Dear Parents, We Still Want to Hang Out

A little while ago, I wrote a guest post on another blog about my fears surrounding being locked out of the Mommy Clubhouse if we don’t have a baby. After describing my first taste of being excluded from a parents-only event, I posed the question of whether this was just the tip of the iceburg or a one-off situation. I must say, the responses were terrifying! So many women without children gave some pretty sad testimony as to what’s happened to their circle of friends as everyone’s had babies but them. It got me wondering…

Why are the Childfree being excluded from events with kids?

It could be one of two things:

Possibility #1: They think we don’t want to be there. Most of the Childfree blogs and articles aren’t doing much to dispel this belief when they openly rant about how annoying it is to be at events with kids. I daresay I’m probably part of the problem. Parents may think we wouldn’t voluntarily put ourselves within a 2-mile radius of children, that we’d be bored, that we have a million other better things to be doing but have been guilted into attending a party involving Whack-a-Mole and gallons of grape soda.

Possibility #2: They don’t want us there. Who knows why? Maybe they think we no longer fit in. Maybe they don’t want to have to make a concentrated effort to not let the subject of kids dominate 100% of the conversation. Maybe they don’t want to be self-conscious about how their children are behaving or worry whether they’ll find themselves the subject of the next Maybe Maybe, Maybe Not blog post. Maybe they’re afraid we’ll get wildly drunk and puke in their bushes…and they’ll be forced to wistfully recall how long it’s been since they were “that person” at the party.

If it’s Possibility #2, well, there’s nothing much I can say about that – no one wants to be where they’re not wanted, so feel free to exclude to your heart’s content. But if it’s Possibility #1, here are a few messages I thought I’d throw out there now while my friend group is still relatively baby-less and I’m not yet in danger of receiving too much hate mail for it:

Some of us actually like kids.

There’s a huge myth out there that all Childfree people hate children. But I’ve heard from many of you that you’re totally nuts about them, and some of you even devote your lives to working with children as teachers or caregivers. So attending an event full of kiddos may be just the sort of thing your Childfree friend is looking for.

Let US decide whether or not we’d have fun.

There are definitely those of us who aren’t as wild about kids. A wild pack of pre-teens running into my shins and waving sparklers like lunatics at a Fourth of July barbeque doesn’t exactly sound like my ideal scene. But if that’s where all my friends are going to be in ten years? I’d rather be there with them, than alone on my couch. I’m not an idiot – I can look into the future and see that statistically speaking, at least 80% of my friends are going to have kids. And if I want to spend time with them, I’m going to need to spend time around kids too. At least there’s likely to be candy and cake more often, maybe even the occasional piñata.

And if I think I can still have fun chatting with the adults, even with the kiddie interruptions, shouldn’t that be my choice? Believe us, parents – if it’s a place we don’t want to be, we’re not going to drag ourselves there just to put in some face time or because we think you’ll be upset with us if we don’t.

You don’t HAVE to talk about your kids the whole time – and we can help with that.

I’ve actually heard parents themselves complain about how these Mommies & Daddies Only events turn into one giant gripe session. I don’t think most (or any, really) parents set out to become the types of people who only talk about their kids. But because most people have kids, and they take up such a significant portion of their life, it becomes the easiest conversation starter that just never ends. Eventually it becomes habit and when interesting non-kid-related things happen, your brain doesn’t always record them for future conversational purposes like it used to. And when you’re surrounded only by others who are in the same boat, it makes for some rather circular and recurring discussions.

I think some parents are afraid they’ve lost the ability to converse about anything other than the woes of parenthood.  Throwing your Childfree friends into the mix at these gatherings is one way to guarantee you’ll get off-topic for at least a portion of the time and can keep your pre-kid chatter talents fresh.

Just because your life has drastically changed, doesn’t mean our friendship has to do the same.

It’s going to change, there’s just no question about that. How much it changes though, is going to depend on how much effort we both put in to sustaining it. Childfree friends will have to accept that they may need to become the primary initiators in phone calls and invitations, and that they need to take an active interest in what’s going on with the kids. Parents will have to remember the friends that were around long before their new Mommy-and-Me yoga partners, and stop being afraid that we no longer have anything in common. We know things have changed. But we’ll still take our friendship, any way we can get it.

If you have some friends who could benefit from hearing this message, but you don’t know how to say it to them, just tweet or post this article using the buttons below – they’ll get the hint. And if they don’t, well…do you really want to be friends with someone so clueless anyways?

[photo credit: J.R. Goleno]

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