FRIENDSHIP WEEK: I don’t mind seeing the children sometimes, but not all of the time
PROBLEM: How do I deal with extremely self-involved friends? I have had a very bad few years when all of my friends have settled down and had kids. Everything has gone from revolving around their husbands or boyfriends to revolving around their children. These days we only go for coffee and only at times that suit their little darlings, and I always have to be happy to see them.
We have to go places that are buggy-friendly and we have to accommodate the children at every single turn. I don’t mind seeing the children sometimes, but not all of the time. I do enjoy children but I have spent a lot of time minding kids related to me. I also work with some challenging children. In my downtime I don’t always want to see bold children or be reminded that I don’t have any myself.
They speak incessantly about them. At a dinner last week, nearly the full three hours were taken up with talk about children. I have minded small children and worked with older children, but if I offer an opinion I am given a very down-the-nose “I don’t know about that”.
I understand that they are tired, but we all are. I am up earlier than most of them and I spend more time with other people’s children during the week than they do with their own kids. I am exhausted too.
They decided to have children. They make such a big deal out of every little detail. They are making life even more difficult for themselves and are so bitchy towards each other regarding feeding and so on. It is all a competition. I can’t listen to it any more. It is very hard in your late 30s to make new friends, although I have tried.
If you don’t have children or a husband, it is as if you are invisible. It is all about them. How do I redress the balance?
ADVICE: You have a reasonable point to make about the absorption of parents with children, but I wonder if you have hit upon something about friendships: they do not always last and people can grow apart.
You sound sad and angry that this is happening to you, and that suggests that these friendships were once very important to you. Also, you have not managed to create an alternative group of single friends, and this puts even more pressure on existing friendships.
Many friendships go through a time when people rarely see each other but come back into existence again when the children are reared, but this possibly works best when both friends are experiencing similar life situations. You clearly feel that your life and experience is dismissed as less important than your friends’ lives, and I wonder if you need to find out the truth or otherwise of this notion.
There is a possibility your friends are feeling your anger and criticism and are reacting to this by “looking down their noses” at you. Is there one in the group you have more faith in and can have a conversation with? Can you ask if your ideas are true and that you are really being sidelined, or is there something else going on?
If you do not speak honestly to the group, or at least some of them, it is likely the current trajectory will continue and these friendships will end. Are you willing to talk openly and risk being rejected by the group? The key question is: how valuable are these friendships to you? If you need them in your life, then this conflict needs to be faced. Since it sounds as if you are the one who is suffering most, it is up to you to bring this conversation to the table. If you want to be listened to and taken seriously, you must be reasonable. This means removing any criticism from your voice.
Perhaps say that you miss having adult times together and ask if they think this will happen again. My guess is that most mothers of young children want to imagine child-free time. However, they might feel that they have little option or space at the moment for girls’ nights out, and this too must be respected.
If your intervention is not successful, then you must accept that you need to find others who are more compatible with your life. It will probably take up to a year of being in the company of others before any real friendship can happen, but if you start now then by this time next year you can have more options in your life. Join something where you are likely to meet other single people of a similar age and stick with it for at least six months before making a judgment on it.