Dear Sarah Von,
A bunch of my friends are getting married this year, and one of them is
even having a son in a few weeks! I am super happy for them. The only
thing that makes me nervous is when other people talk about how
marriages and babies put a strain on friendships. Will I see my friends
less and less as time goes on? These are people I really care about,
and I hope that isn’t the case. Also, I’m not really planning on
getting married or having kids myself, so will that make me an absolute
loner (with no friends to hang out with, I mean) by the time I hit my
Girl, I hear you. I’m 32 and I grew up in the Midwest. I have high school friends with 10-year-old children and 95% of my friends are married or in a live-in relationship.
Navigating big-time life changes can be hard on any friendship. Here are a few things that I’ve tried to remember now that my friends and I spend New Year’s Eve parties talking about crown molding, mortgage rates and charter schools.
Friendships change as you get older – regardless of marriage or kids
Under the heading of “Not News To You:” life in your late 20s/early 30s is pretty different from what you were doing when you were 23. You’ve probably got a job that you take seriously, maybe you’ve got a mortgage and you’ve probably gotten over your thing for keg stands. Regardless of marriage and children, your social life is going to change as people buy houses outside the city, work longer hours or stop going out on week nights. And that’s totally okay – change is invigorating! Just know that even if zero of your friends got married/had kids, things would still be different.
Husbands/wives/moms/dads still enjoy time away from their partners and kids
Just because someone’s married or has kids doesn’t mean they want to spend every.waking.minute with said spouse/child. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that they’d like to get out of the house and talk about something other than potty training.
When I was traveling through Peru and Bolivia with my then-live-in-boyfriend, we frequently befriended solo travelers and traveled with them for days or weeks. A few times they mentioned that they didn’t want to be ‘third wheels.’ To which we huffed: “ARE YOU KIDDING? We’ve been around each other 24 hours a day, for three weeks. We are THRILLED to have someone new to talk to.”
Adjust your expectations when you’re hanging out with parent-friends
Kids are a lot of work. And if your friend has multiple children? And they’re young kids? That business is time-consuming.
I’m sure you’re not expecting your child-having friends to meet you for spontaneous happy hours and stay out till 3:00 am on school nights, but it’s important to make exceptions for them socially and emotionally. I haaaaate it when friends flake out on plans we’ve all committed to, but if you just had a kid? I’m giving you a one-year Get Out Of The Doghouse Free card. Maybe they’re overwhelmed with a million well-meaning visitors, maybe the kiddo has a cold, maybe they forgot about one of the three thousand appointments that babies have. Give ’em some leeway.
Other ways that you can make hanging out easier for your parent friends?
* Go to their house for dinner and bring the main dish
* Meet them some place that is both child and adult friendly
* If your friend is a stay-at-home parent, drop by their place during the middle of weekday (if that’s possible.) They’re more likely to be free/bored and want company
* Make sure your friends know that you’re coming to see them and they don’t need to cook you anything/put on makeup/clean the house for you
Don’t assume they can’t/don’t want to hang out
Even if you’re pretty sure your friend can’t leave the kids for a Girls’ Snowshoeing Weekend, invite her anyway. Because a) you never know b) she’ll appreciate the effort.
Don’t keep pointing out how different your lives are now
Nobody likes to go dancing with that girl who keeps shouting over the music about how she doesn’t go out now that she’s “a boring old married lady.” And nobody enjoys the company of the girl who’s always sighing dramatically about her singleton life and telling you how lucky you are to have found someone. Everyone leads different lives and things change. Just because someone has a child or partner, doesn’t mean they don’t remember what it’s like to date. And really, most people aren’t spending their free time obsessing over your relationship status – they’re not going to think about it unless you keep bringing it up.
Make more friends
Not unlike your investments, you should diversify your friend portfolio. What happens if you met all your friends at work and then you get laid off? Or if you met all your buddies playing Magic and you’re ready to leave the world of cards? It’s good to have different friends who meet different needs: the go-out-dancing friend, the deep-and-meaningful-conversation friend, the laugh-till-you-pee friend.
This is not to say you should give up on your married/child-having friends, but few people ever regretted expanding their social circle. Here’s a post I wrote about how to create an amazing group of friends.
What advice would you give our friend? What say you, marrieds and parents?
photo by Sarah Zeghraba // cc