The Vine: February 24, 2010
My husband and I have a close-knit group of friends, all couples, mostly, and they all are starting to have kids.It is not an exaggeration when I say all of them: it is quite literally 5 out of 5 couples, with some working on kid number 2, all within the span of less than 2 years.
My husband and I are newly married, quite happy to be childless for the foreseeable future, and we are more than happy to be involved in our friends and their children's lives.
The problem comes with the "lives" part.Sars, I am having a very hard time adjusting to the new lives of my friends as they become parents.They have changed so much, and so fast, it is shocking.Conversations grind to a halt unless we are talking about "the baby" or are centered around how tired they are from raising "the baby." At our wedding in October, most of them left early or in the case of one person, didn't come at all, because they couldn't leave the 6-month-old with the grandparents and didn't want to bring the baby either (which would have been fine, too).
At Christmas, we visited with one set of parents and all we did for the entire visit was make noises at the baby and barely spoke to one another.All I could think was, is this what we've become? Contact between us has decreased, and any time we do spend together has become more of a chore.
I am beginning to harbor feelings of resentment, which in turn makes me feel incredibly selfish and silly with this whole situation. However, that's where I am right now.My social life with my husband has become lonely and I am feeling isolated. I don't know how to relate to these new people that have taken over the bodies of formerly interesting, intellectually stimulating people.
I know and am attempting to understand that their lives have changed dramatically since they became parents, and perhaps I will just have to adjust to this new paradigm, but there is a part of me that does ask why.Does this really have to happen to you once you have kids?If so, do I want to become that person?
More immediately, what do I do now? Do I seek out new friends? Do I wait it out, perhaps things will be more normal once the kids turn 2 or go to school (in 4 years!)? Do I just stop being a heartless whiner and understand that this is the way it is from now on and go with it?
Much appreciated in advance, Sars.
Of course this doesn't have to happen to you once you have kids. It does happen to some people; it doesn't happen to everyone, or even to the majority, in my experience.
It may have happened to your group of friends because everyone except you is more or less on the same timing wavelength, childbearing-wise, and there isn't as much in the way of a "let's talk about Lost" corrective.
And that's for you to do. You should rehearse doing it in an excited-to-talk-about-TV way, versus an excited-not-to-talk-about-the-baby way, but I think a lot of people feel the same way you do — that they don't really want to discuss, or coo over, the baby for an entire evening, but they feel weird about changing the subject, or like if the parent doesn't do it of his or her own volition, it makes the non-parents assholes for purposely changing the subject.
Give it a try. My feeling is that major life changes should receive a grace period of two or three months during which the person undergoing it is given a break on talking about it constantly — wedding planning, new baby, new house, job stress, breakups — but even during that grace period, it's perfectly fine to want to talk about something else.It's also perfectly fine to invite your friends out for grown-up time, and to make it gently clear that it is grown-up time: a dinner out, a play, an activity you all share that will require them to get babysitting.
And some of them just…won't do that. Some of them, from now on, will always answer the question "How are you?" with "Well, Zach just started pre-K, and we're doing pretty well with letters and spatial blah blah gifted fishcakes," which is not how that person himself is doing, but is now who that person is, and you'll have to accept that, and decide whether to move on. The wedding behavior is unfortunate, but you have to let that go and figure out whether, in the future, you want to keep spending time with these people — because friends take an interest in you, too. It doesn't just go the one way, and if it always goes the one way, well, that's that.
I'd also try to expand your social circle. Have a few dinner parties for acquaintances; do one of those plus-one parties where people have to bring a guest that none of the other guests has met. Take some classes or join a dining club. You don't have to write your current friends off; there's nothing wrong with staying home with the baby, or talking about the baby a lot. But there's nothing wrong with not feeling that's your scene, either, so gently try to get your friends to adjust a little bit back the other way, and try to adjust your own self to the fact that not all social circles stay closed indefinitely.
I work at a very small company where we've all worked together for at least 5 years. I like my coworkers as people. We socialize at work, going out to lunch for people's birthdays and so on, but I am not friends with any of them outside of work.
One person I used to consider a friend. We'd hung out outside work a couple times and used to have a quite close "work spouse" relationship, but since he became VP there's been a lot more professional distance between us; we don't hang out any more and don't interact the same way we used to.
Other things that may have bearing: I am considered very good at what I do and have never had a bad review or been disciplined in any way. The company in generally very free and generous about paid time off and telecommuting and I don't take advantage of their generosity.
All my coworkers have been excited for and supportive of me for my wedding; I have politely chatted with some of them about planning when asked.
I do my best to minimize the amount of work time spent on wedding errands, only making phone calls at lunch, etc.
Prior to the engagement, my boss gave me a bonus and a raise when I told her my boyfriend and I were considering buying a house. That plan fell through once we became engaged (and when we discovered we couldn't afford the house we were looking at) and that money is being put towards the wedding.
I'm also the youngest person at the company by 10 years and even though I am 30, I am constantly thought of as "the kid."
They've all met my fiancé, they threw us an engagement luncheon and he is always invited to company parties, though I think he's only come once.
My question is, am I obligated to invite my coworkers to my wedding? We are talking about a total of 10 people, including people's long-term partners, some of whom I have never met. On the one hand, my salary, bonus, etc. are the majority of the funds being used to pay for the wedding and maybe that entitles them to be invited, or maybe you're just supposed to invite your coworkers when you work somewhere like this. It is the polite thing to do and in the grand scheme of things, it's not that many people/much money.
On the other hand, I would not normally see these people outside of work and at work, they drive me utterly bazoo. I often end up ranting to my fiancé about things they have done as coworkers to piss me off, and one woman's personality utterly clashes with mine, even though she's nice enough.They are also all assuming they are invited, which is horrifically rude in my opinion.
Not inviting them would afford me some budget to spend on other people I do love being included and/or having a better time. (My fiancé's coworkers are not an issue, he's only been at his job for a year and those who are invited were friends before they were coworkers.)
So? Will I be going through unnecessary hell by excluding them? Can I get away with telling them we're sorry we couldn't include them because it's a small wedding, even though our guest list is over 100 people? Do I put them all at one table and try to forget they're there?
It wouldn't ruin the day to have them there, they'd bring presents and be polite, etc. I'd just rather not be reminded of the people that make me crazy on a daily basis at a job I don't love to begin with, on what is supposed to be the happiest day of my life.
Bride Without A Clever Pseudonym
For starters, stop with the "happiest day of your life" thing. "One of the happiest days of your life," yes, but don't put more pressure on yourself — or think that that pressure means you won't have to deal with invitation politics. It's part of planning a wedding; accept that hassles like this come with the territory, breathe deeply, and address the problem without resentment that someone or something is ruining your special day, because it's neither avoidable nor productive.
With that said, which is it: you "like your coworkers as people," or they drive you "utterly bazoo"? The first half of your letter makes it out like, while you can tolerate them at work, you don't feel close to them; according to the second half, they're a blight on your daily life.
If you really don't like the job to the point where you plan to leave the office within the next, say, six months, you can probably get away with not inviting any of them, I guess, but they threw you an engagement party. You have to have known where that was going to go. They feel a sense of…well, "ownership" is not the right word, and I agree that it's presumptuous of them to expect invitations, but if they offered to throw an engagement party and you allowed it, well, you kind of let them think they had a stake in the relationship, and now those 10 chickens and their plus-ones have come home to roost.
Like I said, sometimes what makes Your Special Day special is that you did send invitations just to keep the peace. I'd just invite all your co-workers and hope, depending on what time of year the wedding is scheduled for, that they have other things to do and can't come. This cuts both ways, of course, but late May is an excellent time for a wedding at which you'd like to manage the obligatories by double-booking them against two other weddings and a high-school graduation.
And if they all do come (and they won't; you'll get a few, probably), park them at one table, stop by that table on your rounds, thank them for coming, and move along. It's your wedding; you barely have time to hang out with the people you do want there. Pull the trigger on inviting them and decide not to worry about it further.
Tags: etiquette friendships kids