You don’t have to be a “kid person” to remain our friends after we have kids, just a “friend person.”
Most of my childless friends have adapted amazingly well to the changes that my being a parent has brought to our relationship. I imagine that it must be hard to watch a friend get swallowed whole by a completely foreign set of experiences. Since I’m the one getting swallowed, I can’t know what that’s like—but I can offer a few (entirely unsolicited) dos and don’ts to those who have not, as yet, procreated.
DO volunteer to help out with the kids. Maybe you don’t consider yourself to be “a kid person,” and that’s okay. I don’t consider myself to be “a furniture person,” but I still wouldn’t stand there and watch you move a couch all alone. Kids come with an absurdly long list of both gear and needs that we have to juggle. Learning how to put in and take out a car seat, or getting little Timmy a refill on his milk, might be things well outside your comfort zone, but they can be an enormous relief to a busy parent. Besides, that’s what friends do.
DON’T buy into to the myth that the lives of people with kids are awash with indescribable depth and meaning. Yes, we’re having an amazing and unique set of experiences, some of which are genuinely profound. Most of those experiences, however, are mundane and some are downright tedious. If you live your life right, while we’re busy at home changing diapers, doing homework and folding laundry, you can be having your own set of unique and amazing experiences. Your experiences will be different, but don’t let us try to convince you that ours are better by virtue of including offspring.
DO decline invitations to kids’ parties and do invite us to do great grown-up things that aren’t child-friendly. We ask you to soirées at Chuck E. Cheese not because we think you’ve been dying to try the new pizza buffet, but because not inviting you might communicate that we don’t want you around. Most parents have the good sense to not be offended if you pass on the opportunity to come to GymMania for cake and a trampoline. On the flip side, please invite me to that wine tasting/concert/beer and bowling tournament on Friday at midnight. No, I probably won’t go and, yes, I’ll blame it on the kids. But I need my childless friends to anchor me to the pre-procreation version of myself that understood that there’s more to life than sippy cups and soccer games.
DON’T describe yourself as exhausted/insanely busy/stressed. Of course you’re each and every one of those things, we all are. And that’s the point. Parenting has all the same demands, stresses and deadlines that you do plus we get to add perpetual responsibility for a small, needy, inquisitive, “me” machine to the ‘to do’ list. Have a bad enough week and you can crawl into bed Friday at 6 p.m. with a box of Chardonnay, some Hot Pockets and the remote control and not get up for three days. Your worst-case scenario is probably a nasty personal hygiene problem. If a couple of parents do the same thing, there’s a good chance that someone will die.
DO travel for fun, go to movies, be spontaneous, use profanity when none is called for, spend money thoughtlessly, have sex on the kitchen floor, leave sharp objects and dangerous medications all over the house, watch the unrated directors cut of “Showgirls” on the flat-screen in the living room, listen to whatever you like in the car, have coffee and read the paper in silence, go out for drinks with people from work without checking in with anyone, sleep on a plane, own modern furniture with lots of glass and sharp edges, have a long, uninterrupted phone conversation and sleep late. Seriously, you have no idea how awesome all these things are until you can’t do them anymore.
DON’T be annoyed by all the pictures of our kids we put on Facebook. Yes, it’s overkill and no—you’re right—they’re not nearly as cute as we think they are. But remember the time you posted a picture of that amazing meal you had at Patina? Okay, imagine that plate of pumpkin risotto followed you home and now you spend 24/7 with it. Imagine that, one day, it started talking or riding a scooter or danced out into the living room wearing a pair of Uggs and a fedora that you didn’t even realize you owned. You’d want the world to see that, right? Imagine that most everything you do revolves around the care and well-being of that delicious entrée and you’ll get an idea why you see so much of our children. I “like” your check-in at spin-class not because I even remotely care that you went to spin class but because I like you and I enjoy knowing what you’re up to. Cute kids are what we’re up to.
This was previously published on The Huffington Post.
Image credit: edenpictures/Flickr