Why Friends Disappear after having Kids January 18, 2011Posted by General Zod in Advice, Family, Storytime.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about some of my old friends and how I haven’t seen them in many years. After I had kids, several of them seemed to stop calling or visiting… and that was to be expected. Of course, most of them probably thought that I was the one who dropped out.
Well… perception is reality. So for those “child-free” folks out there who just don’t seem to understand why your friend who just had a kid has suddenly disappear from their social lives… here’s the scoop from someone who’s gone through it.
The Stay-at-Home Parent
When you are the at-home parent, you’re entire day is dedicated to that child. Your only alone time is probably the few minutes you get to down a cup of coffee before the kid wakes up. Once the child is awake, you’re going to have to feed, clean, dress, teach, and entertain that child every waking moment of the day.
You don’t get free time for yourself, because you’re too busy watching that baby. Don’t ever tell an at-home parent that they’re “lucky because they can sit around and watch TV all day”, because they’ll probably strike you. TV is something you get to do for a few brief minutes while feeding the kid a bottle. You don’t get the luxury of watching a TV show, because you won’t get to watch the entire thing before you’re right back to something else. That’s why most parents tend to tune in News channels or perhaps a mindless Game show.
And Lord help you if you run out of something because that just complicates everything to no end. You can’t just “run out” to the store. Going anywhere with a child requires serious tactics and planning. You’ve got to get yourself ready to go, and the child, get them into the car seat, etc… plus, what about extra just-in-case gear? You’ll need a few toys to distract the child in the store. What about if the kid needs a new diaper while you’re out… so you’ll need some of those. And what happens if you break down on the road? Yes, you’ll need your mobile phone… but what about the baby?! So now you need to pack bottles to feed the child until you can get home.
I won’t even bother to detail how lovely you probably look and smell because you’ve been alone with the child for the last 4 days without help or relief… collapsing in exhaustion whenever the child sleeps… and haven’t found the opportunity to bathe in all that time.
Sounds disgusting, right? And you’re thinking… how could anyone let that happen? Well… it does. As I said, you don’t have the luxury of time for yourself.
The Working Parent
Now I can relate more to the role of the working parent than the above alternate, but don’t think that I’m alien to either role. However, my wife gets all the kudos for being the at-home Mom.
You probably think “bringing home the bacon” is just a simple matter of earning your regular paycheck. In some lucky cases, that is the case, and to those lucky few, I will say “Congratulations”… but it’s rarely that simple.
As you know, having a new baby is VERY EXPENSIVE! What you don’t know is how expensive it will be until you’re in the middle of it and find yourself needing money! If you find the opportunity, then you’ll probably be opting for as much OT as you can muster. Plus, what about those who are working without benefits? Now that you have a child, you ARE going to need medical coverage… so it’d be time to start looking for a new job.
Then, after your work day is finally finished, you’ll go home to find your spouse is eager to hand off the child to you so that they can take a nap, bathe, eat a meal, or anything else that they haven’t done properly in a while. You won’t get any thanks for it, so don’t seek any… because in your spouse’s eyes, you’ve been “relaxing at work all day”.
The memory of one evening always sticks out in my mind. Storytime!!!
I’d just finished a long work day, and came home to find my wife and mother-in-law in the family room playing with my daughter. (My mother-in-law had only been there about 10 minutes, so my bride had been handling the kid all day.) I was tired after my long day, but my wife looked downright exhausted… so I decided to make dinner.
First, I wanted to dig through the piles of mail that had stacked up over the last few days. I policed the junk mail, sorted out my wife’s mail, and wrote some checks to pay the bills.
Next, since the dishes were deep in the sink (and covering the stove), I decided that the kitchen needed to be cleaned a bit before starting dinner. So I scrubbed some pots down, loaded the dishwasher, and started it.
Then, I finally started dinner. I started some pasta to boiling, and tore open some pre-made garlic bread from the freezer. I prepared the meal, set the table, and served. It wasn’t fancy, but it got the job done.
After pulling the high-chair over to the table and sprinkling the tray with Cheerios for my daughter, I called my wife and mother-in-law over to eat. As we started, I informed my bride that after dinner it was my intention to have a quick shower and a change of clothes before taking the child off her hands for a while.
My wife exploded! My loving bride (who was very tired and not thinking straight) proceeded to yell at me about “how little I do around the house” and how I “need to start helping her more”. As I’d spent 9+ hours away at my job, but had so far only spent about 90 minutes at home helping out… she had decided that I wasn’t doing enough, and unloaded a big pile of CRAZY all over me. (My mother-in-law was quiet throughout the proceedings as she didn’t want to get in the middle of it, but she was kind enough to point out my efforts to my wife later… after she’d calmed down, rested, and returned to a somewhat sane state of mind.)
Like I said, don’t look for thanks for the efforts you put forth once you get home, because you won’t get any.
Regardless of which parent you are, you’ll find that sleep is a rare luxury. People without kids seem to think that babies spend most of their time sleeping. Well, that’s true… most babies do tend to sleep about 16 to 18 hours a day, but they probably only do it in two-hour increments… and you’ve got to be there for them when they’re not sleeping. Forget about getting a “Solid-8” hours of sleep, because it’s not going to happen for quite a while.
The best advice that I can offer is to try to come up with an alternating watch schedule. Whenever I came home from work, we would immediately set to eating dinner… and afterwards, my wife would retire to the bedroom to sleep. For months, my bride had no conception of what was on TV during the Prime Time hours… because she was asleep by that time.
Then, at some point around 1am, I would trade off with her… so that I could get some sleep before going to work the next morning.
That’s why finding the opportunity to go out with friends isn’t as simple as “letting the spouse watch the kid”… when you’re not watching the kid, you’re eager just to get some rest!
An old pal (who obviously had no children) once tried to compare the love I have for my daughters with the love he had for his dog. In his mind, it was the same thing because he loved spending time with his dog, playing with it, etc. He just didn’t understand what the difference would be. So I finally explained it to him by asking…
If someone held a gun to your dog’s head and threatened to kill it… would you offer up your life in exchange so that your dog could go on living?
No?! That’s the difference.
You may love your dog… but parents don’t just love their children. They “fall in love” with them. Remember when you were in high school and you’d become infatuated with someone… and you’d get that excited feeling at the thought of spending time with them? Parents tend to get that same feeling about spending time with their kids. We want to rush home to spend time with them. We may be obligated to do so, but it’s an obligation that we welcome.
So why don’t people reconnect later? Well, some do… but in my case, it’s difficult. I’ve found many phone numbers disconnected, and several emails unanswered. For all I know, some of my old friends could have moved, changed jobs,… or even died.
If a phone call or email doesn’t seem to be working, then my advice is to try Facebook to reconnect. You can send notes to the old pals, and even find friends who might have slipped your mind (but don’t tell them that). And if they don’t respond, then check their profiles for activity since you’re last attempt. If they’ve been on numerous times since your message was went, then you could probably guess that they have no desire to reconnect with you… and you can put your efforts into someone else.
The best advice I can offer is… if an old friend who recently had kids reaches out to you, don’t be petty about their lack of communications. They’re making an effort… more of an effort than they could have before… so don’t leave them hanging.
And remember… this door swings both ways. If you haven’t heard from your friend since they had a kid, then you’re just as responsible for that lack of communication as they are.