Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: Is it normal that friends with kids, once they have kids, become harder to feel connected to? We all graduated college together, started getting jobs, married, etc. Now I’m the last of the group that doesn’t have kids — and I have a hard time feeling connected anymore to those who have kids. I don’t know how to relate to their primary focus, and it’s so much harder to find time to just get together. It’s even harder to say, “Hey, it’d be great if we could get together without your kids,” just so that we’re not being interrupted every few minutes by a needy child. I love their kids, but don’t want those to be the only get-togethers we have.
Friend of Friends With Kids
It’s normal, but this is normal too: People with jerk tendencies keep those when they have kids, and people with non-jerk tendencies tend to keep those when they have kids. (As do their friends, not coincidentally.)
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The practical application being, someone with a me-centric worldview will find it difficult to impossible to hear that you aren’t as charmed by their precious offspring as they are, and will make you pay for your honesty. Someone less self-absorbed will have no trouble remembering that being around other people’s snot-encrusted, impulse-control-challenged need factories is not everything you had hoped your Saturday night would be.
Plus, few people are so absorbed in their kids as to miss a judgmental subtext. (On the contrary; they’ve likely been subject to so much judging just during pregnancy alone that they spot it instantly.) If you genuinely accept the reason their attention has shifted from you in a fundamental and necessary way, then they will be much more likely to respond warmly to your request for a just-adults evening (if they’re not jerks; see above): “Hell, yes, I need one more than you do” is often how those responses go.
But if your tone implies that your friends have lost all perspective and that when you have kids you’ll be much more grounded, oh, and by the way, your kids won’t cry and will walk, talk, poop in the toilet and prefer broccoli by six months, max, then your suggestion they get a baby-sitter will be as welcome as a loaded diaper after a day of cheese and blueberries.
Balance helps, too. Put in a couple of hours helping them wrangle their monsters at the zoo, and you’re good for at least a couple of invitations that require them to get a baby-sitter. As with everything else, everyone needs either to be flexible or to live with the results of not being so.
Re: Without Kids: You know how I’ve solved this in a win-win way? I bring ingredients, and we cook dinner together after the kiddos go to bed. I can help with bedtime and read a story or whatever, then we get to have adult time after, all without baby-sitter expenses. I think what I’ve found is that if you’re flexible, you can get the best of all worlds!
And they get a great friend. And dinner. And the kids get another adult who cares about them. And you need to clone yourself. Thanks.
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