A child entering the picture can really take a toll on relationships and not just your relationship with your spouse. I’m talking about friendships … you know, the high school friends, your old college roommate, that friend you met at your first post-college job. The ones you have kept in touch with over the years. You’ve seen them through moves to different cities, relationships of their own, perhaps a wedding and maybe even a divorce. Maintaining these friendships in a ‘post-kid world’ can be tricky to navigate, especially when those friends are child-free, either because they do not have kids yet or because they choose to not have kids.
Here’s the thing – it’s tricky for both sides – the parents and the child-free adults. What makes it so tricky, though? Why is it so hard to keep up?
Although child-free adults don’t follow the schedule of a tiny human, their lives are still busy with school, job, hobbies, family. Parents have an altered kind of ‘busy’ and are often times on schedules that they don’t always (read as: rarely ever) have control over (such as when they’re running out the door already late for work and the baby has a dirty diaper so terrible, it warrants a bath for the baby). Sometimes, it’s just hard to get something nailed down on the calendar that works … and other times, plans need to be canceled last minute.
As we all continue living our lives, people move, change jobs or maybe they got a huge promotion that requires more of their attention. Adding a child to the mix is a huge change. You may find yourself searching for things to talk about with friends that you once could spend hours on end hanging out with. Parents may only really have their kids and jobs to talk about because traveling to bustling cities checking out that Moroccan restaurant or favorite band isn’t what they do anymore.
Priorities shift. And that’s ok. Life is organic.
The ‘Flex’ In Flexibility Is Tighter
It’s not always feasible for parents to travel with kids … even if ‘traveling’ means going to a location only 20 minutes away. Why? Hang out with a friend while they’re trying to ‘pack up’ to leave. I am sure they will thank you for asking if you remembered to grab wipes or diapers or the only toy that will keep baby quiet for 5 minutes straight. Oh … and right as you go to leave – that’s right … another diaper explosion.
It is also not cool to always assume that parents can or want to get a babysitter. First, $$$$. Next, my son is in daycare 5 days a week, which means I see him for about 2.5 hours in the evenings. I also make mental notes of the dates of upcoming engagement parties, weddings, and work events for which I will need a babysitter-more time away from my son. Are you catching my drift? This doesn’t mean that parents don’t like to be invited to adult-only things because there will be times when a break is needed. Child-free friends just shouldn’t make assumptions and/or “suggestions” on when parent friends should get a babysitter.
Understandably, on the flip side, child-free adults may also be limited in flexibility. Their job, for example, may require frequent travel.
Maintaining Those Friendships
How can you maintain these friendships? Be empathetic. Try to understand your friend’s position, whether they are the parent or the child-free adult.
It can be frustrating for a parent to get a text about meeting up for dinner with a friend in 45 minutes … while in the middle of feeding a little one dinner. Not frustrating because the friend is texting, but more so that it’s 7:00pm – yes, grabbing dinner with you would be great, but if you recall, I had this baby a couple of months ago that can’t yet take care of him/herself … empathy could go both ways in this situation. The child-free friend might not know what a baby’s routine looks like simply because they are don’t have children. On the other side of that coin, the child-free friend needs to be open to understanding that life for their parent friend is not going to be like it was pre-kid.
Let’s be real – no matter how you slice it, there will be a change to the dynamic of your friendships once a kid has entered the picture. The only thing you can really do is roll with it and put in the effort to make it work. But, the important thing to note is that the effort needs to be two-fold in order for the friendship to be sustainable.