When you’re a mom with limited access to childcare, trying to find time for friends is hard. You’re already feeling isolated, but then you don’t want to feel like a constant burden either. It’s hard to maintain friendships and care for your kids, and for those of us who work, that’s an added obstacle. But, there are those friends who don’t mind your kid tagging along to friend time. And those friends are truly invaluable.
I’m a single mom, and childcare is always an issue. I don’t have money in my budget for a sitter, so I have to rely on friends and family. But of course, everyone has their own lives, so free help isn’t always easy to come by. And as a work-from-home mom, I crave interaction with other adults intensely. So if I’m going to go out, it should be with my friends — many of whom don’t have kids. More often than not, having friend time means I have to bring my son along.
None of my close friends ever seem to mind. They understand that my son and I are a package deal. Sure, it’s annoying sometimes. We might be trying to have a conversation and I have to stop to wipe up a spill or remind him to eat his meal. Or he wants to feel included in the conversation and interrupts every five minutes to talk about his YouTube video. But they love both of us so they put up with it.
As a result, my son has formed very close bonds with my close friends. He feels seen by them, because they make an effort to see him. When they see him, they’ll ask questions about school or his day. If he brings along toys, they will listen to him ramble on about who each train is. And, if he is still getting to know them, they never try to force him to engage with them. We both appreciate the care with which they handle him.
Recently, athlete Serena Williams shared a series of Instagram Stories from the bachelorette party of a friend. In the video, she mentions that her young daughter Olympia is also on the girls’ trip — mostly because she couldn’t bear to be away from her for a few days. Clearly, Serena Williams could also afford to have a nanny with them, but the fact that her friend included her daughter says a lot to the power of their friendship. Including kids into your bachelorette weekend is a big ask. But every video made it clear Olympia was just one of the girls.
Going out of your way to include your friends who now have kids in plans is huge. One of the biggest struggles for a lot of us moms is maintaining our friendships after we have kids. That goes triple when our friends don’t have kids. We know we’re no longer quite the same carefree girl who could do shots until 2 a.m. Now we’re yawning over our dinner and please don’t make a reservation after 8 p.m. But including kids in our social lives makes it clear that the friendship still matters.
Sure, those nights out will look very different when you’re including kids. Usually it means you’re having happy hour in an Applebee’s instead of a bar. Or your former drinking buddy is now swigging a Dr. Pepper instead of a beer. The optics of the night out may have changed, but showing up for your friend means it doesn’t matter as much.
For some of my friends, including kids into our get-togethers goes beyond nights out. It may be more nights in, sitting on the couch. There is nothing more comforting than a friend who says, “Come over and hang out, and bring the kid.” And then they make sure there are snacks for him to eat (even if that means a run to the grocery store) and don’t mind having to watch whatever kids programming we can find. Watching Minions isn’t fun for me as a mom, but asking my child-free friends to watch it is next level friendship.
Fortunately, they never complain about doing kids’ activities when we hang out. Sometimes that means sitting on a bench at the playground with a coffee or sharing an order of fries while my kid runs around the McDonald’s PlayPlace. Mostly, we’re just happy to be spending time together, so the venue doesn’t matter.
Because I know it’s a big thing to bring my kid along, I try to make special grownup time too. When I can get a babysitter, it’s nice to sit with my friends and eat a hot meal. Maybe even have a glass of wine or two. Being able to give our conversation my full attention makes me a better friend.
But here’s the thing. I don’t think friends who include kids in their plans understand how much it means. Since becoming a mom, trying to keep any remnants of my non-mom life has become even more important. Because sometimes I need to be reminded that I’m still a person. It’s hard to remember that when you spend all day wiping noses and fetching snacks. And even if we spend half of dinner talking over the din of YouTube while my kid stretches himself across the booth, it makes such a difference.
Losing friends to motherhood is a very real and valid fear. Including kids into your hangouts is often the thing that makes keeping your friendship in tact possible. Sure, my son can be a total pain in the ass, but when you suggest that we have dinner at the kid-friendly chain restaurant because they have a kid’s menu, you’re making it clear that our friendship still matters to you. And that is the most important thing to me.