So I read this article on HuffPost Parents about not hanging out with your friends as much once you have kids. And it got me thinking. I got the point of the article. I understand that life changes once you have children and you see some people less than before. But I am still as close to my best friends as I ever was. Closer in fact.
This isn't an attack on her or her article. Just a little look at how I like to do it. She is living her life the way she wants to and that's fine. But I decided to take her 'eight excuses' and write my own view on each. You may want to read hers to give some context.
1) The kid's schedule is more important than one would think.
I agree to a point that kids need a bit of routine. They certainly do eat, sleep and behave better when in familiar surroundings and everything is as they are used to. But life isn't like that - they need to grow up to be flexible. What happens when they start going round friends' houses and the schedule is a bit different? Or they are served up a dinner that is new or presented differently? We have never been sticklers for routine - we have used it as required. When getting the girls to start taking themselves off to sleep we stuck to a strict routine for a while. It helped them learn what was happening and they began to settle. Once they had the hang of it we eased off. Same principle but not so strict. We regularly stay out somewhere, get them ready for bed, stick them in the back of the car in their pyjamas and carry them over our shoulders up to bed late at night. And why not? As for coffee dates or late lunches I kind of use the same principle. Obviously we can't make a child wait until 14:30 to eat lunch if they usually eat at noon so if that's the plan we'll feed them lunch earlier and they can still come out with us at 14:30. They can just eat dessert, or have a snack or just play. Our changing bag will always have raisins in it. They work miracles. It's not selfish. My children enjoy going out and about. It's a treat for them as much as me. And they are learning about behaving in public, which is an important lesson to learn. Oh and shitting their pants? I have no control over how or when that happens? How does your schedule control this? Please let me know.
2) Kids put their parents on a schedule of their own.
Yep, our children keep us busy. Very busy. But that's ok. It would be odd if they didn't. I'd be worried what we were missing. There is a lot to fit in. All the normal household chores are harder simply because children are around. Even when they are actively trying to help they seem to leave a trail of destruction behind them. So we have to plan to fit all these jobs in. And we split the jobs between two of us - completely equally. That makes life easier. But none the less I still have a never ending to do list. But what doesn't get done one day can be carried over to the next. But as with point one we have to be flexible too. Stay up later to fit friends in. Or rush around to complete the jobs so we have time for our friends. Thinking about it we always have time for our friends. Part of our 'schedule' is seeing our friends. They are that important.
3) We like hanging out with our kids.
Ok you have got me here. I can't argue with this point. I love my kids more than anything else in the world and love spending time with them. So yes sometimes we will reject an evening out if it means less time with the girls. It depends on what else we have been up to recently and how much else we have on. The only thing I would add is that my good friends like hanging out with our kids too. We often say "Yeah head over on Friday evening. The kids will be in bed by 8 so come over whenever you like." This gives them an easy option of turning up at 20:15 so they can have a kid free evening. Nine times out of ten they turn up by 18:00. They want to see my children and my children want to see my friends.
4) "Just bring the kids" is an option. But it is one that sucks.
Going out with the kids or taking them to a friend's house is harder work than going without them. But it is also much more fun than not going at all. We love our friends. We enjoy their company. We aren't going to miss out on that because we are worried about pointy tables. "Worrying about keeping our brood alive" - I'm not sure where your friends live? Their houses sound terrifying. Sharp triangular tables. Tiny choking hazards everywhere. My friends live in houses. Just normal houses. The children know what they can touch and what they can't. They know which rooms they are allowed to go in. And because my friends are nice, normal people I find looking after the kids there easy; because they help. They tell our children off if they are doing something they shouldn't. They play with them. They stop them getting into the randomly placed vats of water. Oh no, wait a minute. They don't have huge vats of water. Because they are normal people.
5) Seemingly benign household chores suddenly seem to consume our lives.
I kind of covered this already in point two. Yes chores need doing. Yes it's hard doing this when you have children. I have no idea how this stops me seeing my friends. I have never said "A barbeque? At yours? Just bring the kids? I'd love to. But I can't. I have to do the sweep the floor and hang the washing out." And if I ever do please come round, take the broom out of my hands and hit me over the head with it.
6) Kids go to sleep pretty damn early.
Generally kids do go to sleep early. But you are in control of when they go to bed. We make a point of not putting the girls to bed really early because we enjoy the time with them in the evening and putting them to bed early seems like a waste of time. If they are in bed by 20:00 then there is enough time in the night for them to get a good night's sleep. Because they don't get up at 06:00. Maybe I am lucky on that front. And every now and then they stay up late. Sometimes really late. But it's not every day. So why stress about it? If we go to a wedding or a party we take a pushchair so they can lay down and sleep if they choose. But we generally end up using the pushchair to store our stuff and the girls stay up and dance until the music stops. The eldest one is three and she has partied past midnight on many an occasion.
7) Leisure time is so limited that we tend to spend it on ourselves (often by ourselves).
It is hard to find time to spend on ourselves and by ourselves. I find my writing is my alone time. And I quite like cutting the grass recently. I think I enjoy the white noise. But it doesn't take up much time really. Maybe my wife and I should allocate more time to spend alone. But on the whole this is a low priority. My wife, kids, family and friends are much more interesting than I am. The idea of simply having a play date or a 'work out buddy' bores me. It seems I am very lucky to have the friends that I do. If I don't see them then I miss them. Recently we had twenty people (including children), a cat, a dog and a hamster in our house for the weekend. Our house is not big enough to comfortably fit in all these people. So we did it uncomfortably. Time is limited and we have a large group of friends from when we lived in London so when we meet up, we tend to meet up on mass. Some of us have kids. Some don't. It doesn't matter. We get together and have fun. Kids stuff during the day. Adult stuff at night (not like that!). The kids love it. We all love it. No time or energy for idle lingering? I long for more idle lingering with my closest friends. It's what we do best.
8) Sometimes we just need to idly linger.
Sitting is one of my favourite things to do. I like watching television. I like reading. I like writing my blog. I like perusing Facebook with no real aim and no likelihood of achieving anything. But I seem to have enough time for it. I fit plenty of it in. But when I'm really tired, run down and need reviving there's one perfect remedy - friend time. A couple of hours in with good friends and mediocre wine makes everything a little better. Even on the toughest of days.
Maybe I'm lucky. Maybe I have more flexible children than most. Maybe my wife and I work better as a team than most. Maybe I just have better friends than most. I'm certainly lucky that my wife and I have been together since we were young so most of our friends are 'our' friends. Whatever it is I'm not giving up what I've got. I love my kids, I love my friends. I have time for them all. I think my life is richer for the company that I keep and I also believe that my children will grow up to be more sociable, well balanced individuals because of the way we live.
Oh and come over at 7am for breakfast? No please don't. Not unless you are bringing the breakfast. And feeding it to me. It is not when I am at my peak.
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