A lot of people without kids complain that when their friends become parents that they never see them anymore. They stop accepting invitations and don’t invite them to their own events. But before Sprout was born, I was determined that Chris and I were not going to be those people. Even though many of our friends live on the other side of the city, we still wanted to see them.
While we aren’t perfect, I think we’ve been pretty good at following through on that commitment. This weekend, we actually spent time with our friends on both Saturday and Sunday. So to all of the folks who keep turning down invitations, I say that you don’t have to be Those Parents.
In fact, here are a few solutions to the most common challenges I’ve heard. While these won’t work for everyone, I think they could help a few new parents spend a little more time with their friends.
“You don’t want to come – it’s going to be a lot of kids.”
Possibly, but you never know unless you ask! If someone doesn’t want to attend an event, they will politely respond “no” or ignore the invitation altogether. Personally, I like inviting all of my friends – with and without kids – to parties at our house. For Sprout’s first birthday party, we rented space at a local park, which worked out very well for both the adults and kids. As he gets older, his parties will focus on his friends, but you can still have all-ages Halloween parties, Christmas celebrations or summer BBQs. For his party, I think one thing that helped was that we encouraged people to donate to the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project instead of bringing gifts. That way, my non-parent friends didn’t have to figure out what to buy for a one-year-old, folks on tight budgets didn’t feel obliged, people who wanted to could contribute, and we didn’t end up with a ton of extra toys.
“People without kids don’t want to hear me talk about my kids.”
Then don’t – it doesn’t always seem like it, but there are other conversational topics in the world! Even if you’re a stay at home parent, you can talk about pop culture, the news, politics or other hobbies. Also, I’ve found that our friends don’t mind us talking about Sprout, just as long as we’re respectful. We try not to dominate the conversation, listen to people tell stories about their own lives (including their pets), don’t imply that our lives are soooo much harder than their, and don’t make them feel bad about not having kids. In fact, our friends have had a lot of questions, either because they do want kids in the future or are just curious. But avoid talking about your kid’s poop. No one wants to hear about toileting habits – unless it’s a hysterically funny story.
“Babysitters are really expensive.”
They totally are – which is why we’ve avoided finding one so far. Now, a lot of this is due to having a supportive social circle and family, but some of it’s just flexibility. Whenever either set of our parents visit or we visit them, we ask if they can watch Sprout for the evening. While we’ve spent most of these nights on dates, we could have also used them to set up time with kid-less friends. More recently, we did a “child swap” with friends of ours that also have a baby. We took their kid for an afternoon so they could go out and a few weeks later, they took Sprout. But you don’t necessarily need friends or family to provide childcare. If you’re part of a couple, you can actually switch off between the two of you. When one of our friends sends an invitation to an evening party, we take turns as to who gets to go and who stays home. As we had a four year long distance relationship and years of opposite schedules, we’re both comfortable going to events by ourselves. It’s nicer to go to things together, but it’s better to go alone than not at all!
“Nap times are so restrictive.”
We’ve managed to phase out the morning nap, but we know well the dangers of screwing with naptime. But if your friends without kids are willing to be flexible, it’s possible to plan around them, especially on weekends. In particular, we’ve found late brunches and lunches to work well. If your kid is bad at restaurants, places with sidewalk seating tend to be more forgiving when it comes to being noisy and dropping food on the ground. While a lot of folks go to dinner too late for us, barbecues that we can attend after his afternoon nap are great. If you’re willing to host something at your own house, you can really expand the possibilities. In theory, you can put the baby down for his afternoon nap right before people come over, allowing you a couple of adult-only hours. Of course, this doesn’t always go as planned. I hosted a gaming session where I was GMing (game-mastering) and inevitably Sprout decided that was the day he didn’t want to take an afternoon nap.
“But I can’t bring my kids to a bar and adults don’t want to go to Chuck E Cheese!”
Unfortunately, they don’t make neighborhood bars like they used to. Back in the day, my great-grandmother and great-grandfather brought my mom and aunt to the local joint where all their friends hung out. In light of this loss, there are a lot of places that can meet the needs of both adults and kids. Besides the aforementioned outdoor dining, perhaps a friend wouldn’t mind hanging out at a park where the kids can play on the playground. Or you can go to the mall altogether and make a stop at the children’s area. While the summer is quickly fading, a lot of outdoor movie series show awesome family-friendly films, like Frozen and Star Wars. Local events can be perfect too – the local county fair or Renaissance Festival can be very entertaining for everyone.
Now, all of this is not to say that new parents should be solely responsible for maintaining the friendship. We ask for patience and understanding from our child-less friends. We may be a little later than usual, we may have odd stains on our clothes, we will have limited schedules, and we may sometimes need to leave to deal with a child-related disaster, whether medical or behavioral. But taking all of that into consideration, we do still want to be friends with you.