At three-thirty in the morning some months ago, a friend turned to me and said, “I’m going to be so tired tomorrow. And here I was hoping to get up in the morning and do some work. What will you be up to?”
I did not smirk, grimace, or roll my eyes while reminding her that my little guy would be awake in about three hours, in need of breakfast and ready to play, and that my wife would be heading off to her job, leaving me on daddy duty. Instead, I was pleased. I had passed! At some point in the course of the night, which began with a reading and turned into an impromptu adventure to a speak-easy bookstore on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, my companion forgot I was a dad.
I’ve written before about the importance of having dad friends, but I find it rejuvenating as well to have friends who are not parents. But seeing how much The Huffington Post piece “The 5 Things Parents Need to Stop Saying to Non-Parents” was passed around, I wonder if I’m in the minority here. I don’t think I’ve ever said anything on that list, most of which strikes me as either rude (“You think you’re tired? Try doing this with kids!”) or downright idiotic (“My life didn’t have meaning before I had kids.” (Really? If that’s the case, then I feel bad for you.)
No, I’ve made an effort to maintain relationships with my friends who are not parents, and in the past four years have made new friends who are not parents. And why wouldn’t that be the case? I’m more than just a parent, aren’t I?
Of course it takes a little more work on my part to keep these relationships going than it would have pre-parenthood, and a bit of understanding on the part of my friends that my schedule can be tight, or I might not be able to take them up on every invitation (as much as I’d like to). It also takes help from my partner. My wife usually escorts Felix out on Saturday mornings for some outing, a special mommy-son time that, after a busy week at work, both of them look forward to. I appreciate it as well. Most weekends, I work while they’re gone. But about one weekend out of the month I use the time to sleep in, so I can stay out late on Friday and live-it-up old school!
Is it worth the extra time and energy to have friends who aren’t parents? I think so. Click on to find out why!
Sometimes I need a little help from my non-parenting friends… 1 of 6
Click through to find out why!
Non-parent friends connect you to the world-at-large. 2 of 6
Would you like to talk about pre-school options, sleep problems, and cute things your kid says, or discuss Girls, The Great Gatsby, Kanye West, and J.K. Rowling? For me, it's a no brainer. I like to watch TV and movies, read books, keep up on the news, cook great meals, and go out on the town just as much as I did before Felix was born. I just don't get to do all of those things quite as much as I used to. Connecting with friends about culture and the world outside of my family life stokes those fires, and also inspires me to stay on top of things so I have something to talk about when I do go out. Just like a change of scenery can do you good, so too can talking about non-parenting subjects.
Non-parent friends keep you feeling young and fun. 3 of 6
Last weekend my friend proposed an awesome evening of events. A group of us would meet at her place for cocktails and appetizers before moving on to a restaurant, and then a movie or a bar, and finally we'd go out dancing till the early morning. Can you imagine a parent planning something like that? Of course, with the rain and crushing humidity, the party never ended up moving out of the apartment, but that's cool. We still danced, ate good, and even conducted a somewhat drunken sÃ©ance. I'm pretty sure the topic of children never once came up.
Non-parent friends help you blow off steam. 4 of 6
The last thing I want to do at the end of a long day at home with Felix is talk about Felix. Sometimes, talking about my frustrations only makes them fester — like picking at a scab can reopen the wound. Instead, I want to take my mind off of things, maybe play a game, or just shoot the breeze about this and that. I also like having professional colleagues, people who engage me on other topics I'm excited and passionate about, besides being a dad. Then, when I return home, I feel cleansed and recharged, ready to re-enter my life as a parent with a clean slate and a positive attitude.
Non-parent friends put things into perspective. 5 of 6
All the worries of being a parent can seem really big, but you know what? They often aren't such a big deal. Ok, so it's frustrating that your child can't sleep through the night, or that he's still having tantrums, or is resisting potty-training. But there are other problems in the world, both big and political, and small and personal. Talking with a friend about his job problems, or relationship worries, or family drama can be helpful for both him and me. It reminds me that my problems aren't the only problems people have — everyone has problems, even non-parents! — and that lessens their enormity.
Non-parent friends may even help you see yourself in ways that parents can’t. 6 of 6
Life does change when you become a parent. Non-parents don't often recognize the amount of patience, focus, and emotional energy children require. I've also found that people assume that because you have a family, you've reached a point of stability in your life, even though it might not always feel that way to you. So I've often been flattered to have people ask me for advice about big life decisions, as if I have some wisdom to share, or express admiration of how I remain a curious, active person outside of the family and also a committed, engaged dad. It feels good to see yourself through other people's eyes and to think, "Hey, I'm still figuring things out for myself, but so far, I'm doing alright." That's a pretty cool thing about having friends who are of different ages, and backgrounds, and in situations that don't exactly match mine. It helps me get outside of head and see myself in new ways.