Culture & Entertainment

Friends after baby: Why it's really that hard to get together

By: Jennifer Gruden
Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

Friends after baby: Why it's really that hard to get together

By: Jennifer Gruden
Before I had kids, I thought I would be an easy-going mom on the go, bringing my baby and sweet, never-screaming child to all my friends' houses for dinner/parties/hanging out. After all, I reasoned, they can just fall asleep there and then I can drive them home and it doesn't have to be a big deal. You know that quote from German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke, "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy?" (No? Then perhaps you have not held a party for 11 7-year-old boys.) That's exactly how my plans for having a social life after baby went. Friendships after having a baby Here's what I would like all my non-parenting friends to know: It can be a big deal. 1) Remember your parents taking you home asleep in the backseat, where you fell right back to sleep afterwards? You were 4 or 5, most likely. That's why you remember it. Baby and toddler sleep is entirely different, and quite often a transfer from the car to a bed results in a 2 hour meltdown. Some kids are really great about this, and some are not, and it's not necessarily under the parents' control. 2) It's not just about the baby/toddler being cranky the next day. It's about them acting up at my friends' houses that night. And it's also about the next three days. Because the next day, the baby is overtired and cranky, or the toddler falls asleep at 4 p.m. only to wake up at 8:30 p.m. and decide it's party time, which pooches the next day.... I'm willing to deal with all that for sure, but only about once a week. That means if my husband and I  have twelve friends we'll be at their homes approximately once every three months...assuming no cold and flu season. It also assumes invitations aren't all clumped together. Which in practical terms means we don't go over to friends' houses anywhere near as much as I thought we would. 3) Babysitters are expensive. No, really. My last-before-this-one babysitter here in Toronto charged $14/hr, with a 3 hr minimum. It used to be that there were a zillion teenagers ready to babysit for inexpensive rates but in some areas, those times are long over. (They also are not always able to get my toddler to sleep either. So then my next day is a mess and I'm out $50.) And there's this thing called a RESP that I am supposed to contribute to for my child's education. Now my own situation is just about to turn the corner: My youngest is 3, and he is starting to be able to do human things like sleep in a little. Things do change. In the meantime here are three other ways to get together: 1) Brunch can be a great time, especially at someone's home. Although parents may be racing naptime, brunch can be an excellent meal for time together. The food is more child-friendly, and you can schedule around naps. 2) Meet at the parents' house. This works especially well after bedtime, although it may require tolerance for both unwashed dishes and a certain amount of interruption. My kids seem to have radar in their sleep for whether they're missing a visit, and wake up accordingly. 3) Divide and conquer. If one parent is home parenting, the other can be free, free, free. This may mean a dinner party or other couple event is not the best way to see friends, but meeting for a drink while the other parent does dinner or bedtime can be lovely. I have a group of friends where on Friday nights we let the dads parent while we meet up at each other's homes starting around 8:30. For me personally -- but please share your experience in the comments! -- I've also just sometimes been tired out, and dealing with the day-to-day work of parenting and working, and looked up 6 weeks later and realized I've mostly been following my friends on Facebook. But they've hung in there...sometimes, I suspect, under duress as I cancel for the second time due to stomach bugs. I will add that the different pace of socializing is one reason to find a playgroup for your baby, and for yourself. Having social time that's baby-centered can be a lifeline.
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Friends after baby: Why it's really that hard to get together

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