This past year I’m sure you’ve all seen that viral post that went around, ‘An Open Letter to My Friends Who Don’t Have Kids’ ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/janie-porter/an-open-letter-to-my-friends-who-dont-have-kids_b_5823776.html ) and how much we, as parents, suck at maintaining social lives, or even basic adult interaction, away from our progeny, for the first few years. I’ve seen the article linked at least 10 times from various parents on my social media accounts usually with a quick note about how ‘We still ❤ you guys!!’ followed by a bunch of sappy emojiis.
As a parent, however, I have a problem with the whole essay. I think it’s a half-assed explanation to try and excuse the awful behaviour that ‘new’ parents tend to fall back on. An easy way to write off the tired #sorrynotsorry reasons why we can no longer function as the courteous, invested friend we were before we got knocked up. The letter even ends by admitting our friends deserve better and thanks them for their patience This honestly comes off sounding like our friends are waiting in queue for some type of friendship technical support,
“Thank you for your patience. Your friendship is very important to us. Please continue to hold until we’re able to tear ourselves away from our children long enough to celebrate your successes or listen to your sorrows, etc.”
Are you kidding me?? How dare we, as parents, try to blame our declined invitations, early bailouts and missed phone calls/text messages on a tiny kid, who for the most part, sleeps on and off for 80% of their day in the first six months.
Urban dictionary defines ‘Ghosting’ as the act of ceasing all communication in a relationship with the hope that the other party will get the hint and stop trying to text/call/hang out. A relatively new phenomenon in our ‘tech savvy’ age and can easily be applied to both unfortunate Tinder dates AND new parents. Although new parents tend to not be fully aware that they’re actively sabotaging what could be years long friendships… blindly assuming the other party will still be there when they emerge from ‘new parent’ hibernation.
Now, we’ve all done it, so admit it. We’ve used our kids as an excuse to either back out of an event, leave early from a function we didn’t want to attend, or even as a reason for not responding to emails/texts. But kids are an excuse like any other…childless friends just need to get more creative. But you know what happens when your kids are finally old enough to realize that Mom and Dad aren’t the be all end all? Your friends have moved on! After numerous last minute cancellations (Omg Baby just WOULDN’T sleep last night!), declined hangouts (I couldn’t possibly ask ANYONE else to watch my child for 2 hrs…including my partner!) or ignored messages (Well I was going to reply…but I figured you wouldn’t appreciate a text back at 3am while I was up feeding Jr) your friends have found people who actually care and want to hang out with them. I know your whole world revolves around your children but theirs, let’s be honest, does not. They also have needs and desires and when you suddenly stop acting like you care, why should they put their plans on hold until you decide you can act like a normal human being?
When you’re expecting your first child, you’ll get lots of advice about how you shouldn’t let your child take away from your marriage or relationship. ‘Make sure you still take time for yourselves!’ your Aunt/cousin/co-worker will tell you at your baby shower! Well your romantic relationship isn’t the only one that will need life support as your children grow. Your friends need your time as well. And they want to know you still care about THEM too! That means that when you do finally drag your ass out of your house for a quick coffee or even a phone chat, that you take some time between delightful anecdotes and stories about your baby to ask them how their lives are going! Parenthood has a phenomenal way of making Moms and Dads self-centered conversation hogs. Remember conversations are a two way street involving input from ALL parties…if you just want to wax poetic about the fruit of your loins start a blog (*cough*)
Every time you cruise a mother’s board or FB group I can guarantee you’ll find at least 2-3 posts revolving around ‘Poor Me! My friends have abandoned me! They don’t understand what my life is like right now!’. Hate to break it to you sister but they likely have no idea because you haven’t made an effort to contact them or hang out since you saw the double line on your pregnancy test beyond a generic invitation to your baby shower/sprinkle/’sip and see’ to pump them for gifts.Ask yourself, honestly, have you been a good friend? Have you reached out with calls or texts to see how their lives are going? Spoiler Alert: The answer here is probably a big fat no.
Part of being a functioning adult is being able to balance many different relationships in your life. It’s admittedly a juggling act and having a baby is one more ball you have to keep in the air, but in order to have a well rounded and healthy life you need to invest yourself fully in all aspects. This means being able to parent and work (if you so choose), and build/maintain fulfilling relationships with your significant other, children AND friends. Trust me, they love and care for you too but in today’s society it’s rude to call you out on your child obsessed self-centeredness without coming off like an uber bitch. If you don’t put in the effort why should they? Just because they don’t have kids doesn’t mean they’re chalk full of free time in which to hound you for scraps of your time.
Just in case you’re a bit rusty…here are some tips for being a good friend as a new parent.
- Return texts/emails/phone calls – maybe don’t call at 3am for a chat but at least a quick text indicating you got their message goes a long way.
- Make ‘playdates’ for yourself – Everyone needs a little social time! Even nursing moms can take an hour for coffee once a week to reconnect with the important people in their lives. I’ve done it so don’t try and feed me a line about how you couldn’t possibly….
- Ask about your friend’s lives – Don’t dominate the conversation with Jr’s latest milestones or bowl movements. Your friends have lives, worries and stories as well…
- Don’t ‘Mommy-jack’ social media – Not everyone’s FB updates, tweets or Instagrams lead back to your kids. Celebrate the milestones in your friends lives without bringing up the fact that you had sex…congrats by the way!
- If you make plans stick with them – Unless one of you is violently ill (and I’m talking Norwalk Virus proportions or lice…) follow through on plans to meet up! Nothing pisses people off more than last minute cancellations.
- Don’t assume your kids are invited everywhere – This a HUGE one! Although your friends are excited and happy for you they don’t necessarily see your baby as your ‘plus one’ to every single event going forward. Some get-togethers just aren’t kid friendly (eg spa days, adults only birthday parties etc) and they will likely not have made arrangements to ‘baby-proof’ the venue. Also taking your kids is an automatic attention-divider. Your friends want to catch up with YOU…not try and carry on a conversation between diaper changes and feedings. Even if your friends have kids of their own don’t assume everyone is bringing theirs. I’ve found that if kids are welcome it’s usually explicitly stated in the invitation.
I will note that I am by no means perfect. I’ve definitely awkwardly brought my first son to an otherwise adult event (now that I have two I actively seek events that are for grown ups only!) and I’ve been that ‘bad friend’ who has let friendships lapse while I lie on the floor in sweats feeding my toddler Gerber puffs. However I’m learning and actively trying to do better…call it a New Years Resolution for 2016! Good luck Mommies/Daddies – Let 2016 be the year we’re not complete knuckleheads!