Will you have one set of friends with kids, or more?
March 7, 2018 1:33 PM   Subscribe

If having kids is a full-time job, then having friends with kids is a part-time job where you listen to your friends talk about how having kids is a full-time job. Sow your oats now, because soon your conversations will revolve around things like whether or not the baby likes oats.
Are You Ready to Have Friends with Kids?
posted by griphus (136 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
New Yorker humor columns are like those trick jelly beans that either taste like blueberries or Windex, but this one was very funny!
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:40 PM on March 7 [19 favorites]


OK, this is real. My partner and I are not having kids. A fair number of our friends have done. And I know it's a great miracle and all that, but to us it just feels like we're slowly losing the people we love the most. Selfish? Sure. It still feels that way.
posted by deadbilly at 1:45 PM on March 7 [71 favorites]


You aren't selfish, deadbilly. Not at all.
posted by agregoli at 1:49 PM on March 7 [11 favorites]


it just feels like we're slowly losing the people we love the most.

If you do end up having kids, you end up losing the bulk of your kid having friends too, or at least that's been my experience.
posted by Dr. Twist at 1:50 PM on March 7 [11 favorites]


The feeling that I have when a friend tells me she is pregnant is so extremely disarming. It's like a mixture of dread, fear and sympathy. I think I am broken (as a female who is supposed to want to breed and make a baby?). My "awwwwwws" are more "aggggghhhhhhs"
posted by lextex at 1:52 PM on March 7 [45 favorites]


Have a toddler. Can confirm. I'm boring as shit.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:56 PM on March 7 [19 favorites]


If you think it's bad losing your friends because they had kids, well, it's also bad losing your friends because you had kids.

It's bad losing friends.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 1:57 PM on March 7 [70 favorites]


Yeah, a female friend of mine announced her pregnancy last May--it was unplanned--and my internal reaction was not great. To be fair, her reaction to imminent motherhood was pretty much the same, only external.

My partner and I are child-free by choice, and man, it feels like winning the jackpot when we chance upon friending other couples who have opted to not have kids.
posted by Kitteh at 1:57 PM on March 7 [34 favorites]


Oh my god, yeah, seriously. We don’t want kids, but we’re in that age group where all of our friends are having babies, one couple after another. It’s getting weird.

And it certainly doesn’t help with the parental pressure! Missing from this column was are you ready to talk to your parents about your friends having kids? I made the mistake of telling my family at Christmas dinner that one of my childhood friends just had a second kid. Hoo boy, that was the last time I’m ever bringing that up around my family.

I’m so so glad this was posted. I was seriously starting to feel like we were the only ones who don’t want kids. Like, we need more role models of older couples without kids, so we can have some vision of the future that isn’t just a ghostly voice wailing “you will be the weeeeiiird ones in your social circle!”
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:57 PM on March 7 [27 favorites]


Kitteh, there should be some sort of awesome not creepy way for us to find likeminded adults...oh yes, the Metafilter :)
posted by lextex at 1:58 PM on March 7 [5 favorites]


Conversation with a hockey teammate last night:

"I'm really happy for Alec and his wife, that's exciting."
"Oh yeah, totally"
"I'm super concerned about our goal-tending situation now though"
"Oh yeah, it's a disaster"
posted by ghharr at 2:01 PM on March 7 [49 favorites]


I've had about three different batches of friends have kids. The early achievers (those that had kids in our early 20s) have started to reappear now that the kids are in high school and college. Their calls and texts almost always start out with, "Heeeeey? Do you still..."

The textbookers (who had their kids in the late 20s/early 30s) are now able to come out and do stuff if it's moderately well planned. Like you can give them a week's notice on events and they most likely will make it. Some bring the kid, but at this age, they can hold down a conversation and manage to be chill for the most of the outing. But it's still touch and go for late nights.

The late bloomers or the second tier folks (those on the second or third kid or who waited til late to have them), yeah we don't see those folks. If we do, they are wiped out and can barely make it through a beer before sleep deprivation kicks in.

It sucks because I really love those folks and we had so much in common when we could drink for a few hours and talk about bullshit. However, I will say that one of my dearest friends who was an early achiever said to me very plainly, "I need you to be my non-kid friend. Please help me remember who I used to be from time to time.' That's why I go to comic book conventions with her and concerts.
posted by teleri025 at 2:02 PM on March 7 [28 favorites]


Sorry, but I just need to say again how glad I am that this was posted. It’s getting so isolating watching everyone we know have kids, and on balance I know it’s ultimately harder for them, but it’s still isolating and weird and it feels like we’re going against what society teaches us to do and aaah you non-child-having people are all my people and I’m so glad you’re out there.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:04 PM on March 7 [29 favorites]


I have 2 teenage children and 1 adult child and it's fucking great because they are all cool as hell and they like me and we talk about how weird it is that we like each other so much and have to maintain "parent/child" boundaries (which we do because teenagers.make.dumb.damb.decisions and require parenting), but really, teenage and adult kids are cool because suddenly I've got a whole new friend group to replace the one I lost when those little (endearing and lovely) shits were born.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:05 PM on March 7 [29 favorites]


I hope we were all raised by somebody who thought we were interesting enough to be the focus of conversation for a while.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 2:06 PM on March 7 [50 favorites]


If my friends with kids will refrain from acting like my childless life and problems (that are very real to me, I assure you) are less important, "cute", whatever, then I will refrain from pretending that I died 15 years ago when they text me out of the blue
posted by Automocar at 2:06 PM on March 7 [41 favorites]


The actual worst thing about losing your friends to kids (which sucks but it happens occasionally in life, like when you go from high school to college to job) is that you essentially have to become friends with your kid's friends' parents. Which is fine if your kid is a good friend picker. But if not you basically get stuck - with the angry divorcee, the one way too into her child (almost never a guy), the guy who wants to neglect the kids and drink all night, the religious converter, the racist. And you can't let them go because your kids are friends.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:09 PM on March 7 [15 favorites]


Kids are just so all-consuming that it's hard to be friends with people who have young children when you do not. They haven't seen the latest movies, read any new books lately, caught up on their Netflix queue, or had 30 minutes strung together to see the news, so you're limited to a topic that you know almost nothing about--the care and feeding of kids.

It gets super awkward when you're trying to hang in there and be supportive and your kid-friend says something like, "Goodness, we've spent the last 20 minutes talking about nipple shields! What's up with you? **waaaAAAhhhAAAHhhhh** Shit, gotta go, Timmy's up from his nap!" I almost don't want them to pretend to have five minutes for anything but Timmy's latch situation, because it outlines the sudden division between you in indelible Sharpie.
posted by xyzzy at 2:10 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]


I am so glad I have a solid circle of childfree/grown-kids-only friends. I will say that most of the friends I knew when their kids were young were very very cool about my childfreedom, but I live in a super-liberal area where not having kids is pretty mainstream (as is paganism, atheism, polyamory, lifelong singleness, etc.) - but I feel for those in more traditional, less freethinking areas and/or with parents who waaaaaant graaaandkids.

At my age, the grandkids are starting to pop up like dandelions, and that's not so bad except when Grandma volunteers or is conscripted to be full-time childcare provider. Which has happened to more than one woman of my acquaintance.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:13 PM on March 7 [4 favorites]


Also not having kids over here. Enjoyed the column, but wryly rather than laugh-out-loud. It's a bit close to the bone!

I mourn those friendships but I'm happy I get to hoe my child free row whilst they are bairn-raising, hopefully our paths will reconverge in another 5 years.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:19 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]


We did not have a child until we were both 38, where a lot of our friends had their kids in their mid 20s, so we kind of got double-whammied by the situation. Most of them are now seeing their kids get married, while ours is finishing high school, so at least we are leveling up, but, of course, now we are all too fucking old to do anything anymore.
posted by briank at 2:22 PM on March 7 [4 favorites]


yeah add me and my wife to the list of childless couples

we've actually done a reasonable job of maintaining friend groups that include a lot of children, but it comes with a fair bit of sacrifice that almost entirely has to happen on our end. time and place is dictated entirely by family convenience; gatherings must start earlier and don't last as long; and, crucially, it almost always has to be us reaching out to begin the scheduling process.

this can feel unfair or unreasonable at times (my wife and I have lives! we're plenty busy! etc) but really it's the kind of give-or-take that all friendships have, where one side can just be worse than the other at reaching out for any number of reasons. I've traditionally been the non-proactive party, actually, so it's been an interesting experience adjusting my expectations and attitude. and these friendships are important to me.

it'd be nice to have more local friends who don't either have kids or are planning to. my best friend and his wife (who I also consider a best friend) are expecting in about a month and I'm right on the razor's edge between delighted for them and overcome with sorrow at the loss of our normal dynamic, which could include me being however drunk I wanted to be and also included sharing YouTube videos on the Roku until 2 a.m.

but, the friendships have survived other changes of context (I've known some of these people since high school and kept up with some of them even as they lived cross-country); I'm determined that they'll survive this, too.

we're tremendously lucky amid all this that we don't have friends who do the "you aren't really alive until you have kids" thing. my friends will frequently do a "oh you'd be a great dad" joke with some mixture of understanding and genuine ambivalence, but since that's more or less how I feel about their choices, I'll happily allow it. there will always be that small space there though, I suppose, where our narratives no longer have the shared milestones they did during school and jobs and marriages.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, which I guess is part of it too -- it's exactly this kind of "it's totally fine, but I'm kind of sad about it, but really it's fine though" circle that I go through every time I contemplate it for more than a few seconds.
posted by Kybard at 2:26 PM on March 7 [9 favorites]


The early achievers (those that had kids in our early 20s)...

This is us. 50 years old and basically an empty nester. It's freaking great. We can go out and do stuff all the time. We just don't expect anybody to join us because they all have to find a sitter and make plans two weeks in advance. I'm usually scrolling through FB Events at 6 PM on Saturday looking for a band to go see that night.
posted by COD at 2:30 PM on March 7 [4 favorites]


My wife and I decided to not have children, and maintaining my friendships has taken a lot of effort. Like, a ton, constantly. Sometimes I despair that if I gave up and stopped texting people I would never see anyone. I try to not resent the fact that I'm the one who virtually always initiates contact and makes plans, because I understand that their lives are far, far busier than mine (that's part of the reason I didn't want kids). All of this is exacerbated by the fact that we live in Toronto, which is huge and a pain in the ass to get around in. It's worth it, because I think they appreciate the effort and we have a good time when we do get together, even if it's only a few times a year.

In some ways there can also be gendered aspects to this; my wife has had alienating experiences with some of her female friends when they seemingly refused or were unable to talk about anything but their children, which (probably unintentionally, but still) excluded her from the group. When I get together with my male friends - all of whom have at least one child - there's usually a 5-10 minute "how are the kids doing?" period of conversation and then we move onto other stuff. For my wife that period of conversation has lasted anywhere from a few hours to an entire weekend. She also spent one of the first Card Cheat family Christmas parties we spent together as a couple shuttling back and forth between the living room, where the men were watching TV and talking about whatever, and the other living room, where the women were watching children and talking about children.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:30 PM on March 7 [15 favorites]


On the whole, I find that my friends talk about their kids about the same amount that I talk about my cat, and I'm happy to trade off "and you had WHAT problem with the stroller" with"let me tell you about the time Dr. Cat got onto the very highest shelf". I don't find hearing about kids particularly dull, in all honesty.
posted by Frowner at 2:31 PM on March 7 [64 favorites]


By the end of May, the three couples we are close with here will have kids. One already does, though they were always a bit flaky so the impact hasn't been measurable. When I have seen them it has been a blast, because kids like the boop game as well as where-is-my-face.

But honestly we're excited to help in any way we can, whether that be cooking or dogsitting or babysitting or just hanging out and watching TV. I've had friends with kids before, and it is exciting to get to know them and watch them grow. The only thing that might happen is one or more of the couples moving for better schools.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:34 PM on March 7 [8 favorites]


I was going to link to something from Tim Kreider, but realized I had recounted the gist of it previously.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:35 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


I should make it clear that both my wife and I *want* to hear about our friends' kids, take an interest in them and happily hang out with them when we're all together (I personally don't like the term "childfree" because it's been adopted as a term of superiority by people who call parents "mombies" and "daddicts" and that sort of thing)...it's just that if that's the *only* topic of conversation it can be dispiriting.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:35 PM on March 7 [25 favorites]


I'm one of the only people in my friend group without children, and the worst thing about it has been either losing some friends when they have kids, or having friends totally disrespect my life because it doesn't look like theirs. Most of my friends with kids don't cut childless folks out of their lives or anything, thankfully, but the friends who recently did it to me were SO disappointing. They were a couple who had been married for like 18 years and had built a lovely life together before having a child... and obviously having a child changed their lives, but it also seemed to completely change their personalities. They used to be considerate of other's needs before kiddo came along, but afterward they became rude, obnoxiously self-centered, and utterly dismissive of anyone outside their tiny family unit. I hear they've improved, and when my grandmother died a couple of days ago I did get a text message from one of them offering condolences, but... given that they shut me out of their lives for not abandoning said grandmother often enough and coming apple picking or pumpkin picking or berry picking with them (so I could take family photos of them for their holiday cards and they could leave the tripod at home, gross), I'm gonna take a big fat pass on any rekindled friendship offers in the future. I'd rather hang with my other kidded friends, the ones who still invite me over even though I don't have a baby with whom they can arrange a playdate.
posted by palomar at 2:40 PM on March 7 [10 favorites]


Speaking as a person with kids, this article was amazing. Omg the "progressive" dads who gamely try to talk about kids for a few minutes to show they can before happily retreating to talking about work.
posted by potrzebie at 2:40 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Are You Ready to Have Friends with Kids?
Are you ready to have friends with pets?
Are you ready to have friends with disabilities?
Are you ready to have friends with spouses?
Are you ready to have friends with hobbies that you do not share?
Are you ready to have friends with aging parents who live with them?
Are you ready to have friends with a house?
Are you ready to have friends with jobs you don't entirely understand?
Are you ready to have friends with post-graduate studies?

Look, I get it, you don't care about my kid's epic journey on the potty. Okay. I don't care about your home-brew beer but you chattered about that to me for sixteen emails.

Oh, you don't like having to schedule around my new need to be home to read my kid a book? Okay. I don't like having to schedule around your obsession with beekeeping classes.

You're not into kids? Okay, I'm not into dogs.

You don't like that I spent two years slightly sleep deprived? Suck it up, I put up with your completely upside-down schedule when you were editing your thesis.

Which is to say, ANY big life commitment or change is going to affect friendships. If you like your friends enough to tolerate their weird obsession with table top X-Wing games, or dogs, or sour beer or their thesis defense or their divorce or their crappy third shift job, and you're willing to work around the scheduling and conversations you're not that interested in and having to take allergy pills because they bring their dog on every. single. hike, then just put up with the kid too, okay?

Or let them find better friends.
posted by FritoKAL at 2:40 PM on March 7 [74 favorites]


on balance I know it’s ultimately harder for [people with kids]

Another non-parent here. Shapes, that's an impressively generous comment (no snark!). But everyone has their own burdens to bear, and (on preview, to add in The Card Cheat's comment), it's truly dispiriting when your friends can tell you everything and more about nipple shields and meconium but then don't have time to hear about your job loss, worrisome diagnosis, breakup, etc., because little Jared is shrieking in the background or Emmylou is drawing on her face with a Sharpie.
posted by scratch at 2:43 PM on March 7 [12 favorites]


While most people my age were having kids, my friend group were mostly doing drugs, crimes, and dying. Some found time to have kids while doing that but I'm sure you can see the problem there. When I got sober, none of us really knew how this whole adult thing was supposed to work so there didn't seem to be much difference between friends with kids, and those without, since really we mostly seemed to be old kids. Now I'm 60 and single. I have friends with kids, friends without and we all just seem to get along as best we can without judgement. I'm friends with one of my old friends kids. He's an awesome adult and has kids of his own. Sometimes I think I was extra lucky being a 12 stepper.
posted by evilDoug at 2:44 PM on March 7 [8 favorites]


Man, I get what this satire is trying to do and I'm primed to dislike it for a couple reasons none of which have anything to do with the actual humor (which is pretty on-point) but I've been thinking about this a lot lately and it kinda sucks that the world breaks down in your mid- to late-twenties into kid-having and not-kid-having friends. I totally understand that some of it is just... having less time... especially socially acceptable time to "go out and socialize" like evenings. But so much of it seems artificial.

The most extreme example of this is an argument that I had with a very progressive dude friend of mine who heard a promo for the podcast One Bad Mother and went on a rant to me about how he was so tired of hearing the narrative that moms totally lose their identity and don't have time for fun anymore and have no idea what movies are playing or music is popular and that it was like, hey, you don't have to do this, you can choose to not be a mom. And like, I get where he's coming from, and I don't plan to have kids for a lot of reasons that tie into that. But at the same time, that narrative isn't being pushed on moms by Big Podcast, this is a podcast from women about their actual experience as mothers, and maybe my friend could take just like a split second out of his day to realize the utter bullshit that is being forced to choose between one of the most primary drives of being human (speaking generally if not for individuals), which is parenthood, and, like, keeping an actual life, and how utterly crappy that dichotomy is, and maybe some of the sociological reasons it exists? It's like he hears the word "parenthood" and just... shuts down his critical reasoning skills. Despite being pretty woke about a lot of other topics.

Because the reasons why the whole "children become your life" for parents-- especially moms-- are pretty fucking infuriating and artificial after the stage where Babbo can be away from breastmilk for the span of a few hours. Part of it is because in general, men are shitty parents for all sorts of reasons (including work pressures due to socioeconomic sexism that means men are more likely to keep their jobs after having kids and then in addition to keeping their jobs they suddenly may need to work more to provide for a new family member as well as socialization to be disinterested in raising children, etc., etc.), so Mom is already at a disadvantage, because now there are functionally 1.5 parents instead of 2. Then factor things like, someone has to look after the baby if you're not going to, and yeah, the reason my mom friends don't know what movies are playing is not because they suddenly have no interest, it's because they literally financially cannot afford to go because the price of a movie more than quadruples when you need to pay a babysitter. Not to mention many of them quit their jobs and have nothing else to talk about besides mothering now, whether or not they actually want to, because fucking childcare in this country is so goddamn expensive that even if they wanted to keep working or a hobby or volunteering or whatever it would have actually cost them money to do so. And we talk about all that sacrifice like it's normal and somehow the parents' fault.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure a lot of the identity crises and sudden all-consuming child-orientation that comes with being a parent has a lot to do with psychology and biology, too. But so much of it seems artificial and social in nature-- who the actual fuck thinks that a nuclear family being responsible for child-rearing, rather than a cooperative like a village or extended kinship network-- is a good idea? It's, like, unfeasible!

And no pressure on anyone here if it's not your jam, but there is nothing contagious about babies, and hanging out with one for a bit won't suddenly weaken your resolve and make you want one. If you want to talk to your friends about something that isn't their kids, offer to babysit so they can go see Black Panther. Organize a DnD sesh in the afternoon and have some snacks and movies for the kiddos at your house. If you possibly can, participate in your friends' child-rearing. I mean, I don't have kids, but from where I am, it looks like it fucking sucks to try and raise a kid in this insane late-stage capitalism socially isolating geographically distant system. And I'm mad as hell on my friends' behalf, and the only response I can think of that is anyway meaningful on the local level is solidarity forever, except in the form of babysitting for friends sometimes.
posted by WidgetAlley at 2:47 PM on March 7 [109 favorites]


I'm a bit bemused that y'all seem to be taking the article as an endorsement of not having kids. You do realise it's making fun of those of us who don't have kids, right? It's not completely unsympathetic, but definitely perpetuates stereotypes of people without kids as shallow, consumerist, drunken partyers. It has more than a few digs at those who do have kids, though, so I guess it's more or less equal opportunity.

Anyway. I do not have kids and have had varying experiences - some of my friends with kids are still themselves, whereas others seem to have had their individual identities subsumed into parenthood. Some of the kids are delightful, others are ok but I don't particularly bond with (much like humans of any age). I have absolutely suffered from those conversations where everyone is talking about their kids and I feel like some sort of weird alien from another planet. I do not understand the baby smell that so many people rave about, and I think most babies are pretty squashy and unattractive. At the same time, their delight and fascination with the simplest things that they encounter for the first time really does make you remember what an amazing place the world and life and everything is.

Ultimately I think the true benchmark for staying friends with people who have kids is whether they can appreciate the similarities between my cat and their children. I will go on at them about my cat, and they can go on at me about their kids. They seem to behave in a similar fashion much of the time anyway, so I think it's only fair!
posted by Athanassiel at 2:47 PM on March 7 [14 favorites]


This was a really interesting read. I am 99.9% sure I am not going to be a mom, but damn, I plan to insert myself as Auntie into every one of my friend's lives once they have children. I adore kids. I also adore sending them back home to their parents at the end of the day. It's great. Will I get tired of it at a certain point? Probably. Until then I get to enjoy all the fun parts of having a kid and give my friends a break here and there whenever I can.
posted by Hermione Granger at 2:57 PM on March 7 [8 favorites]


I just had yet another really frustrating conversation with former-but-no-longer-besties-because-of-their-children, so I'm happy to find some likeminded company here. These are the friends who have made it very difficult to remain close because they are so completely wrapped up in their kids--which of course is natural!--but the problem really is that they expect me to be wrapped up, too and five years of us drifting apart hasn't seemed to clue them in on the fact that they're doing a bad job of keeping up their side of the friendship.

Like, I totally understand that while the kids are little we can't socialize as much as we used to (and we live far apart, so that didn't help). But when I finally get them to set a phone date to catch up, I cannot actually get them to focus on our conversation because they do shit like call me while they're playing with their kids. So this means I'm on speakerphone while they interrupt themselves approximately every 40 seconds to address their kids (because apparently they also can't either hand off the kids to the other parent or start training their kids to not be the center of attention for a few minutes). And don't even get me started on the ridiculousness when they decide that it's time to get their toddler--who has met me once and thus has no idea who I am!--to "talk" to me on the phone, too! Like, I don't want to be hung out to dry on speakerphone for 5 minutes while you're trying to coax your shy toddler into addressing a disembodied voice!

In short: I have resentments. And I now go months without calling the friends I used to call at least once a day when we lived in the same building.
posted by TwoStride at 3:10 PM on March 7 [13 favorites]


Also missing: Are you ready to choose between seeing your friends with kids and contracting some sort of virus, or not seeing them at all? Because sadly that's what it's come to for us. Every time we visit our friends and their small children, every single time, BOOM, upper respiratory infection. We miss them, we don't want to shun them, but holy shit do we not have time to get sick for days on end.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 3:15 PM on March 7 [21 favorites]


Taking care of young children is the ultimate time-suck. I never knew what "I don't have time for that" was until my wife and I had kids. I thought I lacked free time before kids, but now realize that those pre-kid days were CHOCK FULL of free time. Just loads. Swimming in me-time, all the time.

Of course, it's sort of logarithmic: the younger the kid, the more time spend on them, and as they get older, they grow more independent, and eventually want to get away from mom and dad as much as they can. We're not there yet; my kids are still in elementary school, but yeah, looking forward to a social life again.
posted by zardoz at 3:19 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


Like to me the worst kinds of parent judgement almost feel like the abstinence argument, "If you don't want to get pregnant, just don't have sex", except it's, "If you don't want to lose all your interests and identity and spare time, just don't have kids." And that's.... an utterly insane and unfair position to put people in-- and one with, in a society this technologically advanced, plenty of possible solutions just like the abstinence one!
posted by WidgetAlley at 3:23 PM on March 7 [14 favorites]


You may end up deciding that the healthiest thing is to have multiple sets of friends with kids so they can keep each other entertained.

Get your cat a cat.
posted by Slackermagee at 3:24 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]


Oh, it's totally making fun of people without kids, but it reads more like knowing satire or self-deprecating humor than an actual insult. I don't know, maybe it's just making fun of me and my kind, but either way, I'm just glad there's an opportunity to talk about all this. Dealing with a real and sometimes emotionally fraught dynamic with humor, etc etc.

Which is to say, ANY big life commitment or change is going to affect friendships. If you like your friends enough to tolerate their weird obsession with table top X-Wing games, or dogs, or sour beer or their thesis defense or their divorce or their crappy third shift job, and you're willing to work around the scheduling and conversations you're not that interested in and having to take allergy pills because they bring their dog on every. single. hike, then just put up with the kid too, okay?

Or let them find better friends.


Oh, for God's sake. Your girlfriend's parents don't constantly forward her articles about how the best time to drink sour beer is before the age of 35, or articles about how you need to start watching your nutritional intake up to a couple years before you decide to start drinking sour beer. They don't look crushed every you tell them you aren't interested in sour beer. You don't have to know that someone was an only child, and her decision not to drink sour beer means that her parents will never get to be grand-sour-beer-drinkers. No one ever says "oh, I used to feel the way you do about sour beer, but as I got more mature I realized it was what I needed all along." Nobody chuckles and says "oh, you will [start drinking sour beer]" when you tell them you don't want to. Your sister doesn't respond to you saying you don't want sour beer by saying "oh yeah, who would want sour beer? It's just the most profoundly moving thing you can do that gives you a completely new perspective on life and the world."

Friends don't tell you how much they resent you for not drinking sour beer, and how they just can't relate to your life's problems anymore. People don't act like you're greedy for not wanting sour beer, or start talking to you about how important it is that smart people drink sour beer, because so many stupid people are drinking it and we need to balance things out. You don't have to worry about having sex and accidentally getting into sour beer because your IUD only has a 99.9999% chance of working (like that one friend who started drinking sour beer at 25 for just that reason). You don't have to wonder if you'd be able to handle drinking sour beer, or if the stress would kill you and you'd be one of millions of shitty beer drinkers who never wanted sour beer and can't hide that from anyone.

Most of all, you don't find yourself wondering how your life will be when you're 65 and you never drank sour beer. Will you regret it?

People never say that there's no deeper bond than the one between a sour beer and its drinker, and you're never left wondering if you'll be missing out on something wonderful for pointless reasons, that having disposable income isn't actually, on balance, better than knowing what it's like to drink sour beer. There's no studies showing how many people with sour beer are unhappy, and how women in particular feel like they're never allowed to say that they regret drinking sour beer.

You don't feel quite so left out when all your friends start drinking sour beer, because it's not a radical, life-changing decision that will stick with them for decades. Seeing your friends start drinking sour beer doesn't drive home all the complex emotions, social pressures, family pressures, and just plain existential questions that surround the topic of sour beer. You don't find yourself wishing there were more role models for people who don't drink sour beers, because you hardly know anyone over 40 who doesn't drink sour beer. And you don't start feeling more and more isolated because of the choices you've made about beekeeping, or sour beer, or bringing your dog on hikes.

So maybe that's why it's hard for people who don't have kids to relate to their friends who do.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 3:25 PM on March 7 [98 favorites]


I have a 2 year old and one more kid on the way, and I was pretty primed to hate this. But then I laughed.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:35 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


I was going to chime in here to disagree with the premise in the OP's pull quote. That is to say that our nonkid friends are not swamped with hearing about our kids. They simply aren't. They simply don't hear from us at all/as much. It's just sociological physics, time is finite and kids and distance stretches both.

Putting that to rest, I can wholeheartedly thank the folks here, kid having and not, who are accepting of the nature of the above. I'm sure it sucks for those that don't have kids. I am also sure that any assignment of blame as to which class may deserve blame for dying friendships is toxic and unhelpful.

I can also say that, as the owner of two kiddos under 4 here and now, that we miss y'all on the other side of the fence immensely. We also miss sleeping later than 5 or 6am and/or getting more than 6 hours of sleep a night. Love y'all, but sleep and making sure food gets on the table really fucks with us doing anything with old friends, let alone making new ones.

See ya in 10 years I guess.
posted by RolandOfEld at 3:41 PM on March 7 [9 favorites]


And I'm not even getting into the soul crushing time and physical constraints of birth and, perhaps, subsequent breastfeeding is for both parents, but mostly the female half of a parental units obviously. My wife basically fell off the radar completely to all but the closest of close, even with my nightly assistance and doing all I could to assist, during that period. Ditto for getting back to work after the same, even as an educated professional. It's an abrupt and immensely shocking drain that I'm certain has caused many friendships to wither on the vine if the other side lacked the context to understand and excuse the side effects of all the above.
posted by RolandOfEld at 3:47 PM on March 7 [9 favorites]


If your "friends" shame you for not having kids, get better friends. If your "friends" shame you for having kids, get better friends.

Look, anyone who gives people massive shit for a lifestyle decision (or lack thereof, birth control, abortion, infertility treatment and adoption are not available for all people at all times) are shit people. That's not the issue here.

The issue here is that "Having kids" is treated like this Unique Thing That Ruins Friendships - but it's no more friendship ruining than a disability, a divorce, a doctorate program, a third-shift job, or any other massive change to someone's life that they undertake willingly or not so willingly.

No one is writing articles about how that third-shift nursing job ruined friendships, but they sure as hell are writing articles about how mommies are the worst friends ever. No one's writing articles about how your friend going through their doctoral thesis is never available and is always tired but god DAMN people love to shame parents for not having the time, money or interest in drinking until 3am anymore.

On top of that, the previous comments regarding the division of effort between male and female parents, and how much more of the burden a mom usually has versus a dad, and how much of parenthood is forced upon women loom large. If your friend has suddenly dropped off the social scene because she had a baby, gosh, maybe it's because parenthood is a huge burden on women.
posted by FritoKAL at 3:57 PM on March 7 [25 favorites]


I have always found that the reason you tend to “lose” friends to kids is because prior to having kids, so many social events mean Being Out in Public. I have found that if I change my friend approach to “can we hang out if I come make dinner in your kitchen and clean up afterwards?” that suddenly my friends-with-kids are much more available for hanging out, and asking me about my life, and watching dumb tv together. I love signing up to be a third parent for in-home social occasions, and it means they don’t just disappear.

That said, I have known people who immersed themselves into “LO” and “DH” culture, and a million pinterest photoshoots and events where grownups talking to each other in the background is “a distraction” from the event, and start only hanging with other parents, and that can definitely sting. It’s half “oh, so I’m not part of the club and now we're done?” and half “WHO ARE YOU????”
posted by a fiendish thingy at 3:58 PM on March 7 [23 favorites]


The issue here is that "Having kids" is treated like this Unique Thing That Ruins Friendships - but it's no more friendship ruining than a disability, a divorce, a doctorate program, a third-shift job, or any other massive change to someone's life that they undertake willingly or not so willingly.

It is so much more common as an experience though - hence, the articles.
posted by agregoli at 4:00 PM on March 7 [5 favorites]


I don't know - maybe I'm living in some kind of parallel universe or something but I just had a kid (he's six months) but I don't feel like my friendships with non-kid having friends have withered at all. We still see them, we still have long arguments about cultural appropriation, I still plan elaborate dinners because I like to cook, I still invite people over. More of my socialization happens at home because it's easiest to chat after the kid is in bed but it still happens. When relatives are in town, which they often are, I feel like we leave the baby at home and go out with friends about as often as before. I do have to be more deliberate about my schedule than before but we still make things happen.
posted by peacheater at 4:02 PM on March 7 [4 favorites]


we need to connect with more of the childless. i just spent the last weekend following They Might Be Giants around the state and i didn't dare tell any of my friends with kids i was going. it's part survivor's guilt towards them and part i-don't-want-to-hear-it from them.
posted by ovenmitt at 4:14 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


It is so much more common as an experience though - hence, the articles.

It also seems to come in stages as well, in a much more concrete way than the other examples provided.

I'm just on the edge of 30, and I have a lot of friends that are 30+ - I have seen *their* events and parties have to evolve to incorporate around 25 to 30 children.

I really like children, they're not for me personally and I love finding out what they're up to and seeing cute pictures - but I think it's okay to want to grieve that evolution/change/loss of friendship and passage of time. It's not shaming parents for having kids.
posted by liquorice at 4:16 PM on March 7 [5 favorites]


I’m seeing a lot of comments here basically saying “I, a childless person, am grateful this was posted!”

Am I the only one who read this article as the author slamming childless people? Like, it seems to have the subtext, “Childless people who complain about their friends with kids are self-centered assholes.” I mean, maybe we are, and the article is right on, but I think a lot of people are reading it as sympathizing with us, and I didn’t see that at all. If you read it differently, I’m all ears. Or... eyes?
posted by greermahoney at 4:23 PM on March 7 [5 favorites]


I am feeling this so hard right now. I have a dear friend who's about to have a kid, and it will be a desperately wanted kid, and I'm happy for her, but I also feel like... nooooo! Don't leave me! I'll never get to have uninterrupted time with you again! It's scary and sad to contemplate, even though I WANT her to get to be a mother. If we were going through it at the same time it would be different, but as it is it just feels like it's going to inevitably mean us moving further apart.
posted by aka burlap at 4:24 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


but I think it's okay to want to grieve that evolution/change/loss of friendship and passage of time. It's not shaming parents for having kids.
posted by liquorice


Absolutely. Yes.
posted by agregoli at 4:27 PM on March 7


It's the New Yorker, so I assumed they were slamming the childless.
posted by agregoli at 4:29 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


Am I the only one who read this article as the author slamming childless people?

I've read it a few times, and now it does just feel like the author slamming childless people. I don't know, I guess I'm still glad it was posted because this has been on my mind after yet another friend announced their pregnancy, and I wanted an opportunity to talk about it. But yeah, that's kind of a downer. "Finally an opportunity to talk about watching all my friends have kids!" *turns out to be a major dig on me and people like me*

Well anyway, maybe that's why other people are chiming in to say the same stuff I did. I'd like to see more guidance for not having kids, because it seems like such an obvious thing ("it's really easy to not do something!"), but there's a lot I still don't get.

It's especially frustrating when you want to talk about how it's starting to feel isolating that everyone around you is having kids, and how that's changing your whole social life, and for the response to be "if your friendships are strained because of something like this, get better friends." Like, I'm not talking about hypotheticals here, I'm talking about my real friendships, and no, the problem isn't that I need to "get better friends." No one is being a jerk about this, it's just hard. There's no pat answer to this. It may just be something that you have to go through at a certain stage of your life if you've made the choices I have, but that doesn't make it easy.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 4:34 PM on March 7 [26 favorites]


I love signing up to be a third parent for in-home social occasions, and it means they don’t just disappear.

Yeah, this. Maybe I'm just also very boring, but my main complaint about friends having kids right now is that they want to plan social activities in their house that start after the kids go to bed, and if it's winter and the SAD is kicking in I really want to be in bed by 10PM which is not very much later than Kid Bedtime.
posted by deludingmyself at 4:35 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


See ya in 10 years I guess.

Man I hope this is true but, you know, a lot happens in 10 years. I don't plan to have kids and I've lost some friends who became parents, but have stayed close with many, and become even closer to some.

It's a big life change and I had to change too to work with my parent friends' needs and schedules. But after that, it's been pretty much entirely dependent on the parents and how willing they are to integrate me into their "new" lives, and integrate baby into their "old" lives.
posted by lalex at 4:36 PM on March 7


I have 2 sets of close friends (15+ years) without kids and if anything my one buddy is horrible at getting back to me. Dude I know work is busy but I miss you!!

I've been reduced to liking all his Facebook posts.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 4:39 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


I also intensely dislike the assumption that because I chose not to have children that I dislike them. Quite the opposite. I adore my nieces and my nephew; they amuse me greatly and it's cool to watch them form into the people they are going to be. I also like my friends' kids as well.

I mean, I get it. Parenting is a full time job on top of a job a parent likely already has. I am not asking you to not have children to satisfy my need for friendship; I'm asking you to meet me halfway in maintaining our pre-baby friendship .
posted by Kitteh at 4:39 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]


I don't find hearing about kids particularly dull, in all honesty.

me neither, this whole complaint aesthetic is very alienating to me personally as a unchilded woman. if I actually get bored with someone's monologue on human neurological development, which I rarely do, I'll stop listening for a while and read something while I hold the phone on my ear. who cares. it's fine. my cat is also very interesting.

but this thing some parents apparently say, this 'keep in touch to remind me what I was like years ago before I had kids,' that's the thoughtless breathtaking insult I would find it very hard to forgive. anyone who thinks people without children do not age, grow, and change sometimes beyond recognition with the passing of time and the burdens of tragedy and responsibility, just like they do, would be best served by keeping it to themselves. talking to a person without children is not like turning on vh1's remember the 90s for some good old time-capsule fun.
posted by queenofbithynia at 4:42 PM on March 7 [26 favorites]


My friends have stopped having kids and are starting to have divorces. I feel so old.

At least we're past the point where I'm not allowed to talk about Christmas or Easter in front of their kids for fear I'll let something slip about the possible existence or non-existence of certain adipose bearded men and/or benevolent rabbits.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:45 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Look if we could all just get our UBI and healthcare and live in giant communes so our kids could all play together and get schooled together we'd have plenty more time to keep in touch with childed and unchilded friends alike.

Until then, yeah, the child-free friends end up carrying the load and having to have the most patience and I do feel for them. We lost a few but kept a few (who are now "uncles and aunts" to our kid), mostly with great struggle and great patience on their part.

Honestly I do promise that your friends with young children haven't become stupider or more boring, they are just constantly sleep deprived and unable to form thoughts quickly. Once their kids get old enough to sleep consistently, they'll regain their sharpness.

I will tell you from the other side that there is isolation too. When you really feel the weight of the obligation a kid brings (this often happens the first week home), it can be crushing and you can feel more terribly alone than ever in your life and utterly inadequate to an enormous task. Meanwhile, your past life is utterly gone and you have no idea who you even are anymore. And if you fuck it up, you hurt a tiny helpless person, forever.

We are so unkind to new parents, even as we shower them with praise and tell them what to buy, we tell them they are fine all alone with their new baby, when much of the time, they are not fine. They are scared as fuck and lonely and so, so tired.

Our system is just stupidly cruel and I'm still angry about it even though my kid is well on his way to independence.
posted by emjaybee at 4:53 PM on March 7 [24 favorites]


Which is to say, ANY big life commitment or change is going to affect friendships.

True, but some changes are worse than others.

Are You Ready to Have Friends with Kids?

I think this thread already covered these issues.

Are you ready to have friends with pets?

Not a problem.

Are you ready to have friends with disabilities?

Hasn't been a problem.

Are you ready to have friends with spouses?

Sometimes this has been a problem. It depends on (a) the spouse, and (b) whether or not your friend becomes a Young Smug Married.

Are you ready to have friends with hobbies that you do not share?

Not a problem.

Are you ready to have friends with aging parents who live with them?

Hasn't been a problem.

Are you ready to have friends with a house?

Hasn't been a problem.

Are you ready to have friends with jobs you don't entirely understand?

Hasn't been a problem other than my general confusion when they talked about work.

Are you ready to have friends with post-graduate studies?

See above remark.

Honestly, I've been able to manage most of those EXCEPT kids and newlyweds. Those people drop out of your life very quickly most of the time.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:56 PM on March 7 [10 favorites]


but this thing some parents apparently say, this 'keep in touch to remind me what I was like years ago before I had kids,' that's the thoughtless breathtaking insult I would find it very hard to forgive. anyone who thinks people without children do not age, grow, and change sometimes beyond recognition with the passing of time and the burdens of tragedy and responsibility, just like they do, would be best served by keeping it to themselves.

Really?

It ain't that deep.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 4:58 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


OMG IT'S NOT LIKE WE DIED WHEN THE BABY WAS BORN

-- Signed, has seen Black Panther, is seeing Annihilation tomorrow night, has not dropped any friends, is holding down three jobs, still travels, wrangles a disabling chronic illness along with everything else, yes I am doing a huge chunk of the parenting, the baby is sixteen months old and you're not going to hear details about them from me unless I am legitimately sure you want to hear it. No, I don't think I'm great at time management; I am very lucky to have a large support network, and the rest is about my priorities, which of course include the baby at a high level, but not to the exclusion of the rest of my life and my self.

Part of the problem here is the way everyone expects new parents to subsume themselves into their children, and the way new parents consequently expect that of themselves. I feel we should be encouraging people who want to parent to go into it with the idea that they are trying to grow, not to shrink, to be themselves plus family, not only a parent and provider. It's hard! I don't know if I'm doing great at it! And it's even harder because very few people want to support parents in this as a goal, and society as a whole pretty much thinks there's something wrong with you if this is what you're doing.

I mean, I'm having to fight through waves of social anxiety and fear to write this comment, because it feels as though saying, say, 'it's important to me to keep up with current movies'-- which it is-- is going to make you think I'm not actually putting in the time as a parent, that I'm dumping it off on my spouse, that I'm a privileged whiner who should shut up and put that energy to good use somewhere else, preferably my baby. I go to the late shows after my spouse and child are asleep, so I'm not cutting down on time with them in any way, but notice that I feel I have to make sure you know that.

One reason so many parents can't talk about anything but their kids is feeling guilty if they do, feeling guilty about having other things in their lives or about talking about those things because that makes you a Bad Parent which means you are a Bad Person.

And then you get caught in a double bind, where your friends would like you to do the things you used to do, but you feel morally guilty about doing them, because You Are A Parent Now, so of course you pull away from those friends, because it feels profoundly uncomfortable. And then you really don't have anything going on in your life but parenting, so you fall more into that as your identity and vocation, so you feel even more guilty about doing anything else...

I don't have a solution for this, except that everyone should reassure new parents A LOT that, as long as the child is fed, well, and happy, it's okay to have parenting be whatever portion of their identities that feels right to them. It's okay to have outside interests! It's okay not to! And both parents and non-parents should be aware of the guilt, and that in most cases it is entirely baseless guilt caused by our society being dumb about parenting.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 5:01 PM on March 7 [26 favorites]


Two or three cars, that's the point. It isn't deep. The comment is thoughtless and insulting.
posted by agregoli at 5:06 PM on March 7 [4 favorites]


My friends never started having kids. Or at least, not yet. I don't think it will happen in a particularly big way, what with most of them being queer and/or trans, and in relationships that aren't immediately conducive to pregnancies occurring.

Family, though, is a different story. I have cousins that I used to get in with very well indeed whenever I was back in Denmark for family gatherings, who absolutely have nothing to talk about except for children, and seem to treat attempts at introducing any other topic of conversation with utter contempt. I'm not up on the latest films, or the latest music or TV, and I don't have a job that puts me in contact with other people. There is officially fuck all going on in my life 99% of the time. I can still converse about films, about music, about TV. Or hell, about damn near anything. You can talk about things that aren't in your wheelhouse. Not every conversation has to be about the things you're into or know about.

Unless you're my cousins with kids. Then no conversation ever can be about anything but kids. And those of us who don't have kids will apparently just have to forever be the ones doing the hard part of the conversation - talking about and being interested in things you don't know or really care about. If it were a two way street, I wouldn't mind. It isn't. At least being trans, I don't get asked when it'll be my turn (at least not after the one time I replied with an explanation of how I was absolutely no longer equipped for that).

(I feel similarly about people buying houses or househunting, only it seems to be that you have to always talk that through first and can then at least get onto other things afterwards)
posted by Dysk at 5:11 PM on March 7 [4 favorites]


I also read the piece as being more unkind than funny. (Granted, I rarely find the New Yorker humor pieces funny, despite their often excellent choices in cartoons.)

We've had plenty of friends who stayed the same great people after having kids (just with less free time), but there have been others where it was like their personalities got swapped out (in an unpleasant way) when they were in the maternity ward. The people with balanced, happy lives look to me to be much better parents, but I suppose time will tell.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:26 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Two or three cars, that's the point. It isn't deep. The comment is thoughtless and insulting.

No it isn't? I have no children and I'd have to work hard to be insulted by that. What do y'all even get out of all this indignation.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 5:33 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


I had more to say but I had to leave work.

As far as I can tell, the real issue is that folks with babies or newlyweds are starting a totally new stage of life, which they are obsessed with for good reason, and what they really seem to need in a friend is someone else in the same boat. And I am...not. I haven't heard from the friend I was a bridesmaid for in most of a year and I am not even a tiny bit surprised at this. The last friend I had that got married, I heard from her once since then. This is how it goes when you aren't in the same life stage. Kids have this issue too except it goes on for 20 years. I've had married friends and parent friends, but they need to not be newlyweds/be old marrieds or have their last kid get to be about age six before they are willing/able/whatever to have the interest in seeing me. That's about the point when they seem to be able to have some brain space available outside of the new relationship. It's not like I can't take kid talk or just hang out at their house, but I think they just lose the interest in anything outside of their family relationship.

Hobbies, jobs, disabilities, pets, whatever just do not have this problem in the same way. Big life changes like moves (which we haven't brought up yet?), marriage and babies, on the other hand, change everything.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:34 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


It's almost as if people are different and find different things insulting, huh weird
posted by agregoli at 5:37 PM on March 7 [4 favorites]


(I think queenofbithynia explained the insult very well)
posted by agregoli at 5:41 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


As someone who does not have and does not want kids, I'm nonetheless glad for my friends with kids. I'm not against kids! Just against having them. Yes, you have to be more accommodating, but, hell, there is something gratifying to me in being able to support my female friends who are mothers, knowing how inadequate the world is about doing so. Most of my friends with kids seem to enjoy the opportunity to talk about something else on occasion, too. Maybe I just have good taste in friends, or was lucky enough not to take up with the kind of jerks who use parenting as an excuse to be wildly selfish by proxy.
posted by praemunire at 5:42 PM on March 7 [5 favorites]


'keep in touch to remind me what I was like years ago before I had kids'

People say that? Good lord. You're not a biographer, you're a friend.
posted by Toddles at 5:48 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Parent here.

We had our first child when I was in grad school. (Qualifying exam was on Frankenstein the day my wife was supposed to deliver; that was fun) It was a hard birth and our daughter wasn't an easy baby.

Within weeks we lost most of our friends and social circle. Easily 90% of my grad school connections faded out. Going to bars, concerts, parties generally went away.

The world dwindled to a dual focus for me: baby and grad school. My wife got sick at the time for bonus points, so there was plenty of exhaustion, debilitation, frustration, and confusion around. I regret that I stopped journaling at the time because so much sleep deprivation wrecked many of my memories.

For a few months I watched new episodes of Law and Order and taped Babylon-5 with the sound off, rocking the very, very cranky baby and feeding her back to sleep. (These shows made sense to me without dialog)

We tried all kinds of goofy things to intersect with the world. I took the baby to university committee meetings and my office hours (didn't go well, mostly). We started up a child care service for our grad student union when we did job actions, and I was embarrassed to be the only parent taking advantage of it. We held a Halloween party.

New friends entered our lives, entirely consisting of parents with children of different ages. They were lifelines for us as we fought to navigate this bizarre, alien parenting world.

And some friends stuck with us. We're still close to them, 22 years later, partly as a result.

Now our youngest has left for college and we're trying to remember what it was like to just be the two of us. "Empty nest" doesn't do it justice.

I appreciated reading the comments of childless/free folk here. That's not a perspective I intuitively grasp.
posted by doctornemo at 5:48 PM on March 7 [6 favorites]


We have local grandparents who are retired but still able-bodied and happy to help with our kid, so we have 4x the support as parents that most Americans do, which does allow us to occasionally, like, be amongst the populous. We were also old when we had our kid (I was 38) and already very well set in our homebody ways. (There are downsides to having a baby so late in life, but one up side is that we'd already Been There and Done That, probably multiple times, so we feel a lot less kid-induced FOMO.)

We are very, very much not We Identify As Parents parents. I think we're still fun! I mean, for a value of fun that involves complicated board games and Netflix. I definitely don't want to talk about my kid all the time. (I do some of the time, though. Child development is interesting!) But we definitely experienced a couple friends who pre-shunned us on the expectation that we would turn into 100% boring assholes as soon as baby arrived landside. That's become such a meme, I feel like sometimes new parents aren't even given a chance to be Not That before they get judged. (And lemme tell you, everyfuckingone is going to judge you and my reaction to that is a middle finger but not everyone is me and it is an awful experience.) Give folks a couple weeks or months before being yet another person in their life telling them that they're doing it wrong.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:10 PM on March 7 [5 favorites]


A benefit of hitting my mid-fifties: my friends have kids who are now old enough to have conversations with, to compare Radiohead notes with, to dissuade from getting tattoos (I have several large ones, and have the cred their parents lack in talking them out of getting the Walking Dead tribute ink on their chests), once they get to the point where they're young adults, they generally become delightful beings, and their parents are coming back online to their own lives (for the most part). But yeah - pretty sure I've typed this sentence out on MeFi before - not having children is one of the few really good choices I made in my life, and reading the thread for this post is a reminder of that fact. To you parents out there: you are braver than I will ever aspire to be, carry on, folks, better you than me.
posted by dbiedny at 6:11 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]


I think there's a difference between "friends who have kids" and "friends who just had a baby". The first year or two of a kid's life can really be all-consuming for parents, and if you have a baby when you already have a toddler there's not much left for anything else. But if you have friends at different stages of life then the early-childhood years are a blip over the long term. My husband and I are late-40s and have a teenager, but we have friends who have grown-up kids, friends who have teenagers, friends who have new kids, friends who have no kids, and friends who are kids.
posted by Daily Alice at 6:18 PM on March 7 [4 favorites]


This conversation pops up frequently on Metafilter and I've wondered if the disconnect I have with it is cultural. Maybe its because I grew up in a different culture, it'd never occurred to me to not bring my child along to things (within reason of course) and I would expect others to do the same. How else would your child be socialised properly? It can't all come from the parents. If they lived in some kind of hermetically sealed world where all they ate was chicken fingers and only knew other children they'd end up being absolutely insufferable. Expecting children to behave in a way they've never seen or understand is unrealistic and would just result in a lousy time for all. Exposure to a larger community beyond the family, a variety of adult role models and expectations helps inform a child's behaviour and provides a much wider range of experiences to draw from.

Also I wouldn't say having a kid affected my relationships all that much but we always tried to be deferential and considerate to friends with and without children. It also would never occurred to me to not spend time with someone because of their kids or mine (within reason of course). I mean if your friend disappears due to children (it likely isn't personal, by the way, so why be resentful?) it might be helpful to check in with them and see if they need a hand or maybe make them a meal or offer to bring coffee over. They probably can't go out dancing all night but you can go see a matinee, have a nice take-out supper, a chat over coffee... Time changes our relationships and that's ok. Also it'd never occur to me to talk to someone who had no interest in children about my child in much the same way I wouldn't talk to them about Soviet experimental filmmakers if they had no interest. And why would one hassle people for not having a kid? What a strange thing to do... Being a parent isn't for everyone.
posted by Ashwagandha at 6:25 PM on March 7 [15 favorites]


There can be cultural expectations that lead to this as well. I was invited to some coworkers get togethers where the women and men separate themselves. The guys go to one area to play cards or dominoes and watch tv or whatever and the women go to one room to complain about the kids and gossip behind the backs of other family members. I noticed a couple of the young mothers who I knew well from work not looking like they were wanting to be there talking about these things and it really didn't suit their personality at work. But I guess they felt they had to be there talking about these things as it was their 'place'.

I'm Jewish and having children can be a nerve-wracking point of tension. The holocaust thing along with the rise of interfaith marriages has is so that every Rabbi reminds me of how important it is that I find me a nice jewish partner to have jew babies with. But the pressure is 10x fold on my female jewish friends who are expected to pop out at LEAST 2-3 kids before their eggs shrivel up. In much of the orthodox community, a woman who doesn't have kids is considered pretty useless. Often times the ones with kids will rudely dismiss the ones that don't because they "couldn't possibly understand." When it comes to cultural pressures, I wonder how many parents who can't seem to talk about anything else, are deep inside actually dying to talk about something else- but maybe don't feel like they're allowed to within their cultural world.
posted by fantasticness at 6:35 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


I think it would be wise to consider how we plan to maintain friendships when friends need to be carers for aging or dying parents, or need to care for a disabled or dying spouse. Those things are coming down the road and they're intense, consuming and life-changing....also, you can't just decide "I will never care for a sick or dying person, I just don't think I'd be good at it and it wouldn't make me happy" the way you can decide not to have a child, so it could be you.

There is no way to have friendships that endure over many years but where we are never out of sync with friends and never have to do friendship stuff that isn't our first choice.

As someone who recently lost a parent, I have to say that adjusting to friends' child-related stuff is a hell of a lot better than adjusting to the life changes that come with family illness and decline - at least listening to people go on about pre-school is basically about joy rather than sorrow.
posted by Frowner at 6:44 PM on March 7 [30 favorites]


This was good.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:59 PM on March 7


"They haven't seen the latest movies, read any new books lately, caught up on their Netflix queue, or had 30 minutes strung together to see the news, so you're limited to a topic that you know almost nothing about--the care and feeding of kids."

Heh, I love pop culture (/high culture too), and while I READ a lot about movies (/new books/current music), actually consuming them is a bit of a logistical nightmare, so when I see my friends w/o kids, I'm like, "TELL ME OF ALL THE MOVIES! SHARE WITH ME THE FRUITS OF OUR CULTURE! MY EYES HUNGER FOR A BLUE AND ORANGE COLOR SCHEME TO MOCK." "How are your kids doing?" "Yeah, they're great, whatever, TELL ME ABOUT BLACK PANTHER."

I found the killer app for hanging out with my childless friends was a family-plus membership to the zoo (my family gets in free, and we can bring a guest free). My friend and I could stroll and chat and enjoy the animals, the kids could run and shriek about the animals, and then midafternoon I'd pull out goldfish crackers for everyone, including my friend, who would always be like, "You brought me goldfish????" and I'd be like, "Duh, snacks for everyone!" and they'd be so thrilled.

I also freaking love my friends with weird hobbies who are willing to share them with my kids. When my kids were super-into dinosaurs, a friend of mine took them fossil hunting, and it was awesome. A childless friend of ours who's a trainspotter isn't so much for spending time with children in person, but he's been an endless font of information for my train-crazy children, who e-mail him questions all the time, and he loves getting to share his geekery with tiny little sponges who send him crayon drawings of trains afterwards.

I am always hyper-conscious of my children not really being socially acceptable beings yet who have manners and politeness, but my childless friends seem less bothered by that than I am, they're pretty tolerant.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:05 PM on March 7 [34 favorites]


Friends are the worst.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:11 PM on March 7 [11 favorites]


I found the killer app for hanging out with my childless friends was a family-plus membership to the zoo (my family gets in free, and we can bring a guest free).

YESSSSSSSSS oh how I have loved rediscovering so many things via my friends' kids. All the zoos! A whole category of museums I haven't been to since I was twelve! String cheese and gummy fruit snacks! The entire concept of afternoon snacks! In return for goldfish at 3pm I am a killer babysitter with endless energy.
posted by lalex at 7:15 PM on March 7 [15 favorites]


Kids are just so all-consuming that it's hard to be friends with people who have young children when you do not. They haven't seen the latest movies, read any new books lately, caught up on their Netflix queue, or had 30 minutes strung together to see the news, so you're limited to a topic that you know almost nothing about--the care and feeding of kids.

I highly recommend watching an episode of the Ringo Starr narrated Thomas the Tank Engine together and then coming up with rants about the Fat Controller as a capitalist/industrialist pig who mind controls workers with obsolete skills through mind control and locking them in sheds. You can do a shot every time someone says Really Useful Engine too.

(Really the zoo membership trick is a good one. Also brunch.)
posted by warriorqueen at 7:37 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


Or as I call him, Thomas the Anxiety Disordered Tank Engine
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:55 PM on March 7 [4 favorites]


I was always boring, so it's okay by me that I now have an excuse for being boring AND have a friend with whom I can make robots out of milk cartons.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:02 PM on March 7 [6 favorites]


"They haven't seen the latest movies, read any new books lately, caught up on their Netflix queue, or had 30 minutes strung together to see the news, so you're limited to a topic that you know almost nothing about--the care and feeding of kids."


Good God, use your copious free time to read a fucking book on developmental psychology or child rearing or something, don't stand around whining about how you have so much free time that you can't learn anything about something that is really easy to learn about. Maybe if you didn't avoid your friends with kids you could even learn about it from them!
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:28 PM on March 7 [4 favorites]


Much of life is unpleasant at best, and bringing other beings into it strikes me as thoughtless or unkind. It's hard to maintain close friendships with people who experience the world so differently. I always just hope their kids don't turn out like me.
posted by asperity at 9:44 PM on March 7 [5 favorites]


I've found I've started hanging out more with the male halves of the heterosexual couples we know. Like, if there's a BBQ or party and all the women are hanging out in one room and the men in the other, I usually gravitate to the men's area because they are usually talking about something other than their kids. Or if we are visiting a couple, the wife is the one whose sentences all get interrupted by the kid, who keeps leaving the room to change nappies, and who, every time I'd turn to talk to her, is busy or already talking to the kid.

I hate that this is the case. And I hate any part I play in contributing to the social isolation of these women, but I don't think I can fix it either.
posted by lollusc at 11:58 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by bendy at 11:59 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


I'm probably going to be childless my whole life but I sorta like hanging out with my friends babies and kids. Watching how they think or connect things and talking about it with my friends is really cool. It's like having the world's most advanced AI meat robot right there in your living room to play with (though I make sure I don't tell their parents I call them "advanced AI meat robots" on the internet).
posted by laptolain at 12:13 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]


Naturally, I don't begrudge anyone having children but I do wish I could bottle the optimism it must take to examine the current trajectory of the planet on almost any metric and then unilaterally decide to drag a being into that existence.
posted by smithsmith at 2:34 AM on March 8 [13 favorites]


We had our son at the same time as a large group of my wife's friends where having kids, which sounds good, in theory.
In practice, she'd get together with them for play dates and such and all they would talk about was schools, feeding schedules and maids (it being Chile). She got tired of this and quickly phased them out in favor of a new group of mostly childless friends.
posted by signal at 3:11 AM on March 8


I like kids. I love hearing about people's kids! But if every time I try to talk to you I get the above described situation where my friend spends two hours monologuing about their child and when I say a single sentence about my life they launch into GTG BYEEEE, those are the people who I do not keep trying to connect with. They're also the people in ten years I will be all "new phone, who dis" with.
posted by winna at 4:59 AM on March 8 [7 favorites]


I have a friend who, despite the fact that she has kids, mainly talks nonstop about her never-ending exhausting-sounding drama with men. Some people are just like that and you give them the "only pick up if you're really bored" ringtone and move on.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:39 AM on March 8 [3 favorites]


One solution to this is only making friends at work, and then your workplace imploding due to poor management and all your friends moving away before they have kids.

I haven't really made friends at my new (as in, coming up on 5 years) workplace. The culture is very different and I'm the weird one.

I enjoy hearing about old friends' kids through social media and the rare visit though.
posted by Foosnark at 5:52 AM on March 8


Having Friends with kids (especiallly young kids) can be challenging, but several of my closest friends have kids and they're awesome and we hang out all the time, even if I just going over to their house and drinking wine with the baby monitor. I also hang out with a not-small number of single parents, mostly ( well, in this case, entirely) moms. They are--to a person-- ridiculously awesome.

I don't have kids. I've never wanted them, but I do like kids. And if you happen to end up the only single childless couple at the beach with kids, you may spend more time than you thought dreaming up pirate stories and building elaborate sand civilizations with that precocious nine year old than you will with their parents discussing school systems or the right extracurriculars for the right path through college and whether or not they need to go vegetarian to make sure Lily doesn't spend her adolescence overweight because I would hate for her to have to live with that sort of thing. And you overhear this and worry Lily overheard it and think, What the hell, friends! You spend the last two decades complaining about your parents doing that shit to you and now you're doing it to your own kids! When did you become Them?

What becomes clear to me, as single, childless person is that at some point, parents become parents, and even your cool awesome friends that are parents have an increasingly difficult time accessing their kid brain. And I end up, weirdly, as a forty-two year old woman feeling like maybe I'm still sitting at the (in most cases metaphorical, but at least once literal) kids table.

But the knife twist in all this comes with being a single, never married woman in your early forties and having friends that are both be-childrened and encoupled, because they don't usually assume selfishness on your part but tragedy. Like they assume you're a desperate old spinster who never had the chance and spends her life pining. It used to be the most irritating and hurtful thing that happened to me socially was my encoupled friends refusing to invite me out because I was not part of a couple. (Like what the fuck is up with this we only hang out with other couples? Why? I won't get my single germs all over your marriage.And with regards to this article, I still think being forsaken for still being single is way, way the fuck worse than losing your drinking buddies to, say, a colicky baby and a difficult breast-feeding schedule). But now I think the most irritating and hurtful thing is realizing your friends with kids only invited you because they assumed you'd be so overwhelmed with unrequited baby fever and untapped nurturing potential that you'd sort of naturally fall into a caring maiden aunt/unpaid nanny position for the entirety of the outing. Like just as they seem to have transformed from the people still angry about the shit their parents did to them into being the people doing that same shit to their kids, they see you as transformed into an immature disaster that has failed to achieve to even her most basic biological function and/or, like, sad Mary Poppins

Conclusion: Friends with kids: land of contrasts.
posted by thivaia at 6:16 AM on March 8 [19 favorites]


One solution to this is only making friends at work

All of my workplaces have been mostly staffed with working mothers. I'm sure it's different in some male-dominated fields, though.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:07 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]


I don't have kids, but I've known lots of people who had children. One common thread among all of them is the existential shell shock they go through when the first kid enters the world. It is, as far as I can tell, unlike anything except maybe a terminal illness or the death of a parent in the sense that it is a permanent change that cannot be undone. So unless you have experienced - or more accurately are currently experiencing - one of those things, you quite simply Do Not Know what your friend(s) who are going through those experiences are enduring, and positioning yourself as the misunderstood, put upon and offended party belies a staggering lack of empathy and selfishness.

For women, having a child can have a disastrous impact on their career. Is that because having kids is like becoming a beer aficionado or adopting a cat? It is not. It is because it is a shit ton of work and requires a priority shift that employers, on the whole, do not value since our society has fucked up perspectives. I once ran into a pair of couples at a B&B - childless, in their mid to late 40's, both wives Ivy-league educated and in positions of authority, both husbands (white) C-level executives. We somehow got on the topic of maternity leave, and one of the husbands was dismissing the reality that taking time off to raise children resulted in limited or reverse career trajectory. "I mean," he said, "what if I took 20 years off to backpack around South America? Should I then expect to just waltz back in and have my old job back?"

That execrable sentiment - that gallivanting around the globe for fun is equivalent to raising kids - is something that I'm seeing, in one form or another, in some of the comments here. Your parent friend wants you to remind them who they were before they had kids? Oh woe is you! How damnable that they ask someone who has been around for their entire life to engage in some nostalgia! And how insufferable these kid-havers are in their relentless obsession with the mostly helpless living humans they are legally charged with keeping alive! Spoiler alert: CPS doesn't visit homes because your dog looks unkempt or you forgot to add hops to your homebrew.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:16 AM on March 8 [12 favorites]


It used to be the most irritating and hurtful thing that happened to me socially was my encoupled friends refusing to invite me out because I was not part of a couple. (Like what the fuck is up with this we only hang out with other couples? Why? I won't get my single germs all over your marriage.

According to my shrink who didn't get married until age 51, yes, that is kind of what they think, or that you are going to come on to their husband. I have been told that I need to bring a playmate for the husband, basically. But in my experience that is a Young Smug Married thing, not something folks over 40 pull on me.

I do wish I could bottle the optimism it must take to examine the current trajectory of the planet on almost any metric and then unilaterally decide to drag a being into that existence.

Hah. I remember watching Last Man on Earth and Carol made a very good list of why she shouldn't be having a baby in the current post apocalypse situation. But on the pro side it just said "BABY!!!!!!!!!" with hearts and all caps. "I wanna baby" has little or nothing to do with any kind of reason.

So unless you have experienced - or more accurately are currently experiencing - one of those things, you quite simply Do Not Know what your friend(s) who are going through those experiences are enduring,

Yes, and this is why those people need fellow parent friends far more than the likes of me who doesn't "get it." I understand that and that's why I don't have expectations of being friends with new parents.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:22 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]


I think the real need is for folks to have empathy and some self-awareness. There are many different types of parents and many different types of non-parents.

The worst offender on the parent side I've seen was when I was out with friends -- including one relatively new mother and one women who desperately wanted to have kids and had already had multiple miscarriages. I knew that the new mother friend wasn't trying to be cruel, but I also wondered how she couldn't see the masked pain of our friend who wanted to be a Mom, but couldn't. I get sleep deprivation. But it stands out for me. The non-Mom has since grown to be a lot more public about her fertility struggles, and I wonder if it's partly in response to situations like that.

As a non-parent, I also find that inter-generational friendships help mitigate this weirdness on my side. If all my friends were my age-cohort, I think my life would feel a lot weirder. Because there is all this patriarchal weirdness around being a single woman in your mid-30s. I can see that it's patriarchal weirdness. I can name it. But it doesn't mean that it doesn't effect me -- and it manifests differently for the women I know who did get married and had children or for the women who got married but didn't have children. There is no winning here. There are just choices that lead people in different directions and with different difficulties and different successes. You're going to get the short end of the stick somewhere because we're in a sexist society.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 7:30 AM on March 8 [6 favorites]


positioning yourself as the misunderstood, put upon and offended party belies a staggering lack of empathy and selfishness.

Sharing real and natural feelings is not "positioning" oneself any such way. I can have empathy for the things parents go thru, and still feel what is expressed by non parents here. Selfish is a cliched word at this point. And it really doesn't add anything but fightiness to the discussion, which has been very genteel, for the most part.
posted by agregoli at 7:32 AM on March 8 [8 favorites]


They haven't seen the latest movies, read any new books lately, caught up on their Netflix queue

Oh, we have...

(1) We've seen Moana. 20 times.
(2) We've read new books for three-year olds. Hundreds of times.
(3) Netflix queue? See (1).
posted by theorique at 8:22 AM on March 8


But now I think the most irritating and hurtful thing is realizing your friends with kids only invited you because they assumed you'd be so overwhelmed with unrequited baby fever and untapped nurturing potential that you'd sort of naturally fall into a caring maiden aunt/unpaid nanny position for the entirety of the outing.

Honestly, few things make me feel like I must be living my life right than realizing that my friends/family don't talk (a) as if I'm sad or thwarted for not having kids or (b) as if being skinny was a high priority for me. Most women seem to have put up with so much of one or the other of these! I appear to have scared off everyone who might try to impose this kind of femininity surveillance on me, and I feel pretty good about that.
posted by praemunire at 8:40 AM on March 8 [6 favorites]


Am I the only one who read this article as the author slamming childless people?

Like much New Yorker humor, it inhabits a middle zone of ironic self-consciousness that cuts both ways. It's mocking both the tedious and obsessive parents AND the sulking child-free alienated friends.
posted by aught at 9:03 AM on March 8 [3 favorites]


And some friends stuck with us. We're still close to them, 22 years later, partly as a result.

Speaking as a 50-something who's had countless friends with kids and without kids fall away over the decades, there is a process of friend-winnowing that inevitably happens -- as you age, as you evolve as a person, as you end or begin long term relationships, as you move or change careers -- which can be difficult to distinguish from "my friends who are parents could care less about our friendship ever since Baby Snookums was born" and which, when you think directly about it, is more than a little heartbreaking, but is just part of (the baked-in heartbreaks of) life.
posted by aught at 9:11 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]


The worst offender on the parent side I've seen was when I was out with friends -- including one relatively new mother and one women who desperately wanted to have kids and had already had multiple miscarriages. I knew that the new mother friend wasn't trying to be cruel, but I also wondered how she couldn't see the masked pain of our friend who wanted to be a Mom, but couldn't. I get sleep deprivation. But it stands out for me. The non-Mom has since grown to be a lot more public about her fertility struggles, and I wonder if it's partly in response to situations like that.

My own smaller-than-preferred family being in this position in life what I've noticed is that basically all new parents fuck this up around people who want kids but can't seem to have them, which is, whatever, but certain parents seem to fuck it up with let's call it a profound sense of purpose and dedication.
posted by griphus at 9:11 AM on March 8 [4 favorites]


I am always hyper-conscious of my children not really being socially acceptable beings yet who have manners and politeness, but my childless friends seem less bothered by that than I am, they're pretty tolerant.

The children are rarely the serious difficulty in problematic Soon-to-be-Former-Friends-with-Children scenarios.
posted by aught at 9:18 AM on March 8 [6 favorites]


"they haven't seen the latest movies, read any new books lately, caught up on their Netflix queue"

Seriously I've been annoyed about this comment for 24 hours.

Yes, children are time sinks, yes, I have less free time than I used to. But if your friendship with me is based entirely on talking about only the latest movies, books and TV shows and you just cannot possibly hold off for a few months to spoil Thor: Ragnarok for me, bye.

If you only value your friends for the entertainment they bring to you, you are a selfish bad friend. People are not just amusement machines for your benefit, and if you're really that upset that someone hasn't caught up on the latest WHATEVER and that's why you're dumping them as a friend? Oh my god, please show yourself the door you shallow awful person.

(Look this is not to dismiss that there -are- selfish parents who are bad friends, and that sometimes people's friendships fall apart due to changes in people's lives that they may or may not have chosen, because again jesus christ, I remind everyone that Not Everyone Chooses Parenthood sometimes Parenthood is thrust on you but jesus fuck that is a shallow goddamn complaint up there)

** I chose parenthood, Typechip is a great kid, but if you're not aware that a lot of parents - and mostly women - don't have that choice, it's 2018, learn yourself a thing.
posted by FritoKAL at 9:27 AM on March 8 [6 favorites]


The thing is, the rest of that comment you quoted is saying more than "oh you're not entertaining enough."

It gets super awkward when you're trying to hang in there and be supportive and your kid-friend says something like, "Goodness, we've spent the last 20 minutes talking about nipple shields! What's up with you? **waaaAAAhhhAAAHhhhh** Shit, gotta go, Timmy's up from his nap!"

It appears to be outlining the type of situation where someone is sharing a TON about their life, when they have time to talk - but not really engaging the other person about theirs. One convo means nothing, but if it becomes a pattern, is frustrating and a good reason for a friendship to waver.

No where does this comment strike me as using a friend as an "entertainment machine."
posted by agregoli at 9:42 AM on March 8 [8 favorites]


Well I've definitely dropped the parenting friends who fly off the handle and tell me I'm selfish and bad and need to read a child development book to keep up with them for daring to voice that I miss the things we used to share and bond over. Like films, or books, or hobbies.
posted by TwoStride at 9:43 AM on March 8 [7 favorites]


But now I think the most irritating and hurtful thing is realizing your friends with kids only invited you because they assumed you'd be so overwhelmed with unrequited baby fever and untapped nurturing potential that you'd sort of naturally fall into a caring maiden aunt/unpaid nanny position for the entirety of the outing.

I... actually wouldn't mind that. I'd kind of welcome it. I love my friends' kids and my cousins' kids.

but not having children of my own makes me into some kind of dangerous other who can't be trusted not to get the two ends of the baby mixed up or feed them spaghetti and mothballs or teach them knock-knock jokes about syphilis. I smile and say, "Excuse me" to get by a kid in a crowd, and their parent swoops into action, pulling the child away and shielding them with their body from my monstrous presence.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:05 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]


Having had my own kid pretty late in life, and prior to that being pretty ambivalent about actually wanting children of my own, I've been on both sides of this and... this entire thread is pretty far outside the bounds of my personal experience as both non-kid-haver and kid-haver. I certainly never got the impression that anyone that I am friends with of any reproductive status was beanplating anywhere near this hard on the topic.

I smile and say, "Excuse me" to get by a kid in a crowd

Allow me to present an alternate explanation: I am mortified when my kid gets in the way of an adult to the extent that the adult actually has to say "excuse me." I spend most of my waking hours attempting to teach him to not be oblivious to the needs of others, and to pay attention to where his body is in space (something that most children are similarly pretty bad at). When I yank him out of the way of another adult who has said "excuse me" it's not because I think that other adult is a horrible monster, it's because I know that my kid is going to continue to stand there, slack-jawed and oblivious and I need him to snap the heck out of his daydream and move it. That also sometimes comes with some body blocking as well because I need him to move to the side and stay to the side, not wander back right into the middle of the path again.

I basically live in daily fear that somewhere on the internet, someone is writing a screed against Kids These Days starring my own child who could not get the eff out of the way in the middle of Trader Joe's.
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:19 AM on March 8 [13 favorites]


*Starts novel about who put the "F" in Trader F Joe's, and why your child was unable to remove it.*
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:32 AM on March 8 [4 favorites]


Your friends' kids are *potential new friends* and I will never understand people who think it's annoying to interact with them. Old people, young people: they are in fact people, and if you have intentionally excluded people who aren't in your exact age strata from your extended friend group, I'll say it: y'all are ageist.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 10:49 AM on March 8 [8 favorites]


The worst offender on the parent side I've seen was when I was out with friends -- including one relatively new mother and one women who desperately wanted to have kids and had already had multiple miscarriages. I knew that the new mother friend wasn't trying to be cruel, but I also wondered how she couldn't see the masked pain of our friend who wanted to be a Mom, but couldn't. I get sleep deprivation. But it stands out for me. The non-Mom has since grown to be a lot more public about her fertility struggles, and I wonder if it's partly in response to situations like that.

Thank you for posting this story. Some of aren't so much childfree as childless. Not having any children when you'd like one, while others start their own families can put a pretty big strain on friendship and/or family connections. I've pulled back from various relationships to protect my mental health because in my experience, one's involuntary childlessness can be super awkward for everyone when it comes up. I want everyone to be happy and do what they need to do to find fulfillment, whether or not that means we can have a close relationship. I definitely don't begrudge people concentrating on figuring out how to be the best parents they can be to a brand new person.

In my own life, especially in the past few years, I've been trying to build a support network of women who won't be having children or are done having them, or at least have briefly acknowledged my grief over my reproductive situation/options--and crucially, don't try to give advice about it. With that said, I've recently made friends with someone with a (delightful!) young child, and she seems to be able to manage having social connections that both involve being away from the kid and also including them in some of the group activities we do.

Let me also note that I really like kids--they haven't heard all my stories and also find the world to be a pretty wonderous place too. It sucks not to be Mama someday to someone who looks a lot like me, but on the plus side, I think I've come to be able to live with it.
posted by Excommunicated Cardinal at 10:52 AM on March 8 [5 favorites]


I had more thoughts...I mean, hey, I'm a mom, and I still have friends who are obsessed with their kids and don't discuss anything else, and I actually still love them but there's a part of me waiting for them to emerge from KidLand and wondering why they seem to dwell there so wholely. Sometimes I think my dark thoughts about them are more my own observer bias, like I have categorized them as The Obsessed Moms so I don't ask them about their reading lists any more.

I'm not sure I can observe myself accurately but I know what happened to me the worst was how to deal with time, especially when my kids were very young. I thought I'd just take my kids everywhere and let them fall asleep in the coat closet room the way I did in the 70s. But it turns out that my memories of that were a strong indication that I was remembering things after the age of 4 or 5.

Because before that age, with my kids, if I kept them out past bedtime, then they wouldn't sleep at home for hours, and wouldn't eat or sleep the next day, and possibly might rationalize on the third day if in between I was Absolutely Perfect about their sleep, so that every single event after 6 pm became this horrible calculus of "is this event worth 2 nights of hell?" I had like, 10 friends that I saw regularly before that and at a rate of 2-3 days of hell per week, which was a LOT, that was seeing each one about every third month, you know what I mean? And that's not counting pinkeye.

Babysitters in my area are $20/hr plus they often would inadvertently trigger the same sleep hell.

My husband and I did start going to things separately, which helped the friends things. Maybe not the marriage although we made it. But then I ended up exhausted anyway.

This is why all my events became daytime and some friends dropped me, which is ok but also hurt a bit. But it wasn't that I didn't have time for friends. It was that I didn't have time for days of hell. I realize the result is the same but I think it's hard to get.

For the phone thing, my recommendation is to think of each conversation as a timer. (This is also how I deal with restaurant trips with young kids.) There's a hidden timer in the room and it's going to go off like a fire alarm, but you don't know How or When. So if telling your friend about your job loss is really important, call and say "hey, it's me...I want to hear how you are BUT I have a big thing going on with me, which is..." and just tell your story first. Unless your friend really is a jerk, my bet is they want to know, they just aren't good with The Timer yet. So if you lead, rather than the usual pattern of taking turns, it may work out better.

Other than that, all I have is, love your friends, but make efforts with the ones that bring you joy and not sorrow.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:00 AM on March 8 [6 favorites]


Another thing I haven't seen mentioned - it can be hard for us without kids to know WHEN to intrude upon you - I get nervous even with regular friends who I don't see every day or even every week about how often to contact them - and I feel a little shy with people with new babies especially. I don't want to bug them when I know they have their hands full.
posted by agregoli at 12:17 PM on March 8 [4 favorites]


I don't want to bug them when I know they have their hands full.

I've experienced this too. Having now been through the experience I will say that there's no right answer because babies are different and have different needs and family situations are also different, but generally after the first week home from the hospital, you can start reaching out. I think we had friends drop over with take-out (do this!) in and around that time-frame. And it's always best to keep any decision-making required on the part of the new parents to a minimum. Suggest a concrete thing. Offer to help in a concrete way. Sleep-deprived, bewildered new parents generally just need to be told flat-out "I am safely and responsibly holding this baby. That is your bathroom. In it is a shower. Enter that room, take your clothes off and spend as much time in a hot shower as you like. When you are done, please put some clothes back on and then join me on this sofa for a beer."
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:03 PM on March 8 [15 favorites]


soren_lorensen for sainthood. You heard it here first. What you just said is no joke.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:25 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


Well I've definitely dropped the parenting friends who fly off the handle and tell me I'm selfish and bad and need to read a child development book to keep up with them for daring to voice that I miss the things we used to share and bond over. Like films, or books, or hobbies.

Hey, I didn't say you need to be an expert on kids to talk to parents. I gave some advice to someone who said they couldn't talk to friends with kids because they didn't even know anything about kids. I don't actually have kids myself, but I do have the part of my brain that can learn about things I haven't directly experienced.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 2:33 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


This is obviously a fraught topic. What it seems to me is this thread says more about friendships than it does about child-not-having vs child-having. It seems the friendships were built on shakier ground than some parties thought, and that's why there's so much sadness, hurt feelings, and lashing out.
posted by honey badger at 3:30 PM on March 8 [11 favorites]


You don't really have to think all that hard about it - like most things in life, they kind of just resolve themselves.

1) Some of those friends with kids will move out to the suburbs, and you'll only see them once in a blue moon. Only strong friendships will survive this - the ones you weren't particularly close with, you probably won't see again (if ever) for years.

2) Others will get divorced - and if they still miss partying with you, they'll make it a point to stay out all night with you on the occasions their ex has the kid(s) for a long weekend.

3) And then there are the ones that will slowly creep back into your life as their offspring get old enough to be left alone at night and not kill themselves or burn the homestead down. This pattern is more likely to develop if you were much closer to one of the couple than the other (ie you are one of "his" friends or "her" friends).

4) Last but not least, if you keep being social, you'll make new friends who are younger than you with no kids (yet).

That's my experience as a middle-aged guy with no children, and who still wants to go out and do stuff.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 8:49 PM on March 8


We are child-free, but have observed a repeatable pattern with FWK -- by which I mean it's happened twice, so obviously it's a global trend.

1. We have a close friendship with another couple. We do lots of things with them, often more than once a week.

2. Hosting is pretty even -- sometimes their house, sometimes ours, sometimes out. Say the mix is 40/40/20.

3. Then they have a kid.

4. After an adjustment period, socialization resumes, and at first there's still a split of hosting -- new babies are sometimes very portable, after all. With one couple, we kept a Pack-n-play at hour house so they could put the baby down without going home.

5. BUT . . . eventually, for reasons of simple logistics, the mix of hosting shifts from the aforementioned blend to almost exclusively their house. It's easier to manage the kid or kids. It's less stressful for them. No sitter is required. Etc.

And that's how our housekeeping went COMPLETELY off the rails.
posted by uberchet at 6:52 AM on March 9 [9 favorites]


Can we acknowledge how much the conversation here is lamely putting parents into a damned if you do/don't situation?

If you acknowledge the fact that there is indeed something quite distinct about the endeavor of raising small humans from helpless infancy to adulthood to be healthy, happy, kind, empathetic individuals compared to, say, having a puppy or a craft-brewing hobby, you're accused of not caring about your childfree friends' lives, being a bore, and *you* are the one making it into this big us vs. them divide. If you say "yes, raising small humans is a big part of my life, but I'm still an adult with interests outside of children" you are simultaneously being a bad parent (*cough* mother *cough*) for not focusing on your children enough and a bad adult/friend/cool person for not managing to contain this "hobby kid thing" to a tiny corner of your psyche and still going out to rage in the evenings three times a week/stay caught up with the latest in the media churn, because that's what you'd do if you still had interests outside your kids, right?

Plus, either way, are you being a good enough feminist by valuing parenthood and children just the right amount with being a well-rounded human being, because, you know, it's really women who are the ones fucking up here, amirite? C'mon Metafilter, haven't we learned anything from all of the emotional labor threads?

maybe I'll just steer clear of these threads until it's time to go on maternity leave *a long glorious vacation* again.
posted by Jaclyn at 1:10 PM on March 9 [6 favorites]


Wow, that...is not how I read any of this thread. Your 2nd sentence in particular bears little relation to anything said on the childless side of things here.

There is something quite distinct about raising kids. Acknowledge that, many people here did, and do. And no one said that meant parents didn't care about childfree friend's lives. I hate how this topic tends to turn hyperbolic.
posted by agregoli at 2:19 PM on March 9 [4 favorites]


I mean, I definitely have noticed how parents are harshly judged for every little thing (and I've noticed it especially as people very close to me have had kids), but I don't want anyone to get the idea that feeling conflicted about friends' major life changes means you must be assuming the worst about them. I'm genuinely very happy for my friends with kids, and I know it's very difficult for them, so any frustration I have over their major life changes isn't anything like a condemnation of the decisions they've made. I mean, I can only speak for myself, but I suspect that the majority of people have a pretty reasonable view of their friends' lives, even if they do feel like the relationship has changed or is no longer workable.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:28 PM on March 9 [3 favorites]


Your friends' kids are *potential new friends* and I will never understand people who think it's annoying to interact with them. Old people, young people: they are in fact people, and if you have intentionally excluded people who aren't in your exact age strata from your extended friend group, I'll say it: y'all are ageist.

Sure, but they are (often) potential new friends who never speak to me at all, but interrupt my conversation every five minutes to talk to my interlocutor about unrelated topics, occasionally flinging themselves bodily into the wine and cheese, reliably have at least one instance of loud screaming and wailing for no reason anyone could discern, shit themselves and stink up the room, and /or insist on going home before we had finished dinner /conversing/sitting down or refused to go home at the end of the evening.

Those aren't potential new friends you keep inviting over just for the joy of it, and if anyone else of any age behaved like that, I'd say the same. (Not ageist). I do keep inviting them because it's how I get to hang out with their parents, but I don't think it's unreasonable to admit it's not all unfettered delight.

Once they hit about 8 or so, it's a different story, but by then it seems a lot of parents have got some sort of Stockholm syndrome and lost all interest in anything other than the children.
posted by lollusc at 2:34 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, that was bizarre. It's definitely not ageist if you can't relate to a 2 year old the same way you relate to your adult friends.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:38 PM on March 9 [3 favorites]


How many people in their late 30s actually want to stay at a bar until it closes? Everyone in that age range that I know doesn't have the stamina for late nights whether they have children or not. I mean is it still a thing for childfree people?
posted by crunchy potato at 2:57 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]


I also think it's really unfair to charge childless people with shirking on emotional labor. I mean, it goes both ways when we're actually still trying to reach out to child-having friends and getting very little back.
posted by TwoStride at 3:07 PM on March 9 [11 favorites]


I also think it's really unfair to charge childless people with shirking on emotional labor.

Yesssss this. I think the basic underlying thing here is that over the long term, friendships where most of the emotional labor is performed by one person in the friendship are really, really hard to keep up. Even when the disparity is for a good reason, like being understandably consumed and exhausted by child-raising!

Now, as a non-parent I believe that good friendship means (1) letting things be totally one-sided for quite some time because acquiring and parenting a child is *really fucking hard*, (2) meeting my friends where they are, which these days is at the zoo just as frequently as the bar, and (3) making a good faith effort to be interested in the exciting new human in my friends' lives, and I certainly do feel enriched and delighted by the children in my life.

But when the one-sidedness is heavy and drags on and on, I don't know. I can easily put in 50%, even 75% of the effort, but when it's been around 95% for a while I just end up investing that time and energy into my other (parent and non-parent) friends who are giving me something, anything, back.

Which is sad and change is hard, but it's also okay; certainly I don't begrudge people for parenting the best way they know how.
posted by lalex at 7:44 PM on March 9 [4 favorites]


I mean is it still a thing for childfree people?

*raises hand sheepishly*

I still pull all nighters pretty regularly, just not drinking like Ozzy. And yeah, I'm totally late 30s, not, ugh, 40-something-something. Frankly I don't plan on stopping until I'm dead, too much cool shit happens after midnight, and some of it just happens to be the night sky or the natural world.

Granted, I'm also starting to do this weird thing where I naturally fall asleep long before midnight and I'm waking up at like 6-7 AM without an alarm clock and it's actually kind of bugging me because most of my house is asleep until noon.

On the other hand my friends has a kid and he's pretty rad, I still like visiting and hanging out with my friends, and I totally don't even mind taking my turn watching the drunken little pirate now and then when we're out trying to do semi-adult things. Like recently we went to the REI flagship store together so my friend could look at jackets, and really the best thing we could do is just let the small human run around and have me follow him around to keep him out of trouble while my friend was actually able to look at jackets.

On the other hand, when my friends told me they were going to try to have a kid we were sitting down to dinner, and they got all serious and told me. My reaction was apparently to suddenly glitch or yip in shock and surprise as I was squeezing a lime over my dinner - which sprayed both of them directly in the eyes in opposite directions just as my friend was saying something foolhardy like "Things will still be the same and we'll go out to shows..."

They weren't really, but that's ok. I wasn't expecting them to be, at all. And we've gone out to a few shows.

On the other other hand, one of the highlights of my last trip was going to Cartoon Happy hour at the local neighborhood indie cinema. Basically they let kids take the place over for 2-3 hours and play a bunch of old cartoons while the adults hang out and have adult beverages.

It's utterly brilliant madness. They keep the lights up and there's kids running amok all over the stage or even having impromptu interactions with the cartoons or dance offs depending on what's happening in the cartoon.
posted by loquacious at 8:33 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]


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