The more parents I connect with online and in real life the more I realise something I’ve been doing for years without even noticing it. I see people posting about their child-free friends and how much they love their children, how their favourite days are when they all hang out together, and how their friends are an extension of their family – aunties and uncles to their kids.
And I realise I’ve been keeping my social life and my parent life completely separate for nearly six years.
I never intentionally hid TI away from friends, they all know she exists of course (I mean, you’ve seen my Instagram). But when it comes to planning any kind of social event, even just a quick lunch or drink, I plan it for when I don’t have her.
I think this started when she was born from an assumption that nobody my age wanted to voluntarily hang out with a baby and has just become such a habit that I haven’t been able to break away from it. There is of course an element of ‘well I can’t get shit-faced with a kid in tow’ but for the most part I think I’ve been scared of people just not wanting to hang out if it also involves a tiny human.
It’s difficult, because all arrows point to ‘people hate children’. You can’t log on to any form of social media without seeing a thousand ‘dogs over babies’ posts, I’ve tried to talk about pregnancy woes with child-free friends who immediately gloss over them and go back to talking about their latest date, and walking into a fancy wine bar with a five year old will always make you feel like you don’t belong. But I come with a child, soon I will come with two, I need to stop trying to hide that.
We had some friends come down the other weekend while TI was here – and have since booked a mini-break with them – and it was great! She loved it, they played with her loads, and we still got ‘adult’ time. I don’t know what the moment was that convinced me that people don’t want to know my child, but I’ve realised that very few of my friends do know her, at all. She doesn’t have a hoard of aunties and uncles, she doesn’t have other adults to throw her around or wind her up, she doesn’t have the endlessly extended ‘family’ that I grew up with. And that actually makes me really sad.
I’m lucky, my kid will sit in a restaurant or pub for hours quite happily. All she needs is a note pad and pens and maybe the occasional soda water. She’s not the screaming child that ruins your meal, she never has been. So maybe I need to stop letting my assumptions of other people change how I approach my social life.
I was lucky enough to grow up with countless adults who I knew loved me. Who I called aunty or uncle. Who I would be so excited to see and hang out with. I want my children to have that same experience.
I have to stop allowing my assumptions of people’s reactions to dictate how and when I socialise. I have to pull my big girl pants on and say ‘yeah, but the kid’s coming too’. I come with a child, soon I’ll come with two, and while there are certainly times that aren’t to be shared with them there are others that are. If you can’t share a bottle of wine with me while my kids sit at the same table I wonder if we can really be friends?
I’ve always said we’re a package deal – it’s time I start practicing what I preach!