Friday, April 24, 2009

Friends With Kids

Finding time for friends saves sanity
Becoming a parent makes time spent with pals not nervously waiting for our kids to come off a ride at Chuck E. Cheese or chasing them around a park especially precious.

Parenting, of course, has its joys, but it can be an isolating experience as even when you manage to find time to spend with other adults, the conversation tends to focus on the little ones.

Having kids (or in our case, kid) tends to consume your life giving you little else to talk about.

This makes having relationships with people without kids nearly impossible.

You can at least commiserate with other parents, but the child-free live in an entirely different universe - a land where staying up past 10 and watching a whole movie on a weeknight remain possible.

For people without kids, listening to someone talk about their children is about as interesting as listening to a long story about someone's cat.

My single friends maybe want to see a picture and hear a quick update. They do not want to sit through my story about how Joshua spent three hours refusing to go to sleep while taking every item out of every storage area in his room and calling me "a fresh face."

Being a parent overwhelms your life in a way that makes it hard to remember that you are anything else.
I think I'll forgive the childfree=single slip in this instance; as a married and childfree person, this is often a pet peeve of mine. But it is good to see yet another parent who is aware that their friends without kids have a different perspective while their own has changed - that they might not be interested in hearing every detail of your progeny's life, and may barely have a clue who Miley Cyrus is.

I don't have any friendships with parents, not really. Although I've hit my 30s, my friends are just starting to get married, and the few former friends who have procreated had pretty much dropped out of my life before it happened, or live in another state. So I am kind of curious - has anyone managed to make it work?

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Nicole in Michigan said...

Almost all of my cousins(who are also friends) and a few very close friends have kids, I agree it can be difficult to maintain friendships, but not impossible. I value their friendship and enjoy their children, we go to childfriendly museums or feed the ducks at the park, I try to do all the things I enjoyed as a child, yet I don't change diapers.
But I appreciate my time with my childfree friends on a more spontaneous basis, "Let's grab a cocktail after work." If the friends are worth it, we make it work, if they become what I call "Mommy Zombies" I don't make time for them.

Anonymous said...

I am married and childfree and the way I see it, is that parenting can be an isolating experience because the parent makes it that way. Instead of taking time out focus on someone other than their child seems to not even occur to them. (Is a couple hours a month to go out and have lunch with a friend really that much to ask?) And when we do get together, why can't that parent just give us a quick update on Jr. and more on? There are other things going on in the world than the daily minutiae that comes with parenting.

The parent quoted in this post is generalizing a bit, assuming because we aren't parents, we aren't dog tired at the end of the day. We still have many things to fill out day, and we get weary too.

As you may have gathered, I don't think I am managing my friendships with my parenting friends very well. I go into panic mode when I see their name on the caller ID, because the last thing I want to talk, or rather listen, about is their kids! I don't call them, unless I have the emotional strength to withstand the seemingly endless chatter of how cute Jr. was when he did such-and-such. My eyes roll, and I pray for a loud disturbance to give me an excuse to get off the phone.

I don't know if anyone else feels like that, but that is where I am at, at this point in my life.

Lynn said...

It is so hard to have a relationship with parents. I was looking through pictures of old friends to put on Facebook page and my husband said look how happy such and such was. What happened to them? I said they had kids! He said it looks like you had a lot of fun together and I remember how we would hang out every weekend and go to dinner and the beach. Then they got married had kids and forgot how to wear make-up and wear clothes without shit all over them!

mccn said...

I have a close set of friends with kids that I am still close too - because we're all of us willing to work at it. I'm much more flexible in visiting them, and I have to be OK with sudden changes of plans - like, last time we went to dinner, they left mid-meal because the kid was overtired and starting to cry. (Which, by the way, is exactly the right choice). I do listen to their excitement about his learning process and developmental steps - but they also still are interested in and talk about other things, just as we used to - and I figure it's a fair trade when I've listened to their kid, that they get to listen politely about my pet for a bit. :) But I've lost two other friends to parenting, because they insist that I do all the work - they're not willing to put effort into the friendship anymore.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous. I'd also agree with Nicole, except that I don't like kid things. I didn't like kid things when I was a kid. I was always the one demanding to use power tools, trying to drive the tractor, sneaking into the adult wing of the library to learn about science, sex, and guns.... Fortunately my parents appreciated a kid who was eager to grow up, to work, to help. They were wonderful in not forcing the Baby Huey bib and hat on me. I've seen that happen so often, and it's really icky.

Parents choose how much to get wrapped up in their Widdle Pweshums, and how much time to devote to adult concerns. I realize that I'm of the same generation as Abe Lincoln, but my parents had adult lives. Their friends who were parents came over for cards, talk, to watch a baseball game. Kids were around, but there was none of that toxic late 20th century "children's culture." Not one of those parents was obsessed with being a parent. Kids were larval adults with varying tendencies to act larval or adultlike. If they inclined toward the larval, they were sent off to play with one another. Adult kids were welcome in the adult company; I started playing cards with the grown-ups when I was 6. My dad made a card-holder for me because my hands were too small to hold the 14-card hands (canasta). I am so grateful for that, and I've grown up to be a goofy, funny, playful adult. So I surely didn't lose anything by failing to, I dunno, watch Barney and Elmo.

I realize that I'm writing heresy here in the age of Developmental Stages and Attachment Parenting and Breast Feeding Support Groups. But my view has long been that parenting is way overdone. I can tolerate someone saying, "Sorry I've been distant; the kind have had that flu that's going around and I'm just run ragged." To that I can reply as an adult, that I'm sorry to hear they're run ragged, and I can even often to help (I draw the line at caring for the kids; I don't like kids as kids). But this whole kid-centric thing is in my view a way that the PARENTS get to put THEIR immaturity at the center of everyone's life.

By the way, when we drop into bed at 10--after being up working at work, at home, and on our land from 0430--we're pretty tired. Did they say 10? Who gets to go to bed that early? Our days run 18-20 hours in the summer, and we're lucky to be getting indoors for supper at 10 p.m. But we CHOOSE this life, as they chose parenting, and we don't run around complaining because crops need to be planted/weeded/harvested or forest work is waiting or we have to travel for our jobs. Choose your path, walk it to the end. The only use I can imagine for kids is a couple strapping ones to help with all this work...but then that would be child labor and we'd go to jail. :D


Meg said...

As long as the childfree friend doesn't put her finger in her ears and sing "LALALALALA I can't hear you!" when the baby's name is mentioned, and the mommy friend doesn't go on and on about how her life before baby had no meaning, it can work. I have a lot of friends who have little ones, and it usually works out fine...

Although I have had friends talk about how "lucky" I am that I can sleep through the night / go out on a whim / spend my disposable cash on ME / sleep in etc., and how they wish they could do that too, as if it was not a direct result of our choices. GRR!