It’s one of the biggest divides we experience with our friends — the people who have kids and the people who don’t. Either you’re at that phase of life where some friends are already procreating and some are just trying to get through grad school, or you’ve been through the late-20s, early-30s thing of much of your social life being dominated by weddings and now, a few years later, there are baby showers galore.
I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum. While I apparently hang with late bloomers because few of my friends married much before 30, my husband and I refer to the summer of 2003 as “the year everyone had a baby except us” because we’d been trying for over a year to have a baby with no success, while friends and family all seemed to get pregnant right out of the gate.
So I understand how parenthood can impact your friendships on both sides. Also, by the time my babies did arrive, the vast majority of my friends were either still childfree or contending with preschool and potty training instead of night feedings and first smiles.
It’s damaged some of my friendships. One friend I roll my eyes at because she’s appointed herself an expert on parenting and enjoys telling all of the parents in our circle of friends what we’re doing wrong. Another friend couldn’t stand the idea that maybe her self-created dramas were not the most compelling thing on my radar anymore, so she ended a friendship that had lasted most of our lives.
But mostly, we’ve been lucky. Our childfree friends are nice to our kids, bear with us when parenting gets in the way of the rest of life, and bring interesting topics to the table so we don’t find ourselves dwelling on our kids. Interestingly, today, I came across two writers’ perspectives on being a friend to parents, especially new parents. One, Megan Gloss, I think was aiming for funny but just came out kind of snarky and rude.
“For those of us childless, maxed out on baby talk (in addition to bloodcurdling baby screams in public) and sans a parental perspective, how much tolerance should we be expected to have? And in turn, when should our friends know to stick a pacifier in it?”
Nice. Because God forbid we have something else to talk about than your favorite topics, Pumpkin — and believe me, no one is more mortified by those baby screams than your friend.
On the other hand, I do kind of get her point. Having been on both sides of the issue, I realize how new parenting, especially, can be so absorbing that you literally can think of nothing else to talk about — and how irritating that can be if you’re not similarly obsessed. But, you know, kids do scream and cry and interrupt conversations and need attention no matter how much you are longing to dish with your friends over ANYTHING but babies — and good friends realize that and are willing to ride it out.
Sara Foss, on the other hand, comes across like a good friend to her parent friends. She talks somewhat wistfully about how babies remind her of the passage of time and how life always changes. While she doesn’t portray her new-parent friends all that flatteringly, she sounds, in short, like the kind of caring friend I’ve been mostly blessed with and treasure like gold — people who care about and take an interest in our kids, and equally as important, give us some perspective on the world outside parenting. She writes:
“That doesn’t mean I want every conversation and activity to revolve around children, but I care about my friends and, by extension, their children — I want to know what they’re all about.”
I’m thinking a friend like that is someone you’d want to keep around, no matter where life takes you both. Things are always changing. Those friends that can roll with the punches and cut you some slack for being a baby-obsessed new parent until that phase passes are the people who prove to be keepers — just be sure to give them the same support and consideration when their lives change.
Photo: flickr.com/ Ed Yourdon