One of the most disappointing aspects of having friends with kids is the obligation to hang out with or near the kids each time we get together. Do babysitters not exist anymore? It seems like my generation and the one before are loath to pay people to watch their kids so they can have some semblance of a social life. I don’t understand what happens to people when they become parents, how they seem to lose their interests and need for friends. I recently read an article about the true reasons why parents don’t see their friends anymore and it both offended and saddened me. The tone was patronizing, as though the childless could never possibly begin to fathom the sacred and intricate world parents and children inhabit. The reasons were worse—We just don’t care about our friends the way We once did, We want to spend all our available time with Our child, We don’t have much in common with you anymore, type of stuff. In my experience with friends who have become parents, one summer you’re lounging in the yard together, barbequing and conversing with Snoop Dogg Pandora playing, and the next you’re looking at pictures of their baby pool party on facebook. If you do get a rare invitation, the scene may look the same but the talk is stilted and awkward because the only topic is the child and the child is constantly interrupting with their needs and demands. I honestly don’t care to spend time with other people’s children.
I miss my friends. I have yet to see a single one who hasn’t tunneled deeply into parenthood and shut the (childless) world out, immediately after the child’s arrival. I knew a woman who loved to party, loved men and dick, and loud, vulgar talk. She was the same after she married, and even into her pregnancy. She was just weeks away from her due date and still hosting karaoke parties at her house into the early morning hours. I knew she was going to prove me wrong. A day after her son’s arrival I went to see her in the hospital, where she talked dreamily about maybe after a year or so taking a trip with her husband for a weekend. She was determined to go as long as she could without spending a night away from her child. I saw her once more after that, for an uncomfortable family dinner, where someone had to be holding the baby at all times, lest he fuss. I never saw her party again.
Everyone says they won’t change, that they won’t become uncommunicative, uncaring about their friends or topics other than their child. They won’t be posting copious photos or revolting stories about baby’s bodily functions on facebook. They will be the same, the difference only that now they have a child. Yet in my experience, everyone changes, into nearly exactly what they said they would avoid. It’s almost as though through listing all the things they wouldn’t become, they were actually sketching the outline of their parental selves. And it sucks. I know if I want to see people, I have to be willing to hang out with the kid too. Asking them to get a babysitter doesn’t even feel like an option. I’ve become so jaded I don’t even bother inviting friends to the activities we enjoyed together pre-child, nor do I even hint that I want adults-only time. I have had people take mortal offense to being asked to leave their child elsewhere. My wedding was child-free and I had a friend threaten not to come unless she could bring her toddler and infant, another friend flat-out not show up in protest and another couple pretend they hadn’t seen the request and bring their infant and toddler. That couple was the only guests toting kids, and I could scarcely believe their rudeness. Later, I realized their framework for adults-only events had deteriorated from lack of use.
What is happening that adults can’t spend time together, alone? I’m not asking for an entire weekend, but a 90 minute dinner would be nice. I want to connect with my friends the way I used to, check in on them and their emotional and mental states, outside the context of parenthood. Perhaps that context is eradicated the day the child comes home. I don’t think that’s healthy. I’m going to encourage people, right here, to use their childless friends as a resource. We’re the people you can turn to when you’re frustrated, having doubts, exhausted, overwhelmed or bored. We won’t judge you because we know having kids is a great sacrifice, and hard. That’s why we didn’t choose to become parents. Please look to us as a source of fun and relaxation, where you can get a moment back for yourself, with people who knew you before you became a parent. We remember you, and we want to see you.
In exchange for this offering, I’m going to request that you put effort in too. The effort it takes to text me back in a timely fashion, the effort of finding someone to watch your child for a couple of hours, the effort of taking an interest in my life. I know it isn’t easy, when you’re steeped in the child zone. But it’s necessary to keep a friendship alive. And if you’re not willing, admit to yourself this minute that you’ve made a choice to cut your childless friends out of your social circle. Is that who you want to be?