Keep your friends close and your child-free friends closer.

Jeez, I’ve been away for a while. I had this wonderful idea that I would be able to go back to work and blog like a demon. Wrong, wrong wrong.  Oh well, shit happens.

Friendships are strange things when you become a parent. You have friends that you have known before you had kids and friends that you make afterwards. Within those groups you have subsets– friends of yours that knew you before you had kids and they too have had kids; friends in that group who never had kids; and child-free friends that only know you as a parent; and other parent friends.

There are people you would never have dreamt of befriending, but because your kids are in the same class/scout troop/cult, you end up somehow becoming their friend. Sure their tastes are so diametrically different from yours it’s a wonder you don’t break out into a rash, but your kids like each other and you can forgive them serving you cherry Lambrini. Wine is wine, right?

There are people who are so goddamned awesome that you are happy you logged onto that forum, attended that childbirth class, or went to baby yoga because you wouldn’t have met them otherwise. You start thinking, “wow, we have so much fun even though we are settled with kids, could you imagine what we would have been like if we met before kids?”  (Actually, had you met before you had kids to calm your crazy, it’s likely your stories would have involved a police chase, a really bad tattoo or a dodgy guy called Vincent*)

Friendships become weird when you become a parent. You are pretty restricted in what you can do for a long time and that restriction isn’t always down to the age of your children. Time poverty is the biggest restriction. When you have kids, you don’t have time to do anything. Yeah, I know there are millions of books on how to manage your time as a parent. However, when you realise it’s been a month since you picked up a book that wasn’t Goodnight Moon, those books are pretty useless. Last November,  my husband and I realised, much to the horror of my friend the Gorgeous A, that we hadn’t been out alone in two years. We don’t have parents or any close relatives near us that can take the kids and we don’t have friends with children. We also have no time and no energy.

If you want a decent night out, you end up paying someone £60 just to leave your house.We always fed, washed and put the kids to bed before we left so we essentially paid someone £60 to watch satellite TV, eat biscuits (my husband has this thing about providing an array of biscuits for the sitter. We usually only have Rich Tea)  and use the laptop.  If you have friends with kids, at least you can split babysitting costs. So due to economics, you tend to stay in a lot. You convince yourself there is nothing better than watching reruns of Father Ted with a Marks and Spencer’s  “Dine in for £1o” deal for two (“we get WINE!” my husband enthused). You tell yourself that you are too old for going out anyway and that the town centre is too full of “young people” and music is shit. What’s better than cranking up the Spotify and listening to a playlist of songs from the 80s and 90s?  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it is if you do it all the time. You can lose touch with reality a bit if your social life takes a nosedive.

This is where your child-free friends come in. They come to provide that welcome dose of reality your sorry parent ass sorely needs. Harping on about youth today? Your child-free friend will happily remind you of one of your “antics” from your past. Your parent friends won’t do this even if there is video evidence of you acting a goddamned fool because if you both knew each other before you had kids, chances are they were right along with you.

My friend Lisa, though she’s ever only known me as a parent, regularly gives me a kick in the ass when I’ve gone a bit too “mom” at times. She can tell me when I am being too overprotective and over-thinking shit too much. For example, my husband let our  10-year-old son take the bus two stops to school.  By. Himself. I was absolutely horrified. In my mind, my sweet, innocent son climbed aboard a bus full of paedophiles wielding needles and pit bulls. The driver would be a junkie that was cooking meth while drinking and driving. No responsible parent would allow this! Lisa brought me swiftly down to Earth by reminding me I live in the suburbs and the boy was going two stops. She also threw in the fact I used to take the El on the south side of Chicago by myself when I was his age.

That’s the other thing about child-free friends that’s great– they don’t tend to judge you and they certainly don’t compete with you in the parenting stakes. Remember, I write this blog from the perspective that the parents who read it are not absolute morons; your child-free friends should have nothing judge. They don’t care that  your kid is 3 when he was finally  potty-trained. In fact, my friend Karen was shocked that you actually have to train a kid to use the toilet. “You actually have to teach them to use the toilet?Don’t they just go by themselves?,” she asked in all seriousness. If you don’t have kids or are not around them in any capacity, you won’t know this kind of thing.

Your child-free friend provide you with a welcome boost of self-esteem that is sorely needed when you are up to your eyebrows in snot from all of your kids being sick at once, or when your eardrums have been shredded from your baby’s nonstop wailing. They let you know it’s not your fault the kids are sick and that the baby won’t stop screaming. They say great stuff like “You manage to keep three people alive and healthy. I couldn’t do that shit!,” or “Fuck that, I can barely get myself ready in the morning, but you get three kids ready, yourself ready, and you get to work on time!” Child-free pals, from the bottom of my raggedy heart, you don’t know how good that feels. Seriously, it’s a real morale booster because as a parent,  you tend to feel like you are constantly making mistakes.

There is a downside to child-free friends though. They buy your kids better and more expensive toys and clothes than you ever will. They take them to nicer places. They do really cool shit with your kids that you can’t possibly do because as a parent, you are not cool. Child-free friends actually buy shit from the concessions stand at the cinema instead of sneaking in shitty candy and fizzy drinks from Poundland or DollarWorld. They would never, ever bring fruit to eat during the movies. You continue to listen to our kids ramble on when us parents have ceased to hear words; just a high-pitched hum.

Child-free friends of mine, I will never tell you to have kids if you have chosen not to. Your lives are full and complete. I will personally scalp any parent who would dare tell you differently. I’m way too selfish to give you guys up.

*My friends and I had a discussion about the name Vincent and it turns out all the Vincents we knew turned out to be totally skeevy. Including Van Gogh.

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