Last week I got an interesting email from a reader regarding mom/non-mom friendships. I wanted to share it on this blog because I think some of you might be able to speak to this conundrum better than I can. Having very few friends with kids, my experience in this department is so far pretty limited.
“Having recently hung out (separately) with three mom pals, I noticed that I was getting frustrated because every time we were getting into a deeper level of conversation, the kid started screaming and it seemed like my friend’s head was in two places at once. She was trying to listen and talk to me, and, of course, pay attention to her child. In each instance, there wasn’t anything wrong with the child—he wasn’t hurt or hungry—he was just demanding attention, as toddlers are wont to do. I can only imagine that this was incredibly frustrating to my friends. However, I was surprised at how much it annoyed me. Of course I understand that children are your priority once you have them, but am I alone in feeling frustrated that I’m giving 100 percent attention to my friend and not getting it back? Obviously the solution is to hang out without the kids present, but it’s not reasonable or realistic to expect a friend to procure child care every time we want to get together.”
The timing of this email is interesting because I just got back from a weekend with my 20-month-old nephew. Since he is my nephew, and my only one, his screaming or demanding attention didn’t frustrate me, it amused me. But that is, again, because he is family, and because I hardly ever get to see him.
That said, this weekend did make me aware of exactly what this reader is talking about. Trying to have a conversation with someone who is simultaneously watching a toddler is difficult. It just is. A person’s attention can’t be in two places at once, as much as we wish it could. And a mother’s first priority when watching her child has to be her child.
So, as the friend, what do you do?
At the end of her email, this reader wrote: “I hope this doesn’t make me sound shallow or mean-spirited.” Not at all. It’s a legitimate frustration with no easy answer.
As the annoyed friend—and I imagine many of us have been there—the what-to-do is tricky. Do you, perhaps, suck it up, knowing that this phase in the child’s life will pass? And also knowing that one day you may have kids, and you may want friends to keep you company while you’re watching them? Or do you hold out for the times when you can get together at a restaurant or in some other kid-free zone, even though it will probably result in less frequent visits?
I think the best option is a combo platter. Still visit the mother and child—moms appreciate adult interaction when they are in baby-watching mode—but save the deep level conversation for those kid-free girls nights out. (This isn’t so easy, I know. But it would be my ideal.)
Moms and friends-of-moms, what do you think?