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.