Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Why Don't Friends with Kids Have Time?

I am about to deviate from my story for a really good reason. 

I was on Facebook following some of my "friends" most recent posts, when I ran across a friends "share" of an article posted by another person. The article in this guys blog posting which was what he called, "The Overly Neglected Friends Without Kids." It was from an advice column to "Tell Me About It" written by Carolyn Hax of The Washington Post. The column's title was, "Why Don't Friends with Kids Have Time?" Here is what the question was:
Dear Carolyn: Best friend has child. Her: exhausted, busy, no time for self, no time for me, etc. Me (no kids): What'd you do today? Her: Park, play group ...

OK. I've talked to parents. I don't get it. What do stay-at-home moms do all day? Please no lists of library, grocery store, dry cleaners ... I do all those things, too. I guess what I'm asking is: What is a typical day and why don't moms have time for a call or email? I work and am away from home nine hours a day (plus a few late work events); I manage to get it all done. I'm feeling like the kid is an excuse to relax and enjoy, but if so, why won't my friend tell me the truth? Is this a contest ("my life is so much harder than yours")? What's the deal? I've got friends with and without kids and all us child-free folks have the same questions. - Tacoma, Wash.
The reply from Carolyn is great. It does put this person in their place having not really taken time to understand her "with-kids" friends. Here's what she says:
Dear Tacoma: Relax and enjoy. You're funny.

Or, you're lying about having friends with kids.

Or you're taking them at their word that they actually have kids, because you haven't personally been in the same room with them.

I keep wavering between giving you a straight answer and giving my forehead some keyboard. To claim you want to understand, while in the same breath implying that the only logical conclusions are either lying or competing with, is disingenuous indeed.

So, because it's validation you seem to want, the real answer is what you get. When you have young kids, your typical day is: constant attention, from getting them out of bed, fed, cleaned, dressed; to keeping them out of harm's way; to answering their coos, cries, questions; to having two arms and carrying one kid, one set of car keys, and supplies for even the quickest trips, including the latest-to-be-declared-essential piece of molded plastic gear; to keeping them from un-shelving books at the library; to enforcing rest times. to staying one step ahead of them lest they get too hungry, tired or bored, any one of which produces checkout line screaming.

It's needing 45 minutes to do what takes others 15.

It's constant vigilance, constant touch, constant use of your voice, constant relegation of your needs to the second tier.

It's constant scrutiny and second-guessing from family and friends. It's resisting constant temptation to seek short-term relief at everyone's long-term expense.

It's doing all this while concurrently teaching virtually everything - language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, discipline, curiosity, creativity. Empathy. Everything.

It's also a choice, yes. And a joy. But if you spent all day, every day, with this brand of joy, and then, when you got your first 10 minutes to yourself, wanted to be alone with your thoughts instead of calling a good friend, a good friend wouldn't judge you, complain about you or marvel how much more productively she uses her time. Either make a sincere effort to understand, or keep your snit to yourself.
There was a brief time when I thought a little bit like this woman. I am a single woman who works full-time with no kids. I love having time to myself after work is over. But, I also love spending time with my friends, with or without kids. I have friends who have anywhere from 0-5 children, both young kids and kids grown and out of the house. These are close friends of mine.

But, I only had my experiences to go off of when trying to understand why it took days, if not weeks, for my friends to answer emails. Or, instead of calling back the same day I left a message, waiting at least a week to hear back by telephone from one of them. I learned quickly that if you want to spend time with these stay-at-home moms, you need to make an effort to learn what it is like to walk in their shoes (even if only for one afternoon). Or, if you are like me, you take four kids for an entire weekend while their parents deal with some major issues of another one of their children. Then, you really understand why a stay-at-home mom is so incredibly tired and can't get enough time or energy to call you back right away.

Their lives are not all bon-bons and soap operas with them lounging on the sofa while the kids play quietly in their rooms. They are hard working, both physically and emotionally drained, loving moms. Would they love to go out with their girl-friends for coffee? Sure they would. But, they don't get the one-hour lunch break like I do, and work doesn't stop at 5pm for them like single, full-time employed women without children. They typically don't stop for themselves until everyone else in the house (including the hubby, if not a single-mom) is long off to bed.

Carolyn answered this lady with the best list of "why" she could come up with. Tacoma didn't really want a laundry list, but frankly that is what it takes sometimes.

Moms, don't let your single friends make you feel guilty for taking care of your family first. If your single friends are real, true friends, they will find a way to spend time with you, even if there are little barefoot interruptions running around and screaming at the top of their lungs. This applies to stay-at-home dads and single dads too.

While I have gone off the reservation from my story for a short time, There are some stay-at-home moms who really don't do a whole lot to take care of their children and do have enough time to meet their friends for coffee, answer emails, return phone calls and stay on top of Facebook and stuff. I'm not saying they are bad parents, but I am saying there are some moms out there that fall a little outside the normal of stay-at-home moms I know.

If you are a single person of a stay-at-home mom or dad, and you really don't get why your friends with children don't seem to have time for you when you think they should, take a little time to really, truly find out why.


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