Thursday, January 8, 2015
First, as someone without children, I resent it when people refer to giving birth as starting a family. My husband and I have been married for 13 years, and we are most definitely a family. Whether or not we choose to expand our family is a personal decision, but it doesn't make our relationship less or mean that we are just two yuppy morons temporarily playing house. Trust me, when you've spent over a decade sharing a bathroom, nursing sickness, discussing money, and attempting to share the remote control, you should be considered family. Because there are times that we certainly don't feel like friends!
Next, I have experienced this vanishing phenomenon in spades. Inevitably, friends with new babies begin to disappear off the grid--so much so, that we have joked that our baby gift to expectant friends is ultimately our parting gift and our way of saying so long, farewell, and thanks for the memories. Babies come along and we never see that child's parents ever again. This is both baffling and frustrating for us as it continues to happen. Yes, having a baby is time-consuming, draining, and a completely new way of life. Parents need time to adjust, to bond, to savor these moments. I get that, and I totally agree. What I don't agree with is when this continues long through the child's second or third birthday. It's hard, if not impossible, to maintain a relationship with someone with little to no contact for months at a time.
Life needs balance. Everyone needs to come out of their cocoon from time to time and socialize. Believe it or not, your child needs time away from you as well, and when everyone is reunited at the end of a date night, you will probably find yourselves refreshed and happy to see each other. I'm not saying that parents need to maintain social butterfly status, but I don't think that dinner with friends once or twice a year warrants child neglect.
My generation seems to handle babies in an entirely different fashion than our parents. My mother is continually baffled by all the new baby products and "necessities" that abound--one mom-to-be that we know registered for a $300 baby seat with various speeds and (allegedly) soothing motions for the baby, a warmer in the seat, and an MP3 player input for baby's favorite songs. Seriously? Where do we go from there? How can that child be expected to grow up and sit in a regular chair, after spending the formative moments of life hanging out in some futuristic, high-tech baby Barcalounger? A friend of mine who has grown children even laughed at all the baby monitor choices on the market today--video monitors, interactive monitors--as she put it, "believe me, that baby will let you know when it needs something and you will not need an expensive walkie talkie to figure it out." Somehow, our moms and dads managed to raise us without spending thousands of dollars on fancy baby equipment, and we survived, even without MP3 connectability.
I had a fantastic childhood. My mom doted on my brother and me and did all the stereotypical motherly things that are expected: she volunteered at school, led our youth groups at church, baked for us, cooked family dinner, helped with homework, drove us to practices, and hosted birthday parties in a more-than-Martha-Stewart manner. And yet, she still managed to maintain friendships with other women. She and my dad regularly spent time with other couples. We had babysitters and we loved every minute of it--it was a night that everyone in our house looked forward to, and I dare say that no one was damaged by my parents' nights out to enjoy dinner and grown-up conversation.
People have been having children literally since the beginning of time, and many have even managed to still maintain full, happy, seemingly normal lives after procreation. It can be done, and frankly, using your baby as an excuse to withdraw from friends and relationships is wearing thin. My mom's pediatrician offered this advice to her as she left the hospital with her first child (also known as moi): "Remember, you are bringing this baby home to live with you; you are not going home to live with this baby." He meant that kids can and should adapt and that life as you know it does not have to end when baby's on board. Life--specifically, your life--should go on.
Many of you will disagree with me, and that's okay (frankly, if you've recently had a baby, we probably don't speak much any more anyway). I've been biting my tongue about this for so long it hurts, and it's time for both sides of the story to be broadcasted. Call me a selfish, childless idiot, but I long to live in a world where having children is not a death sentence for friendships. And to the lady who penned that Huffington Post article that inspired this post, I would suggest this: if the thought that you've turned into an "a**hole" has crossed your mind so many times it warrants writing about it, there just might be some truth to it. The world (and all those long lost friends) is right there waiting.