What your friends who are parents want you to know

There is no shame in not being a parent. 

For as much as I romanticize about what it must be like to be 30 and without children, I know that life before/without babies isn’t automatically an easy one. But you have to admit, there are a few perks. 

You don’t have to share your bowl of popcorn or ice cream with tiny faces and tiny mouths. You don’t have to listen to tiny dictators in the back of the car, who try to usurp your trip to town to do errands by barking orders to instead go to Chick Fil A. You don’t ever have to wander the toy aisles at Target just because, let alone each and every time you visit. 

They don’t sound like much, but when you’re a parent, not having to do any of those things sounds like a slice of heaven. 

But, this is not a guilt trip. Nope, uh-uh. You rock your life, right where you are, right now. And if parenting happens for you? Well, then that is great. And if not? That’s still perfectly okay. 

But what about your friends with children? Their schedule is pretty much the opposite of yours. You haven’t seen your best friend wear a pair of high heels in….you don’t know how long.  And those late nights out on the town with each other are a thing of the past. 

It’s hard to find a common ground. It can be tricky to be on the same page. 

I can only speak for being an almost 30-year-old with kids. And here are a few things that I think your friends with kids want you to know. 

1.) Invite them

They may say “no” 90% of the time. They may not even reply to your invite. So what is the point?

The point is that they know you’re thinking about them. The point is that sometimes, the stars align, the babysitter calls back, the schedule clears, and suddenly, they’re game for a double date with you. Or they’re free to attend your backyard bbq sans children. Or they are available for a lunch date. 

The point is that those connections remain open. The point is that those times, though they may be few, that they can say yes are occasions that need to happen.

They’re what keep the heart of your friendship beating. Try to be patient. Don’t you think your friend would rather say yes to a lunch or movie date than stay home for the umpteenth night in a row, anyway? 🙂

2.) It’s not as simple as “just bring the kids,” though. 

If you’ve ever invited your parent-friend over, or to a function you’re having, or just out somewhere, but had them turn you down because they have to bring their child(ren) with them, and you don’t understand, let me give you some perspective:

Is your house/the place you’re going baby proof? Would they possibly be coming by themselves? Do you think it sounds like fun to chase a toddler around a home/yard/restaurant/museum that is not fenced in/baby proofed/full of other people trying to have a good time?

Do you think it sounds like fun to not be able to have a complete conversation with people because you’re too busy minding what your child is doing? Are you willing to be extra hands to help your parent friend so that they can have a few minutes to enjoy themselves?  

If the answers are no, yes, no, no and no, then there is your answer. 

Bringing children means hauling copious amounts of gear. Bringing children to a strictly/primarily adult function/location is not always fun. Bringing children can mean getting side-eyed glances when it reaches the witching hour and their frantic child is ready for bed, or when their child spills punch all down the front of themselves. Bringing children to something that is meant to be relaxing is definitely not always relaxing. 

So, when your parent-friend opts out and decides she/he will catch you next time, don’t give them flack. Don’t wonder why. Just invite them again next time, because see #1.

3.) Come to them

Sometimes, rather than loading my three children up into the car or trying to hurry children into bed so that I can go out by myself, it’s nice to feel like on occasion my friends are willing to come to me. 

Thankfully, I have friends who do come and visit me, and don’t seem to mind the messes around my house.

When they do that, I am reminded that not only are my friends awesome enough to still love me even though I can’t always answer their calls or forget to text back, having them come over and plop down on my sofa, right in the midst of chaos makes me feel like all of me, and my life, is accepted. Which is tremendously important. 

No, it might not always seem like a fun time to enter into a Lego and yogurt infested arena, but your smiling face might be just what your friend needs. You’re taking charge and just stopping over means one less thing your friend has to think about in a day full of things they have to think about. 

And I know that I am not the only adult who is happier to see another adulting adult to be adult-like with during the day. 

4.) Love on our children

Even if you’re not a kid person. Even if you don’t want children. Even if our house is ridiculously messy, you’re sitting on a pile of Barbies and your friend looks like they haven’t showered in three days. Even if the kids have sticky hands. 

Love on our children.

When you do that, we feel like you’re accepting all of us and all of the things in our lives. When the people I love adore the people I love most, I can hear a bunch of microscopic pieces clicking together across the universe.

When my friends act like they aren’t repelled or annoyed by my children, but instead act quite the opposite (as they pretty much always do) and love on them, and love them, every time that happens, my heart sings a thousand tunes that I didn’t know it held.

We love it when you love on our children. 

This isn’t a check list. This isn’t meant to make you grove at the feet of your friends who are parents. This is not to make you feel bad. 

This is a heartfelt thank you. 

Thank you for loving us.

But even more importantly, thank you for loving our children. 

Moms: Why you need to hang on to the friends that matter

The subject of friendship is one that I have wanted to broach for the longest time on my blog.

Before, I would have approached it from an angle of someone who thought she had mostly figured out how to balance having children while still maintaining friendships. My husband is wonderful at making sure that I get time out of the house. I stay connected on social media and know who goes where. I had a handle on my friendships, I thought.

Now, I’m writing this from a newly refreshed perspective. It turns out that I have much to learn about how to manage parenting children while simultaneously investing in the people who matter most to me. Go figure, someone with still much to learn!

There are a host of blog posts and online articles out there “training” child-less people on how to approach their friends who are parents. They state what their expectations should and shouldn’t be, how to be courteous and understanding of their parenting friends and their new needs. I am one person that loved those articles. I thought that they were incredibly useful and they even validated some part of me.

That is until I actually sat down and talked to a friend of mine who isn’t a parent. She was warm and humble, non-accusatory and thoroughly recognized that she indeed did not have a clue about what it means to be a parent. That she knows it is something that she can’t fully understand until if and when she makes that journey for herself. She also pointed out, though, how left of center all of that talk makes her feel.

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Hanging around a group of parents when you yourself are not a parent can feel like you are hanging around a group of physicists, engaged in a full-on conversation about their work. Or like any person would feel amongst a group of people who are having a conversation in an entirely different language. I remember feeling that way as some of my friends made the transition to becoming a parent. How left behind I sometimes felt, and how insignificant our relationship seemed afterwards. 

Awkward. Out of place. Unappreciated. Unacknowledged.

Where’d the love go?

The truth is that there is sometimes an underlying tone to these articles: parents are the ones doing worthwhile work and you’re not, and it’s just not something that you’ll ever understand.

Even from my little blog, in my small corner of the inter-web, I couldn’t help but wonder, and have been in deep thought over it since discussing it with my friend, if I ever make people feel that way. I had always thought that though I wear the hat of motherhood, even though it is such a large part of who I am, it’s still only a part. Parenting for me is like the vast oceans all across the Earth. They cover most of it, but they’re sill only a part of it. 

I’m still the same old Ashley that likes sushi, a good book, smelling shampoo and candles. I’m just softer, I can run on less sleep and might appreciate 13 minutes of silence more than pre-children Ashley might.

I’m still me.

Right?

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Do I remind my friends of that fact?

I think I have failed at that last part on occasion. Or maybe even more than I have ever realized.

Moms, listen up. Because this is important. 

You may be covered in spit up, day old food or God knows what else as you are reading this. You may be going on three hours of sleep. You may have a colicky baby, a toddler in the throes of the terrible two’s (three’s, four’s, five’s..) or a preteen who thinks they know way more than they actually do. You may legitimately have a lot going on. You may not feel like you have even a moment to look up from what you’re doing, but you need to.

Even if only for a minute, you need to come up for air.

Our work may be beyond a 24/7 job, but we still need to work on ways to find meaningful connections outside of the home. Your sanity inside of the home depends on it.

You need to come up for air and let the people around you love on you. Build into you. Remind you that you’re funny, and breathing and alive. Remind you that there is a life outside of the home. It takes a community to raise a child, of this much I believe. I think it also takes a community to raise up a person from the muck of every day, wipe their tears and remind them that they’re special. That they are cherished. That they are seen, and heard and noticed.

And if there is one job that I can think of where a person needs meaningful friendships, it’s motherhood. If there is one job that I can think of where a person needs a kind word, an encouraging word, a good laugh, a safe place to cry – it is motherhood. If there is one job that can be incredibly isolating, and make a person feel more alone than ever, I say passionately, that it is motherhood. 

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If there is one person who needs outside love, support and warmth, it’s a mom.

We need our friends. You need friends that you can call when you’re at your wit’s end with your children. You need friends that you can call and ask any manner of baby-related question. You also need friends that might not be so fluent in the jargon of breastfeeding talk or sleep training. You need friends from all walks to help your soul fire on all cylinders.

Confidants, sages, comforters, uplifters, jokers, effervescent dreamers and pragmatic problem solvers.

And the beautiful part? They still need you. They still have room for you.

It just all becomes a touch trickier post baby. But more worth it than ever before.

This Thanksgiving

We haven’t even made it through Thanksgiving as I sit and type this post, but that hasn’t stopped the local Wal-Mart and other big box stores from inundating their customers with Christmas music, to enhance shopping experience perhaps? It hasn’t impeded upon the numerous Christmas displays and red and green everything consuming the shelves on just about every aisle…except for maybe the automotive departments or the place where they stock the toilet paper.

For all intense purposes, it’s Christmas, people. Once again, the turkey gets the shaft. 

I like this little holiday. It’s just big enough. It isn’t the biggest or the flashiest of them all, but it’s respectable and meaningful in its own right. I’m happy to oblige the notion that we need to eat until our pants don’t button, then take turkey induced naps on the sofa afterward, and still be able to indulge in left over pie and stuffing for days to come. I’m happy to reflect and ponder all that I have been given and acknowledge just how much it changes from year to year.

More importantly, I’m glad that I am finally in a place in my life where instead of just showing up to indulge in a holiday feast with all of the trimmings, I am instead thrilled to be a part of its construction. This is a complete 180 for me. Thanksgiving preparation either always intimidated or simply didn’t appeal to me. Now, it’s quite the opposite. I want to be up to my elbows in a turkey’s butt or putting a dish of green bean casserole into the oven.

It feels right. It feels like I have arrived. Sort of.

Isn’t that somewhat true of life? There is a time where you’re happy to merely be a consumer, happy to be the recipient of the goods that others are ready and willing to offer up. There is a time when that is what you NEED to be due to necessity or the season of life that you are in. And in a sudden, or sometimes gradual, turn of events, we come to find that though it is stressful and hard work, it becomes a greater joy to be involved in the preparation, in the giving and service part of everything. I know that this is true for me, at least.

It is greater to give rather than receive. 

Even though I will hate that alarm clock tomorrow morning when it chimes in my face at 5 a.m., and even though I won’t ever be alright with getting out of bed to put food into the oven in the wee hours of the morning. Even though I would rather not have to get my house in order or clean up after all is said, done and eaten, I’m actually kind of excited about it.

Just don’t tell anyone. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Thank you so much for reading all of the junk that I have to say. I hope that you have a wonderfully blessed holiday!