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Babies & Toddlers: Social circle killers - also uber manipulative
May 21, 2014 7:59 AM   Subscribe

Why your friends with children no longer socialise and other horrifying new parent facts Christine Skoutelas explains the myriad reasons why parents with young children don't seem to want to socialise (TLDR: They are permanently exhausted).

Cracked.com also gives you '5 Terrifying things that nobody tells you about Newborns' - mostly physical. TLDR: Be prepared to become intimate with the little persons bodily secretions.

Cracked.com also nicely sums up '6 shockingly evil things Babies are capable of' TLDR: Babies, yes Babies, not toddlers are naturally capable of sophisticated emotional manipulation.

Finally BBC.com gives 30 Practical Tips for New parents

I have included the TLDR not because I want to encourage people not to RTA, but because if you are new parents you probably won't have the time nor energy.

Apologies for linking to Cracked I am not responsible if you find time mysteriously swallowed by a cracked.com article spiral.
posted by Faintdreams (124 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
Skoutelas describes my experience pretty perfectly.
Although my memories are unreliable, being fogged by persistent sleep deprivation.
posted by doctornemo at 8:14 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


We have an eight-week-old right now and, if anything, we're socializing more than we were during the last month or two of my wife's pregnancy, if only as an excuse to get the hell out of the house or to see people who are unlikely to headbutt me and shit on my shirt.

I have no doubt that this will change as she gains agency and will no longer put up with quietly hanging out at the bar on a Saturday afternoon, but I'm enjoying it while I can.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:14 AM on May 21 [6 favorites]


kinda nice to be reassured by others that yes, my AWOL friend isn't mad at me and hasn't really disappeared off the face of the planet. she just had twins six months ago and that maybe i'll see her again... someday :(
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 8:17 AM on May 21


From the BBC article: This is not a competition. I had friends who were constantly boasting of their children's achievements and I would worry if my daughter wasn't doing the same. This reminds me of the Sunday my husband came home and said, little Matthew* at church knows 80 words! Spoken and in sign language! I said, O RLY? Did he personally tell you that, providing a list, maybe, or was it his parents? I'm sure you can guess.

*Name changed to protect the innocent.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:19 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


My partner and I are at the age where many of our friends are reproducing, or have reproduced. Both of us adamantly do not want children, and these articles only reinforce that decision. But we both are really excited to be part of the lives of our friends' children - and to be there for our friends as they undertake the huge, scary, exhausting, decades-long project of raising a child. Thus far, none of our new-parent friends have dropped off the face of the earth. Fingers crossed that this pattern holds.
posted by erlking at 8:20 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


My kids are older (tweens) and I can socialize no problem. What's funny to me is single, childless friends who are just "so busy" as if they have any idea what that means. Look, if you hate me, just tell me to my face, but don't say you're "busy". Fuck that.
posted by fungible at 8:20 AM on May 21 [4 favorites]


It is possible to be extremely busy without having children.
posted by erlking at 8:22 AM on May 21 [124 favorites]


Speaking as someone who never had kids, it seems like if people gave serious thought to what it means to have kids and raise them to adulthood, the population rate would plummet. I'm amazed and frequently shocked by the cynical-to-hateful things people say about their harried/frustrated/asexual lives as parents and their ungrateful/poorly-behaved/lazy/etc. kids while chatting around the water cooler/coffeepot. (Similar to the shocking things married people will blurt out to co-workers they barely know about their spouses.)

I mean, there is a fraction (1/3 maybe) of people who seem to have honest affection for their children, but so many people speak with bitterness and resentment that it sometimes honestly saddens me.
posted by aught at 8:22 AM on May 21 [11 favorites]


My experience of early parenthood was not like this. Little babies are so content to sit and sleep or look at stuff -- it's hard to go out at night, but coffee or lunch dates were easy for us.

Now though with bigger kids it's really hard to hang out with friends who don't have children unless we've hired a babysitter. Because maybe our friends would like to talk about something OTHER than Star Wars for, like, the entire duration of dinner.
posted by gerstle at 8:23 AM on May 21 [8 favorites]


I've found that I can pretty much maintain friendships with new parents if they're close friends and if I'm willing to go over to their houses on their schedules, help out, and entertain myself when they need to do kid things.
What's funny to me is single, childless friends who are just "so busy" as if they have any idea what that means.
I don't think that your single, childless friends are the people with the issue.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:23 AM on May 21 [34 favorites]


Having kids is awesome and a total blast. A++ would reproduce again.

It's when they get to be teenagers that you understand why some species eat their young.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:23 AM on May 21 [13 favorites]


I would never presume to tell a parent that I'm "busy." Part of the reason I didn't have kids is because I'm lazy as shit and hate having demands on my time.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:24 AM on May 21 [27 favorites]



Speaking as someone who never had kids, it seems like if people gave serious thought to what it means to have kids and raise them to adulthood, the population rate would plummet. I'm amazed and frequently shocked by the cynical-to-hateful things people say about their harried/frustrated/asexual lives as parents and their ungrateful/poorly-behaved/lazy/etc. kids while chatting around the water cooler/coffeepot. (Similar to the shocking things married people will blurt out to co-workers they barely know about their spouses.)

I mean, there is a fraction (1/3 maybe) of people who seem to have honest affection for their children, but so many people speak with bitterness and resentment that it sometimes honestly saddens me.


I used to work with someone who told me casually, in passing, that she really regretted having had kids and did not enjoy her life as a parent. She struck me as a good and responsible person, so I am pretty sure that she was doing right by her children, but it still gave me the cold chills.

I am amazed by how people manage having children. Last night I biked home, cooked a big pot of Nutritious Vegan Food Thing and did a whole bunch of dishes for the house and I was done. Tonight I'm going to try to do some weeding, since I have the big pot of food to eat for dinner. But I am floored by the people who can work a full day, pick up their kids, cook a multi-dish meal, do the dishes, do chores and do the bedtime ritual every single day without going completely insane or dropping dead of fatigue.
posted by Frowner at 8:27 AM on May 21 [26 favorites]


That Skouletas article seems to assume that people without children are entirely unfamiliar with children and don't understand concepts like naps or schedules or not being able to go away for the weekend. Get better friends, maybe? I'll gladly join you on a walk you were already going to take or child-friendly thing you wanted to do (maybe with an extra pair of hands to make it easier).

But I'm perfectly capable of being busy myself, thanks so much. I've got the same 24 hours a day that you do and I can no more be in two places at one time than you can. You presumably chose to be a parent, don't sneer at me about it.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:30 AM on May 21 [33 favorites]


Ha, gerstle, I was just thinking the same thing. We have a 4.5 month old (our only kid) and so far it's been incredibly easy to just tote him along everywhere--helped in no small part by the fact that he's a pretty laid-back baby who sleeps well (so we're not exhausted in general) and also by the fact that breweries and restaurants are very baby-friendly in our neck of the woods. Our social life isn't very different from before we had kids, although we weren't really the drinking-all-night types before anyway. We were just at a barbecue with friends last night passing around baby iminurmefi and enjoying brats and beer.

I've observed that socializing seems to get markedly more difficult once your kids start walking and you have to start chasing them around. I've spent some time around two-year-olds recently and I will admit I'm a bit terrified of the toddler phase. Although hopefully it's a bit different (more bearable?) once it's your own.
posted by iminurmefi at 8:30 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


It is possible to be extremely busy without having children.

Indeed. I don't have kids and never expect to, but my work schedule means I get up early and go to bed early. Sometimes I have work to do on the weekend as well. This means any socializing requires fairly careful planning, and it's rare that I see friends more than a couple of times a month. Why would I expect people with a completely dependent child to be freer than that? Sure, when friends have kids our relationship "downshifts" into "friendly acquaintance." It's not like someone's at fault -- I mean, do you want to be buds with someone who is neglecting their children?
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:33 AM on May 21


I was complaining once to my sister about the excruciating grind that taking care of children sometimes is. She gave me the "No shit" look and let me in on the big secret: "When you have kids, everyday is Tuesday."
posted by From Bklyn at 8:33 AM on May 21 [10 favorites]


This article made me incredibly happy about the fact that kids are basically never going to happen for me.
posted by egypturnash at 8:36 AM on May 21 [5 favorites]


I KNEW IT I knew babies were racists I knew it omg
posted by elizardbits at 8:36 AM on May 21 [11 favorites]


dumb jerk racist babies
posted by elizardbits at 8:36 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


The big difference is, the kind of busy you are as a parent can be life or death--or at the very least, can have a huge positive or negative impact on a new life that hasn't yet really taken its own roots. It's really high stakes--not because what you're doing is important to you, but because it's important to someone else, a human being in the making. If you take the responsibility at all seriously (which isn't to say you can't still try to have fun doing it) that's bound to leave you stressed and feeling harried sometimes.

People who feel stressed and harried about parenting just might be that way because they actually care about doing it right and about their kids. Don't assume that their grousing and kvetching means they're deeply resentful. Often it's just stress relief. Parenting stress is natural stress that results from giving a shit, not a symptom of a problem.

Big undertakings usually aren't much fun if you just focus on the inconveniences and the nuisances along the way. Parenting's no exception. It's the big picture satisfaction (if you can find it for yourself) that makes it worthwhile occasionally to those of us who do take some pleasure in it (though I'll admit, the day-to-day of it can be tedious, exhausting and frustrating--just like fishing, camping, hiking, computer programming, or any number of satisfying activities people choose to do and find personally enriching that typically have much lower stakes. It's the high stakes that makes parenting a naturally stressful activity, I think.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:37 AM on May 21 [15 favorites]


I've observed that socializing seems to get markedly more difficult once your kids start walking and you have to start chasing them around

Our baby is the youngest in our group (who we're likely to see on any regular basis, anyway), and the oldest is just now starting to walk. A friend's parents have a Kentucky Derby party every year, which just passed. Next year is going to be really interesting. The upshot is that maybe they can be the horses in the driveway race (this is much less abusive than it sounds, I promise).
posted by uncleozzy at 8:42 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


I love a thread where you can replace "babies" and "not babies" with "OSX" and "not OSX" and basically have the same stupid, tired thread where we all get to justify the choices we've made.

I have friends, a social life, a very fulfilling life, sex, a steady diet of popular TV shows, great meals often, weekends away, vacations, hobbies, and a fucking kid that I (mostly) enjoy being around.

Still though, y'all can continue pretending that's not possible based on what you heard a parent saying around the water cooler one Monday morning.
posted by bondcliff at 8:44 AM on May 21 [33 favorites]


Yes, I'm sure you're very proud of your Linux baby.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:44 AM on May 21 [75 favorites]


...already "fake crying" and "pretend laughing" to get attention. Babies are so good at that lie they will even pause briefly and listen to see if someone is responding to their crocodile tears before starting up again.

I now understand why so many parents seem to independently resort to the old standard "I'll give you something to cry about."

It's about calling the bluff.
posted by General Tonic at 8:45 AM on May 21


I'm secretly convinced that my kids are the only reason my friends hang out with me any more. So thanks kids for being likable enough to get me a social life.
posted by Gygesringtone at 8:45 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


Man, I lost so many friends over the years to lifestyle changes on my part or theirs BEFORE any of us had kids...change in job, health problems, moving to an inconvenient part of town, finding religion, losing religion, new significant other, loss of significant other, political awakening, sudden embrace of a subculture...

What I'm saying is, I can't believe that people get to the point where their friends have kids and don't realize that it doesn't even have to be that major of a life change for people to grow apart. Some friendships can weather a shift, some can't, or have to adjust. It has nothing to do with the actual children most of the time.
posted by padraigin at 8:45 AM on May 21 [6 favorites]


no actual children were harmed in the making of this thread.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 8:47 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


I'm a year and a half in to parenthood now, and noticed a distinct lack of "can't get a sitter" on this list which is easily the number one reason for us. Often it just means one of us goes out and the other stays home with the toddler.
posted by Hoopo at 8:48 AM on May 21 [3 favorites]


There's also the Babysitter, a thing both enables parents to go out without a child in tow, but adds a large amount of expense and stress to the endeavor. The Babysitter means that whatever is being planned now costs the parents and extra 60-90 bucks, plus the ticking stress of a counting down clock. Babysitters have to be arranged in advance, so "Do you want to go to a movie tomorrow?" is always a pretty solid no - we have to 1) locate one of our sitters 2) hope they are available 3) check to make sure we've budgeted enough money to pay said sitter 4) realize that if we're paying a sitter so we can go see friends, we don't want to spend that time sitting quietly in a dark room, so why are we going through the effort/expense?

But the seed of seeing friends has now been planted so we might offer to catch up with folks over dinner before the movie, which is ideal as it means we all have a hard stop when we all need to be somewhere else (home or theater) and we don't need to stress out that so-and-so is lingering over dessert.

This is why whenever grandparents visit, we practically hurl the kid at them while we run out the door. "You're not here to see us anywaaaayyyyyy..." we call out the window as our tires screech.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:48 AM on May 21 [30 favorites]


if you would just crate train your babies you could go to the movies whenever you wanted
posted by elizardbits at 8:49 AM on May 21 [32 favorites]


Also, on a meta-level, it's been interesting to me how different my experience with young-babyhood has really diverged from the representation(s) I've seen online of parenting babies. I know that we are lucky to have a non-colicky baby, but I've spent a fair amount of time over the past few months in new-moms groups and breastfeeding clubs in my community, and talking to other women with slightly older babies it seems like my experience isn't super far outside the norm. Maybe half of the women I've met have had a reasonably manageable--even easy--time of it, and the other half have had challenging babies that leave them perpetually exhausted for one reason or another (fussiness, frequent night-waking, whatever).

However, going just on responses to AskMefi questions and articles like the ones in this FPP, you'd think that having a baby was a guaranteed endless grind of pain and sleeplessness, so that the only people who reproduce are masochists. Not that everything is sunshine and roses every day, but on balance it's been a pretty enjoyable past few months. The particular representations of parenthood that I'm seeing online are starting to strike me as an outgrowth of that not-super-healthy part of American culture that rewards people who work the most punishing hours and have the most unbalanced lives. Or like the college kids who try to top each other with stories about HOW MUCH WORK they have and how they had to pull an all-nighter for the fourth time this week.

Parenting seems like such a diverse experience for different people (and even for different babies within one family) that it's just kind of fascinating to me that the sorts of experiences that get written about are such a narrow slice.
posted by iminurmefi at 8:50 AM on May 21 [17 favorites]


the crate is called "play pen"
posted by Hoopo at 8:50 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


a fucking kid that I (mostly) enjoy being around.

he doesn't like the goonies though so really how fulfilling can life be at this point
posted by elizardbits at 8:51 AM on May 21 [4 favorites]


if you would just crate train your babies you could go to the movies whenever you wanted

You just need one of these.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:51 AM on May 21


the crate is called "play pen"

Until they get to be three or so, when the crate is called "iPad" (or "smartphone" if you're out shopping).
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:52 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


@iminurmefi First, congrats on the baby! My experience is so different than yours. As a single mom of a 5.5 month old, I'm terribly envious! My baby is super fussy & it's not at all easy to just tote her along. She need to be home for Naps at X, Y, & Z time or major meltdowns WILL happen. She goes to sleep for the night at 6:30PM so dinner at a restaurant or hanging out with friends after work is all but out. I am so exhausted as a single momma, I head to bed within minutes of her. Basically my adult social life consists of those who are willing to come hang out at my house.

...and for those who say "get a baby sitter" -- The norm here in the SF Bay Area is $15/Hour at the low end so it can get quite pricey for a simple dinner out.
posted by crayon at 8:54 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


he doesn't like the goonies though so really how fulfilling can life be at this point

Those kids are going to love Sophie's Choice. It will be the most enriching sleepover ever!
posted by bondcliff at 8:54 AM on May 21


Yeah, Cartoons on the iPhone are always on the menu at the restaurant.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:55 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


However, going just on responses to AskMefi questions and articles like the ones in this FPP, you'd think that having a baby was a guaranteed endless grind of pain and sleeplessness, so that the only people who reproduce are masochists.

I think that two things are going on: First, parents are starting to feel more free to actually talk about the stress and difficulties of parenting in a way that was probably more bottled up/glossed over by having one parent stay-at-home in the past.

Second, nobody wants to read an article about how you've had a kid and your life is pretty OK. Best case scenario, this comes off as boring. Worst case scenario, you become the braggart whose child sleeps through the night and knows 120 words in two languages.

So, lots of articles and internet comments about how babies are t3h wurst (and I don't mean sausage), not so many about how billions of parents have had babies and even survived through their adulthood.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:56 AM on May 21 [6 favorites]


Our nonsociability is definitely due to needing a sitter (which is $15/hour minimum in Boston). We usually save it for grandparent weekend so we can spend that $90+ on booze. I mean, we then pass out at 8pm, but the idea is nice.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:56 AM on May 21


It is possible to be extremely busy without having children.

Absolutely. We were crazy busy as a childless couple, and now are differently crazy busy as parents of two boys. To me, the biggest (and still often frustrating) difference is that I feel I had more control over the timing and scope of the busy-ness before kids. Kids have certain needs and schedules that are not that flexible, so to a certain extent they are the new "bosses" in town. The new busy feels more imposed, rather than chosen (even though of course we chose to have kids!).

But basically, if life is busy, schedule and plan stuff, and then life is full and wonderful, with or without children. Also drink lots of wine.
posted by Kabanos at 8:56 AM on May 21 [5 favorites]


As I have said before, I'm so glad I had children before the internet could tell me I was doing it wrong.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:56 AM on May 21 [11 favorites]


I'm a total outsider to this, iminurmefi, but my sense is that it has to do not just with the particular kid, but also with bigger things about people's situations. For instance, friends who have family living in the same area have a much easier time of it than friends who don't have local family. It's way easier to ask your parents to take your toddler for the night than to line up a sitter. I have a friend whose husband travels a lot for work, and that's made things infinitely harder for both of them. Friends who have found supportive communities of other new parents have had an easier time than friends who haven't. (And finding supportive communities seems to be easier in some places than others. My friend who lives in upscale Brooklyn seems to have built a parent community just by going to the local park every day and meeting the other parents there, which hasn't happened to my friends who live in my current college town.) There just seem to be a lot of variables that determine how easy or tough new parenthood is for people.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:59 AM on May 21 [8 favorites]


Oh and from that second link about newborns… "Boys Have Swollen Scrotum". Though we didn't want to know, it was strongly suggested to us by various medical staff that our first child was going to be a girl. When the baby was delivered it was immediately VERY OBVIOUS it was a boy. Like AC/DC obvious.
posted by Kabanos at 9:02 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Until they get to be three or so, when the crate is called "iPad"

Yeah. We'll never be without an ipad. That thing is as good as gold at our house. Thanks to the ipad, we've got 'going out to eat' down to a science. It's actually really easy, and has been for the past year. We're lucky that our kid can roll with situations like that, but sometimes he has a Grand Mal tantrum, and we have to bail early. This is why we now ask for the check, RIGHT after ordering our meal. It allows us that bail-out window.

The number one way to destroy your tip? Criticize us, in any manner for giving our kid an ipad at the table. Would you rather this little reaver turned on you? No, trust me you don't. No more side eyes.

But yes. Kids are hard and kids are fun. There are many parents out there with complicated feelings on parenthood, and there's not a whole lot of space for those parents to convey those complicated feelings in a socially accepted way.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:03 AM on May 21 [3 favorites]


However, going just on responses to AskMefi questions and articles like the ones in this FPP, you'd think that having a baby was a guaranteed endless grind of pain and sleeplessness, so that the only people who reproduce are masochists.

A lot of this depends on the kid. Some babies seem to be more difficult; cry all the time and won't sleep away from their mother. Others are basically easy babies that take to things like sleeping in their own crib really quickly and don't really cry that much. You're not going to see a lot of questions about the stress involved with an easy baby. The sleeplessness thing though--yeah probably at least six months of weird sleeping patterns/lack of sleep in any case. You'll get through it, and it's not always that bad.
posted by Hoopo at 9:04 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Criticize us, in any manner for giving our kid an ipad at the table.

Yeah, I don't get why the fuck people think that giving a small child something to occupy their death ray of frantic energy at the table is "spoiling them" or bad parenting or something. I would approve of parents giving their kids miniature tanks and letting them drive on a racecourse out back shooting nerf cannons at one another if it meant that everyone had a meal free of flung potatoes and enraged tiny shrieks.

also you could sell tickets to the Baby Battle Extravaganza
posted by elizardbits at 9:10 AM on May 21 [10 favorites]


I'd just like to drop a little note re: babysitters and then hightail my childless butt out of this thread...

I started babysitting when I was 11 and had steady work right up until I left for college. I did the bulk of my sitting for one family in my neighborhood. They just had me on a regular schedule--every other Saturday night I'd go and watch their kids for a few hours. They didn't have to have the panic of "FIND A SITTER IS ONE AVAILABLE OMG," their kids had consistency in who was taking care of them, and responsible-teenager-me had regular, paid work I could rely on. Sometimes the specific timing would change based on what they were doing, but since I had already blocked out my evening for them it wasn't a big deal. They got to go do stuff without their kids, and I got to pull in regular cash. (I made a little less per hour with them than I did with other families, but I was fine with it because I knew the job was always there.)

It worked out really well for them, because I liked their kids and they liked me and the relationship was mutually beneficial, which meant that when they did have some random Tuesday thing or something, I was more inclined to go sit for them and give them preference over other families/stuff in my life.

My dad works with the mom and to this day they joke about how their family bought my car and how I raised their kids.

tl;dr If finding a babysitter is a recurring stressor in your life, maybe try to work out some kind of scheduled thing.
posted by phunniemee at 9:10 AM on May 21 [9 favorites]


It's not just that young kids have relatively inflexible schedules, it's that you have to impose those schedules on them, often against their will.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:11 AM on May 21


death ray of frantic energy

YES

[Glances at trampoline in dining room]
posted by gottabefunky at 9:14 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


It's not just that young kids have relatively inflexible schedules, it's that you have to impose those schedules on them, often against their will.

Even that can be good for a laugh, though.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:19 AM on May 21


Still though, y'all can continue pretending that's not possible based on what you heard a parent saying around the water cooler one Monday morning.

Hey, take it up with the tedious people who go on and on about their awful kids!

In all seriousness, I get the impression that part of the phenomenon is people having kids in their thirties and forties these days, and the frequent need for both parents to work - which it seems to me would tend to result in more easily-fatigued parents than the olden days when most folks started having kids right out of high school or college at the latest.
posted by aught at 9:19 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


Give you kids all the ipads they want in restaurants or airplanes, just please turn the sound off. That's why I'm glaring at you. (It's pretty rare, though.)
posted by jeather at 9:22 AM on May 21 [3 favorites]


Parenting seems like such a diverse experience for different people (and even for different babies within one family) that it's just kind of fascinating to me that the sorts of experiences that get written about are such a narrow slice.

I think that it's like anything else--people are going to talk loudest and longest when they're having an exceptionally good or exceptionally bad experience. Except with parenting, talking about an exceptionally good experience often ends with people snidely telling you, you know, thanks for making them feel shitty/feel that they're doing it wrong, and that's often a best case scenario, in my experience.

My kid was easy. If I wanted to go somewhere, I put her in a sling and we went somewhere. If she fell asleep, she fell asleep, and if she didn't, neither of us much minded. She went to a ton of movies with me, drove around most of the northeast US and chunks of eastern Canada, went out to supper with me, and it was fine. She slept through the night (in my bed) pretty early, and when she didn't, I'd nurse her and we'd go back to sleep. Maybe I got super lucky and just had the easiest baby ever, and I freely admit that's a possibility, but the vitriol that I've gotten for admitting that my experience being the single parent of an infant wasn't unrelentingly horrible is seriously the kind of anger I'd expect from telling people that I declawed my circumcised Israeli cat.

So I think that after getting shut down a couple times, people stop talking about their positive experiences with children/infants. Like, after a while, you (and by "you" I mean "I") find yourself thinking that you're a freakish outlier whose experiences do not in any map to the experiences of most people, and probably you should shut up. I mostly don't contribute to anything about parenting anymore, because my desire to reassure people that hey, it doesn't have to be super awful forever is outweighed by my desire not to leave my computer in tears.
posted by MeghanC at 9:24 AM on May 21 [14 favorites]


Give you kids all the ipads they want in restaurants or airplanes, just please turn the sound off.

Seriously. Headphones approved for little kids ears are not that expensive. If you have an ipad for your kid, you can afford baby-headphones. We're trying to be the least disruptive possible when we go out. No one wants to watch or hear kids TV. No one.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:28 AM on May 21 [3 favorites]


you'd think that having a baby was a guaranteed endless grind of pain so that the only people who reproduce are masochists.

It's funny that the OP compares it to having an endless hangover, because if drinking was pretty rare I bet we'd have a thread here full of people going "wow, hangovers sound so awful, I'm glad I decided to never drink".

For me, hangovers were always a price worth paying, and - to my unending surprise - it has turned out to be the same having a kid.

Yes, you're really busy, and it's a different kind of busy from the old busy-doing-things-I-want-to-do I knew. Yes, you're permanently tired. Yes, doing the things you want to do takes more work. Yes, you have to do more-or-less unpleasant things involving bodily functions.

But! The party the night before is worth the cost. You get to hang out with some people you really, really like, who do funny stuff that makes you laugh. You get to watch some of them fall down unexpectedly then be sick in the pool. You get to pass out in the early hours. You get to listen to a lot of music and dance ineptly. You get to take pictures that get lots of FB likes.

Basically what I'm saying is having a kid is like getting wasted. Literally.
posted by bonaldi at 9:28 AM on May 21 [15 favorites]


MeghanC, my oldest was a freakishly easy baby, and I agree -- it's sort of a socially accepted rule that you Do Not Talk About Your Easy Baby. (People would talk to me about how horrible the sleep deprivation was and I would just nod knowingly.) So people without kids definitely get a warped view of what the experience of having newborns is like.

My second child was normal and I remember asking the doctor, it's okay for him to cry so much, right? He's not dying, or starving, or in terrible pain?
posted by gerstle at 9:32 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


The Marges of the world have their social lives curtailed; The Homer Simpsons still get to go to Moe's after work
posted by Renoroc at 9:33 AM on May 21 [3 favorites]


That's probably part of it, MeghanC, for sure. I guess I'm just struck by how different the conversations are between parents I know in "meatspace" (for lack of a better term) and those that I hear talking online. It seems like spaces online where people talk honestly about the good and bad of parenting are rare and have to be curated, versus happening much more frequently and naturally out in the real world. And I am surprised that Metafilter is not one of those spaces for whatever reason.

It's weird, I spend (and spent) so much time online in my 20s that the dominant narrative there about what having kids was like on a day-to-day basis had a big influence on our agonized indecision about having kids. Consuming so much media about what you *lose* by having kids, and how difficult it makes your life--counterbalanced only by these saccharine-sweet paeans to motherhood that never rang very true to me personally--made it difficult to imagine what having a good life with kids would look like. It wasn't until we had very close friends who had a baby and were so obviously enjoying it, and didn't have their lives blown to smithereens, that we were like "oh okay so THAT is a possibility, I didn't realize that." It's like, I was well aware of what life might look like with a colicky, sleepless baby that prevented me from ever doing the things I loved, but no mental picture of anything other than that.
posted by iminurmefi at 9:35 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


It's when they get to be teenagers that you understand why some species eat their young

Yeah, we have 2 teenagers and 1 almost teenager and there's definitely been an explosion of sarcastic eye-rolling and angry stomp-stomp-stomp-SLAM incidents in the last few years. But our kids are fucking awesome people; they turned out so great and I wouldn't change a thing. The hard thing to wrap your head around is how different the world treats them as they grow up. Weirdly, lately, I feel like I'm going to start sobbing when I see a happy toddler walking and holding hands with his/her parent. Partly because I miss it and partly because the kids are just so happy in the moment and oblivious to all the life-stress and angsty social bullshit that is coming their way; bullshit that I wish I could take away from my kids' lives.
But sometimes, when no one is around and I'm walking with one of my kids, they will take my hand and briefly hold it and I just have to quietly LOVE it and not make a big deal.
posted by chococat at 9:43 AM on May 21 [14 favorites]


Buddy of mine, we've known each other since *we* were babies. We've had a standing "If I see you wearing bell bottoms, I can deck you, and you shall say 'thank you, I needed that'" policy since high school. He and his wife now have two kids. Before the first one was born, he bitched about the other parents in his social circle, and told me, "If I start acting like that, the decking rule is in effect."

I really don't want to deck him, but I have blocked him on FB--if for no other reason than to not see three posts of pictures of his girls, and the attendant "the most beautiful girls in the world!!!!!!" comments from his mother. Every. Single. Time.
posted by notsnot at 9:48 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


As a childfree (and happily so) woman who's watched her social circle go from "look, one baby" to "hello, they're going to college", I've found that some of the ease depends on the parents and their personalities. Some parents seem to be okay with rolling with the punches, leaving kids with babysitters, etc. Others ... are not so capable of rolling with the punches. I find the people who are miserable and tell horrible stories about their kids all the time are frequently in the latter group. (My own mother was one of them.)
posted by immlass at 10:00 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


Yeah, we have 2 teenagers and 1 almost teenager and there's definitely been an explosion of sarcastic eye-rolling and angry stomp-stomp-stomp-SLAM incidents in the last few years. But our kids are fucking awesome people; they turned out so great and I wouldn't change a thing.

Heh. My son was an easy kid. Slept through the night, not a fussy eater, did OK in school. I thought other people must have been doing parenting wrong, because shit was a breeze.

But man, his teenage years - I had to call my father to apologize for my teenage years.

He's 19 now, and seems to be living that Mark Twain quote:
"When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:00 AM on May 21 [7 favorites]


The corners of the triangle are 1) Work, 2) Young Kids, 3) Social Life. You may pick any two from three, but you cannot have all three.
posted by colie at 10:08 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


The Marges of the world have their social lives curtailed; The Homer Simpsons still get to go to Moe's after work

Not always. In my house, my wife's the one who goes out to play gigs with her cover band for fun and profit (not that I don't also get to socialize outside my work hours when it's workable; I've got a side band, too, though we aren't playing out right now; my wife and I have another band of our own, too, that's working on a Kickstarter. Life goes on after kids. Just not necessarily on your timetable and without a lot of close coordination and planning effort.)
posted by saulgoodman at 10:08 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


But if you only mean to point out the Homer-types are out there, well, sure, they're definitely out there. And there's a lot of weirdness about the role of Dads in the culture right now, lots of casual acceptance of the idea of parents playing an unequal role.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:12 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Ah, they grow up so fast.
The other day I was making some stupid rhyming song up while cleaning the living room, as one does, and I absent-mindedly go something like "da doo be jizz--" and quickly correct it to "jazz," and my son goes, "Nice save, dad."
So, ew, my 12 year old knows the word jizz.
posted by chococat at 10:20 AM on May 21 [4 favorites]


The corners of the rectangle are 1) Work, 2) Children, 3) Social Life, 4) Screwing around on the Internet. Pick three.
posted by michaelh at 10:21 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


The corners of the rectangle are 1) Work, 2) Children, 3) Social Life, 4) Screwing around on the Internet. Pick three.

Tip: #4 takes up all the spaces after it on your priority list.
posted by jeather at 10:23 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


What I've noticed in conversations about having babies vs. not having babies these days (and not necessarily here, but maybe) is that the conversation rarely broaches the idea that The Good is not always equal to The Convenient or The Fun or even Self Actualization. It's almost always framed in terms of self-interest or personal fulfillment in relation to free time, and worthwhile activities become reduced to whether or not the latter attain (or if there is some warm fuzzy that makes the lack of the latter okay).

I love my kids, but it's easily the hardest and best thing I've done at the same time. Hardest, because it trashes my life and doesn't cater to my reclusive nature. Best, because virtue development and culture building is hard and painful and we've made something that will endure in positive ways into the future, for our children and for the communities that will benefit from them. It's sometimes Best, also, because it makes me feel good in certain ways.

It does not follow in any way of course that not having kids is not good. That would be the fallacy of denying the antecedent, and there is a tendency to get derailed into that discussion too much in these conversations when someone simply talks about the good of having children in the first place.

   Fallacy of denying the antecedent, where HK=Having Kids and G=Good:

      If HK, then G.
      Not HK.
      Therfore, not G.


People can do what they want to do, of course, and should do what they feel like they are able. But I'd love to see more of the conversation about things like this to include the idea that Good in life is sometimes freaking hard and sacrificial, and it's worth doing anyway, even if the payoff isn't always seeminly forthcoming for those that make the sacrifices.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:27 AM on May 21 [4 favorites]


I've often thought about pretending to have a child just so I could have an excuse to avoid my awful friends.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:32 AM on May 21 [9 favorites]


bondcliff: "I have friends, a social life, a very fulfilling life, sex, a steady diet of popular TV shows, great meals often, weekends away, vacations, hobbies, and a fucking kid that I (mostly) enjoy being around.

Still though, y'all can continue pretending that's not possible based on what you heard a parent saying around the water cooler one Monday morning.
"

This is not that uncommon.....

for dudes
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:40 AM on May 21 [5 favorites]


Is it part of the f*cking Huffington Posts' g*dd*mned f*cking style guide for bloggers to write curses like an a**hole, or is that a personal choice?
posted by codacorolla at 10:44 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Having kids calibrates your experience of time passing, and of course they do it to you with ruthless, withering clarity. After you have a child everything seems a bit more like beads on a string rather than one massive bead.
posted by colie at 10:52 AM on May 21 [3 favorites]


Our daughter (13 weeks) was definitely not easy. In fact, this:
My experience of early parenthood was not like this. Little babies are so content to sit and sleep or look at stuff -- it's hard to go out at night, but coffee or lunch dates were easy for us.

Feels so foreign I can't imagine it. She's still at a point where she has a total meltdown during most rides somewhere, can't be put down, and is awake far more than most babies. She also screams if you try to wear her. I think she's starting to come out of some of it, but I fully get anyone who wants to hide out in their house a while. It doesn't matter so much for us, though, as we were homebodies anyway. We've met people for lunch and dinner, but just plan to go somewhere that's screaming baby friendly.
posted by bizzyb at 11:05 AM on May 21 [6 favorites]


For me, it's the sheer attending required, especially since hitting toddlerhood. I gravitate to the Internet and/or short games like Hearthstone because while the Scatterkitten is up, I need to have at least half of my attention directed at him.

(For example, while reading this thread, I have shared my slice of leftover pizza, gotten a cup of milk for him, played catch, turned his train on, turned his train off, had a tea party, and gotten headbutted in the throat.) (That last one is why he is sitting beside me as I type the rest of this and not on my lap, as he had previously been insisting.)

It's exhausting simply because I have to be actively watching all the time. If I lose track of him for a few minutes, there is every chance that he will find an inventive way to kill himself. He was one of those mythical "easy babies" in the sense that he was generally chill and we did not have to change our already comically meager social life dramatically until he was over nine months old, but even then the energy involved just in constantly monitoring a human life was tiring.
posted by Scattercat at 11:07 AM on May 21 [7 favorites]


It's exhausting simply because I have to be actively watching all the time.

I remember buying a car seat and taking a moment after seeing that there's a sticker on the side that reads A CHILD'S SAFETY IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. It's one of the rare times that a statement is made that doesn't have any agency or authority or opinion behind it, it just is.
posted by colie at 11:11 AM on May 21 [3 favorites]


On the other hand, I just realized that he calls the teapot "the tea-hot," and that's just adorable.
posted by Scattercat at 11:13 AM on May 21 [5 favorites]


On the other hand, I just realized that he calls the teapot "the tea-hot," and that's just adorable.

And eventually, lightsabers will become life savers. It's pretty much inevitable.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:19 AM on May 21


can't be put down, and is awake far more than most babies

I gotta say, even though we (so far) have a fairly "easy" baby, these are the two things that are hardest. The good news is that once we get her to bed at night, she'll sleep a solid six hours or so. The bad news is that she's usually awake from early afternoon til midnight, and wants to be held for hours at a time. We've thus far managed to avoid breaking out the riding-around-in-the-car routine to knock her out, but I can see it coming in the crystal ball.

(Actually I have been threatening to drive to Sonic for half-price milkshakes in the late evening when she won't sleep, and am secretly looking forward to doing it.)
posted by uncleozzy at 11:19 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, I just realized that he calls the teapot "the tea-hot," and that's just adorable.

Mine is calling his toy pick-ups "tea-cups". Which makes it just a little more tolerable when they get thrown at me.
posted by Kabanos at 11:35 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


The bad news is that she's usually awake from early afternoon til midnight, and wants to be held for hours at a time.

Mine is like that - Velcro baby. And she hates the car seat, too. Fortunately we don't have a car so she's not in it that often, but there has been more than looooooong one drive with a wailing why-have-you-left-me-for-the-bears-Mother baby in the back.

On the other hand she's pretty happy in her carrier or wrap, and very easy to take out anywhere because she loves having new stuff to stare at, so our social life is far better than I was thinking it would be. (It probably helps that I had a horrible pregnancy, so life with a newborn usually seems like a blessed relief in comparison. OK, she spent two hours going "aaaaAAAaaaoooAAaaoooo" and then threw up down my top this afternoon, but at least I'm not pregnant any more!)
posted by Catseye at 11:36 AM on May 21 [3 favorites]


On the other hand, I just realized that he calls the teapot "the tea-hot," and that's just adorable.

Well, so does my cat, except she says it in cat-meow language with an air of long-suffering ennui -- still, it's also adorable! And it also makes it a little more tolerable when I am scooping her shit out of the litterbox.
posted by aught at 11:40 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


(I know how much parents love it when you bring up your pet in the same conversation as their kid anecdotes.)
posted by aught at 11:41 AM on May 21 [16 favorites]


I am dumbstruck with admiration for all of my parent-friends who have not abandoned their children in the wilderness (None of them have, now that I think of it).
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 11:43 AM on May 21


Our cat has actually curbed her foul language since we've had the baby. Before, it was all, "dinner, bitch!" and "I'll fucking claw you," but now it's mostly, "I CAN SCREAM TOO LISTEN TO ME MAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!"
posted by uncleozzy at 11:43 AM on May 21 [10 favorites]


I have included the TLDR not because I want to encourage people not to RTA, but because if you are new parents you probably won't have the time nor energy.
That’s OK, I just scraped them into Instapaper for when I can finally start reading again ca. 2017.
posted by axoplasm at 11:51 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


I never had much of a social life to begin with. What I miss since becoming a parent is solitude.
posted by OnceUponATime at 11:57 AM on May 21 [15 favorites]


This is not that uncommon.....

for dudes


Yeah, no, I didn't mean to imply that I go off and have fun while my wife stays home and takes care of the kid. We both have lives. We both have fun. We're also pretty good parents.

And while I realize luck and privilege probably has a lot to do with it, I also feel it's partially due to attitude, cooperation, setting realistic expectations, and just sometimes saying "fuck it." Life doesn't have to end with a kid.
posted by bondcliff at 11:58 AM on May 21 [3 favorites]


On the other hand, I just realized that he calls the teapot "the tea-hot," and that's just adorable.

And eventually, lightsabers will become life savers. It's pretty much inevitable.


Mine is starting to talk more and more, and one of her favorite stories is Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. She can't quite make the K sound in "monkey" so she walks around saying "no mo mon-ey" and I'm like "damned straight!"
posted by Hoopo at 11:58 AM on May 21 [5 favorites]


I mean, there is a fraction (1/3 maybe) of people who seem to have honest affection for their children, but so many people speak with bitterness and resentment that it sometimes honestly saddens me.

We have a young daughter, and I'd say that guess is on the mark or maybe even slightly generous, and believe me it saddens those of us with kids as well. We find such joy in our new lifestyle, but more often than not struggle to find other parents who share such joy. It's such a wonderful discovery when we do!

To the running thread, maintaining our own relationships with each other and with other adults has always been an important part of the idea of "family" for us, and it really takes some conscious planning to do so. I don't think most folks even stop to think about it, and they just become sort of absorbed into the de facto processes of the kiddie universe. Of course, some people make the same mistake with marriages too.

(at least, I'd say it's a mistake)
posted by trackofalljades at 12:20 PM on May 21


Whatever, y'all. I slept maybe 3.5 hours last night (and the night before), and my wife has been on that schedule for about 6 weeks and I still love my kids enough to have vivid fantasies of physically assaulting anyone who would attempt to harm them. Wait, what was the question?
posted by that's candlepin at 12:36 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Meh. I feel like these articles are often more divisive than they intend to be. I've had friends who have disappeared immediately after reproducing. I have also had friends who disappeared once they started seeing someone new, after they moved across town, when they started graduate school, etc. Similarly, I've had friends who had kids and did not disappear. Our hanging out was more likely at their place with a movie and pizza than at a bar with specials on pitchers but who cares, I was just happy to hang out with them. I can mess with my phone while you breastfeed in another room. It's all good.

I think articles like this are a bummer for future parents because it makes it sound like parenthood means by necessity ditching your friends. I always thought it was such a bummer growing up that my stay-at-home mother did not appear to have friends. I am married and would like to have kids some day. Fortunately, a lot of my friends hang out with their kids and friends. A friend regularly posts on Facebook, going to the ball game with my wife and kids, meet me there, or come over for beers, we'll order a pizza when the kids go to sleep.

Articles like this also reinforce the idea among parents that if they have time to spend with friends, they must be Doing It Wrong because Parents Are So Busy. And these articles are a bummer for childfree folks because it makes it sound like I Just Don't Get It. You're busy and tired? I get that. Really busy and really tired? Yeah. I get that.

People make time for things that are important to them. It's okay if being with the baby, studying for the bar, building a relationship with a new significant other are more important with my friends than hanging out with me. I'm an adult. I understand. And I'm not a parent so maybe I Just Don't Get It. But not everyone disappears when they have kids and you certainly can be a good parent who hangs out with their friends.

(Sorry, I just saw a friend who is a mom smugly posted this article on her Facebook. Rant over.)
posted by kat518 at 12:40 PM on May 21 [11 favorites]


Another non-easy kid parent here. Fleebnork Jr. did not sleep well and cried a LOT when lying down or reclined. It was eventually diagnosed as my family gift of acid reflux (4 generations of males have it), and something called "high needs baby" who craves stimulation all of the time. Apparently it's a symptom of being an engaged, active kid.

And he certainly is. In fact, I daresay it has gotten a bit easier as he has approached the 2.5 year mark, because I think he is much less frustrated as he becomes more capable. It's become obvious to me that he's an ambitious kid and has always wanted to DO ALL THE THINGS. As he grows and becomes more capable of telling us what he wants and doing "big kid" things, he seems much happier in general.

There are still the power struggles inherent in raising a toddler, of course. But I adore the little guy and look forward to picking him up from daycare every day and going home and sharing adventures with him. I feel fortunate to be in that group of parents who are happy with their children.
posted by Fleebnork at 12:54 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


However, going just on responses to AskMefi questions and articles like the ones in this FPP, you'd think that having a baby was a guaranteed endless grind of pain and sleeplessness, so that the only people who reproduce are masochists.

Nobody's interested in reading about how easy somebody else found it to raise their children, unless it's yet another celeb mum who manages to lose the baby bumb in a month because her Russian nanny takes care of everything. Everybody always exaggerates.

I also wonder how much of all this baby angst is caused by the UK and US refusal to enable people to go on proper parental leaves or have them work part time. Here in the Netherlands almost all of the parents of small children I know work part time, mothers and fathers each working 3-4 days a week, rather than five plus overtime.

That helps a lot.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:01 PM on May 21 [4 favorites]


But not everyone disappears when they have kids and you certainly can be a good parent who hangs out with their friends.

It can be really challenging. It's challenging enough just spending time with my extended family, who think it's nothing to eat dinner at 8PM (kids eat at 6) and send us home at 9PM (by the time we get home the kids are overtired and start to melt down).

The best social interactions I have now are multigenerational BBQ's and house parties where the kids do stuff downstairs or outside, while the adults talk and drink and play poker upstairs.

I find it really weird to have to go somewhere where there are "no kids allowed." My family and my kids are the focus of my life.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:04 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


The social solution we hit upon is that all of our meatspace friends also have kids. Not that we pushed anyone away, we just took to making new friends at the playground instead of the bar. Coincidentally, most of our pre-existing friends had kids around the same time.

This leads to its own unique issues such as "my husband went to the movies with my friend's husband instead of me and she and I sat home and rolled our eyes. And they could only leave after bath time because that shit is a two man job."

I wouldn't say our social life is better or worse than pre-baby, just different. Our lives in general? A thousand million times better. We both wanted our kid(s) (second making her appearance within the next 2wks!) more than life itself and our son is an amazingly awesome human, albeit one who still poops his pants and doesn't speak in full sentences.
posted by sonika at 1:08 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Its sort of funny to read through this thread where most of the 'have kids' comments seem to be from people who's kids are fairly young and the conversation revolves around lack of social life or sleep or some such inconvenience. Why? Well because as someone who has raised 3 and am still raising 1 of the little buggers - my first getting married in a couple weeks - none, and I really mean none of this represents the core of the parenting experience. I'd say my experience has been pretty positive (no major problems - ever) and otherwise fairly average. With that in mind, the truly mind-bendingly profound aspects of parenting come with certain larger life events that unfold over time or dealing with a real crisis. First words or steps are cool, but really nothing like your little one making the honor roll, or getting the coach's award in their sport, first prom, graduating from high school, college or getting married, or I presume, having their first kid. Dealing with a really sick kid or having one die is something many many people will have to deal with. A schoolyard bully, no dates, acne, a strike out, or not getting selected for the role in the play. This is the real stuff of parenting and it comes fast and furious (obviously the more kids you have) and while it often is not pleasant, it has the advantage of being the real thing. Often its mixed up and no matter what you have going on you have to deal with it. Its worth it, and I think my view is not romanticized at all. I didn't really want to be a parent before I had my first, and sometimes struggle with it - its not a natural thing for me like some people.

Just love them, don't sweat the small stuff. Kids are very resilient. Take care of your self too. Enjoy the ride.
posted by sfts2 at 1:15 PM on May 21 [6 favorites]


A schoolyard bully, no dates, acne, a strike out, or not getting selected for the role in the play. This is the real stuff of parenting and it comes fast and furious (obviously the more kids you have) and while it often is not pleasant, it has the advantage of being the real thing.

I love this.
posted by ichomp at 2:13 PM on May 21


However, going just on responses to AskMefi questions and articles like the ones in this FPP, you'd think that having a baby was a guaranteed endless grind of pain and sleeplessness, so that the only people who reproduce are masochists.

My first child was a colicky, sleep-hating Velcro baby who almost sent me to the hospital due to exhaustion. However, she is the calmest, most thoughtful toddler/preschooler I know.

My second slept beautifully, and was so jovial that I could count the number of times she cried without physical cause on one hand. Now she's almost a year old, and here's what her big sister has to say:

"She keeps doing things I don't like. She's a disaster."
posted by snickerdoodle at 2:21 PM on May 21 [11 favorites]


Oh my god snickerdoodle that is my fear right now. Small sample, but among my 4 nieces and nephews, that's been a definite pattern: the hardest, fussiest infants have grown into the toddlers who are super-happy entertaining themselves in low-key (read: non-dangerous) ways, like quietly coloring at a table without supervision for an hour at a time. The impervious-to-negative-stimuli happy calm infants grow into the toddlers with an apparent death wish and drive to get into everything that exhaust their parents and make them swear off future children. In short, I fear I am screwed.
posted by iminurmefi at 2:38 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


My kid has made me into a different person.

Lots of parents seem to want to minimize the impact of kids on their lives. They make excuses for not socializing the way they used to. They have a babysitter in once or twice a week and try to maintain their old social lives.

To each his own. I'm a bit jealous of that, sometimes, sure, but I want time with my kid. I've changed. There are friendships that I miss, but I've kept and even strengthened the ones that still work -- the friends who like hanging around with me and my kid, and the ones I can pick right up where I left off with a month ago, when I last made it out for a fun evening.

I've changed, and that's OK. I don't need a medal, and I don't owe anyone an apology.
posted by gurple at 2:42 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


A friend and I have a long-standing theory that perfect babies turn into terrifying destructo-toddlers, and vice versa. We've got like ten families' worth of solid anecdata backing it up so it's definitely true.
posted by gerstle at 2:44 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]


I used to work with someone who told me casually, in passing, that she really regretted having had kids and did not enjoy her life as a parent. She struck me as a good and responsible person, so I am pretty sure that she was doing right by her children, but it still gave me the cold chills.
posted by Frowner at 11:27 AM on May 21


I am a data point of One, of course, but FWIW I've had a surprising number of excellent (from what I can tell, at least) parents tell me that if they had to do it all again, they wouldn't have kids.

To be clear, they love their kids to the moon and back, and their kids love them. They just would've loved the chance to pursue other choices in their lives, and having kids wasn't compatible with those choices. So they went with kids, and apparently found out that having kids wasn't the Be-All, End-All experience that they were led to believe. Which leads me to another thought....


Speaking as someone who never had kids, it seems like if people gave serious thought to what it means to have kids and raise them to adulthood, the population rate would plummet.
posted by aught at 11:22 AM on May 21


One of the biggest shocks I ever had as an adult was the realization that many people don't realize that having kids is an actual choice (at least, in most industrialized countries).

Those parents I mentioned, the ones who, if they had to do it all again, they wouldn't have kids? Nearly all of them told me that they had children because "that's just what people do when they grow up".

They didn't have children because they couldn't imagine their lives without children. They didn't have children because they needed to be parents the way some people need air. They didn't become parents because they wanted to become parents. They had kids because they were out of college, and had gotten jobs, and gotten married, and, well, the next step was obviously kids, so....

No one around them ever acted like it was a choice. Because of that, at no point did it ever occur to them, "Hey...maybe I should actually want kids." Then when they become parents and it's not all free beer and double rainbows, and then they meet someone like me, they're all "Wait, what do you mean you chose not to be a parent? People are allowed to do that?!"

It's not even, like, this is a particular religious viewpoint or anything. Atheist, Catholic, evangelical Christian, Buddhist, doesn't matter--I've heard it from all corners (still hear it, actually). There's an unspoken meme out there that you have kids because that's what you're supposed to do as an adult, not because you actually want children.

And I'm starting to wonder how much of that expectation plays into why some--not all, but some--parents abuse their kids. Maybe some parents feel like they were sold a bill of goods on the having-kids thing, and now they're stuck with a kid, and they hate being a parent, but they don't dare give up their kid because that means that they're bad people for not loving their kids and everyone knows that having kids is the Greatest Thing Ever and what the hell's wrong with you that you don't like being a parent? And so forth and so on until it's just a shit-storm of self-loathing that eventually boils over on the poor little tyke....

Anyway, I'm derailing. Sorry, back on topic!


In all seriousness, I get the impression that part of the phenomenon is people having kids in their thirties and forties these days, and the frequent need for both parents to work - which it seems to me would tend to result in more easily-fatigued parents than the olden days when most folks started having kids right out of high school or college at the latest.
posted by aught at 12:19 PM on May 21


I really do think a lot of folks just aren't aware of the sheer physical demands of having a kid. The constant picking-up, putting down, wrestling with diapers and clothes and shoes, chasing, carrying, rocking, soothing, and so forth has to be at least a little more bearable when you yourself still have the energy of the late-teens/early-twenties. But for the people who have kids in their late-30s/early-40s? Best I can tell, staying jacked up on Red Bull and amphetamines is the only way to keep up with the physical demands of those first ten years of a kid's life.
posted by magstheaxe at 2:47 PM on May 21 [11 favorites]


Those parents I mentioned, the ones who, if they had to do it all again, they wouldn't have kids? Nearly all of them told me that they had children because "that's just what people do when they grow up".

There is also the biological imperative. For some people, the drive to have children absolutely cannot be argued with. It is irrational and all-consuming, but entirely natural.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:52 PM on May 21


There is also the biological imperative. For some people, the drive to have children absolutely cannot be argued with. It is irrational and all-consuming, but entirely natural.

And some people end up losing otherwise perfectly good relationships due to differences on this very issue.
posted by acb at 4:57 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


I've observed that socializing seems to get markedly more difficult once your kids start walking and you have to start chasing them around.

As long as you don't have exposed wiring or really sharp knives around, ya just let em roam. I think it's ideal: friends know I'm hanging out in the yard on a nice day, so people can just come over, drink beer, and chat while the toddlers do whatever they do.
posted by jpe at 5:11 PM on May 21


The little anachronism is in school now. She was an easy baby - the 5 hour sleep through from birth - and a remarkably chill sort of kid now. We had moments, don't get me wrong (Go the Fuck to Sleep came out during a bad sleep period of disruption when we'd moved and I returned to work and the other anachronism stayed home and it just made me cry, it wasn't funny at all) but mostly? We sat and made shadow box cards for an hour the other afternoon, yesterday she started a big seahorse project which she's still working on, she uses her manners, does math in her head, and tries new foods and cries in movies. We're chill over here. She's only 4 though, so it may change. I'm hoping I can shepherd her through the horrors of hormones better than my own mother did for me.

But yeah, we were the parents who rarely went out - I didn't much want to. Even now, it's not a huge priority to me. It's amazing to me how much we praise and celebrate changes like 'big new job' or 'becoming an artist' or 'being a better person' but the moment your psyche changes because you have an infant to look after? RING THE ALARMS, SEND IN THE BAR FRIENDS AND BOOZE AND GUILT TRIPPING ABOUT 'YOU USED TO BE COOL'.

I used to be cool when I was an alcoholic too. I used to be cool before I decided competition was bad for my soul. I used to be cool before I started a PhD. Lots of things change people, that's the nature of growth. I've found the 'friends' who start in about 'you've changed' mean 'you aren't available to do and be everything I expect'. Which is different.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:49 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]


Most of the time I prefer hanging out with my three year old daughter to socializing with adults.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 5:54 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]


Nothing brings out the stark differences between people more than being a parent. I feel like a Russian punk rock nazi and a rich catholic African liberal have more in common than two people who have kids but in slightly different ways. This thing, parenting, the choices you make when a kid does X, seem so natural in the moment (give him an iPad! Sing to him! Throw him in the dirt pile while you milk the goat!), are in fact and way way more than anything else on earth, what culture is. The one thing all human beings share is that they had two parents who made a set of choices after creating them that shape the rest of their existence, most of which were imperceptible to them as they were being made.

It's terrifying. It makes me want to have a large whiskey and extrapolate but hark, what's that noise, crap the lil one's awake, ready for her 10-2 cluster feed extavaganza which is not unlike throwing bottles into a volcano. Brb. Or not.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:49 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


Our fourteen year old told us very seriously that we are not strict enough with the hellion two year old. "Your parenting is low!" Like it's a video game. We then offered to let him watch her for the rest of the day and he backtracked swiftly.

I would love to be able to rewind and try again knowing what I know now about their temperaments and parenting. But you just keep staggering on, hoping that you haven't dinged them too badly and that they will eventually pick a nice nursing home for you.

The toddler and infant years are practice runs for teenagers. And while having a seriously ill or dead child does put things in perspective, you still end up having arguments over dumb things like table manners and why we do not cover our toys in honey so they will stick to the wall or how one hour of homework does not equal three hours of gaming.

This morning the hellion woke me up by jumping on me and peering down at my face to announce that I was her best friend. I would still trade her for a weekend in Bali that early in the morning.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:57 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


Baby boners were the biggest parenting surprise for me.

Also the worst thing to search for on Google.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 7:54 PM on May 21 [4 favorites]


"Meh. I feel like these articles are often more divisive than they intend to be.

I think articles like this are a bummer for future parents because it makes it sound like parenthood means by necessity ditching your friends."


Yeah, pretty much. That's the impression I get in general: parents only have time to be friends with other parents, and if you don't have kids too, bug off, because they won't have time for the likes of you until the youngest kid is five.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:47 PM on May 21


galvanized unicorn - Ha, I menstruated when I was 5 days old. No one had ever mentioned that can happen to my parents, who completely freaked out.

Also, babies can lactate.
posted by Dynex at 10:07 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Christine - I have 15 month twins - go see your friend and take her some food. And play with her babies (let them watch baby jake on youtube if necessarily) while she takes a bath. Leaving the house with twins is... .
posted by Augenblick at 3:25 AM on May 22


bondcliff: "I didn't mean to imply that I go off and have fun while my wife stays home and takes care of the kid"

And I didn't mean to indict you personally. I mean that in our society, child rearing is largely woman-oriented. Typically women are the ones charged with taking care of the children and doing the housework and all that while men can sit there and watch football on weekend.

Every time I go to the store and see some poor woman schlepping three young children around while filling her cart I think "Where is their father? Couldn't he either watch the kids or do the shopping?"
posted by I am the Walrus at 6:22 AM on May 22 [3 favorites]


Fathers can be dead, deadbeat, or abusive (or, on somewhat happier notes, deployed or away on business)* so I wouldn't assume that every tired mother in a store has a potential helper.

That being said, the fact that child-rearing remains by default "women's work" is kind of shitty, but in many ways that is something that needs to be negotiated between each individual couple.

*mothers can also be all those things
posted by sparklemotion at 6:34 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


Those parents I mentioned, the ones who, if they had to do it all again, they wouldn't have kids?

My (mild-mannered, suburban, child- and grandchild-doting) mom, in casual conversation a year or so ago, shocked the heck out of my partner and me over coffee one morning by calmly observing, "I guess if I had it all to do over again, I doubt I would get married and have kids." It was hard not to reflexively blurt out, "I sympathize, having chosen not to have kids myself, but that's still kind of an existential shocker for me to hear, Mom!"

Baby boners were the biggest parenting surprise for me.

Uh. Thread plummets into TMI Zone. Yikes!
posted by aught at 9:40 AM on May 22


I know we're ways down the thread now and this is kind of a derail from the current conversation, but every time I check back in on this thread I am bothered by the "uber-manipulative" in the title and the "evil" and "sophisticated manipulation" in the body of the post.

Babies and toddlers are not "evil." And when they modulate the intensity of their crying based on your reaction, or hold their breath, etc as in that Cracked article, they are not trying to "manipulate" you -- they are trying to communicate with you, in the only ways they know how. They are trying to say "this is important to me," and "pay attention," among other things. Their lives depend on their caregivers attention, so it is not surprising that they are aware of when their caregivers are watching and capable complex behaviors to attract and hold that attention, or of trying to molify the anger of their caregivers (parental anger is sometimes fatal for babies and young children.)

I know there's a certain amount of sarcasm in those descriptions, but I still don't like it, because there are people who believe that kids are literally evil and manipulative. And those people sometimes end up abusing their children out of a kind of "it's self-defense -- they'll take advantage of me if I let them" mindset.
posted by OnceUponATime at 9:59 AM on May 22 [3 favorites]


Baby boners were the biggest parenting surprise for me.

We had some little people over one hot day and to amuse themselves they did Pollock-style painting in the yard, wearing just nappies. One of the boys got an erection and painted it red. None of the others batted an eyelid.
posted by colie at 10:07 AM on May 22


OnceUponATime, I think that's partly a failure of languge – yes, infants are self-interested, but they're also at a stage of development where they haven't yet learned that other people have needs (or are people), much less gained the ability to weigh those needs against their own.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:10 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


I menstruated when I was 5 days old.

A couple days before our daughter was born, I was reading the "You're about to have a girl!" books. And I was glad that one of them mentioned "There may be menses or swollen breasts in the first days. This is normal." Because if they hadn't, finding blood in my newborn's diaper would have FREAKED ME THE FUCK OUT!
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:39 AM on May 23


That's the impression I get in general: parents only have time to be friends with other parents, and if you don't have kids too, bug off, because they won't have time for the likes of you until the youngest kid is five.

It's not that there's no time; just that the times are constrained. Wanna do breakfast? Early bird dinner at 5? Post-bedtime drinks? Great! Come over and we will host, or we can leave one parent at home and meet you. But Sunday brunch is probably not going to happen until the kiddos stop napping.

That being said, I'm currently entertaining a houseguest who does not seem to understand the concept of "don't wake up the baby," and I might just stab him soon.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:00 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


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