Dear Parents Who Keep Writing Open Letters to Non-Parents
I’m going to try really hard to write this without ranting, but if it comes out as a rant, please know that while we love you, we non-parents are tired of being passive-aggressively ranted at by our friends.
Wow. Even writing that makes me feel witchy… but it’s how I feel. And how some other people feel. So please just listen for a minute or two.
In recent months, I’ve seen a lot of posts in which mothers write long, detailed explanations about why their friendships have changed, begging their friends to be patient with them, so here’s my attempt to beg for the same grace:
We get that we “don’t get it.”
Not being a parent, I have no first-hand knowledge of what it is like to have your life turned inside out the way it happened when you had your bouncing little poop machine. I don’t have any experience with the excitement and fear and billions of emotions piled on top of exhaustion that happens when you’re a parent. What I don’t need is to be told over and over again that because I haven’t experienced it, I lack the ability to be supportive.
Because we want to be supportive.
I will do my best to listen as much as I can when you need someone to recognize and validate those opinions – even if it’s the 859th time you’re telling me about it this week. I mean it when I say that I will babysit if you need it, or make you dinner on a night when you’re too exhausted to turn the oven on for a frozen pizza, or whatever. When I offer support that is never/rarely taken, it feels like outright rejection and, as awful as it sounds, like you like being a martyr. I doubt that that’s your reason, but it sounds like this: “I am overwhelmed!” / “Here, let me help.” / “No, I don’t want help. I’m so overwhelmed!” *sigh*
Barring the possibility that you are a terrible parent and are raising hellions, we like your kids, and we understand that they are kids.
I like seeing pictures of them, hearing about funny or cute things, buying them presents, getting to see them grow up, discovering their personalities, and good-naturedly blaming all their faults on the other parent. I also understand that kids are going to be loud, selfish, puking monsters sometimes (kids really are just like little drunk people). I expect that there will be a Transformer behind the toilet and Cheerios in the couch cushions, and we don’t think that you or your children are horrible people for it. Shoot, sometimes we non-parents have Transformers behind the toilet. Please stop feeling like you need to justify a “lived-in” house and non-Stepford children. If you had perfect little angels, we’d assume they’re cyborgs anyways.
We worry about you.
Are you getting enough sleep (of course not)? Is your marriage weathering the trials of parenthood? Are you taking time to take care of yourself at all? Are you happy? You are someone I care about, and to see you struggle is hard. I don’t begrudge the little buggers, but I still love YOU and want YOU to be well.
Our feelings about our friendship are as valid as yours.
This is where I have the hardest time with the open letters that I read. Often, the non-parent is passive-aggressively told that we’re selfish bastards for missing our friends, that we need to shut up about missing you, that our attempts to work with and around your schedule/life are done because we’re selfish brats who don’t get that you’re tired, and we need to just stop pressuring you and wait ten years until the kids are older and life is easier and you can find the time to be our friends again. With all the love in my heart, and knowing that some people will get upset about it: that’s a crock of bullshit. As a sociologist, an introvert, and an aunt, I promise you that IT NEVER GETS EASIER, IT JUST CHANGES. My sister has four children and the oldest is 16. If, when Poke was born, had she said “hold on, I don’t have time to be your sister, wait until I’m less busy,” I would not have any kind of relationship with her now or for the next 14 years, until her youngest will be in college. Are you really asking me to not keep making an effort to be your friend for thirty years, until you are “ready?” Sorry, I can’t.
I get that your schedule is hard, complicated, and takes more flexibility on my part than it used to, but do you really, honestly, truly think that it doesn’t hurt like hell to be told over and over and over again that you don’t have time? When it feels like I’ve done everything I can to fit into what works for you – coming to your house instead of asking you to pack up the kids, taking a weird lunch hour at work so that I can drink Starbucks with you while you do your Target shopping, trying to keep mental records of whose kids nap/eat/play/go to school/have band concerts and dance recitals at what times and try to arrange my communication with you (in the method you prefer) accordingly – only to be told over and over that it just doesn’t work for you (not to mention the seeming supposition that your schedule is more important than my own commitments)?
These open letters continually beg for my compassion, patience, and understanding. I am trying. Really. I am. I continually remind myself that your life is more than just “yours” now, that if I want to remain your friend – and I DO – I need to check my ego at the door.
But it hurts to feel dumped.
It hurts to feel ignored.
It hurts to feel like a non-priority (I don’t expect to be first, or even in your top 10, but when I don’t even make the list, how am I supposed to feel?).
It hurts to be told that I don’t know what I’m talking about because I’ve never had a kid (that’s a whole other post that I’ll have to write when I’m in a happy place).
So please stop implying that my hurt is just because I’m a selfish witch, because it’s not.
Please don’t forget that we’re in this together.
While I may not be the one getting out of bed six times a night with a toddler who has nightmares every 90 minutes, I am in this with you, because you and your kids are part of my world. You’re part of my community, and I want to have a healthy, safe, happy community. When your kid is struggling in math, it matters to me because some day, that kid is going to have to be a well-rounded member of the adult world and I want her to succeed. When you are so tired that you can barely keep your eyeballs taped open, you’re not as safe of a driver, so I’d rather you call me and ask if I’d mind going doing the drive to Kroger.
Please don’t forget that I love you. And your kids.
And please, for the love of everything that is holy, stop writing and posting a thousand open letters and instead, come to me and tell me if I am doing something bogus, and just let me be your friend.