When one of your friends (or two, if we're talking about a couple) has a kid, and you don't have kids, the whole thing can leave you both feeling marginalized in a relationship you used to feel super important in, and confused about how to be involved in a life that feels so dramatically different from yours. When you can't do all the same things you used to do together, and they're talking to you about a bunch of parenting stuff you don't know much about (and maybe don't really care that much about either), and this goes on for months or years, it can be understandably very hard to know how to even be friends with that person anymore. Add to that all the stereotypes and socially-imposed expectations about how a new baby will mess with your friendship—conventionally, aren't you supposed to become bitter and annoyed, and isn't your friend supposed to become boring and judgmental?—and the whole thing can turn into such a shit show that it really does end friendships.
The sad thing about all of that is that it's so often completely senseless. It's completely possible (and even beneficial) for parents and non-parents to be friends; it's possible for a friendship to weather the admittedly inhospitable, unpredictable waters of a social life with a kid in the mix. If friends can just hold onto the fact that they love each other, and remember that having a baby is like any other major life change (hey, you guys stayed friends when you moved to different cities for school, and through relationships, and all kinds of other changes, right?), then there's no real reason to fall apart over the presence of a little meatball. Don't let that meatball rip you apart!
I was the first of my friends to have a kid, so when that...happened, it was incredibly jarring to all of us. Suddenly, I couldn't do any of the things I was used to doing. I was staying home all the time, and my friends didn't really understand whether or not they were allowed to come hang out, or if I needed space to nurture this brand new creature thatnoneof us really knew what to do with, and I didn't have much clearer ideas about the whole thing than they did. But now, several years later, after knowing many more friends who have had babies since me, and talking to them about their experiences, I know a lot more. And what I've learned is that, more or less, all parents wish their friends without kids knew certain things about us, our kids, our lives, and what our friendships will be like now.
So all stereotypes and expectations aside, here it is: This is what we, your friends with kids, want you to know.
We miss you
Seriously, we miss your faces. We want to eat your faces when we see them because we've missed them so goddamn much, it hurts. Despite what you might think based on the fact that we aren't as available as we used to be, it's not like we babied up and suddenly stopped caring about spending time with you. It's just that it takes some time to adjust to having a new little person in your life, and we're...we're working on it. We do want to see you. But asking us to resume our normal pre-baby hangout schedule would be like if we grew a new arm and you immediately expected us to be able to do cartwheels; we're working with a whole new appendage now. It's going to take us a little time to regain our balance and learn how to do our old tricks in a way that looks like they did in the past. And even then, don't expect our cartwheels to look the same.
Our kid isn't the only thing we care about
Try to think of it like we took up any other hobby: It's going to seem like this new thing is the only thing we care about for a while. But that's because it's so new and we're both excited about it and learning how to integrate it in a balanced way into our lives. Just because it seems all-encompassing of our time and attention right now doesn't mean it will always take such disproportionate priority.
We're still us. No, really.
I know it might not seem like it since we've started mentioning foreign things like breast pumps, immunizations, and play dates in our conversations with you, but you can (and should, please, we're begging you) talk to us about your life and the shit you have going on. If we can't seem to stop talking about our kids and our lives, tell us to stop. Consider it a favor. Shake us out of that self-obsessed conversational black hole. Having a kid can feel so all-important to parents sometimes, but that doesn't give us the right to let the issue monopolize every conversation we have with you, our beloved childless friends. If you catch us doing that, call our asses out. We'll likely thank you for it. (And if you find that your parent friend gets offended when you point out that they've slipped into kiddie-obsession, then maybe they're just a self-involved person and you might not want to be friends with them anyway.)
Your stuff still matters to us
Before I had a kid, whenever someone I knew pledged the parenthood, I remember always feeling like suddenly my concerns and issues and general life crap didn't matter anymore; like it was impossibly diminished by the new presence of a baby, which felt so important and life-changing. How could I waste anyone's time caring about the mean girl in my office who's been bumming me out? And I assumed that my newly-babied friends would feel the same way and belittle my life compared to theirs. This, I can now assure you, was a fear I never should've had. Unless your friend with a kid is a completely snobby, self-important monster, they won't think your non-baby stuff is insignificant (or at least would never treat you like it is).
No, we can't just dump them on a babysitter
First, babysitters are expensive, difficult to book when you need them, and most of them are not even good. And the good ones are even more expensive and difficult to book. I guess maybe some of your friends with kids might have a live-in nanny (your friends are rich and I hate them) or magically have found a seemingly flawless, perpetually available, weirdly affordable babysitting unicorn (hate them even more), but that's not how things are for most of us. Most of us are stuck with education majors who we would barely trust to keep a turtle alive. The only thing more annoying than never going out with your friends is going out with people who are checking their phones every 5 seconds to make sure the babysitter hasn't dropped your baby off some scaffolding or whatever. (It could happen, you don't know!!)
We aren't being over-protective—our kids actually need us around
This is especially true when it comes to fresh babies who are very young, or toddlers who are very demanding, or 5-year-olds who are very clingy, or pre-teens who are very prone to convincing babysitters that they're allowed to watch Eyes Wide Shut and order 8 pizzas. Basically, there are certain times in kids' lives when they are especially in need of a lot more of their actual parents' attention, and during those phases, your friends with kids might be less available to go out. It comes in waves. Just ride it out and before you know it, your friends will be in a new phase where the kids are relatively low-maintenance and they'll have more time for themselves/you.
If you miss us, be willing to hang out in our world
It's not like your friends with kids will never be able to go out and be the whole, fun, social human beings they were before they had kids. That is definitely possible. It will happen. I promise. As kids get older, it gets easier for parents to do go out and do things. But that first year or two will feel so upsettingly long—it's the time when your friends will be least able to run away for nights out, and will the first time you're all adjusting to this new reality. So it's a harsh contrast to the way things used to be. But, as endless as those first months and even years can seem, they do end, and faster than you think, and suddenly going out won't be as hard. But, in the meantime, if you're really serious about staying in someone's life after they drop a shorty, you should be willing to trade some nights out for a night in at their place, eating takeout (delicious, so stop complaining) and tripping over toys and binge watching TV.
Stop acting like you hate staying in
It's very different having a night in with food and TV and shit-talking with your friendsbeforethey have kids, and having the exact same kind of nightafter they have kids. The different is the impression of choice: Choosing to stay in and be lazy is fun. Feeling like that's your only choice is...stifling and boring. Your friends with kids get that. It's like being a teenager and deciding you're going to go HAM on cleaning your room—until your mom tells you to do it. Then suddenly something you were totally excited to do becomes something you under no circumstances want to do because now you're beingforced to do it. That said, just...come on. Get past it. Yeah, we're staying in and hanging out because I have a little lumpy ball of neediness sleeping in the next room, BUT let's stop pretending like we aren't doing theexact same shit we loved doing before I had a kid.
We think our kids are gross too
Lucky for our soiled progeny, we're biologically programmed to be less affected by their disgustingness than other people. I mean, we're kinda obligated to not let them die, so we're pretty much stuck dealing with the ick. But yeah, we get it. They smell weird, shit their own pants, and are often covered in mysterious goo. That's not a party for us either. Just don't complain about it in front of them or else they'll get a complex and end up insecureandgross. Nobody needs to deal with all that.
We're not as miserable as we seem
Those stress-induced, frantic, "what have I done with my life/freedom/body?" text messages and phone calls you get from us at 4AM during a particularly sleepless night, or when a work deadline was missed because ol' Junior Pants was home sick from school—those feelings are real, but please don't think they're indicative of our overall feeling about parenthood. They're not. Those are the bleak, dark little moments that balance all the overwhelming awesomeness of being a mom or dad. The fact that we tend to reach out to our childless friends when parenthood is wearing us down comes both from a knowledge that you're someone who gets us and loves us and will thus care about our struggle,and this feeling like you're so bored of the happy, dreamy, gushy moments in parenting life that we almost relish a chance to bitch about the hard parts. Just so you don't think we've entirely forgotten how great it was to be free and childless. We do remember, and sometimes that remembering turns into mourning and longing, and that turns into crying and lamenting—especially on tough days. When we share those feelings with you, don't let it make you thing we've miserable in a big picture kind of way.
We're also not as happy as we seem
Sure, raising a tiny human life is overwhelmingly nice, and humbling, and full of moments of unbridled joy, and impossibly educational in more ways than I have space to account for here. But it's alsohard as shit, you guys.It is so hard sometimes. Making the decision to be a parent will cost you as much money, sleep, tears, and flexibility as you would imagine. When we're bubbling over with happiness at some little thing our kid said or did, just remember that kinda the whole reason why we seem so disturbingly ecstatic about that thing is because of its relativity to the hard parts of being a parent. It's all a lot of extremes, and they balance each other out, but when we share either the good or bad things with you, don't let it give you a false impression that our experiences as parents are exclusively either of those things.
We aren't judging you for not having kids
You always hear about these awful-sounding people who, upon popping out a baby, suddenly become heinous bastions of condescending, "your childless life is now meaningless" bullshit. I mean, I guess these people exist, but I've never met one in the wild, mostly because my friends are rad as hell, and are endlessly respectful of the validity of all kinds of life choices. If you know someone who has a kid and suddenly forgets that a completely fulfilling life is possible sans-procreation, then they are very unlikely to be someone with whom you'll have a healthy relationship. Sucks for them.
We also aren't dying to jealousy over your kid-free life
On the other side of that, don't think that your friends with kids are secretly harboring soul-eating jealousy over you and all your abundant freedom. Any person who possess an ounce of creativity and proactivity finds a way to carve out space for the things they need and want in their life, whether or not they have kids. Assuming your friends are the kind of people who make the best of any situation and don't hesitate to stay in the driver's seat of their own life, they're going to—when the new baby dust settles and the transition into parenthood is complete—figure out a way to have happy, well-rounded lives. That's not something the exclusively belongs to childless people. Plus, we kinda love our little kid-nuggets. Beingactually jealous (as opposed to occasionally, situationally envious, which totally will happen) of your kid-free life is dangerously close to wishing we didn't have our little buddies, which is not something we would ever wish.
We talk about our kids all the time because that's what's going on with us
Parents face an overpowering amount of criticism for ever talking about our kids with our friends who don't have them. It's like the stereotype that you can "only talk about your kids" once you have them is so repulsive to us, and we're so intent on proving that we aren't that person, that we over-correct andnever mention our babes, which is annoying and unfair. Look, this is what's going on with us. If you got a new job, we would expect that you would go on and on about that for a while when it was new, and still talk about it a good bit even as things settled down and the job became less new. And it's a huge, positive, challenging, fundamental part of your life—why shouldn't we expect you to talk about it? Here's the deal: We'll try very hard not to totally compromise every conversation with kid-talk, but you can expect us to un-self-consciously talk about it. Being a parent is part of who we are now, and our kids are kind of a major presence in our lives. You can handle that. Let go of the knee-jerk jump to label us as a kid-obsessed stereotype unless weactually become that.
But we'll try to keep to have good kid chatter boundaries
If, by some miracle, we do get a babysitter, and we're sitting at a bar with you, getting rowdy like we're 22 while joking about how world-ending our hangover is going to be because we're actually basically elderly now, we solemnly swear not to spend the evening discussing our toddler's eczema. If we slip up, the next round is on us.
We'll come back to you. No, really, we will.
If anyone understands how challenging it can be to make the change from a pre-baby life to one post-baby, it's us. We're living every single day, chest-deep in what it means for this change to be happening. Figuring out how to make space for all the things we love—you, our kids, our jobs, our significant others, traveling, whatever—is an ongoing project that, frankly, we'll probably never get feel finished with. But having a life that is so full of amazing things that we literally can't figure out how to generate enough energy for all of it? That's a pretty great problem to have.
We are still your person, underneath all the sleeplessness and stress and obsessing about first steps and preschool applications. We're here. And honestly, you are such an integral part of what keeps us in touch with who we truly are outside of being parents. And it's so important to keep a hold on those things. Having a kid is like getting buried in the cutest avalanche ever: We'll dig our way back up to the surface eventually, and we would very much appreciate if you would keep helping us dig, and maybe don't be too hard on us if all we can talk about is snow for a while.
Images: Jessica Blankenship; Giphy(6)