She Said/She Said: Dear Friends With Kids, Dear Friends Without Kids
Dear friends with kids,
Things between us have been weird these past few years since you had that adorable kid and I didn’t have an adorable kid (or even an ugly one). I still spend my weekends taking Ambien, waking up at 1 pm, and scheduling my first nap of the day after my husband and I make it through an episode-and-a-half of "House of Cards."
These days, you wake up before 8 am because children are not yet conditioned to understand the joys of sleeping all day and can’t make their own breakfast and work the TV until they’re like eight or something. Your Netflix “recently watched” queue is an abomination, filled with weird kid shows don’t even seem like they’d be fun to watch drunk. You don’t eat fast food and Chinese takeout every night anymore; now you make things like spaghetti made out of squash and have fruit for dessert. You go to Chuck E Cheese without irony and your literary magazines have been replaced by stacks of dog-eared parenting books.
My selfish question is this: Are we cool? How do I fit into your new diaper bag-carrying, sippy cup-yielding identity?
At first, everything was sort of like it used to be, except you’d be accompanied by this warm smiling lump and you could just zip her up in that carrier contraption and we’d go about our usual business of doing nothing of particular importance. But that period only lasted a few months.
At some point, the smiling, drooling lump began to roll over and use her extremities to move around and that meant we couldn’t just park her in one spot and carry on. It meant the baby needed constant watching over, because babies are dumb and they’ll do stuff like lick wall sockets or try to drink Windex.
It also meant that the kid was always doing something adorable, like babbling in that creepy nonsensical baby language that has the inflection of a passionate political rant. Sometimes it might even take me several attempts to get through one sentence before getting rudely interrupted by the kid’s biological needs or manipulative cuteness.
But all of this is totally understandable. You created a person and that obviously creates a little bit of change in your life. I accept and applaud your new ways. Motherhood really suits you and I love that you enjoy these moments with your kid that I can’t yet begin to understand.
I even love your kid. She’s seriously awesome and I actually enjoy spending time with her. So why do things just feel so weird?
Is it because I still invite you to parties that I know you won’t be able to attend? Should I stop inviting you to things your kid can’t join so you don’t feel guilty saying no or explaining again that you’d need to find childcare? What’s the best way to tell you I want to see you, but your kid probably won’t enjoy what I have planned? What’s the protocol here?
Here’s another question: Is my stuff still important? I agree it doesn’t hold the same gravity of ensuring the survival and well-being of a tiny human person. I just want to know if you think my office conspiracy theory is true, did you see last night’s episode of "Parks and Rec," and is this shade of lip stain is too dark? Where is the line? Am I still important? Are we cool? How does this work?
Ashley, your favorite child-free friend
Dear friends without kids,
I know things have taken a weird turn lately. We used to meet for dinner on Tuesdays at 8:30 like it was no big deal. Dinner included wings and beer and hours of thoughtful conversation and bonding over the most recent developments between Jim and Pam. But then I went and had a kid, and things haven’t been the same since.
I haven’t watched "The Office" since Jim and Pam finally got together and had a kid. Is it still on the air? I have no idea. My Netflix queue is filled with shows that buy me 21 minutes of sanity. I can now clean my kitchen in 21 minutes!
I can’t spend my weekends lounging around anymore, because if I do I will pay for it later. There is now a mountain of things to do and if I hesitate at all, it can come crumbling down onto my loose and disgusting body. You’re right, I can’t eat Chinese takeout or fast food anymore…because my stomach looks like a half-full bag of cottage cheese.
When I get dressed in the morning, I have to tuck an empty sack of skin into my Curvy GAP Jeans. If I start eating french fries and cake on the regular, I’m going to have to wear yoga pants and pretend that's acceptable office attire.
I appreciate you thinking that I read parenting books. I’m going to assume that you think I am awesome at parenting. I need to let you in on a big secret. I still read my favorite magazines and books and I play Candy Crush on the toilet while my kid watches two episodes of "Adventure Time." I don’t even know if that show is appropriate for a four-year-old.
I’m still me. I love photography magazines and reading "Fifty Shades of Grey." I listen to Lil Wayne while riding alone in my minivan. Inside of this half-empty sack of cottage cheese body, I’m still Kelsey. While trying to maintain my individuality, I have to fight with the fact that my kid is the most important thing in my life.
I no longer take center stage, which is a bummer. If she asks for a Chuck E Cheese birthday party, goddamn it I’m going to give her one. I invite my friends without kids because who doesn’t love playing Whack-A-Mole and winning jelly bracelets? Let’s all just be kids again, even if it’s only from 12:30 – 2:30 on a Saturday between your mid-morning and mid-afternoon nap.
Now that I have a kid, my priorities have changed a little bit. I know that you get this and I appreciate you not completely holding it against me. It may seem like your life doesn’t fit well with mine anymore. It might seem like I don’t have time for you.
That’s partially true. We’re kind of different now. You have a lot more freedom than I do. You can pick up for the weekend and drive wherever you want, spending money on meals at cute cafes and nights of passion at a quirky bed and breakfast. If I had that kind of time, I certainly don’t have that kind of money. I spend almost $1,000 a month on childcare! Yeah, reread that one. So when you invite me to something that’s going to cost me $100, while that used to be a non-issue, now I’m broke. And if I miraculously happen to have the money, I might not have the time. Simply put, I have a lot less time and lot less money, for anything, not just you.
What’s the best way to tell me that you want to see me? Just tell me. I’ve probably been thinking about you for three weeks but my world is a fog. You should always invite me to things if you want me there. There may be times that I can’t come. Please don’t hold that against me. I WANT to be there.
I know it makes you feel weird, inviting me to things and me only saying yes 25% of the time. But I appreciate the invite 100% of the time. I’m not offended by activities that exclude my child, unless it’s some other kid’s birthday party.
Everything that you do is still important to me. I want you to text me photos of your lip stain from the makeup aisle at Target. I want long winded emails about who stole all the nice highlighters at your office. I want to know about your plans for the weekend or the rest of your life. I want to know all the things!
When you share your life with me, it makes me feel like we’re still connected. I am in a routine right now that can’t be changed. I wake up at 5:30 in the morning, go to work, pick my kid up from daycare, go the gym, put my kid in the gym daycare, go home, make dinner, play for 30 minutes, clean, go to bed. Weekends don’t look that much different.
Don’t let my schedule fool you, I’m still a perfectly happy person, it’s just that the highlights of my day are usually very subtle. Your text about buying new nail polish or planning a posh vacation is what I need from you right now. I would love to go shopping with you at 10 o’clock at night, roaming Target for the perfect lip stain, but I’m already in bed. Instead, I’m going to need to live vicariously through you for a while. Cool?
I still love you,
Your friend with kids