The last time I went out with a group of child-free friends, I almost fought another woman over her opinions on brunch.
Not physically. After all, I have been painstakingly teaching my three-year-old son that we never hit Daddy, even when we’re very angry that we have to go to bed, and what kind of role model would I be if I socked someone over her thoughts on the appropriate time to consume eggs benedict and mimosas?
But I did have to bite my tongue rather hard so as to not make a scene when a former drinking buddy (more of a friend of a friend) started complaining — loudly — about how she can never find anyone to get brunch with her, because everyone has kids and wants to eat brunch at the ungodly hour of 10 a.m. or earlier.
“10 a.m. is NOT brunch,” she complained, while another friend nodded enthusiastically. “It’s breakfast.”
“WRONG,” is what the bolder version of me would have shouted, perhaps if I’d had a few more drinks. “10 a.m. is second lunch for people who have been chasing wildlings non-stop since sunrise! You’re lucky parents are attempting to meet you in a restaurant at all! Kids are terrible in restaurants! YOU SHOULD BE BRINGING YOUR PARENT FRIENDS MUFFINS AND HELPING THEM AROUND THE HOUSE, FFS! DON’T YOU KNOW IT TAKES A VILLAGE??!”
Now, this example by no means represents the attitudes of all my child-free friends.
Still, she and I haven’t hung out since.
They warn you that parents can lose friends after having kids. Articles abound about friendships that fizzle out once baby arrives, how awkward it can be to make new mom friends, and the loneliness of parenthood.
This is all true, in my experience. But it’s also not that simple. I didn’t lose my friends — I just moved on from some of them.
I was the first person in my local circle of friends to have a baby, which wasn’t easy in terms of support, but many made an effort. Six weeks after my son was born, for instance, my husband organized me a surprise birthday party. Twelve of my childless friends — people I’d been getting together with over drinks, for cottage getaways, for concerts and art shows, for years— all showed up at the random suburban restaurant my husband selected because it was just a three minute drive from our house (and baby, who my mom was watching).
They eagerly and patiently listened to my birth story, and cooed over photos of my wrinkly, red newborn, until my boobs swelled to cannons and I had to go home to breastfeed.
I’m still touched that so many of them made it out, and I don’t feel any resentment that it was the last time I saw some of them.
I changed after having a baby, and so did my friendships. Not only can I not stay out late drinking anymore, but I don’t want to. Sleep deprivation means I already feel hungover every single day of my life without even consuming alcohol. Plus, I need all my wits about me to keep my toddler from riding his balance bike into traffic/sticking his fingers in sockets/launching himself Superman-style from the top of the stairs while yelling “I FLYING!”
But, if you want to nurse a glass of wine on my couch in the suburbs by the light of the baby monitor and call it a night at 9:30 p.m., I’m your gal.
And you know what? A couple of my dear friends have done this on numerous occasions. Bless the couple who spent New Year’s Eve quietly eating Chinese food in our living room with us while our son slept upstairs. Another child-free friend recently accepted my offer to come over for a 5 p.m. Swiss Chalet dinner, followed by a group outing to take my toddler for a hair cut.
While this might be the only way I’m available to hang out sometimes, I do get that this isn’t everyone’s idea of a fun night.
I also enjoy spending time with my child, and I won’t apologize for it. So if hanging out at the splash pad, visiting a farm, or going to an indoor play place practically guaranteed to give you hand, foot, and mouth disease isn’t how you want to spend your weekend, chances are we’re not going to hang out much.
I don’t really enjoy parties anymore, either, probably because I have nothing to talk about other than my child’s toilet training successes, I’m dressed like I just left playgroup, and I’m tired by 9:15. It’s also not easy for me to get away to cottages, I’m unlikely to make it out to a concert (although I did score tickets for “Paw Patrol Live!” this fall), and responsible babysitters don’t just float down to earth like Mary Poppins every time I want one.
Going out is no longer as simple as putting on shoes and calling an uber. Say we have simple dinner plans. On my end, that involves coordinating with my husband days in advance to find a night that works, prepping a toddler-friendly meal he can reheat, and explaining to my son that Mommy won’t be there for night-night. If you then text me 10 minutes before we’re supposed to meet to ask if we can switch nights for no good reason, my response is probably “No,” and “Byeeee!”
I cherish the friends who stuck around, who support me, and who understand that parenthood isn’t something I can just put on pause in order to hang out. One child-free friend, an Early Childhood Educator, regularly sends me parenting articles she thinks I’d enjoy and once even organized my kid’s play room for me. These people are gems, but like gems, they’re also rare. (And that friend recently moved to a different province, dammit).
So, I don’t have much of what others might consider a social life. And I guess you could say that, yes, I have lost friends since having kids. But what I’ve gained is so much more precious.
(No, I don’t mean my child. Sorry. This isn’t a Hallmark card. But he’s fantastic and I love him dearly).
What I’m talking about is perspective. I value the friendships I still have for what they give me now, just as I value the friendships I lost for what they gave me in my 20s and early 30s. I still “like” their Instagram travel pics, just as they still “like” the shots of my kid smeared in birthday cake, and if we outgrew our fun-filled patio evenings, well, I’m OK with looking back on those times fondly.
I appreciate the young co-workers who ask me about my child, and I appreciate that they pack more social activities into one weekend than I am likely to experience in a year.
Texting a friend in another city about our kids’ threenager antics while I eat cheese in sweatpants on my couch is a completely fulfilling Friday-night activity. Getting together with my university pals about once every 18 months because that’s all we can ever manage between our ridiculous schedules doesn’t seem pathetic — it’s something to look forward to.
Then there are the friends I’ve gained since having kids. It wasn’t easy forging connections in the trenches, but I’m so grateful for my pack of mom friends, even if I barely see them because someone’s kid is always sick, or having a sleep regression, or potty training and can’t leave the house, or teething, or having a developmental leap (a.k.a. is a screamy monster), or we’re all just too fucking tired to do anything except complain about all of the above in a group chat.
Two nights ago, when my not-quite-overnight-potty-trained child ripped off his diaper in his sleep and saturated his entire crib in urine, a mom friend on the next street immediately offered me her extra mattress to use while we cleaned ours.
This — the offer of a spare crib mattress when my life is a mess of piss — is what I value in my friendships now.
And I’d take that over brunch any day.
This article first appeared on HuffPost Canada Personal
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