Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The baby gap

No, not the store. I'm referring to the separation, in women's social circles, between baby-havers and non-baby-havers. Which, by the way, stinks.

As men grow up and make friends, it's fairly simple. They make these friends in high school or college or at work, and they talk about interests they have in common. They don't, as a rule, talk about their own lives very much. As their lives change, as they leave school, enter the workplace, get married, and start families, their friendship with their guy friends stays more or less the same. They talk about the same stuff they did before -- whether politics or video games or sports or whatever.

Women are different. They like to talk about their lives. And they make friends with people who are at a similar place in their lives. But obviously they don't all change from one stage to another at the same time. And it leaves this weird gap in our friendships.

When I was freshly married, I really wished I had some young married friends. (Actually, any local friends would have been nice.) I wanted someone I could talk to about the big adjustments in my life. I felt like I had changed my entire identity, and there was no one who really sympathized. I still loved my single friends, but I didn't want to just talk about married life to them. But I wanted to talk about it with someone. I also was incredibly busy all of a sudden, which made it hard to set up "phone dates" with friends -- friends whom, before, I would just call up out of the blue and we'd talk for hours.

Then when I had the baby, it was the same thing. I wanted friends who had babies. And I have one whom I actually do see often, hooray! But the problem is, we see each other in the context of parties at which everyone else does not have babies. We ended up talking a ton about babies, boring everyone to tears, and probably making some of the other girls sad. After all, there are two kinds of women without children: women who don't want children (who therefore aren't interested in talking about children all the time) and women who do want children (and are disappointed that they don't have them yet, thank you so much for bringing up such a painful subject).

It's hard not to talk about babies all the live-long day, when those of us who have them tend to center our lives around them. Sure, I can talk about things besides Marko. I can talk about childbirth! Or breastfeeding! Or early literacy! Yeah, more baby stuff. So I try to make a real effort not to talk about babies, but to talk about other things that interest me: health, food, gardening, good books I've read lately ... whatever.

But then in the middle of the conversation the baby needs me. So I drop out and care for him. Then I come back and the conversation has moved on without me. I find myself at a party, where one room is filled with my friends chatting away, and the other room is filled with Marko and me, playing blocks. Or we're outside chasing bugs. Or other fun stuff, but ... I wanted to hang out with my friends. Friends I really do like! But my toddler doesn't always let me participate.

It's just frustrating.

And that's just the weekends. On the weekdays, I have all this time. Tons of time, boring time. Time that I would love to spend hanging out with a friend. Only most of my friends work full-time. The one who doesn't, the one who's a stay-at-home mom too -- we could totally hang out all day! Except for the part where neither of us has a car.

So that's why I got into going to playdates at the park. I figured I could have some social time and not go completely crazy during the week, and it was right in walking distance. But I don't know the people well, it's awkward, I'm shy, and every time the conversation gets interesting I have to go stop my kid from launching himself off the top of the slide. Here, at least, everyone understands and doesn't assume you just don't care about listening to them (I secretly fear my childless friends think that when I ditch them to go change a diaper ... here's the truth: I would way rather listen to you than change a diaper). But it's still hard trying to socialize while also taking care of kids.

I guess that's the long and short of it: It is hard to socialize while also taking care of kids.

Hence, my beloved internet, my outlet to the outside world. Being extroverted, I really do need some kind of contact with other adults, and it's doing the job for now. And I'm thankful that every couple of weeks, I do get out to see my friends, even if I sometimes feel like a sore thumb, being the one who's always ducking out with the baby and trying not to talk about childbirth.

I still do feel a little lonely though. Does it just come with the territory of being a mom?

5 comments:

Salixbabylonica said...

Boy, is this true. I hate going off in the middle of a conversation I was enjoying. We can't exactly go back and say "Wait, wait, rewind the conversation. I wanted to hear the end of that story!" Though I'm pretty confident no one thinks we prefer diapers to them!

It's also a bit amusing that the post on cleaning seems to have struck a more immediate chord than this. I read it last night and expected to come back to a ton of comments agreeing that this is exactly how we feel as mothers.

Sheila said...

Yeah, you would think. I did get an email from my mom saying she went through this loneliness for years before she ever found some good mom friends. :( She's one of my best "mom friends" now!

Maybe when all of our friends have babies, things will be different. I keep praying babies for them! ;) I'm sure they wouldn't mind.

JenniC10 said...

Oh I feel for you, Sheila. Unfortunately, I do think it is part of the package, but it won't always be this way. Like anything else, there will be ebb and flow, and some day you will find that you have the friendships that are fulfilling to you. Just try to consider your solitude part of the sacrifice of your vocation.

JenniC10 said...

That didn't sound nearly as compassionate as it was meant. I truly understand and my heart goes out to you!

Sheila said...

I caught the compassion. ;) You're yet another of those people who totally seems my type, and yet you're just a little too far away for me to have ever made it out there. >sigh< Why can't all the nice people be my next-door neighbors? It makes me want to live in a commune.

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