DAME’s Friendkeeper gets real about the relationship changes parenthood can bring and helps a former city dweller deal with her new hood’s social circle.
We urgently need your help. DAME reports the stories that need to be told, from perspectives that aren’t heard enough. In times of crisis it is even more critical that these voices are not overlooked, but COVID-19 has impacted our ability to keep publishing. Please support our mission by joining today to help us keep reporting.
I’ve got this friend. She’s a wonderful friend. Always up for smart conversation and a glass of wine. Well, she was…until she had a baby. Now everything revolves around her little one, and not just in real life: on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, too. I understand that procreating is a huge deal (at least I think I do, I have yet to try it). But I have plenty of other friends who have had babies without losing themselves. My friend’s kid is coming up on a year, so while I could overlook her newborn fever, the constant focus on motherhood is wearing thin. But more than that, I just really miss my friend (the one who had yet to bring a life into the world). Can I ever hope to regain our regular relationship? Should I just adjust my expectations and kiss our former friendship good-bye? Can I bring it up without sounding like a childless, heartless complainer?
No Baby on Board
I remember when the first of my friends had a baby. I wasn’t even dating anyone, it would be a good many years before I even considered having a kid. She talked baby stuff, she brought the baby, it was a lot of baby. (This was before social media). I don’t want to say I didn’t understand the feeling, because I felt that way about my Boston terrier, Otto. In fact I remember being puzzled that we could bring her baby into the supermarket, but not Otto. The fact of the matter, whether you have a kid or not, becoming a parent is a big deal (so is becoming a pet owner!). And some people do change—they may come back, they may stay kid-focused forever. When I had my daughter, I was very happy to be with my friends without kids and talk about other stuff, it was a relief to know that I could still be me albeit with this new aspect. There’s nothing you can do about her flooding social media with baby stuff, except hide her, but it would be perfectly reasonable for you to tell your friend you’d love an evening with her to catch up on the other things happening in your lives. Having a kid is supposed to change you, and it affects people in very different ways. Some people seem to have a baby and not miss a beat (back at work or out to dinner) where as others are in a whole new world. What you said is true, some people have kids and they don’t go over to the pastel side, but there’s really not a lot you can do about the ones who do.
I recently moved with my husband from a bustling city to the more suburban outskirts where “getting to know the neighbors” is a whole other thing. In the city, we could go for months without running into a familiar face in our building, and if we did, the run-in constituted little more than a head nod or a quick hello. Out here, moving into the neighborhood seems to have automatically enrolled us in a local club we’re not even sure we want to be a part of. There is obligatory chit-chatting every time I’m out walking the dog with whichever neighbor happens to also be outside (why are they always outside??). There are surprise drop-ins from people we’ve been friendly to, which seem to have no point other than a local gossip sesh, and then there are the obligatory neighborhood “meetings.” The other evening as my husband and I were driving up to our house after dinner out, I spotted a group of neighbors congregating on another’s front porch and remembered the block party planning meeting I had so conveniently forgotten. I had my husband keep driving so I wouldn’t have to participate only to know I’d later face a mini guilt trip from everyone involved. We’re not anti-social people, but geez Louise, we moved out here for some damn space. Turns out we want it figuratively as well. How can I find the right balance between privacy and socializing with this new neighborhood watch, without hurting anyone’s feelings or being mired in guilt?
Going Bonkers in the ’Burbs
Did you not read Compromising Positions? Or watch Desperate Housewives? The suburbs are no place for space and privacy! If you want to be left alone, move back to the city. But seriously, I have this weird feeling that the people in your new neighborhood might be trying to be friendly, even though it might feel like tyranny. I know, we don’t all feel the same way about neighbors. I, too, get frightened by surprise drop-ins. In the city, if a neighbor knocks on your door it’s either to ask your kid to stop bouncing the ball or to tell you that there’s smoke pouring out of your apartment. I think there’s a way to be friendly with your neighbors without turning them into your new social life. If anyone rang my sainted Aunt Iris’ doorbell, she would lie flat on the floor until they went away. That’s extreme, but you can certainly tell people you’re on a call, or in the middle of something. A block party seems like a reasonable place for you to drop by and chat with your new neighbors—there are boundaries. It’s good to have a relationship with people who live close by, but you shouldn’t have to get in bed with them.
Got a platonic problem of your own that could use the Friendkeeper’s advice? Fire away: [email protected]. No situation is too uncomfortable or too small and all details are kept confidential.
We urgently need your help!
Covid-19 has dramatically impacted our ability to keep publishing. DAME is 100% reader funded and without additional support, we can’t keep publishing. Become a member at DAME today to help us continue reporting and shining a light on the stories that need to be told, from perspectives that aren’t heard enough. Every dollar we receive from readers goes directly into funding our journalism.
Please become a member today!
(If you liked this article and just want to make a one-time donation, you can do that here)