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Home » The Vine

The Vine: February 24, 2010

Submitted by on February 24, 2010 – 10:10 AM93 Comments

Hi Sars,

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.


Dear Hater,

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.

Dear Sars,

I’m wondering about the etiquette for inviting coworkers to your wedding. I’ve looked through the Vine here and here, but they don’t really address the question I have.

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

Dear Bride,

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.




  • penguinlady says:

    Baby Hater, I agree with Sars. Ask for “adult time”. Invite one or two of the ladies for a mani/pedi, for a martini, something that is clearly “no infants need apply”. Also, some new mothers are exhausted by all the baby-talk, but don’t know how to change the subject and all people ask them about is “how’s the baby?”. You might find that they are just aching to talk about anything but.

  • Jamie says:

    Oh, I can’t wait for more comments. That first letter is going to have people firmly on one side of the fence or another. I don’t have kids, but my fiance has three and since we started living together, my social life has kind of faded too. We’re busy with the kids. When I talk about what is going on in my life, that is what is going on. Things we do with them, things we are trying to do to make our new family work, etc. It’s hard to get a babysitter and since they’re with us only every weekend (and sometimes weeknights when their mom needs someone to watch them), I feel guilty leaving them with the babysitter (even if it’s grandma) during their dad’s time with them.

  • Av0gadro says:

    Baby Hater, I recommend doing something that splits up the moms and dads. Go out for drinks with just the moms, and make sure your husband does the same with the dads. In my experience, when split from the co-parent, people are a lot more likely to be honest about the crappy stuff about parenting and about their need to get away from it. Also, this solves baby-sitting problems.

    I think this happened to you because all your friends had babies at once – the group dynamic shifted a lot more than it would have it just one or two couples had reproduced. But I’m willing to bet that some of those parents are just as desperate to get away from kid stuff as you are.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I don’t think there’s a fence here. Friendships have to go both ways and share common interests, or they aren’t really friendships anymore; it’s not a right/wrong issue, really. A single conversational topic, no matter what it is — child-rearing, entomology, the Orioles — is not going to carry a relationship if it isn’t a shared focus. The parents aren’t “wrong” to talk about or spend time with the baby nonstop; Hater isn’t wrong to find that tiresome after a while when she has nothing to add to the discussion.

    Let’s not anticipate an adversarial discussion if it’s not necessary.

  • Emerson says:

    Not baby-related, but this made me laugh:

    “…now those 10 chickens and their plus-ones have come home to roost.”

  • jen says:

    Sars is dead on on the kiddo thing. Though I will say, having just slogged through the first year of my son’s existence–while I was desperate to talk about anything but baby stuff, I know there were times I couldn’t do it because I was so completely and utterly overwhelmed by being a new parent that I didn’t have anything else to talk about.

    I was so exhausted, both mentally and physically, that I was the most dull and boring person on the planet. my life was baby-diaper-feed-eat-sleep for three months, and then baby-diaper-pickup-dropoff-work-eat-sleep for the rest of it.

    I would have died for an invite for adult time. Died. But also, it probably would have crushed me, since actually going on an adult-time date with a friend required navigating such a nightmare of logistics and scheduling, that it was a full-on planning hell. (ok, kid going through growth spurt, have a 2 hour window between feedings, as well as no stash of backup milk, which means that if it takes 20 minutes to get there, I have 1 hr 20 min in which to be social, which means…)

    The wedding thing is unfortunate, but having been that parent who’s cut out early because you are exhausted/can’t afford the sitter longer/nursing and about to EXPLODE if you don’t feed the kid/have to get up at 6 the next day because when your alarm clock is a screaming kid you can’t hit snooze, it sucks. You want to stay, but you can’t, and you feel like you’re missing out on your friends and their awesome fantastic lives. And bringing a baby is even more stressful, at least for me. There’s the packing of baby crap, the contingency plans of outfits/diapers/food, “how am I going to nurse in this dress?”, aniticpation of how you’ll deal with a cranky, overstimulated cranky baby in the middle of a big shiny loud fun party that you don’t neccessarily get to participate in because you are baby-wrangling, how to eat dinner with a 6-month old on your lap… etc.

    So unless your friends are the uber-precious parents who have a 5 hour bedtime routine for junior that CANNOT be interrupted or changed, or they’re all like, oh we would never do blahblahblahfunthing because think of the chiiiiiiillllldren…cut ’em some slack. Early parenting years suck really hard.

  • Bitts says:

    I think much of what may be going on with Hater’s group of friends is that child rearing is now something the other 5 couples all have in common with one another but not with Mr. & Mrs. Hater. The dynamic of the group might just be child-centered right now — I think it is probably awesome for those other couples to have friends with whom they are already close share the parenting journey. To say it in another way — maybe the Haters need to find some more childless friends. To rely on these people to fulfill the same role in the Haters’ lives as they did before having children is an expectation that will probably not be fulfilled.

    Also, though the ideas for non-child-related activities are good ones, don’t be offended or too disappointed if they don’t pan out. It won’t be personal. Taking time away from a young child is supremely difficult for a lot of parents, regardless of how necessary we often hear it is.

  • Erin says:

    The Baby Hater letter reminds me of what happened to a great friend of mine. She had a best friend who’s a wonderful mom to two kids. For years, my friend, A, tried and was unable to conceive, and considered J’s kids to be like her own–she was called Auntie A, etc. etc. (The oldest child shared A’s birthday, too, which was nice.)

    Eventually, A successfully got pregnant, and was so excited about sharing parenting stories and dating-with-kids with J. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that J saw A as the cool childless friend with whom she got mani/pedis and drinks–and she had plenty of friends with kids and didn’t really want another.

    It broke A’s heart, because she really thought they’d be able to bond over parenthood. Whenever A & J spent time together after that, J would NEVER ask about L (A’s son), which really crushed my friend. It’s definitely hard to manage friends-with-kids and friends-without-kids, but if you’re a true friend, I think you make it work. If not…then maybe you just don’t, and you let the friendship go.

    Someone once told me that there are friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for a lifetime. Sometimes folks we thought were lifetime friends end up being season friends. And I think that’s OK.

  • Becky says:

    I agree that some of the new parents might be interested in talking about something other than the baby, especially if it’s been more than a couple months. Until my son was a month old, that was all my husband and I talked about, because we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. But even by three months, I was coming home cranky from my local moms’ group meetings, because spending two hours talking about how our babies are sleeping is fucking boring.

    For the bride, I agree with Sars that if your co-workers threw you an engagement party, you pretty much have to invite them to your wedding. And for the record, I really regret not inviting my thesis advisor to my wedding.

  • JennyMoo says:

    Bride — Sars’ advice is, as usual, spot-on. It may seem like A Thing to you during the planning stage, but during the wedding and reception you’ll likely hardly notice your co-workers are there, unless one of them puts a lampshade on his head and dances the tarantella down the buffet table. If there’s anything I learned from my wedding (good lord, seven years ago, really?) and those of family and friends, it’s that the majority of the guests — particularly of the co-worker/casual acquaintance/friends of the parents kind, don’t really expect to play that much of a roll in the big day besides showing up to scarf down the shrimp cocktail and get in a round of the Electric Slide before calling it a night.

    If it doesn’t mean significantly more expense for you and your fiance, I think it means less angst and takes up less brain space for you in the long run to just invite them and let those chips fall where they may.

  • Michelle says:

    I’m going to agree strongly with Sars’s advice to the second writer. Invite the coworkers. You say it’s only 10 people including their partners; that’s not very many, in the grand scheme of things. When I got married, my parents insisted on inviting their neighbors. These were people I’d met but didn’t know very well. I fussed at first but eventually gave in. And you know what? They were lovely. They came, they were pleasant, they chatted with each other and with the other guests. It in no way “ruined” the wedding to have people there who were not my personal bestest friends in the world. Seriously, on your wedding day you will be unlikely to interact with most of your guests for more than about 2 minutes apiece.

  • Rachel says:

    In my experience, the first year of having a kid is freaking exhausting. There’s no room in your head to think about SHOWERING, much less how the Mets are doing. Especially if Mama is breastfeeding – she’s tethered to that little succubus every few hours. But it gets better. Doesn’t last forever. If the new parents are nice people, they will eventually come around and realize that the world doesn’t revolve around Emily and Ethan’s naptimes and start to interact with other people again. Or, like Sars said, they won’t. Time will tell.

    At the same time, it’s not rude at all to change the subject. I love my kid to pieces but sometimes I’d far rather talk about Lost or my current obsession with the band Editors in the rare event I get to talk to another adult. :-)

  • Natalie says:

    While reading the above-the-cut portion of the first letter, I was mentally composing my thoughts on the subject. Imagine my delight to see how much they match Ms. Bunting’s. While some babyward shift is inevitable, I think one of the reasons it takes over is that no one- parent or otherwise- can figure out how to move away from the topic gracefully. Try bringinfg up a mutual interest in an abstract way, as opposed to “have you seen the new blahblah exhibit?” Also, don’t assume that all parents are totally media deprived. My sister and brother-in-law have been killing some Olympic coverage because they’re up so often to feed the baby. Sure, they may not remember who won, but “dude, what up with Norwegian curling pants?” launched a heck of a conversation.

  • Ang. says:

    My husband and I are childfree, too. And we do feel very isolated. Most of our friends have kids by now (we’re early- to mid-thirties), and they want to bring them everywhere. (My parents used to go out with friends once a week or so and leave me and my sister with a sitter, but parents don’t seem to do this anymore.) We’ve bought birthday presents and tried to show interest, and I’ve attended lots of baby showers and have been supportive of friends who are new mothers (bringing dinners and such), but we’re not all that fascinated by babies or kids. I think this probably comes through somewhat, though we don’t say it. We don’t socialize with couples anymore for the most part, but we do each get together with individual members of our group. I’ll go out to dinner or to a movie with one or two of the women, and he does stuff with the guys sometimes. But it has been difficult. In my experience, trying to do “adults-only” activities with the group has been nearly impossible, because many of them insist on bringing the kids along or just staying home.

    There are some social clubs for childfree singles and couples, so you might want to look into some of those. Unfortunately, we live in a medium-sized city in the Bible Belt, and our politics, atheism, and childfree status pretty much exclude us from almost all social opportunities here. But if you’re lucky enough to live in a larger or more diverse area, you might be able to join or start such a group.

    When my parents got married, my mom didn’t know anyone in their city except the wives of Dad’s friends. She started a bunco group, and she still plays in that same group, 30+ years later. (In fact, they have two different groups–a once-a-month evening group for women, and another for couples.) Maybe you could start something like that, and if you all didn’t want to host in your own homes and prepare a meal, you could go to a restaurant with a meeting room.

    In the meantime, I busy myself with home improvement projects and gardening (we grow much of what we eat, year-round) when I’m not working. We do feel very much alone, but we do some volunteer work and spend time with family (they live within two hours), and we have lots of time together. We’ve also become good friends with an older (50s) couple, which is nice because their kids are grown and out of the house. Anyway, all of this is just to say that you might have to change your definitions of friendship and/or socializing for now. But by the time those kids are 12 (maybe sooner), they’re probably going to want to spend all of their time with their friends, and a few years after that, the kids will probably be sullen, zitty, unpleasant teenagers who scream at their parents. By that time, the parents will be glad to escape and spend an evening out with you.

  • cv says:

    I sympathize with Hater – lots of my friends are having babies, too. Changing the subject works, sometimes – asking a non-stay-at-home spouse about their job, talking about recent news or sports or even the weather can get things off the baby track.

    One other thing I’ve noticed is that structured activities help. If we’re all sitting around someone’s living room and the baby is toddling around, then we talk about the baby. If we go on a walk and the baby is in a stroller or a hike with one of those baby backpack thingies, or watch a movie, or start a book club, or whatever, it’s easier to have it not be All About the Baby, even if the baby is physically present.

    My new-parent friends also seem to appreciate invitations to do things that get them out of the house or out of their routine in ways that feel manageable with young kids and their naps and schedules and fussiness. Leisurely bike rides, coffee dates, or a baseball game at the local college are likely to be more successful than either hanging out without a purpose or trying to get them to go off on a big ski weekend with you.

  • KTB says:

    I’m with Sars–I think that all parents do go through a period where their entire lives, voluntarily or not, revolve around the baby and baby things. I’ve lost track of how many of my friends are currently pregnant or have new babies, but I’m also fortunate to have friends who made conscious decisions to maintain social/outside lives that don’t revolve around their offspring.

    I think the important part is to allow the parents some time to chat about the munchkin(s), but to change the subject to outside stuff and see how it goes. I mean, the kids eventually go to bed and go to school–I would imagine that even the most hardcore, kid-focused parent watches a little TV, reads a paper/book or goes online once in a while.

    Lastly, I think Av0gadro is totally right–getting one parent out of the house at a time is frequently a ton easier than getting both out.

  • Pru says:

    I would strongly recommend to Baby Hater to get some new acquaintances who might become friends–take a class, join an amateur sports league, take up a new hobby. As I landed squarely in my mid-30s without a child and without a ton of motivation to have one, I worked pretty hard at expanding my horizons and it’s paid off. I have friends I’d have never met otherwise, and I’ve kept most (not all) of the others.

    It absolutely gets better once the kids are about 3 and turn into little people who don’t need to be supervised every second, can talk, are mobile, and suddenly can be fairly interesting. You might want to explore that ‘cool aunt’ angle as well.

  • Clairezilla says:

    Baby-hater: As a new-ish parent, I have been “that mom” on more than one phone call. The thing is, I just needed a bit of time to adjust. It’s a huge change, and it took me about a year before I felt like I had a handle on things.

    If you truly miss your girlfriends, invite them out for a one on one dinner and give them 10 minutes to get all the baby stuff out of their system, then talk about old stuff or new stuff or random stuff. Be patient, they will come back around.

  • KKP says:

    @ CV, that’s it exactly! We don’t need to have baby w/ us every waking minute. But we like him and it’s fun to take him to his first baseball game, etc. If we’re going with friends – so much the better! I agree, it’s much easier to get mom or dad out of the house separately. The scheduling of a babysitter can be a nightmare. Plus if we’re out for dinner and some live music, we just added 40-50 more bucks to our tab.

    @Jen – man i hear you – i don’t think I left the house for an extended period of time during those growth spurts

  • Carrie Ann says:

    Sars, I think your advice to give a 3-month grace period around major life events is awesome. I got married, changed jobs, and bought a house in a three-month span, and I feel like I need another year to recover, but really I just need a period of low expectations. Like, I may not have the time, energy, or money to do things we usually do. And I may talk way too much about placecards, or homeowners insurance, or painting. But it will fade, and I’ll be back to a new normal soon. And then I’ll probably get pregnant. Heh.

  • […] but Sars has no trouble calling anybody out and offering pretty great advice. I’m including today’s questions, only because I see friends around who might have similar […]

  • Jaybird says:

    Honestly, I don’t mean to be a jerk, here. But…”Baby Hater”? That sounds fairly adversarial from the get-go. Maybe one assumption BH needs to make is that her friendships will do better if she doesn’t view, or seem to view, her friends’ children as loathsome obstacles to both fun and life itself.

    Maybe I’m reading too much into that, because I have kids myself. Maybe I’m also one of those parents who talks about the kids too much, although I sort of doubt it at this late date. (They’re seven and four, and the potty-training/bottle-feeding business is long past.) BH’s letter just comes across to me as though…well, as though she hates the babies.

    I can totally understand resentment over the fundamental change that comes over a new parent, and the resulting fallout in that parent’s adult relationships. But that really sort of goes with the territory when you’re friends with couples of childbearing age–not invariably or necessarily, obviously, but the chances are, it’s going to happen. If I thought that any of my friends actually despised my kids, that friendship would be going the way of shoulder pads and eight-track players.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I read the nom “Baby-Hater” as wry/sarcastic; she’s pretty open about the fact that she 1) resents the kiddies a little for the way they’ve changed her friendships and 2) feels like a jerkweed as a result.

    She could hate babies but I didn’t read it that way.

  • Margaret in CO says:

    Baby Hater, this is so rude but it works for me (my friends are used to me, though, so use with discretion.) When you ask “How are you?” and get a reply like “Baby made the cutest poo yesterday” then ask something like “Did Baby see the Oscars? What did she think of the gown Meryl Streep wore?” – My friends just laughed & got into the conversation, it seemed to knock those baby blinders right off thier heads. I hope it works as well for you!

    Bride, I agree with Sars. You allowed your coworkers to be involved in your engagement when they threw you a party – of COURSE they expect to be invited to the wedding! Did you really think they wouldn’t? At this point, I think it would be rude & tacky of you to exclude them. Pretend they’re relatives you don’t like very well, say hello, move on.
    What makes a wedding special is that there are so many people attending who have gone out of thier way to recognize & celebrate your love with you. That’s the guest’s function at a wedding. You should float around your reception in awe of the love in the room, not resenting that you had to pay for that coworker to eat the damned chicken plate. The wedding isn’t the big deal, it’s the marriage that counts!
    (You might laugh at some of these tales of “WO!”- nothing that goes wrong on “Your Special Day” could be any worse than some of these stories! Enjoy!)
    Good luck!

  • Baby-Hater says:

    Hi all, Baby-Hater here. Thanks to Sars and all of you for your awesome advice. And also: wow, so quick! I will definetly try for the on-on-one time more than the group stuff, because the baby talk does happen much more often when there is a larger contingent of us all at once. One of the women, the one who didn’t come to the wedding, is pretty much MIA for all of us, and even the new mommies and daddies are pointing out how weird and obsessive she is being, so I think her behaviour is outside the norm. Otherwise, a little understanding, patience and looking outside “the group” will help a lot. I recently joined a book club full of women I don’t know at all, so yay for me!

    Also, Jaybird: yeah, it was sarcastic. I don’t hate babies, I’m not totally made of stone. Thanks to Sars for picking up on that.

  • Fiona says:

    My friendships with couples who became parents have survived by my husband and I working a little harder to see our friends; we tend to go to their house more than they come to ours, for example. And we try to have a standing game night for the grownups, to which the kids are around for dinner and such but then go to bed- and if the kids need attention from their parents, one of them goes and deals. Some of the conversation is naturally about the kids, but much of it is about current events, pop culture, the games we’re playing, etc. And when they come to our house, we have stuff for the kids to do and often will include them in Rock Band until they’re ready to settle down with a DVD. Oh, and I will sometimes play with them to give their parents a break. What it comes down to is realizing that things will change, but being willing to find the balance. And if it’s worth it to both you and the new parents to keep your friendship going, you will find a way.

  • Anon says:

    @ Baby Hater – I’m right there with you, all of coupled friends are currently in the midst of babying, and it does get difficult. I will say, that not ALL new parents are like that. We have three sets of new parents in our circle, and two of them are very good – still doing things with the group, alone or together with baby, willing to use sitting to do fun adult only events, seem to genuinely care about things going on in both our lives and the world around them that are not baby focused.

    However, the third set is the opposite – they won’t use sitters, even those related, don’t like to go out because it may interrupt their extremely long nighttime routine, and when we visit them at home, stop listening mid-sentence to coo/play with their child, when he is happily playing by himself. Point being, not everyone reacts in the same way…

    @Jaybird, I’m not trolling, I’m just actually surprised by your comment. Because, just like adults, there are some kids I like, and some I don’t. It never occurred to me that a friend would cut me dead if I happened to not like their child (and I don’t mean that I run around telling them I don’t like their child, or act mean to them, but if they somehow found out…)

  • Joanna says:

    I can sympathize with “Baby Hater” because I have been on both sides of this fence. I was a late bloomer when it came to marriage and kids, so for the longest time I was the token single to my friends’ married-with-children bliss. It was definitely annoying at times and that experience has shaped my desire not to be “that Mom” who talks endlessly about her baby.

    However. It’s hard and requires actual planning on my part. Babies do have a way of taking over your life, especially for the first couple of years. They do not entertain themselves and require constant supervision. It’s exhausting, back-breaking work at times, so it’s no wonder that parents come hard-wired with BIG LOVE where these tiny tots are concerned. The babies wouldn’t survive otherwise. These cute little time-sucks leave almost no available hours for reading, television watching, or other hobbies. When I was home on maternity leave, the baby was my entire life. It was either talk about her or keep silent. (I did a mixture of both).

    Now that I am back at work, it’s a bit easier to find other topics of conversation, but this has come with a tradeoff: I spend so much time away from my daughter at the office that I have little desire to be separate from her on the weekends. I will happily accept the occasional “girl’s night out” invitation or date night with my husband, but these are roughly once-a-month activities for me right now. So while I appreciate the offer of “no baby” social outings, I may decline some of them anyway.

    What does help: For “Hater,” know that this frenentic period will get better, but the kids are here to stay. Structured activities should help — plan a game night, a book club or a shopping expedition (where babies might be able to come along in strollers, happily quiet.) It is reasonable to expect the parents to show up sans kids once in a while.

    For new parents: actively find other things to talk about. I’ve even made lists before socializing with my friends who do not have kids — sports, movies, books, work craziness, politics — whatever floats your boat. Make sure to ask your friends about their lives… and then don’t relate everything back to your baby. “Oh, you’re going to the Sierra mountains? We almost named the baby Sierra…blahblahblah boringcakes.”

  • The Mystery Amanda, Former Intern of Doom says:

    Jaybird, I think you’re reading too much into it.

    I don’t have a lot to add otherwise, but it is always weird during transition periods – college, friends getting married, looking at Facebook and going, “what the hell are YOU doing with a kid?! I remember you standing on top of the Big Toy in grade school and screaming ‘STELLLAAAAAA!’!!”

    I hate to say people get “left behind,” because that makes it sound like the people who have been “left behind” are in some way not doing something they should be (arrested development, etc.), but “in a different place in their lives” may be a better way to put it.

    As it goes, most of the other advice offered to Baby-hater here has been excellent, but I’d like to second that expanding your social circle a bit while also giving the parents kid-free opportunities to get together (with the understanding that having very young children means you need some advance warning for a lot of things and there are often logistical issues involved) is probably a good way to go.

    Also: I want the Norwegian curling pants.

  • Stephie says:

    I agree with Sars above, I don’t think she ACTUALLY hates babies.

    While I have friends with and without children, I can understand where BH is coming from in terms of a group dynamic shifting. All of my male friends in high school eventually joined a fraternity, all my college friends eventually got married… there have been many times where I’ve been faced with being the odd one out, or at least the one who went somewhere else.

    The biggest thing that helped me is I had to accept that what I used to get from hanging out with those groups had changed. Does that make sense? Once I started seeing my friends for who they are NOW as opposed to who they used to be, I stopped being disappointed or bored or missing them when they were right in front of me.

    Try to focus on what you like about your friends now. Is one still the funniest? Is one still the person you call when you’re upset? Then “use” (I can’t think of a better word, sorry) that friend for that. If they aren’t your social, party time friends anymore… well, go get some! You aren’t losing friends, you’re just gaining new ones.

  • Jaybird says:

    Hey, sometimes it’s good to be wrong. Not about the weather, or the stock market, or your brakes, but things like this? Good to be wrong.

  • Emma B says:

    When I was a brand-new mother, I talked about the babies (twins) a lot because they really WERE my whole life. I couldn’t have baby-free “how’s it going at work?” conversations any more, because I left my job to be a SAHM, and the babies were now my full-time job. I couldn’t talk about my hobbies or leisure activities, because I didn’t really get to have any of those at all for the first six months, and precious little after that. Ditto for new restaurants, or movies that weren’t already out on DVD, or serious books. Basically, anything that required more than one hour of uninterrupted time, or any level of concentration beyond “sleep-deprived haze”, pretty much didn’t happen. It started to get better after about a year, and then regressed again for the first several months of my son’s life. Now that they are all out of infancy (my son is 18 months, and the girls are 3 1/2), I’m working part-time and have more leisure time, and consequently I have more non-kid topics of conversation.

    Two or three months is an unrealistic grace period for kid talk, IMO, because the heavy-duty intensive work of parenting lasts much longer than that — wedding planning, house-buying, and most new jobs simply aren’t comparable. With parenting, while you’re not necessarily actively changing diapers or feeding a baby at all times, you are pretty much on duty for 90+ hours a week. Would you cut a friend some long-term conversational slack if they were, say, a medical resident working those kinds of hours? Or would you expect them to go back to their “old selves” after a couple months, even though they’re still devoting most of their waking hours to their work?

  • Jen S says:

    I totally sympathize with Baby Hater, but from a different angle. I’m pretty friendless right now, and at my age (38) it’s difficult to make friends because the majority of people my age are parents. Maybe not parents of infants, but parents, and the totality of the focus change cannot be overstated. Not because either state is inherently boring/wrong/whatever, they’re just really, really different.

    But I can sympathize with the complete wipeout exhaustion, through my sister, who’s got 3 of the little darlings. I talk to her on the phone pretty regularly, and it’s always when she’s ferrying them around on errands and has them firmly strapped in car seats because that’s the only time she’s got a hand free to use the phone. (Yes, I scold her for talking while driving, hasn’t done any good so far.) And my mother lives with them, the paternal grandparents are less than a mile away, AND they have a babysitter pretty much on call!

    I recommend reading Operating Instructions: A Journal Of My Son’s First Year, by Anne Lamott, for a truly hysterical and unvarnished account of her first year raising her (colicky!) little boy. She really conveys the combination of molecular level adoration and fucking burnt out wasted brutality exhaustion of that whole topsy turvy time.

  • queenjawa says:

    @Ang – Back when I was a kid babysitting, I got $3-4/hr if I was lucky. Yeah, that was in the late 80s and early 90s, but still… Now I pay a minimum of $8/hr for my own kid and frequently it’s more like $10. That makes a trip to Chili’s and a movie $80.

    I once answered a good friend’s question of “how are you” with details of my kid’s day at daycare. She put her hand on my shoulder and said “PrincessJawa is amazing, but I asked how YOU are.” At which point I burst into tears because just thinking about how exhausted and overwhelmed I was blew me away.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    wedding planning, house-buying, and most new jobs simply aren’t comparable

    Not to speak for Baby-Hater, but that attitude is probably a big part of the issue for her. Sometimes it feels like nobody else is allowed to be tired, nobody else is allowed to have a difficult or demanding job, nobody else is allowed to be quiiiiiiite as important and beleaguered as a parent. We can have problems; we just don’t get to complain.

    Those things aren’t comparable for you. That’s totally fine. You talk about your kids a lot; that’s totally fine too. I don’t care if the kid talk never stops; I’m interested in the kid talk with my friends, because we’re friends. But: we’re friends. I’ll make plenty of adjustments, but being told repeatedly that my joys and concerns don’t count is not “an adjustment.”

    Nor is it accurate.

  • Dorine says:

    I’ll tell you what’s up with the Norwegian curling pants: they rock!

    I don’t have a lot new to offer to Baby-Hater, but I’m in about the same place and I don’t think it makes either of us evil for feeling a bit down about it — it’s hard to feel distance developing between friends whose company we enjoy. But as everybody here as said, this is just what happens when some people have kids. People grow and change, and strong friendships can weather those changes.

  • Erin K. says:

    I adore you, Sars. Both of your responses were spot on. My friends are marrying and breeding like mad, and when they do, I’m thrilled. What does not thrill me is when some of my friends lose their minds and join The Cult Of Bride or The Cult Of Baby.

    Where I grew up, at weddings the congregation promised to support a bride and groom in their love and happiness. As such, a wedding was 50% about sharing your joy and love with the most important people in your life, and 50% about them saying, “We support you!” It was not “Everyone pay attention to me because I’m a PRINCESS” day.

    When it comes to weddings, phrases like, “It’s my special day,” and use of the word “princess” send chills through my spine. (I don’t find “happiest day of my life” frightening, although it does make me wonder why the people who say it bother living past the honeymoon if they think life’s all downhill after the wedding.)

    I agree with the person above who mentioned that people don’t seem to use babysitters as much as they used to. I also don’t remember our snack-nap-bedtime routines as being quite so rigid. I have a friend who acts like a delayed nap will result in Armageddon. Structure does make children feel secure, but too much structure results in kids who are rigid and can’t deal with change.

    All of this makes me feel very grateful for my friends who have transitioned into marriage and parenthood without losing themselves in the process.

  • Carolyn in CT says:

    Mad props to all posters for appreciating that friendship requires work, just like marriage (oy). Thanks especially for the specific suggestions about what to do and talk about to bridge the rugrat gap. Wishing you all happy and long-lasting friendships.

  • Anon says:

    “Sometimes it feels like nobody else is allowed to be tired, nobody else is allowed to have a difficult or demanding job, nobody else is allowed to be quiiiiiiite as important and beleaguered as a parent. We can have problems; we just don’t get to complain.”

    Sing it Sars! This is the childless person’s mantra!

  • afurrica says:

    It’s not the Tired Olympics, but having kids IS different. You can break an engagement, quit a job or sell a house. Once you’re strapped into parenting, you’re pretty much in 24/7 for life (if you’re lucky).

    I agree with Emma B that 3 months is a pretty short grace period. Maybe you’re just starting to get more than 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Maybe you’re starting to crawl out from under the mountain of diapers and blink your eyes against the sun and start working your way through the TiVo queue and looking at eachother and saying “Wow, so Obama won, huh?” and noticing that all your clothes are out of style.

    In the case of twins, I think it was about a year before my husband and I even qualified as human beings again, and even then we were not great conversationalists. We could wax poetic about this amazing SLEEP that we had gotten the night before? Five hours and nobody even peed on me? Can you believe it? To us, that was fascinating shit right there.

    I totally agree on the whole subject-change and adults-only stuff (and CV’s observation about structured activities was genius), but the three month thing just seems a little optimistic.

  • Shawna says:

    Baby-hater, I’m NOT saying you’re like this, but I have two small kids and a set of friends who really do not get how hard it is to manage anything that doesn’t involve the kids, especially for the first year or so. Breastfeeding put me on a really tight leash with both kids for a long, long time, and even when we bring the kids along they make it almost impossible to really focus on the conversation.

    The shoe’s been on the other foot too – my best friend had kids way before I did and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just see her sometimes and not her whole family. Well, now I understand. Priorities change. Interests change. And logistics can be a nightmare whether you’re talking about trying to arrange for someone else to care for the kids, or when you’re trying to bring them along. Even when I get away for an evening every now and then I feel guilty I’m not putting the kids to bed. I’m hoping to have more of my life back eventually, and actually do grown-up things from time-to-time; maybe your friends have the same hope? If not, well, maybe it’s time for new friends?

  • attica says:

    Can I just say the child-centric convo domination doesn’t necessarily stop when the darlings hit school? My 80-year-old mom often complains to me that her circle of friends just Won’t Shut Up about the kids and the grands, to the exclusion of even entomology* and Orioles. My mom, on the other hand, is not.

    *that’s the study of coffee cake, right? Wait: bugs? Geez.

  • e says:

    Throwing in a second to the night-and-day aspect of Bride’s letter – I actually scrolled back up because I thought I had somehow scrolled into a third letter with a similar problem!

    I agree with Sars and (so far) the other commentors. Yes, it chafes that they’ve assumed they’re all shoe-ins for the wedding and such, but all things considered I think you will regret it if you don’t invite them. Or, let me rephrase that: I think you will *be made to* regret it. In a small company where you’re the youngest (and they relate to you accordingly), they’ve thrown you a party, they’re already anticipating the invites, AND you’ve been given a bonus and raise to (presumably) help finance things? Unless, as Sars said, you’re preparing to quit within a few months, I really think you’ll be cutting your nose off to spite your face if you don’t flex a bit on this one.

    Off to google “Norwegian curling pants.”

  • JeniMull says:

    Just want to add an echo from the Cave of Baby (not Cult – dark, dark Cave). Please stick around, be patient with us – we know we have tunnel vision, but we are doing the best we can. My youngest is nearly 11 months, and I am just crawling out of the The Cave and back into the the light of the rest of the world.

    Please kick my butt (metaphorically, I hope) if I ever imply that your lives are any less important or meaningful than Life with Kids – I count on my friends to keep my perspective.

    But please – do stick around. We need you as we rediscover who the heck we are now, as we learn to be Ourselves and Mom.

  • Annie F. says:

    Make sure to ask your friends about their lives… and then don’t relate everything back to your baby. “Oh, you’re going to the Sierra mountains? We almost named the baby Sierra…blahblahblah boringcakes.”
    YES! This coupled with Sars’ response above about no one else but parents being allowed to be tired, overwhelmed, etc.

    I have chosen not to have children at this moment (I’m in my early/mid 30s, so most of my friends are married & having kiddos), and I pour myself into other things; I constantly get crap from parents that “of course you have time to do XYZ, you don’t have a child.” Well, we all make choices, and having one was yours. Respect my decision, as well.

    I think it takes work from both sides, and I have found with my friends with kids, that most of the work is coming from my side; those that have stuck in the long run are those which, at some point, the friend asks me, “How are YOU,” and means it. Otherwise, we can all only give so much with no reciprocation. Friendship is give and take.

    I read a Dalai Lama book once that said something along the lines of everyone’s problems being their own, and because it doesn’t seem big in your life doesn’t mean it is not big in theirs. And I agree with this. We all get that having a kid is a big deal. But it doesn’t mean it is the ONLY big deal in the world.

    And I love kids, love, and have many friends who have been able very well to keep themselves and rear a little one.

  • Jennifer says:

    I totally second all “find other friends” posts. If every single person you know is having very small children right now, they probably don’t have much time or opportunity (or in some cases, interest) in maintaining friendships with others not in their boat right now.

    In my experience of being friends with parents, mine are usually people who literally resurfaced into having their own interests and non-parent friends when their kids became school-age. I don’t have too many small-childed friends who are able to maintain friendships with those not in the same situation. Which is to say, one couple, and now that they’re about to have #2 I’m starting to worry as to how well they’re going to do at it.

    So with regards to these friends, I might recommend having lower expectations for the next 5 years, or finding new friends who may have kids, but hopefully have older kids so they might have the breathing room to have their own lives and interests too.

  • Suz says:

    It has been interesting to see my tight group of friends from college respond in a variety of ways during the transition most have made from single, to married, to homeowner, to parent. It’s sort of been an anthropological study on my part, since I have been in relationships, but have no spouse, owned home or child. One sweet friend has really gone above and beyond to stay connected after the birth of her child. One of my funniest memories was when the baby was 3-4 months old, and we had a “girls day in” at her house with popcorn and a movie. The movie was “Sex and the City,” and she had the baby sitting on her lap. During the first sex scene, she froze, looked at me, and said, “Oh my God, am I supposed to turn the baby around? Should I cover her eyes?” It was said with such an undercurrent of “I have no idea what I’m supposed to do as a parent,” that we just cracked up for ages. Honestly, have low expectations for the first couple of years, and you’ll see who comes out the other end as a balanced human being, and who (for better or worse) will be kid-oriented 24/7/365. To answer your question: feeling the way you do is perfectly normal, yet some of your friendships will still diminish because of different priorities and responsibilities.

  • Patricia says:

    On this:

    With parenting, while you’re not necessarily actively changing diapers or feeding a baby at all times, you are pretty much on duty for 90+ hours a week. Would you cut a friend some long-term conversational slack if they were, say, a medical resident working those kinds of hours? Or would you expect them to go back to their “old selves” after a couple months, even though they’re still devoting most of their waking hours to their work?

    I actually had a couple friends dump me- spectacularly and with much drama- because I had a job that required 70-80 hours a week, which left precious little time for anything other than sleep. After a couple months, they got so mad at me because I couldn’t just drop my work and go out with them, that they dumped me with tears (mine) and recriminations (theirs). Sometimes people just aren’t compatible once one party undergoes a major life change.

    I don’t think I succumbed to so much of the Cult of Baby after I had my kids, but then I went back to work pretty quickly with both my children, so I had to engage my brain with other things besides baby. Logistics have become challenging, though. My hubby and I make liberal use of sitters when we can, but sometimes a sitter just isn’t available. Sometimes cost is prohibitive, too.

    Baby Hater, something to suggest, if your friends’ kids are old enough, is that you meet them and their kids at a playground, indoor or outdoor. Now that my oldest is 3, I can generally let her go play and only need to keep an eye on her, and I get to have more conversational time. Because, as much as my childfree friends hate it when we can’t finish a sentence because my kid is interrupting or I have to referee something or stop kid from killing herself- I HATE IT EVEN MORE THAN THEY DO.

    And I second the idea that hanging out with all your child-having friends as a group may reinforce the idea that all they can talk about are the kids. It’s such a major topic of conversation that a group of parents could easily totally do nothing but discuss their kids if not reined in. Change the subject, for sure. Hope it goes well!

  • Stanley says:

    @KKP: “We don’t need to have baby w/ us every waking minute. But we like him and it’s fun to take him to his first baseball game, etc. If we’re going with friends – so much the better!”

    But…maybe your friends don’t think that’s so much the better. If you want to take your son to a baseball game, take him to a baseball game. But I think the problem (for me) is when an invitation is assumed to extend to children, just because the parents think their friends are as anxious to spend time with their children as the parents are. Maybe in the situation you’re describing, it’s clearly a children-included event, but the danger sign to me is the assumption that everyone enjoys spending time with your children as much as you do. I don’t have kids, don’t want kids, and while I love my nieces and nephews and definitely am considered the Cool Aunt, I don’t really LOVE spending time with non-related kids. Hell, I don’t always like spending time with related kids. But I get that at my age (mid-thirties) and my social circle (mostly kid-ful), kid socializing is nearly unavoidable, and I’m cool with that. Kids are invited to my dinner parties, and I wouldn’t have it any other way (though I stopped inviting the helicoptering parents who could literally – LITERALLY – not finish one sentence because 95% of their attention was on their toddler at all times, as she played quietly with the other kids). My issue is just with an assumption that kids are welcome everywhere because everyone will love spending time with your kids. Maybe that wasn’t what you were saying, and if I misunderstood, I’m sorry. (But the general point still stands.)

    Also, I guess things have changed, because my parents never seemed to find it a logistical nightmare to hire a babysitter for an evening. Though I don’t think it’s changing times, because my sisters also do not seem to find setting up babysitting to be an arduous task.

  • Leigh says:

    First of all, I was very interested to read Hater’s letter. I’m currently pregnant, and have a huge fear of becoming THAT parent…but at the same time, the little monkey hasn’t even arrived yet and I keep hearing myself talking about pregnancy and babies far, far more than anything else. I’m doing my best to be aware of it and diversify the conversation when I can, but it’s such a huge part of your life (and your brain is literally wired to become focused on it–omg is “nesting” ever for real!) it’s really difficult sometimes. I suspect that the group dynamic is a big contributor to Hater’s specific problem. I know that we are now seeking out other couples with babies and trying to strengthen those relationships so that we have some people who we can hang out with afterward who will get it when we need to bring the kiddo or don’t have a lot else to talk about. That doesn’t mean we don’t love and want to keep our single friends too (and lord knows talking about other topics is definitely needed sometimes!) but it’s just one of those all-consuming life changes that does take some conscious adjustment on the part of both parties. Our “party” group kind of fell apart right before I got pregnant anyway, but I can see how it would be pretty difficult to have kept up with that scene post-baby, no matter how easygoing my intentions might be. Friends who don’t mind if the baby’s strapped on while we all go for a hike are definitely the ones we’ll be seeing more of in the coming months and first years–with or without kids themselves.

    And yes, Bride, you do have to invite them. You will definitely regret it if you don’t–the guilt and awkwardness will be far, far worse than fleetingly noticing their faces in a crowd and spending a minute and a half thanking them for coming on the big day. I didn’t even get to say hello to my GRANDPARENTS at my wedding, I was so busy. As determined as I was to enjoy the experience, it made no difference–it was a total and complete whirlwind. Inviting them is essentially painless. Not inviting them won’t be. Trust me.

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