Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"My Friends Are All Married With Kids. Will They Adandon Me?"


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 30s?
- Maya

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?

20 comments

  1. Hey Sarah! Nice article...but I'm experiencing something you didn't list...it's when married with kids friends ONLY hand out with other married people with kids. Then me (the single person) is left out. If only I could rent-a-kid for the night...maybe they'd invite me over. It's kinda reverse discrimination. Married people might feel like single people leave them out of certain events, but it also works in reverse. Married with kids people tend to want to hang with their own kind. I cannot tell you how many friendships I've lost to the motherhood and I can't help but wonder if those relationships would still thrive if I had children too.

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  2. Nice post! Friendships do change, inevitably. And especially with kids and marriage and priorities that aren't changing in the same way. I try to remember that my friendships are never going to be as effortless as they were (or seemed to be) when I was a kid or in high school. Things were easier, then, because everyone had the same schedule and the same milestones. But now everyone has gone off in slightly different directions and it takes more work to get together, more missed calls and lost texts and interruptions and conflicts.

    I think it's why the Friends-esque all-living-together-across-the-hall dream is so appealing. Such easy access to your pals!

    Alas.

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  3. If they leave you, then they really don't deserve you.
    While I was single and people coupled up; suddenly dinners etc., turned into only-couple-dinners.

    I don't have children so it's doubly challenging. I just can't discuss parenting and how to raise a child (obviously), so all I can do is stay quiet. I HAVE had some friends come back when their children are older and they find that they've lost all that they had before. By then things are too eroded by time to be restored.

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  4. I actually think you hit the nail on the head with this one. I AM the 26 year old married with 2 small children, and yes, the first year is MEGA tough and just plain draining. It was awesome seeing my friends through that, but really *SO* helpful having them come to me...it's just a hard time adjusting to being independent to having a dependent.
    HOWEVER...I think the biggest change between getting married/having kids vs. not and how that affects relationships is simply you go from the person who had 20-50 "good friends (and more than enough acquaintances)" who you could go out with whenever, and now you really need to pare down your top 3-4 BEST FRIENDS and be intentional on doing that really well. Do you want 20 okay friends or 2 really GOOD solid friendships? Then...you make commitments and keep them minus sickness or emergency! When you get together, everyone plans on bringing their schedules and set up one or two dates per month for a couple of months. That way it's on the calendar and it stays there, and you do it.
    This has helped immensely with my 5 best girls. We are committed to each other so we work on it! It puts the onus on all of us to figure it out ahead of time and make it a priority. I consider these to be life-long friendships!
    Sarah M

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  5. Ahhhh yes. This is a topic that hit home for me too. I'm 39 and childless by choice. I have been with my boyfriend for over ten years but we are not married. Let me just say this... my best friend lives less than 5 minutes away from me and I see her maybe once a month. For like... an hour. She has two small children and no matter when I try to set up a time to see her she usually says that she can't because of some kid related situation. Then when she has time to do something it ends up not working with my schedule (and then she gets mad at me because in her opinion since I have no kids my schedule should be wide open and easy.) It has become nearly impossible. I really don't have many friends at this point who are not tied down with kids. As a lady who is a little bit older than the rest of the commenters so far I can say that friendships sort of become work as you get older if this is part of the equation. It's fine... I get it and honestly it makes me feel glad to have made the choice to remain kid free. I can't imagine the level of responsibility that goes along with having one. It's not for everyone. And I am sure I just pissed off a multitude of readers by saying so... but really, it's not. I suppose it will all come out in the wash in another ten years or so.... when the kids are more independent and the parents have more free time. In the meanwhile we enjoy our solitude. Ha!

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  6. I don't mean for the above "Ha!" to be taken as an in yo face sort of HA.... just a Ha, ha here we are alone in our quiet dark apartment on Friday night sort of Ha. The Ha is on us.

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  7. People change, situations, status... When we had our first, we found out who our friends were... Those w/out kids didn't understand that a baby will sometimes have a hard time napping in a different home.. yes, babies can feel, smell the difference between what they're use to vs. something new... So, you find friends who have kids... Interests are different when you have children.. duh, lol... Might I add you find out who your friends are when and if you become a widow/widower.. I found out... I remember when someone said they didn't invite me to a dinner party because I would throw off her count... Needless to say that woman is divorced...lol.. Some people find or at least I felt it that when you are single and everyone else has a partner you are looked at as either a threat or someone they envy... meaning, that they assume being single is easy?- less answering to or confirming? Anyway that is just my take on my two experiences... Though there are those who are secure, have a decent self esteem that will keep u as a friend regardless if you have one or 20 kids or if you are widowed... Its not about the one who is in this situation, its the 'other' who has an issue w/your status.

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  8. I'm in my late 20s with kids, and I have a big friend circle: both girls with kids and those without. And often the kid-less single girls seem to be busier than those with families, what with studying AND working (which everyone seems to be doing at the same time).
    Also, I meet some of these amazing girls once every two months or rarer, but that doesn't mean we don't care about each other.

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  9. I just want to say to the intentionally childless woman in her late thirties (hi! I'm like you!) that there are other people who are in long term, not married, relationships and who have decided to remain childfree. I used to find that having gay friends helped, as they were in a similar situation, but now they're having kids too! I have signed up to my local childfree meet up group on meetup.com. I haven't taken the step to attend a meet up yet, but I might. Just a tip for those childfree couples and singles out there!

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  10. Great article! I tend to agree with heather about there being some unintentional elitism that goes on with the parents, and a few other comments have led me to wonder about my role in being left out...perhaps Stefan, Sarah and Lukka can answer: For us 'non-essentials' on the periphery that get dropped, does assertiveness help? Like, would it matter if instead of giving our new-parent friend lots of room on their terms (because we know they need it) would it help our situation if we just said "I'm showing up with a pizza and we're going to hang out for an hour?"

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  11. Great article and great timing! I have two best friends, and one got married last year and is planning on pregnancy soon, and the other is in an LTR and her baby is due very soon! Meanwhile, I'm about to start grad school and leave a LTR.

    I often worry that I'll never hear from them and they'll only be able to connect with each other once they both have kids soon. Change is hard.

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  12. Bethany...I'm with ya! I'm 41, childless and in a 6-year relationship (not married). I too have few friends that I socialize with because of their "kid schedules". I try to make up for it a lunch during the work week. Yeah, I'd save money if I didn't go out to lunch every work day, but that's basically the only socializing I have with my female friends. My boyfriend says it's the same thing for men of a certain age. He too is childless and finds it difficult and sometimes impossible to socialize with his male friends because their wives won't always "let" them do things with single men. It's a problem. He frequently does the same thing I do by having lunch with married with children guy friends.

    This topic REALLY defines my current friendships with my female friends. Thanks Sarah for opening this forum for discussion. Glad to know I'm not alone.

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  13. I'm about to turn 32 and I'm in a new relationship with a boyfriend, but we're not living together yet and definitely not ready for kids yet. So I have no kids, but as is normal for people my age, the majority of my friends are married or in long term relationships and this seems to be the year of the kid explosion because 6 of my friends have had kids in the last year (3 of them in the last month!) and before that, none of my friends had kids yet. So the kid thing is a new dynamic to my friendships.

    What I've found is that the parenting style of the parents has a huge impact on how the kids affect our friendships. My best friend was a really laid-back pregnant lady who was super excited to have me be a cool "auntie" and made our group of friends promise to call her on it if she started acting like her kid was not only the centre of the universe, but the only thing in the universe. Guess what... she now hangs out with friends who have kids almost exclusively, cannot talk about anything other than her child, and will pick a fight if we say we want to see her because she takes it as an attack on her new life. Definitely not laid back anymore, and I'm afraid her kid has almost ruined the friendship. Then there's my friend who wasn't one of my besties and is a pretty high strung person in general, but she's turned out to be pretty chill as a mom and hasn't let her child become her entire life. She still wants to hang out with her same friends as before, and hear about what's going on with us too.

    Inevitably, babies will make it so that your friendships with the parents require more effort or planning to get together. But if both you and the new parents are willing to make that effort, then it will still work. Unfortunately, some parents just won't make that effort, and yes it will hurt your friendships if that happens. But that's the way life goes sometimes.

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  14. in response to Jenny: The main thing that happened between my 5 best girl friends (they don't all know each other) is having a conversation with each of them--sometimes it was me--sometimes it was them --that we wanted the friendship to work out regardless of life circumstance or schedules. It was a simple conversation that I suppose you could say 'took it to the next level' where both people agreed to make one another a priority. Friendships are 50/50. Whether you are married, single, have kids, or whatever (and my group of 5 is all of the above!) Both people have to be intentional and make time for it or it suffers or doesn't last. It's not my job to always be the one switching around my schedule to make it convenient to meet up, calling the other person, etc.--that's just simply not fair (like what Heather was saying) and that's not helpful for the other person (thus...being a bad friend).
    I think the people who were on the sidelines, like you said, were people that I felt or knew wouldn't put in as much effort into the relationship as I was willing to, or simply wasn't in a stage of life (see below--not about kids or marriage) or had the personalities that I found easy to click with, etc.
    Here are some examples:
    I got left out in college often from my former group of friends because I had to work 30 hours, go to school with 20 credit hours a semester, etc. and I didn't want to participate in their Thurs-Sun night drink fest every week. I was over that, and although I LOVE seeing them a couple times a year and going out to dinner, laughing and catching up... but they are not the people who I would call in an emergency. Another example is a friend who is a neighbor who kept coming over every.single.day. asking me to watch her kid (without pay). Just because I chose to stay home doesn't mean I'm a free daycare. I felt taken advantage of, and frankly tired of that crap, so I had to make her and her family MUCH less of a priority (i.e. boundaries) and explained that we are not available nor am I willing to take on extra children during the day unless I offer .

    I see a lot of single women and people without children commenting and all I can say is never let ANYONE make you feel bad about that choice. I love my kids and I chose to have them, but I know it's not for everyone. My absolute best friend has been pressured left and right from just about everyone and I say to her is the best quote I've ever heard on the topic--from the movie Eat, Pray, Love: "having a kid is kind of like getting a tattoo on your forehead--you want to be committed!!" and that is *SO* true. If your married/kids friends aren't willing to make the effort that you are, pick up and look elsewhere for real friends who want to make you a priority, give you a hot meal when your sick, loan you her favorite book, and take a girls only vacation with you once in awhile!

    Sarah M

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  15. Sarah M. ha! I LOOOOVE that quote from Eat, Pray, Love!

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  16. I'm married and pregnant with my first child and I love hanging out with my single and/or childless friends. I feel like as soon as I got pregnant all anyone ever wants to talk to me about is the pregnancy. I still have a brain and interests. When I'm with my childless friends, we have more interesting conversations about things like current events and books and movies. Friends with kids only ever want to talk about my prenatal appointments and pregnancy difficulties and how I'm going to parent. Boring! Just because a person has a spouse or a child doesn't mean they have to lose their independence or identity.

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  17. So happy to read comments like Meghan's, and terrified to read many of the others... I'm 27 and while I'm used to my older friends being married and settled, suddenly ALL of my best friends are getting hitched in the coming year. My boyfriend said, after we got the last Save The Date, "So, you're the only one left who's not engaged or married, huh?" He meant it as a compliment of sorts, because he's of the opinion that marraige destroys relationships (a whole nother conversation... oy), but it was the first time it really hit me. All my best lady friends will now be even more in THAT scene as opposed to MY scene. I'm hoping things won't change too drastically, but I've seen it happen enough already that I'm bracing myself.

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  18. I'm in the opposite situation. Im 33 so I know that's old by some standards, but here in Boston I am the first to have a kid and it's such a challenge to stay connected with married OR single friends. These suggestions are all great and I truly wish my friends were as tuned in to new ways of connecting. It has ben very isolating to be the only mom in my group - yay for blogs!

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  19. Yes, they will abandon you, to make it short and sweet.

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