After recovering from the initial shock of discovering we’ve signed ourselves up for a lifetime of being overworked, underslept, cash-strapped zombies (LOL JK I will never recover from that), I began to seek out resources for how to manage everything we will be taking on as new parents. Obsessively and probably unnecessarily. I buried myself in “baby product research” (aka, online shopping); I read books about everything from the joys and pitfalls of parenting to the economics of pregnancy and childbirth to the symptoms of postpartum recovery (come at me, night sweats, you ain’t nothin!); I rejoined Facebook (audible groan) and subscribed to pregnancy and parenting advice groups; and I began actually answering phone calls and messages from my mother.
Of all those resources, the Facebook groups have been the most enlightening. I literally had no idea I should have been worried about a childhood malady called W-sitting, but thanks to Facebook (and OCD) it’s now all I can think about.
Another very common mommy-group topic that I had put next to zero thought into before getting knocked up is how having kids will change our relationships with non-kid-havers, which is a fiery discussion being had in nearly every corner of the Facebook universe. Because I’ve had my head in the sand (and nowhere near Facebook) for the last handful of years, I did not realize this hot topic was such a universal issue, but now that I’m back in the fray and learning about all the universal issues anew (such as the universal issue of how to handle your shit when your baby daddy puts your kid’s pants on backward…commence universal anxiety, y’all), I have been forced to take a gander at the implications of these issues in my own life. I was more or less aware that the kids vs. no-kids debate was always happening in my real life social circles to some degree, and my contribution to that was usually to be like, “long live DINKs!” And then down another shot and forget what we were talking about. To that end, I guess I have long been in the non-kid-having camp and have thus probably drunkenly commiserated with other non-kid-havers about the kid-havers cramping our style, but this was usually only in theory, because none of us actually knew any kids. Still, we were as certain as young drunks could be that style-cramping would be inevitable in both theory and practice, until once upon a time, my non-kid-having friends began having kids and I got to put that theory to the test. And you know what? EVERYTHING TURNED OUT JUST FINE.
My best and closest friend to start having kids was Melissa, my across-the-street neighbor, long-time confidante and drinking buddy. We were both career and booze-focused in our early 20s and even though we were also both coupled, neither of us wanted kids. OR SO I THOUGHT, THAT LYING LIAR. Despite my aversion to kids, the day Melissa told me she was pregnant with her first child, my reaction was not “oh jesus, well that’s the end of that,” so much as it was kind of like when I first learned I was pregnant: shock and awe. So shocked and awed was I that while wildly gesticulating my fervent approval of her life choices, I accidentally knocked her car out of gear and we ran off the road. Way to start this gig in style, Aunt Julie.
So my first reaction was joy. This was a woman I loved dearly and it was clear she was happy, which was all that mattered at that moment. But when the excitement of new news wore off, my kid-aversion resurfaced and fear set in. I was not ready to have kids. I wasn’t sure I ever wanted them. I didn’t even know how to hold a baby, much less relate to someone who is charged with holding one around the clock lest that baby die from lack of being held (I assumed that was a thing). How was this going to affect ME?
This perennial non-kid-having question, as well as its counterpart kid-haver question — “How can I possibly relate to my non-kid-having friends whose only worries in life are whether they have something in their teeth during a job interview when I have crusty human vomit plastered all over my body for literally all of the minutes?” – makes for pretty lengthy Facebook discussions among total strangers, all of whom are RIGHT. THEY ARE ALL RIGHT, YOU GUYS. And by that I mean they are wrong.
My relationship with Melissa did change. Very much. And it changed not just because she had kids, but in spite of the fact that she had kids, because while Melissa was having kids, I was going through a painful separation and traumatic cross-country move, which necessarily meant that she and I would no longer be neighbors, a seemingly probable death knell to a friendship born of convenience, as ours was. But even with those little people clamoring for all her attention, she hung in there with me, and even with my hopelessly incurable homesickness, I hung in there with her, and we found that our friendship was actually bolstered by kids and divorce and relocation and inconvenience; our changing lots in life just gave us that many more opportunities to be good to each other and grow as women and as friends, strengthened by the things that bound us, like empathy and shared values and tequila.
I know not everyone on Facebook is crazy (LOL false) and I know the chasm between friends created by major life changes, including having kids, really is a thing, and having been through a handful of life changes in recent years, it’s a thing I think about often. But ultimately, I’m choosing to focus more on whatever the hell W-sitting is than on the changes coming to my non-kid-having friends and me, because above all else, we’re all still human, we still rely on adult human connection to get through each day alive and unscathed, and I believe it is the nature of the human spirit to find common ground with the people we love even when the odds are stacked against us. At the very least, just let me see your face when you have food in your teeth because mama is going to need some comic relief from this W-sitting situation.
At the risk of turning this blog into yet another place where strangers on the Internets tell each other they’re wrong, I am curious: Has having kids or not having kids changed your friendships? For better or worse? Am I completely naive to think we will be fine? Wait. Don’t answer that.