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August 07, 2013


I would add that this works best when both sides can see the appeal of the other. That is, it helps if the kid-free does not hate kids and if the parent does not find time with non-parents as an opportunity to proselytize about how living without kids is to miss the entire point of living! Under these circumstances, the friendship will be strained at best.

As a not-parent in her early 30s who cares about staying close to my parenting or soon-to-be-parenting friends, thank you for writing this! It articulates a lot of things I've vaguely intuited but not put into words (at least not this cogently).

I'll add that it makes for additional ease when you're the sort of person for whom "quiet evening at home over dinner and dessert" is pretty much ALREADY your idea of a great social event :). My wife and I do that with many of our non-parenting friends already, so hopefully the transition when more of them become parents will be that much easier.

For me, at least the "dealbreaker" part of your list of suggestions isn't only ever going to their place. It's not interacting with the kids. It's not even bringing the food. It's "you have to invite yourself over." If my friends aren't willing to remember that I exist and specifically invite me to share in their domestic situation, then eventually we will grow apart.

I will make many many many concessions for friends with kids. I will, however, not carry the entire friendship for anyone ever again. If that means that I will end up without having any friends with kids, well, that's going to be sad for both of us, I suppose, but I don't think it's at all unreasonable.

I love this post -- it's so on the money. My best friend had a kid and I thought all was lost until we fell into a rhythm where I would come around on a Wednesday or Thursday at dinner time, occasionally help the kid with some homework, occasionally bring a pizza or cook something, generally contribute a 6-pack, and hang out. Turned out my friend was dying for an adult to talk to, but was chained to the house. And it also turned out that the kid was happy to be left alone for a while. And I didn't mind, I just wanted to see my friend. Win for everybody.

This post is much appreciated. I do have to agree with "dealbreaker" above that it gets to be hurtful after a while when your friends with kids don't ask you over at all and you have to keep inviting yourself. No one wants to be a friendship moocher if they really don't care. I also had one very old friend who stated flat out that she did not want to be friends with people without kids because it was all about her kids and them having childhood friends now -- meaning adults with kids, too. She was quite explicit and saw nothing wrong with this, meaning friends without kids become a kind of persona non grata to some folks, no matter how much we actually do love their children. (And honestly, this was the hardest part -- losing contact with the children of friends I'd known since their birth.)

Great post. I have kids, but most of my friends do not. I LOVE it when they come over to share a bottle of wine after the kids are in bed. But frankly I have been loathe to ask them to do it frequently. A waste of a weekend night for them, an imposition on a night when the have to go to work tomorrow and we won't even start hanging out until 8:30. So it thrills me when people invite themselves over. It's not, like Anonymous said, that I don't remember they exist. I just can't imagine that they would want to come over and step on legos at my crumby place when they could be out living their glamorous child free lives.

This gives me confidence. Thanks!

Thanks for the great comments, everyone. A few specific thoughts:

@feministlibrarian: I think part of the reason this system works is that sometimes, your friends have a kids at a point in *your* life when a night in is the best thing you can imagine.

@Anonymous and @Hannah: Your friends who are parents of young children may actually have forgotten you exist--or as Kristinlizbaker suggests, they may not know how to invite you into their vortex. I didn't really talk about how though you shouldn't take their behavior personally either way, you may still legitimately resent it sometimes. You are, of course, the best person to know when you need to get over it, or bring up the subject (and ask them for more), or let the friendship go altogether, etc. (@Hannah: It's another matter when a friend says they don't value you anymore. That just sucks flat out.)

@Kristinlizbaker: I hope the invitations go beautifully!

"I just can't imagine that they would want to come over and step on legos at my crumby place when they could be out living their glamorous child free lives."

Kristinlizbaker, speaking as the non-parent with several friends who have kids, I can say: yes, we do. We don't care if the place is a mess, we want to see you and we know that this is how we're going to be doing it, at least while the kids are young. We even like hanging out with your kids--if we can't or have chosen not to have children, this is probably the only opportunity we get to see young people grow up and become who they're going to be.

More generally, I have to admit to being uncomfortable with the inviting myself over part, though I suspect this is cultural--where and when I grew up, One Does Not Do That (tm). It seems to be more acceptable where I live now (the Pacific Northwest) but I'm still not comfortable with it.

Among our friends who chose to have kids we're the last of the bunch, so we've been on the childless side and now are 8 months into the with-child side. I think everything you suggest is great, though I take a little issue with the phrasing of "invite yourself over." You do not invite yourself to my home now anymore than you did before, thank you.

You may certainly, however, suggest spending time together at my home. To me that's a VERY different thing, and would have been perfectly okay before we had a kid. Is this not okay to most people? No, you can't (and couldn't before) suggest dinner at my place where I shoulder all the responsibility. But back in my single days or our pre-kid days if you'd suggested a night in and asked if it was cool to do it here and you'd handle procuring dinner? I'd/we'd have said hells yeah, dinner and less work for us sounds fantastic.

Picking a specific activity and date is just good practice anyway - I learned that back in my single days: say "would you like to do X at Y date and time" rather than "would you like to XYZ sometime?" What's true of trying to get a date is true of scheduling with busy/tired/committed friends - when you suggest a specific date you give them a chance to commit and you let them show if they're really interested by providing them a chance to suggest an alternative date/time/activity. If those parents/non-parents don't reciprocate with a different alternative then you know they're not as committed to maintaining this friendship as you are.

As far as the broken record on a subject thing, it's a shame it has to be said, but thanks for saying it. Being friends with people with/without kids is no different than just generally being a friend who isn't your carbon copy in every way. You have different interests and pursuits and you can share them to the extent that you can make it interesting and understandable to other folks.

I don't expect everyone I know to love live theater the way I do and I'll try not to bore you talking about it. I'll also expect you not to be a complete douche if I talk for a few minutes about something I saw that was OMG amazing. Being a friend, after all, is taking some joy in their glee... even if you don't quite see the appeal. It's also not sharing gross or excessive details about things they don't care about, or talking about a subject such that you exclude some of the other members of the group.

It's not like this is so unique a thing. When my wife invites certain couple friends over and they have a quorum of them who went to the same high school it can get a little too inside baseball. We odd-folks-out let them do their reminiscing for a bit and tell them when to knock it off if they don't do it on their own. I'm not sure why this kind of policing suddenly becomes undoable on either side when kids are involved but I recognize that it happens, like Hanna Aron's story above.

To which I think, screw them. They're crap friends. It's not because they're parents (or not), it's because they suck. They'd suck if it was over their newfound religion/exercise/laundry detergent too.

thank you for writing this. As the single childless one with most of my friends now mothers/fathers I can relate. It's a difficult road, particularly at first. I think it depends on how everyone deals with these issues... I rarely get asked about my life at all (in fact, if in a group of mothers I don't get asked full stop) and so that has stopped me from reaching out as well. It takes a lot of understanding from both sides.

I realize that this approach probably involves changing your expectations so that you do not become resentful. Which is a process. But the approach is not without benefits.

Yeeeaaaahhhhhhh nah no thanks. I've lost many friends to kids, it just becomes impossible to maintain, especially when they move far away (which frequently comes with it.) The most rewarding and fulfilling friendships I have by far are with people who don't have kids. The two don't even compare.

You know, I genuinely do want to have children of my own (and sooner rather than later). But the one thing that scares me more than anything else by far (the immense responsibility, the cost, the impact on career, all the lost sleep etc etc etc), my number one fear by FAR is turning into a 'person with kids'.

I love this post! My situation has multiple angles and my parenting friends fall into several categories. I must say that at time, hanging around my friends with kids and celebrating new births IS emotionally painful since I have not been successful in that department despite years of efforts. But the basic categories for my parenting friends are:

A)PFs who I had no prior child-free relationship with and who quite frankly went strait from teen/school to marriage to family. So, I can't relate my wild and carefree past "life" to much of theirs. I love hanging out at the mall etc. but...

B)PFs who are older than myself and have pretty much reached the "this is all there is stage". Even when I offer to come over, do something with the kids etc. The response is typically, "Well...nah. I think we'll just stay home and hangout as a family etc." So...that sounds like I'm not really invited in?!

C)PFs who are the same age as I am, have a pre-child history with and who complain about motherhood and its inconveniences EVERY chance we talk. How little time they have for themselves, how nobody in the family wants to babysit and give them a night "off", how stressful the kid is, how "fat" pregnancy made them (and trust me NONE of them are more than 140 lbs...pregnant!) etc. etc. etc. being around them makes me want to scream..."SHUT the F up already...you're so damn lucky to be able to have as many as you want and yet NOTHING pelases you!!!) I'm trying to be supportive and empathic but I'd rather watch reruns of Big Bang Theory than hang with them.

Maybe I need new friends LOL But I like my friends. *sigh*

I'm more than happy to accommodate my friends with kids and like to hang out with them at their homes, but this post makes it seem like parents have no control over their kids! I don't mind a little chaos and messy houses and playing kid games, but parents of kids need to also remember that they don't have to let their kids take control of their lives. Yes they can walk further than a block, yes you can teach your kids to behave and nap at someone else's house, yes you can set boundaries and enforce rules! So while we are child free and will adjust our expectations... But don't stop doing stuff you enjoy just because it suddenly got a little more difficult.

This was a great article and very on point. There are so many things that change when your friends have children and you do not, so pointing out that more than 50% of the effort of maintaining that friendship will probably need to come from the non-parent is important because its TRUE. We might not like it, but there it is. Thanks for telling it like it is.....agree completely on the point of needing to adjust your expectations once your friends are parents and you are not.

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