October 10, 2013 by nooffensebut
With respect to Jane Austen, if it is not a truth universally acknowledged that once your friends start having children your relationship with those friends will change drastically, then it should be.
I thought about this while watching the new film “Friends With Kids,” which examines the dynamics of relationships, both romantic and platonic, once children begin coming into the picture. I, of course, reflected on how my own relationships and social dynamics have been affected as more friends begin to have kids.
I also recalled a letter sent to advice columnist Carolyn Hax that raised a lot of hackles. A childless adult questioned/challenged why friends with kids no longer seem to have any time, and apparently, a lot of people, parents especially, took offense to this.
Certainly, any reasonable person ought to realize that a child is going to bring about a drastic life change, whether you are the one having the child or your friend is. That tiny little creature will become the center of a parent’s universe, and rightfully so.
With that paradigm shift, however, comes changes in relationships with friends, which are often central elements of our 20s and 30s. Once the babies start coming, there is an inevitable change in dynamic, particularly if one friend has children and the other does not. Of course, marriage causes the same type of shift, but not to the same degree.
Oh, sure, people say things won’t change. They’ll never become Those Parents. They’re not going to talk about breast milk and sleep deprivation. “We’ll still have adult conversations while we run together in our cute exercise clothes with our perfect hair; I’ll just push the little darling in one of those trendy jogging strollers.”
No. No. No. This is in no way true, and it is naive of both the parents-to-be and their friends to think it would be, or could be. You will become Those Parents. You will talk incessantly about diapers. You will cancel plans or be entirely unreachable. You will have moments of being condescending. Your friends will be forced to accommodate you time and time again. That’s not a criticism; it is simply a statement of fact.
Thinking about this fact, however, has lead me to One of the Most Brilliant Ideas of All Time (seriously, I’m not kidding): I call it The End of an Era Party. Or perhaps we could call it a Babyette party? It’s like a bachelorette party without the strippers and tequila.
Think about it. There are always celebrations of the child-to-be and the impending parenthood. There are rarely acknowledgments of what, or who, is being left behind.
So why doesn’t Prego Patsy have a little get-together, nothing fancy, to raise a glass (of decaffeinated tea, of course) to an era upon which the sun is setting and to the people who have been wishing her Godspeed.
Oh, this isn’t a friendship wake; it’s a nod to life before the change and to the people who have played an important role in that life, the people who will likely find their place, and their friendship, altered, often not by their choice. Because no matter how happy for you your friends are, things are going to change. You’ll still love each other. They’ll love your baby. But things are going to be different.
It’s inevitable. We grow up. People leave. Priorities shift. Things change. Perhaps it’s best to just face the facts.
As Billy Joel once wrote, “Before we end and then begin, we’ll drink a toast to how it’s been.”
Originally published March 23, 2012 in the Chattanooga Times Free Press
A reader response:
I enjoyed today’s column, but you didn’t address the next step, grandchildren. We are members of several groups, but the changes you addressed have only effected two. And the effect was identical in both. One group was a young married Sunday school class from the mid 1960s. The other consisted of school alumni. The other groups haven’t changed. They are work related, a fraternity, and military service related, to name a few.
Pre children we did a lot of fun things, but our “parties at houses” consisted of games like bridge and board games with females and males all included. With children, we all laughed about what changed. The females went in one room and talked about children and wife things. The males, in another room talked about or watched sports. Now to the one you didn’t address. When we had grandchildren, was when there was no time for each other, and the two groups fell apart. There is nothing as great as grandchildren. Life is great!
Last observation – for some reason, when a divorce occurred, and there were several, the females stayed in the groups, and the males graciously left the groups. This wasn’t by directive, it just happened, and I always wondered why.
Enjoy your column. Keep up the good work.