Monday, 15 June 2015

Keeping friends who have kids

Following my piece called "Having kids and keeping friends", Monica provides an insightful piece on the same issue from the perspective of a single woman with friends who are having kids. Enjoy and share!

In the piece posted up on Dom Meese - My Piece! on Saturday, Dom wrote about how having two young children has affected his friendships, and particularly, the amount of time and energy he can devote to maintaining them.

Interestingly, at the time he was sending this out, I was catching up with my best friend and we were discussing this very topic. She has children about the same age as Dom's (ie, two kids under the age of two), and was talking about how some of her closest friendships have changed since she became a mum.

Her story isn't that much different from Dom's. There's no longer the time to go shopping or sit out to nice cafes, and even if there was the time to go out for a few drinks, pregnancy and breastfeeding means that is unlikely to happen! 

After having this conversation with her and reading Dom's very thoughtful and honest piece, I thought I might respond with the perspective of a 33 year old, single woman with no children, who finds that her friends are increasingly less available for many of the activities which brought us together. In particular, I’d like to speak about what I think our role should be.

When your friends start having children, I truly believe that it is incumbent upon the ones without children to be a little more accommodating so that the closeness of the friendship can be maintained.

As an example, we need to start thinking about whether our planned get-togethers are the most convenient for someone with young children. 

Evening catch-ups might need to be replaced for an early weekend breakfast for a while. Boozy nights out might need to switch to cups of tea at home after the kids have gone to bed. Lengthy phone conversations in which we deconstruct our whole lives might need to turn into short emails or text messages which contain only the essentials. And maybe we need to suggest a BYO sandwich lunch in the park instead of that brilliant-but-overpriced cafe we usually meet at for a quick work lunch.

We also need to be more understanding. 

As women, we often test our friendships by whether a friend will be available to us when we need something, or by how often they show concern about what is happening in our lives. But friends with young children are often operating in survival mode. This can take up all of their available bandwidth and so they might sometimes neglect to "check in" on us, or fail to notice the big drama that is currently unfolding in our lives.  

This isn’t a sign that they don’t care. It’s just a natural consequence of them not having the same amount of “disposable” time and energy they used to. We need to be okay with that. Actually, we need to encourage it. I think we would be doing our friends (and their children) a massive disservice if we expected the same from them pre- and post- children.

Being willing to forego some of our preferences in order to make it easier for parents of young children is a measure of how much we value our friendship with them. And on a broader scale, it can also be a measure of how we feel about children generally – whether we consider them to be a blessing or a burden.

It might seem unfair, and I might sound like I am advocating being accepting of bad behaviour, but I'm not.  I'm just saying that young children can be quite demanding, and so we'd have to have a pretty good reason to add to the demands already being made on our friends with kids. 

Also, most of the young parents I know feel like complete and total failures. This new little person in their life has a way of making them aware (and afraid) of their own inadequacies. It would be pretty poor form on our part if we added “being a good friend” to the list of items at which they were failing.

In summary, suck it up, Princess.  It's not all about you.

Monica Doumit

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