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A Womb of One’s Own: The Childfree and the Parents

At one point or another, many of us will either have kids or have friends who have kids. Believe me when I say that your kid-bearing friends still want to hang out with you, despite constantly turning down your Facebook invites to parties, barbecues, and shows. We still want to socialize, it’s just that socializing as a parent is a bit more complicated.

First things first: yes, we knew it would be different when we signed up for this. I knew that when I got pregnant, my days of Thursday night pub trivia were limited. I knew that I wouldn’t be frequenting the living-room punk shows of my youth (or the bar shows of my mid-twenties, or the mid-sized venue shows of my late twenties). I’m not complaining about how haaard it is to socialize as a parent, I just want to explain the situation.

For the first three months (once you recover from giving birth and can grasp at some sort of sleep schedule), babies are pretty easy to take places. I’ve worn my son into neighborhood bars, to parties and dinners and baby showers. But when a baby settles into their sleep schedule, a smart parent worships that sleep schedule. It gives you a solid touchstone for planning, a goal to reach for every day as your darling angel craps themselves for the fourth time today and puts their hand in the dog food. Heading out of the house for a gathering that starts at six when my kid goes to bed at 7:30 is just asking to be that asshole with the screaming baby at a party. You may not mind my kid screaming, but I guarantee someone else at your party does, and it’s not fair to the rest of the people who just wanted to show up and drink some Rainier tallboys and play Tekken.

Unfortunately, I’m at a point in my life where many of my friends’ social lives revolve around baby-unfriendly hours or locations. While there are some activities I’ve pretty much given up on (last-minute shows, whiskey shots, weed), there are others that, with my friends’ permission, I can modify to be a bit more baby-friendly (if they’re willing). It’s just that (I’m speaking for myself and not all parents, obviously) I’m hesitant to ask childfree friends if they want to hang out with me and my plus one. I think my kid’s pretty rad, but I understand that many people, including people I am friends with, are not fans of babies. If you want to spend time with a parent friend (who has a kid in tow), there are some options that are do-able for everyone.

  • Instead of going out for drinks at night, a brewpub on a weekend afternoon is usually kid-friendly (as long as the kid is corralled in a high chair or a parent’s arms). I call and double-check with the staff before finalizing plans, but I have yet to be shot down.
  • Dinner and a movie at the kid’s house. If you, the childfree, suggest this, offer to bring or help prepare dinner, and be okay with a flexible time frame. Invariably, if we have friends over for dinner, Gabe decides that’s the night he cuts a new tooth.
  • A zoo or aquarium. The kid will be focused on the animals, and the adults can talk and walk.
  • If you want to invite your parent friend and their kid over, find out how mobile the baby is. If they aren’t crawling, don’t worry too much about childproofing. If they’re crawling, be up-front about how child-safe your house is. I am always happy to leave the house, but we’ve worked out a child-proofing and baby jail system at our house that works. When we visit un-child-proofed homes, it ends up devolving into me either not being able to carry a conversation while wrestling my dude on my lap as he attempts to get on the floor and crawl, or me frantically chasing him and picking things out of his grabby little hands and not carrying on a conversation. He’s only ten months old, so it’s not a behavior that needs to be corrected, it’s just part of being a baby, and it’s something I need to factor into my life at the moment.

I’m not advocating that a childfree person needs to bend over backwards to accommodate their friends with kids. But I am saying that if you want to continue to be friends with parents, everyone needs to put a little extra effort out. To paraphrase David Cross, it’ll be worth it when the kid starts talking and accidentally says something funny.

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Jessica Werner

Free-range librarian in Seattle. A sucker for happy endings, teen angst, and books that make me want to sell my possessions and travel the world. Incurable homebody and type A. Send love letters and readers advisory requests to jessica.werner@gmail.com

10 thoughts on “A Womb of One’s Own: The Childfree and the Parents”

  1. YES to the aquarium or zoo.  I’ve already had one of my good friends let me know that this summer she will be using me and la monita as an excuse to do fun children activities that she’d be embarrassed to do without a kid in tow.

    Also, my friends have been great about including babby in our plans when acceptable (she’s only 3 months, so as you said, it’s not that difficult), but I feel that I’ve gone off the deep end about being apologetic when I either can’t do something because of babby or when I can, but need to bring babby.  I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “I don’t want to be that mom.”

    Personally, I’m lucky that so many of my friends are fellow teachers, so kids are a-ok with them, but even so, as you mentioned, I can’t take her out at night so our get-togethers have to be during the day.

    I’m lucky that I have very supportive parents who gladly take her (she just spent the night with them when I was in a wedding!), and a husband who’s not afraid to do his part.  But I definitely feel that I’m missing out sometimes.

  2. As usual Ipo, 100% on the button. We had my cousins visit our house and 4 adults spent their time chasing the two year old around as our house was very much not child proof. There was Lego he managed to destroy and put in his mouth and the one that absolutely terrified me- when he tried to pick up a 4kg weight and then dropped it. Thankfully no damage but after that we were very much like “We will happily come to your house with food to see you”. Worked out much better for everyone.

  3. I love being a mom but it really does change what you can do and when you can do it. The last time Mr and I got out with friends was a Christmas party and the kids stayed at Grandma’s.  I think our lives have just settled into a routine of not going out without the kids and not hanging out with good friends….most of them have moved away.

  4. I love my BFFs and their kids, but I have to admit I’m at a point where I no longer want to go out to eat with them, which has been our go-to now that they have kids. This is because they allow their three year old do the one thing that I absolutely abhor…run around the restaurant. Granted, he’s not roaming willy-nilly, but he’s definitely meandering about in the periphery of other diners and as a diner myself…that drives me bonkers.

    I’m pretty much thinking it’s going to be me getting take-out and taking it to their house for a couple years.

    And admittedly, they were the two people I loved going to concerts with and now the only time they go is if I’m babysitting for them, which means I miss the concert. Not cool.

    1. I hate that habit, letting the kid run willy-nilly. Drives me crazy. Of course, I’m that parent who is telling their kids to sit up straight when they’re at a restaurant, so…  Yeah, I may be a bit more “free range parent” in other categories, but when it comes to restaurants and other public places where that would be frowned upon, I tell them, “You are not wild animals.”

  5. I would also add: Be patient when your friend with a kid says, “I’d love to go out, but let me find out when I can do it child-free and get back to you” so that they can sort out a partner’s work schedule/a babysitter/whatever. Spontaneous child-free outings, especially in the baby/toddler years, are kind of like spotting a unicorn.

    And then if they can’t sort out childcare after all, figure out something else to do together that lets the kid attend.

    Good post – entirely reasonable and not at all “please bend over backwards for my baby.”

    1. Yeah, the whole “sex in the kitchen” stereotype isn’t the only spontaneous activity that gets curtailed when you have kids. Happily, all of my friends are understanding, both parent and child free.

    2. Good point- it’s key to sanity and friendships to find some times to get out with out the +1. Now that my kids are in bed by 8pm, I tend to meet friends out after bedtime. This way, I can enjoy my kids til they’re asleep (and help with bedtime), and still get to visiti with friends for an hour or two before my bedtime ;)

       

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