Making friends as an adult is harder than it ever was growing up, I’m not sure why exactly but I think it’s because adults are more set in their ways, more opinionated and in general come with more mental baggage. When you toss in the different phases of life it gets even tougher. A few months back I had a conversation on twitter involving a few gals about being friends with parents; since the holidays are upon us and get together are really common this kind of year, I thought it might be a pretty good time to chat about being friends with people that have kids. The initial tweet was about the gal being upset that her friends with a kid that didn’t come around anymore, I understood where she was coming from because before we were parents I had friends like that. We would invite them over and they wouldn’t come with an excuse regarding the baby even though we made it clear their son could come. There was always some sort of an excuse though which became frustrating and eventually ended our friendship. On the flip side though, as a parent while I don’t use our daughter as an excuse we have friends that are…less than accommodating. So, I chatted both sides of the conversation but throwing in the side of being a parent and how friends have made us feel less than welcome accompanying an invitation.
Make Your Expectations Clear
If you are comfortable with your friends bringing their friends, make sure you tell them. When you invite them to something make sure you mention that you look forward to seeing all 3 of them (or 5 or whatever) and not just the two of them. If you don’t want them bringing their child around, communicate that it’ll be frustrating for both parties if they assume their child is invited and you don’t want them there.
Find Middle Ground
If you are planning a 9pm garage party, don’t expect your friends with a baby to show up, just isn’t going to happen. That’s a child’s bedtime and crazy drunken adults is not something most parents want their child around. However, an afternoon or evening barbecue? Perfect!
If You Are Curious – Ask. Don’t Judge.
I’ll never forget a friend of mine came to meet A for the first time when she was 6 months. As a breastfeeding mother, I made sure she knew that was how I fed my child and asked if she was okay with that or if she prefer I leave the room for a few moments. She let me know she was totally fine. I modestly began to nurse my daughter and she goes “oh..she still sucks on your boob? Why don’t you just put in a cup or bottle?” I explained that she didn’t take bottles, and she was newer to a sippy cup and breastfeeding was the best option for us. She was understanding and fine with it after that but it did make me feel a bit awkward and judged.
Some Parents Don’t Want Sitters.
A former co-worker of Ryan’s approached him that he and his girlfriend would like to get with he and I, if we were to the point that we would get a sitter. Ryan explained we weren’t interested in getting a sitter to go out, and the invitation was withdrawn. We were heartbroken? No, we weren’t. We don’t expect everyone to like children, but the friends that we want around us we want to accept that this season in our life is about children. However, we do know friends that are very much about getting a babysitter and that’s okay. If you are genuinely interested in forming a friendship with someone with children, communicate your expectations – but if you don’t want the chance of making someone uninterested in being your friend…let them bring up getting a sitter, demanding it really could be a deal breaker.
Don’t Bash Them For Being Involved Parents.
A old “friend” of ours regularly would ask Ryan to go out to get drinks after work. Ryan had periodically gone but is very much a family oriented husband and dad. This friend of ours has said to him several times “Just lie to Kristina and tell her you are working late” every time Ryan replies, “If I told Kristina I was going out for drinks she’d be fine with it, I just don’t care to go.” Or Ryan will get the crappy “You know there’s more to life that just being a dad,” among several other ridiculous statements. Insulting or bashing someone for wanting to be family oriented is a one-way ticket to being an undesirable friend.
Honestly, the biggest thing is communicating your expectations of the specific upcoming event! Every time we host something we make sure it’s kid friendly and communicate that kids are welcome, because we understand what it feels like to not be sure if a child is invited or not. We also know that some parents enjoy the night off and don’t want to bring their child even if they are invited, and that’s okay too! Additionally, we have been invited to several things that just simply state “Adults Only” on the invite which makes the expectation clear, and we decide if it’s going to work for us or not.
What are some tips you have for being friends with people with children?