Kidless and Clueless

Wednesday, September 24, 2008
A few years ago, well before my daughter was born, a good friend of mine called me up and said we needed “to talk.” Uh-oh….

We met for coffee, and she proceeded to tell me what a bad friend I’d been since her baby was born. She asked me why I stopped calling her, why I never offered to hang out with her baby, and why, in general, I sucked. I really had no good answers for her. She had become a member of a different species – Parent – and I was still partying like a rock star. I promised I’d do better and call her more, but I pretty much continued to suck as a friend.

Fast forward a few years to after my baby was born. Suddenly, I was the one whom my kidless friends stopped calling. I was going through one of the most difficult periods of my life, and they had disappeared. I called up my friend who’d chewed me out and apologized profusely. I totally understood what she had gone through, and felt awful I hadn’t been there for her.

Now, of course, I know the truth. It’s virtually impossible to understand how difficult having a newborn is, and how to support a new mom, unless you’ve been one yourself. Nobody else understands what it feels like to wake up ten times a night to a crying baby whom only you can soothe. No one else will understand the radical turn your relationship with your baby’s daddy takes. No one else will understand the extreme isolation you feel after spending day after day alone with a newborn. And NO ONE else will understand how you feel when you see your new body in a mirror, or try to fit it into your old favorite jeans.

So there it is, new moms: The time will come when your now-kidless friends will become moms to their own newborns, and it will be their turn to get a clue. Until then, go find some mommies to hang out with!
Lyvia said...

On the flip side, it is hard for those "with kids" to hang out with those "without kids" as well.

We recently went to a wedding reception with a couple who are "without kids". In the old days, we would all drink, dance and party all night long. On this occassion, my husband and I were both exhausted from a week's worth of sleepless nights. We still had to pick up our kids from the babysitter's, drive home, change their clothes and put them to bed. So, after the speeches and dinner, we were ready to leave.

Well ... 2 hours later, we were still waiting for our friends who wanted to finish their one last drink and dance to one last song. They didn't understand that we no longer had the luxury of "sleeping in" in the mornings. They didn't understand that poopy diapers must be changed no matter how bad your hangover. They didn't understand that children don't understand the meaning of "whisper". It was the last time we ever carpooled to an event with a "kidless couple".

It's not that I prefer to hang out with "mommies" all day long and talk only about kid stuff. I have all sorts of interests and would love to talk about all sorts of stuff.

It's just that only another mother can understand how incredibly exhausting it is to be repsonsible for another person... to know what it feels like to be beyond exhausted and still get out of bed to change, feed, walk your child to sleep... Only another mother knows what it's like to feel worried ALL the time about every possible bad thing that might possibly happen.

Only another mother can understand why i no longer drive fast on freeways and look both ways before crossing a street...

I do things now, not for me, but to make sure that my kids grow up with a mommy. I do a million things differently now to ensure that my will & trust docs don't go into effect until my kids are old enough, strong enough, to survive in this world by themselves.

I used to get irritated at my "kidless" friends' thoughtlessness. But in the end, it is not their fault. They have not changed. We have.

monica said...

Well said, Lyvia! Isn't it amazing how we really do become a new species once we have kids.

Rani said...

I wanted to offer another perspective on the issue you’ve raised about people who have kids versus people who do not. I think that it is a pretty grand generalization to suggest (albeit jokingly) that people who don’t have kids are somehow clueless when it comes to what is involved with raising and nurturing children. This implies that your friends can only truly understand and support you if they are going through exactly the same experiences that you are having. Personally, I would have very few friends if I was only able to connect with the ones who were in an identical life situation as myself. I have friends who are single and looking for true love, coming out of the closet, breaking up from marriages that did not work out, becoming mothers, trying to become pregnant, recovering from miscarriages, or electing to not become parents. This represents a pretty diverse yet completely normal range of life experiences and I hope to be the type of friend who can connect and bond with people as they move at their own pace through these varied, and sometimes intensely joyful or painful experiences. I hope to be an empathic and optimistic listener who tries to understand the context of any friend’s inner life, even if it is completely unfamiliar to me…and I hope to have that support in return. And mostly I hope that this isn’t too much to ask.

Though I am currently not a parent, I know that one day I will be. I also know that I’ve loved babies and children my whole life and I’ve been lucky to have close bonds with many amazing and charming nieces and nephews. I’d like to think that I have a small and loving part in their lives, that they can trust me, and that I’d be there in an instant if they ever needed me. When I was a small child growing up in India, I was practically raised by neighbors, older cousins, aunts and uncles, many of whom did not yet have children of their own, but they certainly were not clueless and to this day I have deep bonds with each of them and think of them much like co-parents.

For all the overworked moms out there, this is a reminder that it truly does take a village (not just fellow parents) to raise a child. The moms I know have my complete support and respect – you have such an important job! But I would be so sad to think that you no longer wanted my friendship.

monica said...

rani, you are truly the exception that proves the rule -- and all your mommy friends are lucky to have you as their friend! thanks for the comment. i'd also love to hear your thoughts on this topic once you become a mom...

reena s. said...

I'm a little late here but just read this today and had to response to the commenter who thinks she's so great. Rani, good for you for being better than the rest of us. It's still true that by and large, people who don't have kids don't really understand what it's like for people with kids. And that no one understands moms the way other moms do. It's not an opinion, it's actually a fact. you'll see when/if you are a mom yourself. I'm sick of people who don't have kids thinking they're better or that they can do things better than us. You have no idea.

Jennifer said...

Reena, sounds like you are still clueless- I doubt anyone thinks they are better than you. As a single parent myself, I think you should start enjoying motherhood and stop being a victim and feeling sorry for yourself. What's up with this "in group" mommy b.s.? Sounds like the problem is not having friends that actually care about you. Sure things change after you have kids, scary if you are just getting clued in after the fact. Nobody wants to hang out with a resentful mom and it won't make you a very good parent either.

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