Monday, April 2, 2012

Dear Mandy...

I've been following your blog for about a year now, and LOVE IT! About a year ago I decided to live a child free lifestyle and always turn to your blog for support, because unfortunately everyone else in my life from all angles has decided to become a parent, and right now the baby talk is in full force, and I can't seem to escape it. I was going to e mail you but couldn't find you address - haha it may be too early in the morning. But any way I was wondering if this type of situation may have happened with any of your other readers - yesterday I asked my friend who is a new mom to run a 5k with me in July. She automatically e mails me back very smugly saying that she doesn't think it would be appropriate to take her baby in 100 degree weather all day on a run. haha first, who said anything about the baby? the dad can watch him. also, who said all day? 5k only takes an hour! Anyway, I get the feeling that from now on I can only suggest child friendly activities when it comes to hanging out with her for a while, or until she finally comes to her senses and needs an escape. I guess I just really felt the gap between our lifelong friendship grow yesterday, and it was not a fun feeling. Any advice or words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated! Thanks for all that you do, and all of your support!


Dear Julia,

Most certainly, your friend was wrong to assume that you were including her child in the invitation to run a 5K race.  It's interesting - and quite surprising - that she made that assumption, since no reasonable person would assume that such an invitation would include a baby.  Your friend's response speaks to the unreasonable sense of entitlement and self-absorption that many people (especially women) fall into once they have kids.  Because a mom's entire existence revolves around her child, she automatically assumes that everyone else's lives should too and sadly, our culture reinforces this idea at every turn.

In this situation, the appropriate response to your friend could be, "Oh, I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to imply that you should bring the baby.  Of course a baby should not go on a 5K race.  I was assuming your husband could watch her, or you could get a sitter.  Would that be possible?  I'd really love to do this event with you."  And see how she responds.

If your friend continues to insist that every outing with you must include the baby, you may have to speak up in a gentle way.  One way to approach the issue is to say, "I really love spending time with you and the baby and so look forward to our times together.  Would it also be possible for some of our outings to be just the two of us, so we can really catch up and have some adult time together?"  See how she responds.  Hopefully, she will not be offended and will realize that your request comes from a place of cherishing your friendship and wanting to maintain the level of closeness you always had.

If, despite your requests, she isn't willing to keep your friendship a priority and find time to spend with you one-on-one, you have two options.

Bite the Bullet:  Accept the fact that all of your time with your friend will include her child and realize that this will be the case for at least a few years, until the child is old enough that it does not need to be with her all the time.


Take a Break:  Create more space in the relationship and give yourself something of a breather from your friend, until she gets out of the phase of being attached at the hip to her child.  Stay in touch, but perhaps not as frequently, and focus more of your energy to developing and nurturing friendships that will provide more one-one-one engagement for you.  Seek out other childfree people to form friendships with.

I'd love to hear from my readers on this issue.  How have you navigated this type of situation with your parent friends?  Please post a comment!



Anonymous said...

Dear Julia,
New moms are exhausted and their brains are full from ensuring the health and safety of their totally-dependent infant. I recommend being as tolerant of your friend's life situation as you would like her to be of yours. Keep inviting her places that fit into her life right now. And don't worry. She'll be back in two years.
Not that it matters, but I made the decision at 20 years old ago to skip having children and I've never regretted it. My husband and I are in our 40s.

Violet said...

I have some friends who "get it" and some who do not. those who do not are on the "time out" area of my friendship.

Side note:
I was at work last week, and a woman brought her baby in [an art gallery] with her. as she yapped incessantly with the owner, the kid [@ 10 months old -1 yr] was left unattended a few feet away. I noticed the baby was yanking this giant brass pedestal by this green velvet rope. [yes it is exactly as it seems] I said something like "oh sweetie, carefull" to which the mother of the year snaps at me "Do you EVEN HAVE ANY KIDS of YOUR OWN?!?!?"
excuse ME!
I was repulsed. I said "no thanks" and she went on about some bullshit or another and attempting to justify the near smashing of her infant's cerebral cortex!
Some "PARENTS" just need to be left alone.

Julia said...

Hello! Thanks for the advice everyone. A day or so after I posted my comment I realized that I was being oversensitive and over reacting to the situation. Just as her response reflects the stress and tension I may not be seeing on the outside, my reaction reflects stress and worry due to our changing relationship. I just need to come to terms with it as all. Not all change is bad. Luckily my response to her was that I understood, and I am trying my best to stand by her side though her life change with a smile. She is my best friend and I love her so much. Thanks for all of the advice everyone!

Jin's Blog said...

I'm in the same position as Julia. As more and more of my friends are becoming parents, I'm having to see their time with me include the kids. While I don't mind being around kids, I do find that the intimacy that I had with my friends are becoming diluted. I don't blame my friends one bit for any of this, let alone the kids themselves. But I do find it quite sad that more of my friends are being lost this way. I wish the best for my friend's kids and I can't wait till they all grow up!!
So I can enjoy being with my friends just like the old days (with more $$ of course :->).

Francois Tremblay said...

This is why I love not having friends who have children. No point in bothering, IMO.

Childfreeeee said...

Most of my friends do not have children, however, my dear friend Sara (who I often write about in this blog, and who is like a sister to me) does. We've been friends since 1987, so A LONG time and most of those years, she was sans kids. She had her first kid about 6 years ago and our friendship, while still strong, is not at all what it was before she had kids.

We see each other about 1/3 as often as we used to. Get togethers are very hard to plan because she always has to check with hubby to make sure he is available to watch the kids. He doesn't get home from work until about 7 p.m. so we can NEVER get together earlier than 7. And then, she can only hang out until about 9 because she has to get home to put the kids to bed (apparently they can't fall asleep without a certain routine that involves her). Also, her finances are very limited now due to the expense of having kids and the fact that she doesn't work, so she and hubby live off of only one salary.

Her attention span is very limited and I have to speak in short sentences and get my point across quickly because she cannot keep her focus. I see her eyes wandering and can tell she is not absorbing most of what I say. When we do have an occasional all-day trip together, she is on the cell phone constantly checking in with her husband. She is always on call.

She is a SAHM, so when I am with her, about 95% of what she talks about is the kids and kid-related stuff - school, play dates, kid activities, etc. She doesn't have time or energy to read, follow the news, or have her own hobbies and she doesn't work so the subject matter she can talk about is very limited.

My approach with her is to give her slack and realize that this is temporary and in a couple more years, she will be back in the workplace, the kids will be bigger and less dependent on her, and our old relationship will hopefully start coming back.

I don't rely on my friends who have kids for a social life. I try to hang out with mostly people who are childfree by choice or circumstance.

kittyclaire said...

My best friend had a kid a couple of years ago and is almost done cooking the 2nd one. I have a strict no kid policy in my house, so it's convenient she lives 6 hours away. We talk on the phone and share our feelings, but it's not the same.

When she got knocked up I told her that I didn't know if I could be friends anymore. I had to think about it, because I just do not do all. She said she understood and I think she did. In the end, we are still friends but it's challenging.

violet said...

That sucks when a best friend doesnt understand when you want to spend time with her, withOUT the baby.
I havent gotten to that point where my friends are having kids, I probably have a good 5 years, but now my parents and friends are picking fights with me about their views on pregnancy and stuff. I asked my parents what the La Leche League was and they went on and on about how good it was to breast feed children and I swear, they basically said that a mom should just be able to whip out her boob anywhere because feeding a baby is so beautiful when the food is coming from yourself. I think it's gross if a lady does it at a table at a restaurant...uncovered? Like wtf mom & dad, they decide to give me this whole speech, I still think its gross.
Sorry for ranting, I can just see why it's hard to be childfree when everyone is pro-mom.

Liz @ MaybeBabyMaybeNot said...

I have so many friends who refuse to leave their kids with a babysitter (including the grandparents!!) or even their own husband. I totally don't understand - you'd think they'd want just a tiny break from the constant attention a baby requires, but they don't take advantage of the resources available to them. Very frustrating.

Temujin said...

When you're childfree and have childed friends, you have to be somewhat independent. You can't really rely on your parent friends too much. You have to be prepared to entertain yourself when they cancel or can't commit to seeing you. In some ways, you have to treat them as less reliable friends and plan accordingly.

Also, remember that friendships ebb and flow for all sorts of reasons. It's the nature of frienships whether children are involved or not. "Best Friends Forever!" is actually pretty rare.

Happily CF said...

I could go on all day about this topic, but I will just leave at at this:

I completely lost a lifelong friend to motherhood. The "funny" (shocking and unexpected) thing is that she's never liked kids at ALL - she actively disliked them - and then became obsessed when she had her own. Suddenly now every single Facebook post has to do with the minutiae of daily life with the kid - he puked in the bathtub, he's potty training, or whatever. She only seems to comment on posts of other mothers and has NOTHING interesting to say even though she is still working full-time so she can't have become as brainless as a "SAHM."

I now live about an hour away from her by car, or she could travel by train or bus. It's NOT hard to get to me, but she has never once visited since having this child two years ago. "It's just too much trouble to load up all the baby gear." I always have to visit her. And the baby always has to be around even though she has an involved husband. She couldn't possibly leave her kid with him on a weekend day and come visit without him?

In response to Violet - I was working as a Library Director in a public library which was heavily frequented by "SAHMs" who would set up playdates in the library (with no intention of actually checking out any books or other materials, or getting books for their kids... it was socializing for the mothers.) They would completely ignore their kids - sometimes for HOURS - and I am talking about infants in carriers set on the floor 15 feet away from them, 3 year olds running all around, up and down stairs, falling and crying, hitting table legs, etc.. I can't count the number of times I was snapped at by mothers if I pointed out a dangerous situation or that other patrons were being disturbed. I have also gotten responses suggesting I have no right to be intervening because I don't have kids (so therefore I must not be able to assess a dangerous or disruptive situation.)

Foodie Traveler said...

I have lost friend after friend after friend to babies. I am 44. I thought by now I would be too old to still have to deal with this, but a good friend of mine who is 45,single and of means decided to build her own using an assortment of medical resources. She is currently not speaking to me and basically ending the friendship because I questioned her judgement by gently suggesting she ask her doctor when she no longer wanted to come over my place because she is pregnant and I have 2 cats. I guess it would have ended eventually anyway like all the others. The child should win over the friend of course, but it still sucks.

Trista said...

Most of my friends (male and female) tend to always have the kids, rarely allowing their partner to take over for one, simple outing.

It is worse with my female friends. I understand they are the mother, but why isn't the father expected to watch the baby so mom can have a break too?

I had a very close, lifelong (like since birth) friend who always insisted on being childfree. She never wanted children. She is terrible with children. Even when people brought their babies around, she would outright refuse to hold a baby because babies made her uncomfortable.

All that changed when she got married.

She told me a few times, "My husband thinks it's so weird that I don't want kids!" in this sort of flippant, lighthearted manner. I thought it was "so weird" that she started leaking this information to me in such a way.

One day, we were hanging out and the subject of kids came up, and I was kind of poking fun of how parents tend to be in public with their kids. My friend just sort of laughed and didn't say much - not like she usually did.

Then a month later she told me she was pregnant and had been for 4 months.

Naturally I was happy for her and gave her many congratulations. She is a seemingly happy mom now, but we haven't seen each other in over two years. Everything just kind of ended right there.

Ah well...

Arik said...

I've had friends use their kids as an excuse to not do things that they don't really want to do and manipulate you into helping them with something. It's wrong like using your kids a crutch they get some kind of power trip from this line like you have no right to ask them to do anything anymore that doesn't always have you making consideration for their kids.

Roxie Harlow said...

I'm at the age (nearly 31) where most people around my age already have children. I've noticed that friends who have kids tend to almost exclusively socialize with others who are parents. That leaves my boyfriend and I out. I've also been struggling with the fact that at my age, it seems more difficult to make friends since most friendships have already been formed by now. Moving to a smallish town in the Midwest has only made this more apparent. EVERYONE here has a kid! At this point, I've given up on making friends and/or keeping them.

mzwunderkind said...

I have a friend that got pregnant (mind you, just got promoted and claimed that she doesnt have enough money and also wanted to go to school) she was having a baby shower and stated to me that she wanted my address to send the invite (normal procedure right?)…think again. When I told her to send me the invite via text her voice got pretty stern and stated that she HAS to send it to me due to registry. Are you serious ????

This is another problem I have with the situaiton, just becuase she got pregnant she feels that everyone should be on her time. I.DONT.THINK.SO. I had a wonderful trip planned the same weekend so I dont see why I need to reschedule my childless like to suit hers. She even had the audacity to get annoyed?

I think she seems to forget that I am not the father of the child

Dave said...

I am like Francois. I know nobody (except for my brother and SIL) who has young child(ren). I have never been to a baby shower. Yay.

Kirsten (peacefuldog) said...

Mandy, I agree about the sense of entitlement illustrated by Julia's friend's response.

I am utterly devoted to my dogs, and yet I would respond to a dinner invitation from a close friend by saying "Dinner is kind of impractical when you're juggling two 75-pound, hairy balls of energy!" only if I were trying to make a point.

A statement like that has the effect of a not-so-subtle put-down to the recipient; it does nothing to foster intimacy or fulfill the deliverer's side of the social contract. And yet our pronatalist culture routinely enables and empowers such rude behavior on the part of parents.

I admire both you and Julia for your diplomatic and sensitive response to this person.

Betty said...

I think Hallmark should come up with a card something to the effect of:
Congratulations on your new baby! Can't wait to see you again in 18 years!

BridalBusiness said...

My fiancee and I are decidedly "undecided" on children. I don't feel like I want them but I may, so we'll see what happens. That being said, I will never, ever be one of these people. Seriously. I couldn't have children if I didn't maintain a sense of self outside of being a mom...I wish more women realized they can still be themselves AND have children - it just takes a bit more effort!

Krista said...

I like all of the points made here. My only contribution is to ask how old the baby is. If the mom is nursing exclusively (my children refused bottles) and the baby is young (under 4 months) then it can be hard to find a few hours to spend without the baby. Having her misunderstand the amount of time it would take to run a 5k and, well, this.

If her child is older, then I'm confused about her response.

NoniWork said...

I think you handled this topic very diplomatically, and I'm appreciative of that. It seems like almost all childfree sites are dripping with hate for parents, specifically mothers, and it's nice to see someone tackle this subject with something beyond "Forget that lady, she has a baby now. She's damaged goods".

Personally, the only experience I've had with this is with family members with young children. But they take the initiative and solve the situation themselves. Most of the time we get together in their area, with kids. But every now and again, they have someone look after their children and then go out on their own. It seems very natural, no fighting necessary.

I suppose it would be a good idea to observe the parents, and see what their natural rhythm is. If they seem a bit high-maintenence, or presumptuous, I would preface any invitation with a discussion of whether or not they can find a sitter in time. Maybe ask them sometime how far in advance that you should bring up an event.