From the playground to the office (and probably to the nursing home, but we’re not there yet), making and sustaining friendships is hard work. People are complicated and unique, and finding “your people” among the almost 8 billion souls on this planet is a lifelong process of trial and error. Our personalities, priorities, pastimes, and preferences also evolve and change throughout our lives, so your preschool BFF is unlikely to be your college roommate (though it happens!). One of the life changes that can pose a massive challenge to a friendship is parenthood — especially when one friend becomes a mom while the other is happily child-free.
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Thus is the latest drama unfolding on the slice-of-life AITA forum on Reddit. As 7thWifeOfHenryThe8th posted, she and her friend “Kayla” are navigating — poorly, we might add — just such a friendship.
“I have no interest in kids,” writes 7thWife. “I’m that ‘aunt’ who shows up at their birthday parties, Christmas, and other big events. Other than that when I hang out with my friends, I prefer it be a child-free event.” Her friend Kayla, however, has an almost 6-year-old son “Ryan,” whom she wants to bring along to every hangout with 7thWife, and we do mean every.
While 7thWife didn’t make a big deal out of it when Kayla brought her offspring to a couple things, but when the kiddo showed up unannounced on a hike that the two friends had planned, 7thWife decided to share her feelings.
While on the hike, Kayla “was talking about how she wished she invited our other friends and their kids,” writes 7thWife. “I told her this was not going to become a mommy and me thing and they can keep that on their ‘Friday night dinners,’ where each week they all meet up and cook and hang out with the kids.”
Maybe 7thWife didn’t say this is the most polite way, but we get her point. Going on a hike with a gaggle of kids is more like torturously herding cats in the woods than a fun outdoor adventure. As child-free commenter Stefaniey commented, “We don’t hate [kids], but we want to do adult things, and talk about adult things.” Yes!
Many parents even understand this and feel the same way: “I have kids, and when I have time for my friends, I don’t want to hang out with kids, mine or theirs,” commented Platinum-Blondie. “And yes, I sometimes get grief from friends with kids when I want child-free time. It’s like when you become a parent, it’s expected that you give up all of your personal self. All I ask is a few hours a month without kids, and I still get side eye. I’d love to have more friends without kids… I’d respect your kid-free zones!!”
We agree! Kid-free zones are important for parents’ mental and emotional health.
“The next time was a wine tasting,” 7thWife shared in her original post. “[Kayla] noticed that it said family friendly and you could bring kids along. I put my foot down and said I wouldn’t want to spend my day around a child. We got into a big thing about it, her telling me I just have to get use to kids (we’re almost in our 30s, think I’ve made up my mind about them).”
Oh Kayla, just because you can bring your kid somewhere doesn’t mean you should. Is a kindergartener really going to enjoy being at a wine tasting? We think not. And will you or your friend enjoy having to take care of him while trying to detect notes of honeysuckle and cedar? Nope. So why would you want to bring him? We get that maybe it was a childcare issue, but maybe tell your friend that and she can help you come up with a solution.
“I think some parents just become blind to how much having kids there changes things,” commented YawningBagpuss. “I have had friends bring their kid along and most of the conversation has ended up involving or revolving around the kid. We have had to change our dining plans to go to some crappy restaurant as the kid only wants kiddy food. Often the whole day ends up being changed because the kid gets tired or bored etc. Then the parent is surprised when everyone says they don’t want to come out on another day if the kid is going to be there!”
So Kayla and Ryan did not go to the wine tasting, and as 7thWife was pretty fed up, she didn’t invite her mom friend to her next outing, which happened to be the zoo.
“Kayla got so offended that I didn’t invite her and Ryan, because Ryan has been wanting to go to the zoo,” 7thWife vents. “We got into it again. Kayla is free to go to the zoo anytime; she doesn’t need me to go with her. She says the moms of the group never want to do anything citing money issues, but that is not my fault.”
Well, the zoo is pretty child-friendly, so on this one Kayla may have a point. We’re also 100 percent empathetic about Kayla’s frustration finding new mom friends with her same interests and ideas. Just because two women have kids, even kids of the same age, that doesn’t mean they magically have enough in common to become BFFs.
At this point, 7thWife and Kayla’s friendship is in serious jeopardy. Kayla disinvited her friend from Ryan’s 6th birthday party, and 7thWife is actually pretty happy about it, which is a bummer.
We suspect that Kayla wants 7thWife to get to know her son because he is a huge part of her life now that she’s a mom, but she’s maybe going about it in the wrong way. For people who aren’t that into kids, a little goes a long way. It’s probably too much to expect that your child-free-by-choice friend wants to spend an entire day with your kid. Maybe just an hour at a playground is a better place to start? 7thWife needs to understand that Kayla’s insistence on bringing Ryan to their plans is really just a sign of how much she values her friendship and wants to share this giant part of her life with her long-time friend.
Moms and child-free women can still be BFFs, but it’s gonna take some work. Conflicting schedules and priorities are just some of the challenges to keeping mom and non-mom friendships alive. Kayla also needs to understand that 7thWife probably just wants to connect with her without distraction, so they can really talk and enjoy each other’s company.
“Parents often seem to take personal offense at people not wanting to hang out with their kids — even if said person has been their child-free friend since long before a kid showed up,” notes commenter pocahontski.
We hope Kayla and 7thWife can work this out; if not in the immediate future, then maybe down the road.
As Wader_Man comments with Yoda-like wisdom, “This is an eternal cycle. We age and we grow distant from some of our friends because of changing life circumstances (marital status, family status, careers and income, geography, health, new interests, new hobbies, incompatible spouses, name it). You are normal. Kayla is normal. You are just going slightly different ways for a while.
“Don’t burn the friendship though,” he concludes. “In five or 10 or 15 years, your lifestyles might re-align and perhaps you’ll both want to spend more time together.”
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