Toy Story

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Dear Dharma,

As a person in her 30’s, I am noticing a line of division in my groups of friends – those with kids and those without.  The first group is considerably larger than the second. It seems that the moment children are added to the mix, relationships with friends completely change.

While I understand that parenthood is considered the natural path of life, I can’t help but feel frustrated that it seems to consume the friend’s life. Not that I think that I should still be top priority, but feeling completely ignored isn’t very nice either.   Not everyone’s life takes the same path. Can’t they be a parent and still be my friend?

I get it; it’s hard to have the desire to do anything when your kid screams 24/7, you haven’t slept for 3 years, you can’t remember when you last showered and your house look like an atomic bomb goes off daily.  Yes, I understand you’re exhausted and that finding a babysitter can be a tedious task.

Most times I don’t mind being the one to travel or do whatever is necessary to make a visit happen. I don’t mind going to a 4 year old’s birthday party and being surrounded with sugared up children for a chance to talk with you for 10 mins.  However I do find that my feelings are hurt when the effort is not reciprocated in the slightest.

Am I wrong to feel upset when I invite my friends to something and consistently get turned down?  Even simple things like a birthday party, meeting up for coffee, or dinner at my place? At what point should I give up and stop asking?  Is there a way I can express my feelings/frustrations without coming across as a bitch?

Gettin’ A Solid 8 Hours

Dear Solid 8,

I totally understand where you are coming from, as Dharma has experienced the exact same thing on more than one occasion.  Friendships that were rock solid for years and years, and then with the addition of children, everything changes.

Because of this, my bias is going to fall in your favour, and your question – can’t they be a parent and still be a friend – really does encapsulate the genesis of it.

Except – that as much as you say you understand that their lives have been taken hostage, I do think there is a difference between intellectually understanding something and living it.  And as much as I hate saying it, I don’t know if we can fully appreciate how all-consuming little ones can be and the toll they take.

A weak example – have you ever had house guests stay with you for a week or two?  The dynamic in your household is immediately changed and you suddenly have a million more details to tend to.  Groceries, meals, towels, toilet paper… and a million more distractions – conversations, music, TV, spills, field trips, more meals… And as much you love having these guests, the thought of – no, the capability to take on even one more thing can be seriously compromised.  To get out and visit with another friend for coffee and a visit during that time could be that one ball too many for even the best juggler.

And these guests are self-sufficient grown-ups!

Now, imagine that scenario, every day, with a completely dependent tiny little human, for the next 3 or 4 years.  Add screaming, vomit, poop and a limited sleep schedule, and honestly, I don’t know how moms make it out of the house some days.

That doesn’t mean I think it’s right for your friends to make zero effort, and it really does sound like you are trying to accommodate their situation, but there are some life events that have the ability to just change things.  Also, as much as it stings to feel overlooked, remember that life isn’t always in perfect harmony and the reward for your efforts is not always in balance with the return.  That doesn’t mean it won’t change in your favour down the road.

I think another factor is that the things you now have in common are… different.  Another lame example… we recently got a new dog.  And now that’s pretty much the only topic in my repertoire.  I honestly can’t remember what the eff we talked about before he came into our lives with his squishy nose and funny ways.  And that’s a dog.  Good lord, an adorable little baby?  How do new parents talk or think about anything else?

Well, they don’t really, do they…  And that’s a hard topic to contribute to when you don’t have that common thread.

So, no, you are not wrong to feel upset when you don’t feel like any effort is being put into the friendship, but you might have to accept that not all relationships are meant to make the long haul.

However, I do think it’s okay to approach your friend(s) about this, but not in a “you don’t pay attention to me anymore” kind of way.  If you said you totally understand how things have changed for them, but you don’t want to see your friendship be collateral damage of those changes.  Offer up what you are willing to do and then ask for some suggestions as to what can be done collectively to make sure the relationship remains intact…

Once they answer to that, it puts them in a position of accountability, and they will hopefully want to honor that to the best of their ability.  If not, well, that might be the time to step back for awhile.

Dharma

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2 Comments

  • Not Mary's Friend says:

    i was at a kids party once and a woman came over to make conversation,which I thought was nice. until it went like this:

    Mary – Hi, I’m Mary! Do you have any kids?
    Me: Hi there! No, actually I don’t.
    Mary – Oh. Are you married?
    Me: Nope… but… I do have a boyfriend…
    Mary – Oh. Hey!!! Sally, over there across the room!!!! How are you doing???

    Once it was established I didn’t have kids, wasn’t married, it was like she had no use for me, and there was nothing else we could have possibly talked about. I remember feeling a mixture of embarrassment at being the childless, single loser she clearly thought I was, and disgust that she was so shallow she could only form sentences if they were about kids and marital bliss.

  • Mom of Two says:

    As a parent of two, but parentless when my best friend first had her baby, I get both sides of it. Things definitely change when you become a parent and someone who has no kids will just never get it, that’s the simple truth. You can try to imagine what it’s like but you have no idea until you have a little one of your own.

    You can pretty much write off at least the first 4 years, your friend will always be too busy to be the one to initiate anything. I’m sure she appreciates you putting in the effort (even though it may not seem that way), and if you are willing to stick it out, it should get better! But that’s a question for you, is your relationship with this person worth it to wait until the kid(s) start to get to more of a managable age? Look, babysitters are hard to come by, you have nap times to contend with which kills your day, I could go on. They are consumed with their family and outside relationships always suffer in some degree or another. My girlfriend and I went through the same thing, for us it was almost 8 years after we both had kids that we finally have started to get to a point where we can actually see each other for a dinner more than once every 3-4 months!

    So you can stick it out, be the best girl friend a parent could have, or you can choose to go your seperate ways and maybe one day down the road you can re-kindle the relationship if you want.

Do you agree with Dharma, or think she missed the mark on this one? Leave a Comment

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