1st week as a mom

If You Do Not Understand, Having Kids Will Not Help Us Be Friends

You’ll understand when you have kids.

I hate that line.

As a mom who had kids earlier than most of my friends, I would’ve thought that I’d be all over how my friends now UNDERSTAND and WOW ISN’T IT GRAND that so many of them FINALLY have kids. But I barely catch those with kids on the phone to act all HAHAHA, and I’ve never wanted to be special for being a mom anyway.

1st week as a mom
This is my first week as a mom. The only thing now I understand is I made it into another room without drop him.

Of course, there are a moments and ideas and gifts and words, which mean more now that I have children, but they aren’t very important. I now know telling a new mom not to write me a thank you card for a little YOUR BABY IS HERE! present is a second gift I can give . I know to bring food. I know how tired and happy and confused and strange being a parent is. But I also don’t think it makes me a better friend because I’m also busy with my kids.

I can’t figure out why so many parents lose their childless friends. I kept all of mine and tried to find more. They are flexible and fun and love my kids enough to think  E and N are cool without being so focused on my kids that I’m not Alex anymore. Our lives are just different enough that there’s no competition or awkwardness.

Plus, my friends with no kids (and this also goes for friends who have 50% custody or no custody as well as grownup kids but I think the childless-friends get the evil-eye the most often) are the easiest to catch on the phone and actually SEE IN PERSON. They show up at my house after the kids bedtime to hangout while my friends with kids have to stay home with THEIR kids.

My friends with kids are great, too. I very much appreciate that they understand some of my concerns and heartaches in ways that take less explanation or dog comparisons. At this moment, I’m feeling over-protective of my childless friends because certain parents are so hard on them. “You’ll understand when you have kids.” is the pinnacle of sanctimoniousness as though motherhood gives us moms special powers of love and life when some of the most caring people I know will never be mothers.

Both sets of friends (childless and moms) have gotten me through the last six years with laughter and understanding and hope when I felt lost and lonely or just wanted to celebrate something in my life: my son’s 1st birthday or my 30th birthday or watch an R-rated movie. And the friends who “changed sides?” They didn’t become better or worse. Those friends were more understanding about short phone calls and harder to catch on the phone. They were still the my friends either way.

Families look different. Some have kids and some don’t. Some will and some won’t. I don’t want my friends to understand once they have kids. I want my friends to be my friends, and I’ll be theirs whether they have kids or not.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

17 thoughts to “If You Do Not Understand, Having Kids Will Not Help Us Be Friends”

  1. I agree with the sentiment of what you’re saying, very much.

    However, I did lose some childless friends and I’ll tell you why: they did not think my kids were cool. They thought my kids were messy and loud and inhibited their drinking/partying.

    That said, I kept other childless friends who did think my kids were cool. You’ve just got to ride it out I think and weed out the people who aren’t willing to let your kids be people too, whether or not they have kids.

    1. I definitely had people who hosted no-kids-allowed events that meant we couldn’t come, and I felt hurt. However, I realized that they weren’t good friends in the first place.
      I also had friends later on with kids who had similarly-styled unkind reactions to changes or difficulties in our lives.
      So what I was getting at (which I think you got) is that it’s not really about having or not having kids — maybe having kids helps a few people “wake up” but it makes other people become self-righteous jerks (my kids sleeps/eats/walks/talks better than yours).

      1. So my childless friends – who we lost – went through a brief period of thinking about having kids because they were so “inspired” by us. Their imaginary children were already 100% better than my infant and they were better parents because they were scoping out private kindergartens while I was just trying to get so sleep.

        So, yes, I completely agree. Had they had children, they would have been sanctimonious jerks – not real friends. I think that was what I was trying to say – which I think you got. Parenting makes you see who your real friends are, whether or not they have kids. Or at least it made me open my eyes, personally.

  2. I have some GREAT childless friends who are patient and kind when Ezra and Iris turn a bit feral and also completely understand why our schedules are structured around meal times and nap times.

    Their understanding of all of this and my scattered remembering of things has made me love them even more.

  3. Wow… wish you would’ve told me before…I thought having the most kids would make us bff… but seriously, having more kids did NOT make me more understanding 🙂

  4. Thanks for this post. I’m single, in my late 40s and have no children. It was difficult to go to a friend’s baby shower recently because, well, I sort of felt like Carrie Bradshaw in that Sex & the City episode … a bit tired of paying for wedding and baby gifts for everyone else. It can be difficult in the workplace, too, especially when someone gives me advice to ask someone about their kids as a way to get along better (yes, this happened recently). And in return, they’ll ask about … my bicycle?

  5. Oh, there are lots of parents we know who, before they had kids, we’d talk about and say, “Ooo, they are in for a rude awakening! Bwahahaha” But, somehow, it seems like they still don’t understand. Like the time a couple with a newish baby invited us over for new years eve, the day before new years eve, for a party starting at 8 pm. And it didn’t matter if we couldn’t get a sitter, we could just bring Hayden? Wtf. He was 3 1/2 years old.

  6. Oh Alex, I love this. People (coworkers and such, not friends) sometimes say things like that to me because I am young and don’t have kids yet. I do want to have kids someday, but I think I will still be me, and I think my friends and I will still make an effort to see each other. All someone does when they say “you’ll understand when you have kids” is make people feel bad about themselves.

  7. I agree that it takes a special friend to stick with you when you have kids and they don’t. But sometimes the “you’ll understand” thing really does fit. So very few of our friends could even remotely relate to anything we went through as parents of preemie twins and then another. My best twin mom friend pulled away terribly when I had a baby when my twins were just 23 months old. She said it was because we had different schedules and it was hard because I was mostly home bound again with a napping infant, but I know it was because my parenting style, which had been very similar to hers, changed drastically when my 3rd child was introduced. I had to relax a LOT and let a LOT of things slide because I was in survival mode. We eventually did get close again…probably because she has since had a 3rd child and I think she really gets it now.

  8. I’ve been thinking about this… Too long clearly.

    I think you mean that a good friend is a good friend is a good friend. With babies, without, married, single, in town, too far away…. And that I agree with completely.

    But, my friends without kids have a different lifestyle than I do. And there are things I don’t know – like the dating scene (I married my college boyfriend) – not in a way that I can’t listen and be compassionate about what they are going through, but in a way that I haven’t lived that so I don’t understand it fully. Pretending I did understand would be foolish. Similarly, they don’t pretend to know what it is to wake all night with a feverish baby, worried and tracking time to the next medicine. But they can still give a killer hug and make me feel better.

    1. What I mean is that our life circumstances don’t define our ability to be supportive of each other. Perhaps we don’t empathize but we can sympathize. Also, I think the idea that kids grant us the ability to relate to each other isn’t true. Some of the most judgmental and difficult to get along with people are other parents for me not my childless friends. Sometimes leading similar lives can make it harder to be friends I think. In the end, I think it’s not so easily defined and that particular line is rude, generalizing and untrue.

      PS. I like that you think about things for a long time — I’m like that, too. In fact this post rolled around my head for quite awhile.

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