baby

Group Therapy: I can't see my best friend without her bringing her kids along.

AFL Women's
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Dear MMOL,

I am having this social dilemma and keen to get your thoughts and opinions. I am in my late 30s and haven’t got any kids yet. 95% of my friends are married with kids. Everyone got married in their early 30s, settled down and kids popped out one after another. I understand everyone has moved to a different stage of their lives from mine. Especially when kids come into the picture, things do change.

Given the understanding above, I have always been flexible and accommodating towards families, especially when I want to catch up with my friends. I work around their schedules, go to their houses or places are convenient for the families. However I wonder if parents are actually selfish towards their friends with no kids.

For example, I was meant to meet up with a friend for brunch. It was meant to be her and one of her kids. On the day she told me the whole family was coming and leaving now. 25 mins later she informed me she was running 15 mins late and would arrive at 10.45 am. Once it passed 10.45 am, I texted her to see if they were close. I waited almost til 11am and decided to leave.

She showed after I had left, and later told me the parking was awful and her young kid was having a meltdown. There was no apology. I had waited thirty minutes for her. Because we missed each other by about 5 mins, she then told me I should’ve called. She was busy handling her kid. If she failed to contacted me to inform her even later arrival, how could she even answer her phone if I did call? How was I supposed to know how long I needed to wait until she showed up?

So once people become parents, their social etiquette goes all out of the window? Do they just become so selfish and disrespect and disregard other people’s times and needs? I felt particularly annoyed not because she was busy with her kid that caused the late arrival, it was the entitlement that she didn’t do anything wrong, her kid was her trump card and I should wait until she tuned up.

She is not the first parent I know demonstrated this kind of behaviour. And I wanted to know if this is a norm I should just accept it, and maybe one day I will understand when I have my own kids? Or is this some kind of behaviour we should call out? Can those parents even admit their action impacts on others without justifying it?

What do you think?

Thank you for your help!

Ashly

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Dear Ashly,

I hate it when that happens.

It reminds me of the Sex and the City episode where Carrie loses her shoes at her friend's place, because she has to take them off for the crawling baby. She then calculates all the wedding, engagement, christening and birthday presents that she's paid for over the years, and works out the friendship has cost her considerably more money than it has cost her friend.

This is the kind of mental arithmetic one is forced to do when one is pushed over the edge.

There are a lot of numbers in your letter, and it's clear that you were forced to do some mental arithmetic of your own. (I would be resentful of that alone). You certainly had the time to, thanks to your friend being half an hour late.

You felt disrespected and ignored, so I won't disrespect or ignore you by dismissing your feelings. But I will make some suggestions.

Firstly, full confession - I'm a mother of one. Most of my friends are mothers. So I can confidently answer your question: no, not all parents use their children as an excuse for rudeness; courtesy depends on the person, not their offspring.

I know they say parenthood changes you, and that's true, but it can also highlight strengths and faults - and I suspect that this isn't the first time your friend has been late to something. Because if it was, you might have been worried. You might have sat there, sans brunch, wondering, is she okay, has she had an accident, is one of the kids sick?

Listen: Bec Judd’s, on all the reasons you need to go on a no-expenses-barred holiday before you have a baby. Post continues below. 

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But you were angry. Your patience reached its limit. Maybe that's just the person she is? And yet you still were disappointed not to see her, which leads me to conclude you do feel genuine friendship.

Which us why I suspect that deep down you felt a little betrayed. Not only had your time been wasted, but your expectations of a fun catch up had been dashed. All of the kids were now coming, meaning you were 1+ tiny people away from getting to chat to your old, unencumbered friend of the past. That's all you wanted - your friend's time and attention for a little while.

And therein lies the problem.

Your old friend has left the building - literally. It's not just her life anymore, or even a little, depending on how small her children are. Parenthood in the early years is about choosing your battles and fighting fires, which is a nice way of saying it is total chaos and often you are in control of very little of it.

And that is the case especially if you need to get out the door to see an old friend whose company you desperately miss.

So trust me when I say your friend would probably rather be brunching with espresso martinis than dealing with the meltdown of a child.

Another concept for you to consider is that friendship isn't always easy, because we are all very different, and humans are fallible. They get exhausted and cranky and sometimes need kindness when they are least deserving of it. You sound like a reasonable young woman, so I'm sure that only applies to you very rarely, but I do think you understand that.

Could your friend's lack of apology possibly be because she was embarrassed by not being able to achieve something that she could easily do B.C.? (Before Children). Is it possible that she burst into tears after finally arriving, devastated that you weren't there, because she could really have done with a friend that morning? But instead, she sent a frustrated text, blaming you for leaving, when all she was really thinking was "I so wanted to see you and have alcohol before midday."

If we think of it that way, it seems that you both wanted the same thing. And responded in similar ways when it didn't happen.

All of this bodes well for the future of your friendship. So next time, simply order yourself an Irish coffee and taunt her with photos of you relaxing until she arrives with her tribe.

Nama

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