One of my childless friends complains about how busy she is these days, a confession which makes me want to tally the nanoseconds I have to myself each day for her.
If only I had the time to do it.
It wouldn’t do much good anyway. Six years ago, before our two sons entered our lives, I knew exactly how she felt. Work. House chores. Exercise. Unexpected events (cue that clunking sound the car suddenly started making). Been there, miss that. My life felt full, as if I couldn’t add another element to the pile. Then we had children, and we somehow made it work at the expense of nearly all leisure time.
It’s impossible to describe to a childless person just how time flies once you have a young one, let alone two or three.
It’s part of the natural, and potentially hazardous, divide between parents and their childless pals. We lead different lives, and sometimes we get blind to how those differences can isolate us. Say or do the wrong thing, and that divide can become a virtual Great Wall of China.
As a social experiment, I asked my childless chums via Facebook what burns their britches about their parent friends. Suffice to say I plucked a raw nerve. Here’s a sampling of their responses:
“Assuming my life isn’t complete without children.”
“Sharing way too much information on Facebook about their kids. Think bathroom/eating habits gone amok.”
“Complaining about their uber-packed schedule, the one they created in the first place by signing lil’ Timmy up for every extra-school activity possible.”
“Failing to make free time to spend with us after we travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to see them. They simply can’t spare a moment apart from their children.”
My wife and I have a mix of “married with children” friends and childless chums. The older we get, the more that ratio favors the former. It’s nothing intentional. It’s just … life. We don’t want to disconnect with the latter group, though, and with a dose of empathy that doesn’t have to happen.
It’s best to put yourself in your childless friend’s shoes on a regular basis. Does he really want to hear the micro-details of your son’s first flag football game? Is getting your daughter into a prestigious preschool really a story fit for happy hour? Of course, some kid stories are funny enough for any audience. Spit polish those classics and you’ll be a hit with all of your friends.
Don’t let your childless friends off the hook in the empathy department. Make sure to incorporate your children into your friendly get-togethers now and then… when appropriate. They’ll see the sacrifices you make on a daily basis and, hopefully, appreciate why we’re being honest when we say having kids is worth all the hustle, bustle and, yes, loss of time.
Photo credit: Peyri Herrera via Flickr
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