A few weeks ago I sent out an email newsletter that ended with the question what keeps you from staying in touch? One person responded with the answer “keeping in touch with women who are married or have kids”. As a single 26-year-old (the age that the rest of the world seems to get engaged and/or married) I definitely resonated with that feeling. When such a big life change occurs you sometimes feel like you need to figure out how you fit into the picture again.
I decided I wanted to see if there was any merit to these feelings. I emailed 10 married friends and 10 friends with children to ask their thoughts. The results? If you’re not able to stay in touch with your married friends there’s probably something else going on besides the fact that they got married. As for friends with kids, it is going to take some extra effort to keep that relationship going. It’s no longer just you and your friend, it’s you and your friend and their kid (even when the kid isn’t physically there).
If you’re somebody who has trouble staying in touch with your married and parent friends, this post is for you. It can help you understand why they might not be as responsive as you want them to be and what to do about it. (There are even some tips for married and parent friends in there!)
Please note: This is a discussion of how single friends can better stay in touch with their already married or parent friends, not a guide to make new friends or for married or parent friends to connect with other married or parent friends. Also, this post applies to parent friends with children under the age of 10 (I made that number up). As for what happens after the age of 10, I’ll let you know what happens when I get there.
Also, thank you so much to all of the friends who helped me out with this post, I really appreciate it, learned a lot, and can’t wait to continue staying in touch with you.
Staying in Touch with your Married Friends
Staying in touch with your married friends is a lot like staying in touch with your non-married friends. There are always obstacles that are going to get in the way – life happens, jobs happen, people get pets – things happen, but here are a few thoughts on what’s really going on and how to handle it.
Why It Happens
Chances are if you aren’t able to stay in touch with your married friends there’s something else going on. For example, one of my best friends got married senior year of college and simultaneously moved across the country to Los Angeles. I’m going to go ahead and guess that the reason we don’t talk quite as much is more about the fact that she’s all the way on the other side of the country than the fact that she got married. This was the situation for another friend that I spoke with as well – she said that because she got married right at graduation she and her husband (as well as all of their other friends) were moving to new cities, which made it more difficult to constantly stay in touch. And think about it – it was even difficult to stay in touch with your single friends after graduating. It’s kind of the same way that I started traveling for work four days a week when graduating. I may not have been married, but I very quickly became difficult to get in touch with.
Here’s something else. If your friends mainly hung out with you as individuals (as opposed to as a couple), they’re probably going to continue to hang out with you as individuals. And if your friends are the type of people more likely to attend events as a couple, they probably did that during the time they were dating as well. My tip? Make friends with the person at the beginning. Find anything in common that you can both talk about then because he or she is probably going to be sticking around for a while. (That’s probably also a good opportunity to talk to your friend about how you need some more one-on-one quality time – because you love them so much, have things you want to share with them that are more personal, and you really miss them – because if you don’t address it then, it’s going to be harder to address it later.)
Something else that may have happened is that all of a sudden your friend has a new roommate (if they weren’t living together before they got married). Now they’re trying to figure out how to balance a new roommate (who they actually like and want to hang out with) with their old life. Somebody said something that made me think a little bit harder about this. She said “you no longer need to leave the house to socialize”. What a weird concept. Currently if I want to hang out with anybody I have to call somebody up to make plans – to the point that if I want some company on a Target run I have to contact a bunch of friends and see who’s free. If I only had to go to my living room to find somebody to go to the store with, would I be inclined to check with everyone? Probably not. Less likely. Especially because you usually end up texting 20 people before you (possibly) get somebody to say yes. This sort of started to put things in perspective for me.
So why else might it happen? Schedules are busier with two people instead of just one. I have two friends who are engaged who spent the last year traveling to weddings around the country. That means that they both had double the amount of weddings to attend, which means you’re dealing with a significantly less number of days to choose from. I’ve definitely heard of couples dividing and conquering things like this just to make schedules a little less ridiculous.
And guess what single friends? Some of this is on us. Sometimes we back out on our friends who are in couples because we realize ahead of time that we’re going to be one of the only (if not the only) single person in the room. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been that person. And it can be awkward. But it’s all a mind game and if you can tell yourself “I’m going to go to this party because I like these people and want to hang out with them and if I start to feel significantly awkward I can always leave” you’re going to have a better chance of being okay when you get there (please see: vomit continegncy plan). Feel free to have a drink beforehand.
What to Do About It
If you’re the single friend –
- Be persistent and try not to be offended if you’re suggesting more plans than the married friends are. As Victoria put it – “sometimes we just need a little nudge to remind us that there is more to life than binge-watching Game of Thrones with our spouse.”
- Remember that the married friends need time away from the people they love (too much of even a good thing can be a bad thing) – and there are a lot of other things to talk about besides married life.
- Reach out in multiple ways – it might just be a difference in communication choice if you haven’t heard back. If you’ve Facebook messaged someone, but haven’t heard back try email, text messaging, or phone calls.
If you’re the married friend –
- There are probably things that you like that your spouse doesn’t quite appreciate the way you do – browsing for books, playing board games, trying on shoes you know you’ll never wear, or eating at the new vegan restaurant down the street – use these as opportunities to reach out to your friends who you know will appreciate it.
- Consider adding a +1 to the single person’s party invitations (if possible) – for a romantic plus one or a friend plus one. Either way it can make things less awkward for the invitee.
No matter who you are –
- Reach out to the people in your life you love with a random gesture. Something as simple as sending a Starbucks e-gift certificate in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon can completely brighten somebody’s day and let them know you were thinking about them.
- Remember that you can plan a “girls’ night” or “guys’ night” for your group of friends. No matter what you want to call your evening it’s a way to get back to your group of friends who started it all (and let the significant others get control of the remote for a little bit).
It’s starting to make a little more sense now, right? And it’s not too much different than staying in touch with other people in your life. As for how to stay in touch with your friends with kids –
Staying in Touch with your Friends with Kids
Staying in touch with friends with kids is a little bit different. Instead of dealing with one person, or even two people’s schedules, you’re now dealing with three people’s schedules. And one of those people probably can’t quite function on their own yet. Which essentially means one thing – you as the person without any kids are going to have to make more of an effort than your friend with the kid (referred to as “the parent friend” in this post). That said, let’s take a little bit of time to look into why it happens –
Why It Happens
I’d say my favorite quote was from my friend Matt who said, “I’d say the main problem is that parents turn into pumpkins when their children’s bedtime approaches – for us, that’s about 8.” Things change when you have a kid (so I’ve been told). Here’s my understanding of what life looks like when you have a kid:
You absolutely love your kid (because he or she is genuinely awesome), but there are a few things that make life a little more complicated than life “pre-kid”. If you want to go out you need enough time to coordinate childcare. Your sleep schedule becomes more irregular because if your child isn’t sleeping chances are you’re probably not sleeping either. Not only that, but time in general is more structured because things like naptime and bedtime are actually incredibly crucial parts of the day. It’s not quite as easy to move a child’s bedtime as it is for an adult to stay up past their bedtime. And getting children in the car takes quite a long time – especially if there’s more than one of them. There’s also something called parent brain I think? It’s slightly forgetful and doesn’t quite have a hygiene filter anymore (bodily functions, skin rashes, and teething are absolutely acceptable forms of conversation). Friends with kids, how did I do?
So it’s not that your friends don’t want to see you anymore, it’s that there is seriously just so much going on. And things that adults just don’t have any control over. For example, 20- or 30-something adults don’t get sick very often, but children get sick a lot. But as the friend without kids, we need to “be understanding if [we] get a call at the last minute saying they can’t hang out because the kid is puking everywhere, or their spouse was up all night with the baby so they need to stay home so their spouse can get a little sleep or there’s something going around at daycare. It’s almost certainly the truth, and they want to see [us], but their responsibilities just make it so they can’t.” (Thanks, Bill.)
So why do we do it?
Because they’re our friends. It’s possibly not worth the effort with an aquaintance, but with a friend – always. Here are the reasons why:
- Because our friends love us.
- Because we want to help keep them sane when the only person they have to talk to all day can’t actually say any words.
- Because they now rely on us for dating stories. (Anybody remember that Sex and the City episode where Carrie has to ‘sing for her breakfast’?)
- Because our friends miss us: “the parents value two-sided adult conversation more than we realize” and “having small kids can make you feel a bit trapped at home and slowly drive you stir-crazy” – courtesy of Janna and Matt.
- Because children aren’t needy forever (and your friend’s still going to be there at the end).
- Because being an “aunt” or “uncle” is actually really awesome.
What to Do About It
In this case there’s more advice for the non-parent friend than the parent friend. It’s just the way it’s gotta be. And remember, one day maybe your parent friend will be the one doing this for you.
If you’re the non-parent friend –
- Be open to having kids tag along. Choose a location that’s a little bit more kid-friendly to meet up (maybe a park or a pool!) and make it happen. And think about it, we don’t actually get to spend that much time outside anymore since we’ve grown up so why not use this as an excuse to channel your younger self?
- Think less events, more communication. It might not be quite as possible to hang out in person, but they have more random time for text messages, emails, and phone calls between naps and in the middle of the night than a non-parent person, so give those other forms of communication a try.
- Visit your parent friend. A great suggestion by Johanna – if you don’t have kids, it’s much easier for you to make the trip than for them. Consider picking up takeout on the way, this way no one needs to cook. (And this doesn’t mean you need to pay, most places take credit cards ahead of time over the phone or online!)
- Plan in advance. It’s much easier to get a babysitter in advance than the day of an event.
- Plan to do things in the afternoon, that way you can avoid bedtime.
- Remember that sometimes your parent friend wants to see their kids. If it’s been a long day, a long work week, or a week of travel sometimes they just want to see their kid. How can you argue with that?
- “Keep inviting [your parent friends] to things – understand that the answer is usually going to be no. Like 9 out of 10 times they can’t do it. But the 1 time in 10 that they can, it will be awesome. And the parent friend will really appreciate that 1 time in 10.” (Bill’s got a way with words, man.)
- Don’t judge a dirty house. It happens.
- Take interest in kid conversation. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Especially if you don’t know anything. If you don’t know anything that means you have a million questions you can ask. Is she sitting up yet? Is he eating on his own yet? Can he stand? Does he say any words? How is she different from her brother? Is she going to preschool this year? How do you choose a preschool? What’s he into right now? There are a million of ‘em.
If you’re the parent friend –
- Ask about how life is going in the non-parent world too – trips, relationships, hobbies – it’s all appreciated.
- Invite friends over in the evening, this way you’re home to put your kids to bed and have some time to hang out and relax afterwards together.
- A few friends have gone out of their way to pay for dinner when I’ve made the effort to head out their direction. It is always appreciated (but never expected).
All in all (I’d like to thank Janna for this quote), “we’re not in high school anymore – there’s less drama and more real life.” If your friends aren’t being as responsive as they once used to be there’s probably a reason for it and you probably just need to figure out what change to make to make it work.
What tips do you use to stay in touch with your married and parent friends? Or if you are a married or parent friends how do you stay in touch with your single friends? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
PS. Want more tips about staying in touch? Check out my e-book: How To Stay in Touch – 27 Ways to Make It Happen. It’s pay what you want.
WITCH Numbers: T34, W6