Sunday, July 20, 2008

Friendships with parents

It’s a bit of a cliché that parents, particularly new parents, can’t talk about anything but their kids. I feel truly fortunate that my closest friends all seem to recognize this and they make an effort not to fit the stereotype. On more than one occasion, someone has said to me, “OK, I’ve talked enough about the baby, tell me what’s going on with you.” Of course, part of the reason I'm friends with these people is precisely because they are the sort who would say this type of thing and ironically, that also means these are the people I'm most willing to listen to go on and on about their kids (or, if they really are going overboard, that I'm most comfortable telling them straight out that I'd like to change the subject).

But recently, it also occurred to me that there is a big difference between my friends talking about their kid, and them talking about being a parent. To be honest, I’ve only got so much patience for the former because, in many cases, I don’t actually know the kid very well and who wants to hear endless stories about someone they don’t know? It’s not like the stories most parents tell about their kids are all that interesting in their own right (unless, of course, you’re Bill Cosby). But I realized that when my friends talk more about what it’s like for them to be a parent – how they’re coping with the new schedule, whether she wants to go back to work full-time or not, how relieved he is that the kid isn’t a screamer – that means I’m actually finding out more about them.

I should say that, contrary to the common stereotype of women who choose not to have kids, I do actually like kids (I don't think I'm very good with them but that's sort of a different issue). So I may have a higher tolerance for kid-related talk than most single, child-free women. But even if I didn't like kids, I'd like to think that I'd still be interested in talking to my friends about what is going on in their lives. After all, I have certainly not liked some of the people my friends have chosen to date and I've still been willing to listen to them go on and on about those relationships for hours. But I think the key is focusing on my friends, encouraging them to talk about themselves, which will naturally include a lot of talk about being a parent, but doesn't necessarily have to be just about their kid.

Related posts:
Baby boom


zandria said...

I think you would have really enjoyed the "Childfree in the Blogosphere" panel at BlogHer on Saturday. There were a lot of different viewpoints coming from people who had decided not to have children -- and one of them was debunking the stereotype that people who don't have kids don't LIKE kids. :)

It would have been nice to meet you, too! Maybe next year. :)

Jenn said...

Thanks Zandria! I've been trying to follow some of the live blogging from the conference and was definitely sad I missed that panel. But I've got several new links I want to check out!