own young human I don’t see as a child, but as “my daughter ____, who likes owls and pretending to play a washboard and isn’t very fond of having her hair washed.”
While there are a lot of things that go along with being a small, young human – just because of biology and development – it’s also important to realize that not all young humans are the same. Even though I understand them better, and like most of the ones I meet, occasionally I do still encounter some who I find annoying… just as I do with adult humans.
I think kids are great, and there were two things that were hardest to give up my idea of when I realized that kids just weren’t going to happen for me: teaching them to read and sharing my immense and overwhelming love of books and reading and information gathering with them, and teaching them to cook.
The ability to make those two things happen for a tiny person, and to watch their world expand as they learn to live in books and to watch their sense of accomplishment when they produce real food that they really made…that’s likely worth quite a lot of sleeplessness and temporary social isolation.
If that helps. If you don’t like to read or cook maybe that isn’t much of an inducement for you. 🙂
My aunt died. I was still breastfeeding my youngest at the time. I flew halfway across the country on two days’ notice to go to the funeral, solo with an 18-month-old, leaving my 3 year old with his dad. My flight got cancelled and rebooked. I forgot my baby carrier. I had to run across an airport with the World’s Heaviest Baby and a broken diaper bag. The baby cried on the plane. We landed near midnight and I had to drive in the snow for the first time with my baby in a rental car seat in an unfamiliar car.
It was totally worth it. The best thing you can possibly bring to a funeral is a relatively cheerful, well-disposed baby or toddler. It’s hard to dwell on death and grief when the next generation is beaming at you and trying to play peek-a-boo. Everybody was so happy that I brought him, including me. Yeah it was a hard trip, but there are moments – the really nice clerk at the car rental place keeping him busy while I installed the car seat, making him shriek with laughter by chasing him around the empty lobby; the ridiculousness of washing him in the sink with microwaved water because the hot water was out; the way my cousins kept worrying that he was cold outside and draping jackets on him in my arms until we looked like a walking remnant sale; his tired, damp little body finally sleeping deeply on my lap on the plane, snuggled into me, tinier than he will ever be again – that will always be part of The Story Of Him, that I would not have missed for the world. The trip and in fact the funeral were much better for me and for everyone than if I had just gone alone.
This isn’t really a reason to have kids (well, maybe it is), but your story reminds me of this:
For various not-bad reasons, my grandpa was as much a father figure to my older brother as my actual father. Grandpa used to pick my brother up every single day and take him to do farmwork with him — feeding cattle, driving the tractor, talking to other old farmers in various little diners around the county, going to the sale barn, fixing the mechanics on his machinery, rebuilding fences and outbuildings. My brother learned how to weld from my grandpa, and how to call cattle, and how to talk to people.
My grandpa’s diabetes shot his kidneys all to heck, and the last year of his life was extremely painful — he could barely walk, his appetite was gone, and he didn’t even enjoy reading books anymore. After (to my knowledge) two years of trying, my sister-in-law got pregnant. My niece was born in November of 2012. My grandpa got to be introduced to his only grandson’s daughter about two weeks before he died.
My niece most certainly attended the wake and the funeral. I was kind of brokenhearted at the time, because I was in another country and couldn’t come back early for the event. But, yes, somehow it made things easier to say to myself, what can be passed on, has been passed on, and what has been passed on, will be passed on. Niece will be her own new and exciting person who is carrying with her many, many other people
“event” sounds weird, but I am told by all the people that went to my grandpa’s wake that it turned into a night of storytelling and lots of laughing.
Now there’s a tiny rainstorm on my face!
I think, like a lot of other things, what makes a positive story will probably vary from person to person? Like, what’s heinous for Person A may be delightful for Person B? But I’ll have a go.
This summer my wife and I had a couple of friends visiting from far away, and by the second day with them, our young baby was getting increasingly tired and cranky and overwhelmed. She’s usually a pretty social kiddo, but it was the first time she’d had a social interaction where non-family people just stayed and stayed and stayed instead of going away after an hour or two. Well, we finally got Baby down for a nap and the Bigs started in on a board game She had her nap, but our game wasn’t over when we heard her wake up. Usually after her nap she wants a feed and a diaper and cuddles and play, and will broadcast this loudly, so we were braced for pausing everything while somebody peeled off to attend to her – but instead of fussing, we could hear her starting to coo and babble to herself in her crib. She seemed happy, so we kept playing. An hour later, we finished the game and went in to her. She was pleased to see us and much more ready to come out and socialize some more, but seemed like she would have been happy to keep having her alone time, too. And I nearly cried with pride. Our baby, big enough to know a. that she is socialed out and b. the way to fix this is through alone time! I have seen many a Big handle being oversocialed much less gracefully! (Also, the board game was really fun, and our friends did an awesome job of balancing baby-time and Big-time through their visit. We talked about baby, they talked about work, we all talked about games and squirrels and so on.)
I was pretty afraid of having children up until about 3 months after my baby was born. I just didn’t get why people enjoyed it. The first three months were hard, painful, sleep-deprived times, but it got SO MUCH BETTER once he started smiling, and SO MUCH BETTER once he started sleeping, and SO MUCH BETTER once he could laugh and sit up on his own, and play with things in a playpen for five minutes while I go to the bathroom. He is SO charming now (at 1), and it’s so fascinating to see him learn new tricks every day. It really is captivating to see that he knows when I mean when I say “Can you show me clapping?” or that he waves hello when I say “Anyeonghasayo” (hello in Korean). He couldn’t do those things three days ago!
I can imagine that it might not be SO MUCH BETTER when he learns to walk and I’m chasing him everywhere, and it might not be SO MUCH BETTER once he learns to say “No!”, and it might not be SO MUCH BETTER during potty training. Still, those things are going to be freaking fascinating, and the things I never even thought about a person needing to know are going to be even more interesting. So 9 times out of 10, you will be happy you had a baby and fascinated by their tiny lives, even if they do impact your social circle and your free time.
We just learned clapping this past weekend, and it is the BEST THING! She wouldn’t go to sleep on Sunday because every time she got dozy, she’d roll over on her side, her hands would touch, and she’d remember clapping and wake herself up with delight!
It’s the most fun you can have. Seriously, kids are hilarious. Also, exhausting, expensive and bizarre. I know I was very lucky, but honestly, my two were easy babies (all newborns really do is eat, sleep & poop, it’s not too hard to deal with, barring medical issues of course) and they’ve been a delight since birth-and I’m not someone who always wanted kids, quite the opposite! They’ll socialize well if they are gregarious; maybe they’re more comfortable with more alone-time, just follow their cues. Having said that, manners are really important to me, just ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and knowing how to behave in an eating-in-public situation, also knowing when your little one is ‘overloaded’ and getting them out of there pronto.
I have two kids and have had plenty of low points, but they bring me a lot of joy, pride, and laughter, often on a daily basis. I think thoughtful people often don’t talk much about the happier parts, because everything you could say about it sounds cliched in a way that sucks the life out of the thought you want to express. So here are some impressions that may or may not be helpful: last week, my older one was trying to build a fort, with couch cushions, and he couldn’t get the two year old to move. So he decided to build the fort on top of her. As he was getting ready to place the couch cushion where her head was, he said “Duck!” and without missing a beat, she proudly shouted “quack!” I don’t know. Sometimes at mealtimes, when everyone is getting along and being kind to each other, I have this almost uncomfortable feeling of being in the presence of such a precious happiness, that it’s awkward. Like if suddenly one of Monet’s waterlily paintings were hanging in the “dining area” of our shitty apartment. Like nobody move! Don’t look directly at the painting! It’s hard to describe.
Adding one more – I am seriously committed to being childfree. Kids are not for me and I know that about myself.
That said, there is actually nothing I love more in life than being Aunt Sarah (excuse me, “See-ah”). My friends’ kids are a genuine joy, they bring out the imagination in me and my friends and we do things that I hadn’t remembered could be fun. We go to parks or McDonald’s or hang out in the backyard and enjoy ourselves drinking a bottle of wine and playing catch with the kids. Is it an adjustment? Sure! But the thing is, you’re gonna love the heck out of your kids, and there will be people in your life that will adore them, too.
One of the main reasons I’m moving back to Old City is that my friends and all their kids are there. I’m honestly moving back to a place I never thought I’d want to live again because these tiny people are so special to me I just want to be near them. More of my friends are getting married and having kids and I’m so excited that I’ll get to be there with them through the next phase of their lives. (Re: the “you can get far on “this small person thinks I’m cool” – I was around for bedtime one night and my friend told her daughter to go with me to pick out a book. Instead, she just snuggled me close and rubbed my back. I cried, and I’m almost crying now thinking about how great it was.)
Having kids is going to be awesome, and there’s gonna be a lot of people in your life that love them a surprising amount.
Really, procreating is pretty awesome! I completely understand why some people don’t think it’s for them, but if you’re seriously considering it, here’s my take:
It’s tiring. (Obviously). It takes over your life. It’s a lot of work. It’s expensive. It means that a huge portion of your brain/life/emotions are tied up in the needs of another person who is primarily dependent on you. If for whatever reason you don’t think you could manage or want to manage those realities (and there are lots of good reasons!) then parenting may not be for you.
Having a kid and being her parent is absolutely one of the best things about my life, and she’s only 16 months old. She brings so much joy to me and my partner. We like watching her grow and change and develop a personality. We like watching her explore the world. She changes so fast, and it’s magical how much she learns each day. I’m lucky enough to have been able to stay home with her so far, and we have had so much fun together! She’s fun to interact with herself, she’s not just an impediment to my fun.
When she was tiny, I spent most of my time cuddling her and enjoying the closeness, but I’d also visit family and friends and show off my baby. (People usually like babies!) Many infants fall asleep easily on walks or in the car, so they’re pretty transportable. My daughter could sleep through the noise at the market when she was under three months old. Even though she was too small to interact much with people, I was able to go see friends and enjoy life. I got together with a bunch of different people. The real limiting factor was that I had free time during the day when most people were working, but I’d meet friends for lunch or coffee.
As she’s gotten older, she’s become less patient and has gotten more insistent about her needs, so I have to make sure she’s rested enough to be pleasant if we’re going out. If she hasn’t had a good nap, it may not be a good day to get together with a friend. But she’s also more interactive. We’ve gone to baby music classes and storytimes and even swim lessons. We’ve taken trips to the zoo. As soon as it was warm enough, we started walking to the park. We hang out at the library and play with strange kids and I chat with their parents even though we don’t know each other. This summer, she got to play at the beach near my in-laws’ house. She loves to play in the sand, and it’s so much fun to set up a sand tower for her to smash. The first time she saw sand, she was puzzled by it. She wanted to touch it, taste it (No no!), fling it. We showed her how it would stick together if it was wet. All the things that seem mundane to an adult are completely new to a baby, and it’s so much fun to show her the world! She’s walking and climbing now, and can get into more and more trouble, but she can also do more and more herself. She can bring me things when I ask her, and loves to “help”. She’ll bring us books she wants to read. She asks us to put on music so she can dance. She’s fascinated by chiming clocks. She’s so much fun!
She can be difficult when we’re getting together with people. She wants to have her parents’ attention, and gets crabby when I’m talking to a friend and ignoring her. One of my friends was super patient the last time we got together because my daughter decided lunchtime was the perfect time to be a complete pill. She was just hungry and angry that we wouldn’t let her swim in a fountain (toddler kryptonite!) and wanted to be amused. My friend helped, wasn’t really bothered by the disruption, and was willing to spend the next hour playing in a toy store nearby.
Most of the people I know don’t seem to be bothered much by the disruption a baby can provide. They understand that babies have needs and aren’t super patient, no matter how well they are raised. They want to play with my daughter and read books to her and sing and go to the park; they don’t mind when she interrupts a conversation for a moment or for 15 minutes. They understand that sometimes I’ll just have to work around naptime or reschedule because she’s having a terrible day due to teething. Our social life is different now; we don’t do late nights out unless we have a babysitter (rare) or we can get her to sleep at someone else’s house. We do visit family a lot, because her grandparents are her biggest fans.
Also, it’s definitely possible to travel with babies and kids, and we’ve done it successfully, but it isn’t as easy as traveling without a baby, of course!
If you’re panicking about being out and about with a little kid, go to your local library on a rainy Saturday morning and take a look around the children’s department. There’ll be a bunch of parents with small children there and you can observe how they hang out with their kids.
Your comment overall is great, but I hope you will forgive me if I am saying “baby music classes*,” getting an adorable image in my head, and giggling quietly to myself over and over again.
* /not/ because I think hearing pitch and rhythm /isn’t/ something that should be taught early — I rather think it’s like language in that it probably is much easier if you start early — but because I am envisioning my niece at 11 months being VERY EXCITED about her tiny xylophone.
Hehehe yeah, they probably aren’t much like what you’re imagining! One of the ones we’ve gone to regularly has a wonderful woman singing songs while she plays a guitar, and for part of the time the kids get little instruments (shakers, bells) to play with. It isn’t really about teaching them to play music as much as it is about them enjoying the music and performance, and getting to interact with other kids. The older kids (3-4) who have been going for a long time will sing along to the songs and are absolutely adorable. The little kids just wander around, and the babies sit and are happily entertained. And usually, they’re tired enough afterwards that they nap!
okay I shall go back to my mental image of my niece banging enthusiastically on her jingly objects with a small plastic hammer, but, like, times ten. 😀 (Now she has bells on a stick!)
I take my daughter to a thing that’s basically classical music for babies, with proper musicians, in a big church with LOADS of blankets on the floor, toys everywhere and joining-in sessions with random percussion instruments. It is The Awesome. Loads of babies for my little to interact with and – hey! – lots of baby-parents for me to talk to! And there is free tea and coffee. Seriously, these things keep me sane.
You might find the Offbeat Home post You’l See helpful – it talks about how the fear-mongering ‘you’ll see’ type stories about parenthood didn’t turn out to be true for the OP (not that people here are fear-mongering, but I think it touches on some of the same concerns you’re raising here). More generally I’ve found Offbeat Home a good source of discussions about parenting which acknowledge the difficult aspects but also celebrate the rewarding parts in ways that feel genuine and connect to me and my values (whereas some of the cultural narratives about parenting make the positive parts sound awful to me!). I’m pretty sure I discovered this site via the Awkward Army in the first place, so passing it along!
Seconding this recommendation! Offbeat Home is one of my favorite websites to visit for parenting stories/tips/advice. I’ve been hovering between excitement and utter terror over the thought of having kids soon, and it’s been really helpful in soothing the latter 🙂
Oh, there’s a lot of good. It’s like…IDK, the best comparison I have is grad school. There’s a lot that just utterly sucks about grad school. It’s stressful, it’s expensive, you don’t sleep enough. And when you get together a bunch of people to figure out how you can work around grad school and have a social life, you’re going to find a lot of people talking about OMG THE STRESS, but there are good things about it too. You learn interesting things, you meet new people, you have great conversations, etc.
Parenting is sort of like that.
Positive story: this past Labor Day weekend we went camping at my parents’ farm with the kid (aged 1.5). The family was there and cooed greatly over her. She got to feed the chickens, which was the MOST AMAZING THING EVER. She chased them around flapping her arms like wings, which was hilarious. Then she spent the rest of the day hanging out in her kiddie pool and playing with her toys while the adults hung out. This is pretty normal, really. There’s a lot of stress, but there are a lot of good things too.
the “surprise!” thing about babies and kids is that the more you see of them, the better they are. When you see kids from a distance, or only occasionally, it’s much easier to see the hard work and the stress, but with kids you see regularly or live with, you see all the amazing development and change and you have all sorts of games and familiarity and oh my god it is marvellous. People becoming people! It’s just amazing!
I have a nearly-eleven-month-old, and the thing that has surprised me the most is that the “this is hard work and I would kind of like to zone out and not have this responsibility aargh” and the “this is exactly the place I most want to be in the world, doing exactly this” ratios have been WAY better than I thought they would be. Like, I thought it would be about 80+% of the first, with rare charming moments of the second, and that having a baby would be a bit of a grind but worth it to get to small-child stage, but so far it’s about 95% the latter and very occasional brief casual thoughts or things I’d quite like to do once the baby’s in bed or things I might do if I didn’t have a baby. Maybe it’ll get more of the former as she gets more toddler, maybe we’re just lucky because (first three months excluded) our daughter is a generally charming, happy, cheery little girl, but oh my god, she’s amazing. Being with her is amazing. Hanging out with her and our friends is amazing. She’s just amazing fun!
I don’t intend to have children myself, but it seems to me from friends and relatives that socialising while parenting young children is both about the needs of the children, but also how the parents want to approach things. My sister has a three year old and a one year old. Yes, her social life has changed, but it definitely still exists. However it exists because she and her husband *wanted* to keep it and actively worked for that. It’s fine when people have kids and they want to do things all as a family and spend every evening together, and never be apart from the baby and don’t go out much. But it also is a perfectly fine parenting choice to facilitate going out as individuals, to get a babysitter, and to spend time apart from your children as well as with them, and to make maintaining a social life both with and without children a priority for you. My sister and her husband have both been away for weekends away with friends while the other cared for the child/ren at home. They took the babies out a lot while in the portable stage, to things like lunch or the cinema or to see friends. Yes, there are logistics, but for many people they are not insurmountable logistics if for you it is a priority to deal with them (it doesn’t have to be your priority, it is fine to say “nope, too complex”, but if you don’t mind dealing with the complex, that is also fine). You might have to work round naptime and bedtime, and the amount of work and people’s ability to handle it varies, but for lots of people it can be done.
One thing that is ESSENTIAL for mother’s in partnerships with a man, if they want to have a social life, is for the father to be fully involved from birth. It saddens me when I see women saying that they can’t asktheir partner to care for the baby all evening/day. It’s his bloody baby and he should be capable. Likewise, some mothers can be anxious about the baby being cared for by other people, and handling this so that you can accept it is also important if you want to have any space for yourself (of course, this means people you can trust, not random strangers!). A woman is not a neglectful parent if she asks a friend to take the baby for a walk for an hour while she does something by herself.
Thank you all for these great comments–this parent-to-be is taking lots of notes!
We’re about to have our baby shower (all genders welcome, no ridiculous party games or DJ; think dressed-down wedding reception) and we really wanted friends and relatives with small kids to be able to come with their whole families. Things we’re doing to facilitate that:
* The location is a centrally located, transit-accessible, kid-friendly restaurant that has highchairs/booster seats, a unisex single-user bathroom with a changing table, and both a stroller-friendly entryway and room for stroller parking out front.
* The time is from 2 to 5 on a Sunday afternoon, with no scheduled events within that block, so people can arrive late or leave early and not worry about missing some important part of the goings-on.
* All the food is finger food (or canapés if you want to be fancy), brought around cocktail-style throughout the afternoon, and a lot of it is kid-friendly; parents can also order off the restaurant’s regular kids’ menu at our expense. Dessert is mini cupcakes and mini donuts, all gluten-free and vegan to minimize the odds of someone with allergies/limitations being left out of the sugar rush. We’re sending out the menu to our guests in advance, with allergen notations, so folks with limitations can make alternative food preparations if they need to.
* We emphasized on the invitation that we wanted people to bring their children “to this celebration of their future playmate”, so lots of people are bringing kids of various ages (in the 6 months to 6 years range) who will hopefully be able to play together to at least some extent. Three of the kids are siblings and three more are cousins, so they already know one another and get along fairly well. That emphasis on the invitation also means that all the adults are prepared for there to be little kids running around.
* Instead of a guest book, we have blank cards and pens. Anyone of any age is encouraged to write a letter or make a drawing for the baby. We’ll collect them all and put them in a binder after the party. (We’re pre-punching the holes in the cards so we don’t have to puncture someone’s art!)
* The restaurant supplies Wikki Stix to all young patrons and is happy to provide some for the party. My mother is also going to bring “amusers”, which probably means more art supplies. My family is very big on entertaining children by encouraging artistry.
* Not gender-segregating the way people often do for baby showers means both/all parents in mixed-sex families can attend.
It’s totally possible that we’re missing something big or important, since we don’t yet have kids and don’t spend a ton of time around kids. But hopefully this is useful/inspiring to non-parents wanting to throw a party that parents can bring kids to. And if we are missing something or you have other suggestions, please let me know!
Your party sounds lovely! Are you planning to open gifts at the party? I know that some people think seeing all the tiny adorable baby clothes is the best part of a baby shower, while others think that it’s all too much consumerism and boring. You didn’t mention anything about gifts, and those are really what makes it a shower, instead of a tea party in celebration of your pregnancy. If you hadn’t thought about them yet – think about them. 🙂
I haaaate the gift-opening thing. I’d much rather be interacting with people (especially family members I rarely get to see) than with stuff, and I’m sure our generally not-terribly-sentimental friends and family would prefer the same. We did give the guests our registry links, but they’re mostly mailing gifts to us, which gives us an excuse not to open things at the party; wouldn’t want the mailed-a-gift folks to feel left out, you know!
We’ll have a table where presents can pile up, and a “mailbox” to put cards in (I wrapped an old cardboard box in silver wrapping paper and stuck a bow on it because I am that craftsy DIY person), and we’ll drive everything home in J’s mom’s car and try to figure out where the hell to put it all for a few days while J’s mom is sleeping in our guest room/future baby’s room.
The accumulation of expensive specialized short-term-useful stuff is absolutely my least favorite part of baby-having. Even the cute baby clothes.
I once attended a Baby Shower where guests were asked to “display” their gifts on a table. We were explicitly discouraged from using wrapping paper, although gift bags were probably plentiful.
Partly this was because the timeframe for the shower was much shorter than yours, and we needed time to eat before the activity that brought us together took place. But also, some people enjoy seeing gifts, and some of us had made our gifts and kinda wanted to show them off.
That’s a lovely thought! Our invitation emphasized “your presence is our present” and I really don’t expect everyone to bring a gift–some of our friends are kinda broke, some are putting their “gift money” toward traveling to the party, etc.–so I’d still rather downplay the gifts in general, but I’ll keep that display idea in mind to suggest to friends of mine who have more traditional showers in the future.
Aww! I think I remember you saying on the CA forum that you were trying to get pregnant when I was just pregnant. So, so glad it is working out for you guys. Lots of luck and have a wonderful party!
Thank you! 😀
Adding an “oh hell YES” to non-negotiable naptimes. When my darlings were little, really until they both turned around 3, naptime was sacrosanct. I had friends who were parents of older/teen kids doing the whole “oh they can sleep in the stroller while we part-ay” thing and I was all, no, nope, not going to happen. Those kids were lunched and in bed for their mid day nap ON TIME and bathed, snuggled and in bed at night ON TIME. Yes, it severely curtailed my movements, tho working from home was a blessing, but I just worked around it and got a shit-ton of stuff done during nap time and later in the evening. Yes the house wasn’t so tidy, but who cares? Babies are now in grades 3 & 7, smart, happy and lovely. Naptimes FTW!
The one thing that I can tell makes the BIGGEST difference for me when socializing as a parent with a small child is how much the other adults are willing to help keep my kid entertained. I definitely understand that many people don’t want to interact much with my kid, but if you’re inviting me and it’s obvious that you’re inviting my kid too, or if you are coming to my house and you want me to spend time with you, interacting with my kid is a HUGE help.
For example, I’ve noticed a big difference between some of our recent social events with people. One was at my house, and my partner’s family was in town visiting. All the other adults, including partner, pretty much left baby to me for the whole afternoon. I didn’t get to talk to anyone, and it pissed me off. My kid was wound up because people were there and weren’t paying attention to her, and I felt left out. I wasn’t too upset with partner, as it was his family and I understand he wanted uninterrupted time with them, and I understood that they wanted time with him. But I would have loved it if people had taken it in turn to play with baby or if they’d helped keep an eye on her when she was playing by herself.
At another event, partner and I took it in turn to monitor where baby was, and the other adults and teenagers around kept coming by and playing with baby. She loved all the attention, and each person probably spent 2-10 minutes playing with her, but we both got to eat and to talk to other adults without too much interruption. People who knew her well took her for walks and played peek-a-boo and such, and she wasn’t interested in any of the toys I’d brought because there were fun people. Basically, the other people at the party acted like she was another guest to interact with, and she reciprocated their attention by being adorable and not getting cranky. This might not work for a baby who’s scared of non-parents, but for my kid, it was great.
Ohhhh, super big thing: recognise that “entertaining the small child” thing is not always a “because it’s fun” thing, but sometimes a “because you are helping the hosts out” thing. Like offering to peel the carrots, or set the table, or whatever. I still remember being around at a friend’s house when she had a three-year-old, and me and my partner were playing with the toddler whilst our friend made dinner. Meanwhile, another friend (who JUST HAPPENED to be a man!) was just sitting and chilling. The three-year-old kept trying to get Other Friend to play too, and he just kept excusing himself. Eventually, I was like, “oh! I’ve just realised! You think we are playing with the toddler because we are ladies and we like kids! You do not realise that we are entertaining the toddler to help Hostess Friend out whilst she is making dinner, and that it is good manners and part of being a good guest!”
I’m a woman with no kids, and honestly, it never ever occurred to me that interacting with a young child at a party is helping the parents out. Thank you for the alert.
Yes… when we go out, I do not expect people to play with my little one, but it’s a /huge relief/ when they do. Like “wow I actually get to enjoy the party a little rather than just parent it up in a different location!” 😛
OOH OOH OOH! The weekly gathering thing! I read an AWESOME post about this ages ago, I went back and found it just so I can share it:
Friday Night Meatballs: How to Change Your Life With Pasta: http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/08/simpler-entertaining-friday-night-dinners-end-loneliness-how-to-build-community-after-having-kids.html
It’s a post about a couple with a kid who have friends with kids and who find a way to socialize on a regular basis by having a spaghetti dinner which is kinda “open house”, and everybody brings *something*. Now, I’m single with no kids so it didn’t apply to me, but I thought at the time that it sounded like a brilliant idea for anybody who missed socializing once they’re parents but had all those issues of finding babysitters and finding free time and all the other things you have to ‘find’ once you’ve got dependents!
Something I was just thinking about re: parental bandwith/everyone is goddamned different. Some of us new parents really do have our social calendars full, because suddenly EVERYONE and their cousin wants to see the baby. Not that everyone gets to see the baby, but it can still make things harder. I mean, my family’s social calendar is not full in the sense of socialing every day and night, so perhaps we do fit the Commander’s description. But we were never very social creatures to start with, and our calendar has become way, way more full since we got a third little person’s social life to manage as well.
Extended family members we were used to seeing maybe a couple times a year now want to see our baby often, and we want to facilitate her relationships with her family, and she changes so fast and some of them might not be with us very long, etc. So suddenly we’re trying to have monthly grandparent-dates and also take her over to see great-aunt, etc. (There are also some family members who are NOT seeing her, but we really do want her to know some of these people.) And then there’s the friends who moved across the country but want to come by and meet her, and the neighbor down the road with an even younger baby who we need to see so we can get outgrown baby clothes out of our lives (with a pleasant side of fantasizing about a time when the two babies can walk to playdates), and we like to take our Little to baby storytime sometimes, etc. And then we ALSO don’t want to just drop the people and social events that we were used to having on our calendar in the pre-baby days.
Obviously the parent has choices to make here – I’m not trying to say that old friends should expect to suddenly be playing second fiddle to a bunch of other social commitments, because our friends are still important to us. We try to fit everyone in as best we can, while still not driving our hermit selves crazy, and try to turn down invites/cancel with each group in turn so that nobody important is always getting pushed to the side. But it can be awfully easy to use up our newly-restricted bandwidth on one thing after another, and then suddenly discover that is all the bandwidth available for today, sorry! and have to recalibrate.
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