I get it. I need to be compassionate. I need to remember that my friends without children don’t know what it’s like to have them. That they do care, they just don’t get it. That they have no vector for understanding that this whole Mum Thing is so full-on, I’m a different kind of person now than I was before I had a child. But sometimes, I really do wish my friends without kids would pull up a chair and let me explain what not to do. I feel like it would benefit us both:
1. Meeting on a whim doesn’t work for me anymore. I used to be the type of free spirit who loved nothing more than an impromptu happy hour or walk around the shops. But these days I either have to lug a baby and a full arsenal of stuff wherever we go or leave her at home with my husband or a babysitter. Either way, this takes planning. So I need more than a “Let’s grab coffee this afternoon!” to build in success.
2. The second glass of wine will make me fall asleep. So, please try and get to the important stuff fast. When I do make it out to see you, it’s a big deal. Like, a really big deal. It means my husband is either pacing the length of our apartment cajoling the child toward sleep, or I’m ponying up north of 15 bucks an hour just to hang. I’m exhausted and a little stressed, so even though I really do want to hear what you have to say, I’d appreciate it if you try and give me the good stuff stat.
3. I need a little extra encouragement in the body department. Please do not just respond, “Cute” when I text you a selfie in my new bikini. The deluge of hateful things I’m saying about myself as I look at the reflection of my still-not-tight midsection and never-gets-to-the-gym inner thighs requires a stronger word than “cute” to stop them from pouring down on me. I need you to REALLY lay it on thick or I will return the bikini immediately. That said, if I don’t look good, I still want you to tell me the truth. Just say it gently: “Myer is having a sale on one-pieces!” is a great approach.
4. You can’t just show up here. I get it. I can hardly ever escape this den of nappies, plastic toys and stained tees borrowed from my husband. You want to hook a sister up with a visit and some hot coffee. I appreciate the gesture, and I’m desperate to spend some time with you, but please give me a little notice. Even though I love you to pieces and I know you’re not judging me, I feel a little less than human without a good 30 minutes to fake-clean my kitchen counter and slap some concealer on the under-eye bags.
5. It takes several hours for me to respond to your text messages. This is not because I don’t care. When I finally get the baby down for a nap and sit down to rejoin virtual society for a stolen 20 minutes, it tugs at my heartstrings to see multiple question marks after your last text. Please don’t think that because I don’t respond right away, I don’t care. In fact, I care so much that I don’t want to just give you whatever misspelled, thoughtless, two-word reply I can muster when the text first comes in. I care so much that it takes me a little while to sit down and read what you’re saying so I can respond with the compassion and thoughtfulness that you deserve.
6. I still need you — now more than ever. You are still valuable to me — even more so as you’re a touchpoint on my former reality. The fact that you don’t have children and I do is just one small fibre in the mixed media fabric that is our friendship. I’m still here for you, I just keep odd hours. But you don’t have to feel like you can’t still call me anytime. The fact that it takes me hours to respond to your text messages should not lead you to think that if you call me at three in the morning because you’re having a situation, I won’t be there. I will be there.
7. It won’t be like this forever. Eventually, this beautiful and delicious creature who is attached to me at all times of the morning, afternoon and night will grow. She will depart. She will have friends and school and activities that keep her occupied and engaged. She won’t need me as much as she does now and I will have more time to be the type of friend I want to be. Of course, by then, you might have one of your own. At which point I’ll just whip out this list and remind myself of what you need me to understand.
- Necessary Pep-Talk: You’re Not a Sh*t Mum
- Why We Have a Family Happy List
- Should We Or Shouldn’t We Have Baby #3?