Photo by Lisa Jay

I’ve been thinking lately about the impact kids can have on our friendships.  Recently, a friend told me this story.  She met up with a girlfriend for lunch at a café and the first thing her friend said was: “Oh… I didn’t realize you were bringing the baby!”  (Her response was, “What, you thought I’d lock her in the car while we sipped lattes?”)  Naturally, my friend was a little offended on behalf of her child.  Nobody wants to feel that their kid isn’t welcome.

However, those of us who are parents should take a moment to dig back into the deep recesses of our sleep-deprived brains and remember how we felt before we had a baby.  I remember asking one of my friends, “Are you bringing all the kids?” and I also remember her terse reply, “Yes, I am bring all the kids.”  The thing is, I didn’t ask her that because I don’t like her kids, but because I knew that if she was bringing all the kids, I wouldn’t get one single minute of uninterrupted conversation with her.

So when our friends ask us, “Are you bringing the kids?” it’s not because they detest our snotty nosed, grubby, noisy, messy children.  (OK, well it could be that.)  But more likely it’s because they miss us.  They miss having just an hour or two of our undivided attention.  They miss being able to talk in great detail about the latest boyfriend or promotion or overseas trip.  I remember how that feels.  Many years ago, I went to spend the weekend with a friend who had two kids under two.  About halfway through the second day my friend turned to me to ask, “Anyway, Katrina, how are you?”  I thought, “Hallelujah!  Finally, she’s noticed I’m here!”  I opened my mouth to say how I really was and got about four words out before she started bellowing at her two year old, who was about to hit his brother over the head.  That was as close as we got to a conversation the entire weekend.

Of course these days the shoe is on the other foot.  A few weeks ago I met a friend (who doesn’t have kids) at the beach with Birdy in tow.  I thought it would be a good outing for all of us because both 3 year olds and 30 year olds can enjoy fish and chips on the beach.  Of course my normally angelic child, was whingey, demanding, unhappy, refused to play, complained about everything and completely spoiled the afternoon.  Between us we hardly got out four words of uninterrupted conversation.  I’ve been meaning to make up for it ever since.

It’s only natural that those of us with children tend to gravitate towards other families with kids the same age.  But if we want to stay friends with our old friends who don’t have kids, we probably need to put a bit more effort into those relationships.  Every now and then, we could leave the baby at home with Dad and catch up for a child-free uninterrupted coffee (without a babycino on the side).  At least then our friends without kids will know that we still care about them, even if we can’t always show it as much as we’d like to.

Have your friendships changed since having children?  Have you oriented towards other families with kids the same age, or do you still spend time with your old friends who don’t have kids?  Have your single friends been supportive of your decision to have a baby, or do you sometimes feel that they don’t understand your life as parent?  If you don’t have children, do you miss quality time with your friends that do?

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