Why The Child-Free Make Great Friends For Parents
- August 7, 2013
- by Melissa Lawrence
When I met my husband Marc 11 years ago, I immediately learned that he had a sofa buddy named Seth. Seth was a close friend from their former law firm who hung out regularly with Marc on the sofa in Marc’s bachelor pad, ordering Chinese food or cheese burgers and watching the West Wing. Because he travelled a lot, Seth received his mail at Marc’s apartment. Seth also had his own key and used the computer. Marc and Seth also had a larger circle of close friends whom they saw a lot. Picture Bosom Buddies without the girl dress-up (at least, as far as I know)!
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Honestly, my marrying Marc must have been a bit rough for Seth. He had a lot of other close buddies, but truly, his friendship with Marc was destined to change. We had Hedley the summer after we were married, and the other kiddos quickly followed suit.
Fast forward 11 years. Marc’s relationship with Seth is clearly different than when they were bosom bachelors, but they remain very close. And now, Seth and I are close too. And surprisingly perhaps, one thing that has really allowed us to remain such good friends is the fact that Seth (who does not have children and is not married) loves to spend time with our kids.
A very charming, engaging, easy-going guy, Seth gets on the floor and really plays with our kids. He engages with them in a way we sometimes don’t because we’re submerged in the logistics of activities, meal preparation, homework, piano practice, and all the rest of it. Seth meanwhile cheerfully puts in batteries, sets up that toy we frankly don’t want to deal with, comes up with new games, and listens attentively to what the kids have to say. He mediates their fights and never loses his temper. He’s now “Uncle Seth” and the kids (and we) are always happy to have him around.
How did kids change your relationships with your friends without kids? Did you remain as close? Did it cause a strain? Do you manage to see them still, or much less than before you had kids? Please share your experience below!
Marc and I went away for our 10th anniversary this summer and while we were gone, Seth stopped by several times for dinner and hung out with the kids for long stretches. It made a real difference to us to know he was there.
The Motherlode Blog Asks “Can Parents Stay Friends With The Child-Free”?
In a recent column in the Motherlode blog, KJ Dell’Antonia (a mother of four) laments the fact that she has made few child-free friends over the past few years, and wonders whether having more child-free friends would render her social life richer, more varied. KJ points to the practical and points out that friends who are also parents are more likely to be understanding when you need to cancel a social plan for a kiddie-related reason, and of course that they understand your parenting predicaments better: think homework, home tech, tantrums… the list can go on and on, as much as a parent can go on and on about their child (!).
Although I appreciate KJ’s perspective, I’ve actually experienced the opposite when it comes Seth and other child-free friends. I love my mom friends, but I’ve found with Seth and a few others that they are more interested in my children, and more able to be with my children and with us, than are my mom friends — who are, of course, very busy with their own kids! To the contrary, my child-free friends tend to meld into our family and adopt my kids in a way parents with their own kids do not. They cherish my kids because they have room for them emotionally, and they make time for them.
Information sharing and support among parents is essential. But sometimes it’s a pleasure to escape out of the “parenting vortex”, and wonderful to get the un-fettered (and typically un-judgemental) support that comes from a child-free friend. In this regard, I’ve found these child-free friends to be among the best friends a parent can have.
I think we enrich each others lives, but not so much, as KJ ponders, because our child-free friends talk about interests unrelated to parenting (like how to prepare a proper soufflé). Rather, I think they enrich us in that they support us as parents while giving us the perspective that not everyone is caught up in the zaniness modern parenting. And don’t we all get a little burnt out with this stuff, anyway? I’m burned out sometimes to even feel myself think about all of it!
And of course, as KJ suggests, these child-free folk also bring us terific perspective because they talk about all the cool things they are doing that we aren’t able to do as much of for the time being. So we can hear about movies, and parties, and trips, and all that cool stuff that friends without kids can partake of more than we.
The Child-free Friend Speaketh Up!
Thinking cautiously, I emailed Seth this morning to make sure printing this blog would be ok with him. Here’s his response:
So — looking at this one example from the perspective of these here parents and their beloved child-free friend, it’s been a win-win all around.
Here’s to the very special union that can arise among parents and their child-free but child-loving friends.
Other parents, do you have friends without kids? Are the childfree people in your life as super as mine, as supportive and loving of you and your kids and a part of your family life? Please share your experiences below?