How do childless couples deal with parent friends?
My wife and I are now in our early thirties. It was over 3 years ago that we first started talking about adoption, and we asked your opinion. But as you probably guessed, we haven’t proceeded with adopting, fostering or having a child biologically. We’re still a “childless couple”.
Well, we kind of got sucked into our careers. Stacie got a new job last year as an outpatient pediatric dietitian and she’s really into it. Not long after, I left federal contracting and began work in the IT department of an area university. We’ve both finally found jobs that we enjoy, and we’ve also decided to do a lot more with our church such as teaching kids and leading charity projects.
But any of you in your late 20’s/early 30’s know that there’s mainly 2 things happening in this time of our lives:
1. Having kids
2. Getting divorced
Unsurprisingly, we know many friends involved in either of these life events, and sometimes unfortunately in both. Of course, we also still have single friends and single-parent friends, but let’s focus on our “parent friends” for now.
How do we relate to our “parent friends”?
Well, this is an unanswered question for us as well that we’d like some help with. Assuming we’re not having kids anytime soon, how do we relate to our friends who are parents? These friends are from our childhood, college days and even in the last 10 or so years since moving to the D.C. area.
You would think that having friends is the same whether those friends have kids or not, but I’ll admit something changes when something as big as having a child happens in your life. As a parent, your main focus becomes your kid. You begin to find new friends who you can relate to more easily, and those are generally other parents. You talk about kid-raising stuff…your schedule changes to your kid’s schedule…your finances focus on your kid’s needs.
Some parents (rarely brand new parents though) are able to transition into parenthood while still maintaining their own “self”. There’s a balancing act, and some people are better suited to being an adult AND a parent, while others can only handle being a parent and are unable to even contemplate doing things without their kids. We have friends of both types, but I can get into a commentary on this so I’ll leave it for another time.
My Own Experience
Throughout my life, I’ve tended to only have 1-2 really close friends at any one time. I would focus on doing things with these friends and let them invite THEIR friends as “secondary friends”. My two best friends since college are now parents though, and I didn’t really plan on how this change would affect our friendship.
Perhaps my friends aren’t even aware of the change in my perspective and feel like I’m still the same friend. However, here’s the biggest challenge both Stacie and I face when relating to our “parent friends”:
We worry that our concerns, problems or life experiences are now inconveniences to our parent friends.
Think about it from our view please. When you become a parent, your life isn’t put on hold so you can figure out how to raise a child. You go through the same exact things that us “childless couples” go through, but now have one or more dependents to take care of.
Previously, when none of us didn’t have kids, we could complain about things in our life, and get counseled without feeling like our concerns were bothersome to our friends. We were all on “the same playing field”. But now, I know how much time my friends are spending with or on their kids, and how many issues they’re going through in their own lives, so I feel like the concerns of my life are minuscule compared to their concerns. I feel like I’m being a bother or a pain to my parent friends by asking for their help or advice.
For instance, something big happened in our lives over this past year. I alluded to it in an article a few weeks ago, but we’re working through it. I can’t comment on how Stacie is handling it with her friends because that’s for her to tell, but on my part, I basically withheld this problem from my best friends until the last couple weeks because I didn’t want to add yet another concern to their lives. Maybe it’s just me and a stupid way to think of life, but I didn’t want my friends to feel a burden and worry about me during all their other burdens in life.
I dealt with the problem by discussing it with a few of my coworkers (one is a friend of almost 10 years), but they’re both parents as well. However, one is in his 60’s and the other’s kids are pretty independent, so they seemingly have freed up mental and emotional time to listen to my issues and help counsel me. I basically went to my friends who were local because I could speak with them in person (at work) and know that I’m not interrupting their dinner time, play time or bed time with their kids.
But I felt I couldn’t do the same with my long-distance best friends because I would always worry I’m taking away from their few hours of special time they can get with their kids outside of work and other social obligations. I went through about 9 months of personal pain and suffering without telling my best friends because I needed someone daily to help me, and I didn’t want to burden my friends with my neediness.
How do you deal with these situations?
I’d like advice from both parents who have childless friends as well as those in our situation. How do you perceive friendships…and how do you REALLY treat these friendships in real life. It’s easy to comment that you treat your friends the same before and after kids, but I want your honest answer on how you parents feel about hearing from your childless friends. Feel free to answer anonymously because there’s little chance your friends will read this article, much less your comment. Am I being silly with worrying about being a burden on my friends? I don’t want to just hear “that’s what friends are for. If your friends aren’t willing to hear your problems, then they’re not good friends” because this is more about my perception as a childless friend, not on what really might be happening.