My parent friend has a baby and can’t really hang with us — should we keep inviting her?

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By: Anathea UtleyCC BY 2.0
My apartment is not baby proof-able (think huge bookshelves with breakables on uneven flooring) and I have a friend whose child is starting to pull herself up and toddle around. There’s no space for a Pack ‘N Play or similar item. We see each other a lot outside of my apartment, but I feel bad that I’ve stopped inviting her over for meals or parties because I know getting a baby-sitter isn’t a financially feasible option for her. She has been having trouble finding parents of similarly-aged kids with whom she connects and no one else in our circle of friends is a parent and it has been bumming her out.

Is it kinder to invite her to stuff I know she can’t attend (to let her know she’d be welcome), or just to leave her off the guest list to not remind her of the stuff that she probably can’t do? — Allison

Allison has two ideas for how to handle the situation, but do you guys have other suggestions?

Comments on My parent friend has a baby and can’t really hang with us — should we keep inviting her?

  1. We have a baby just starting to crawl and lots of childfree friends who we still hang out with on the regular- and they haven’t changed their dangerous apartments either. In fact we just got back from an overnight visit to our friends on a rural farm where the farmhouse didn’t have drinkable water, no bath available , had two angry cats, electrical sockets in tricky places and was in the middle of renovations. 100% baby deathtrap

    The way we have done this is as follows-
    1) Our friends trust us to watch our own baby.
    The world is not childproof, I have to stop my little lady from killing herself in the grocery store, in the park, in the “not childproofed” parts of my own home, at the parent drop in centers for children of all ages, everywhere. So its no different at your apartment.

    2) Our friends want to hang out with our baby too.
    Yup, thats the big one. If you are irritated that its not like “it used to be” or you are going to be grossed out when they change a poopy diaper on the floor or smear their food on your table- are you really trying to stay friends with them? My friends get that I might zone out from sleep deprivation, can’t always follow the conversation, and sometimes have to leave early. It won’t always be this way, but its fun for now. And on the up side, they can watch her while I pee/eat.

    3) We limit most of our visits to shorter ones.
    If I walk over with baby in the stroller, leave her conked out for an hour while we sip tea and catch up- amazing! Visit done. Or you can walk with us back home. If I get there and she is awake, I stay as long as she will let me.

    4) We don’t fuck around with bedtime, unless we are over for a slumber party.
    Bedtime is serious stuff. S-E-R-I-O-U-S. And so not worth messing around with. So we politely decline if the party is going to mess with babies sleep time, or only show up for a cameo appearance and then take baby home for a nap. The other thing we have done is planned to stay the night and camped out on a living room floor/guest room and put little baby to bed at her proper time, leaving the evening for adults. These visits are amazing, but don’t always work out (ie: Us having to leave with a really upset baby). Other times our baby has been hanging in her jolly jumper at a party where all the adults around her are enjoying her as the entertainment.

    5) Our friends always hope we can come, even if they know we sometimes can’t.

    Anyways, that is how we get down. But then our childfree friends are the shit.

    • THANK YOU for mentioning #2. I’m child free but at this point a lot of my friends in the US have kids. Admittedly it’s different because usually I go back and email everyone to see where I can crash for that visit, and then make plans from there. But the truth is, my friends are my friends. I care about what’s going on with them. If that includes kids then YES I want to know about and get to know the kids too. So yes we can hang out at your house, and yes we’ll work around nap schedules or go to a kid friendly restaurant, and yes I’d love to stay at your place even if the kids might cry and yes I’ll check to see how I can best fit in with how your family works while I’m with you.

      As for the original poster, she seems to spend plenty of time with her friends out of her home. But if the shelves and stuff are the problem and not kid behaviors, then attach the shelves to the wall, put the most fragile stuff out of reach, and let your friends know what they’re dealing with when they come over, and be ok with them finding their own ways to deal with it. And don’t be afraid to occasionally step in if you think your stuff is in danger. Usually mom will get there first anyway. Isn’t it better to have 45 minutes with your friends before the kiddo gets antsy than nothing at all?

      It seems like parents face plenty of rejection, we child-free friends can suck it up and deal with a little too. Just because getting a babysitter doesn’t work for them right now doesn’t mean they don’t love us. We need to keep reaching out. And we can also suck it up and deal with a little uncertainty. Yes the kid may cry, but he may sleep most of the time too, or play happily and safely. Parents are constantly working to accommodate everyone’s needs… we child-free friends need to be willing to grow up a little bit too and take on some of the responsibility of communicating and accommodating if we want to maintain our friendships. I trust my friends to parent their kids, which may include opting out or leaving early if need be, and ultimately my friendships are more important to me than the chance that something might go wrong or the kid might be cranky one time. The baby and toddler years are short, friendships shouldn’t be.

      • Oh, and, it helps parents a lot to know what their kids CAN touch. So have some ideas ahead of time of some things you can offer. Plastic, lightweight metal, and wooden kitchen items are good, like spoons, bowls, tupperware. I loved opening and closing my mom’s steamer when I was little. A half-full water bottle is mesmerizing, and a tupperware with dried beans in it makes a good rattle. My partner’s toddler brother once spent an hour putting dried black beans through the holes of a plastic grater. Tennis balls, pillows, blankets… Having safe items available will help avoid constant “no”s and temper tantrums, and let your friends spend more time talking to you while kiddo explores the fascinating new items.

  2. I love when people make specific plans, extra-love them when they’re made in advance, and I love when they are understanding that some kids are more unpredictable than others. Sometimes he’ll sit nicely with a coloring book, sometimes we’ll have to cut the visit short because he slept poorly the night before. When people understand it always isn’t as simple as, “Sure, we’ll be there,” it’s wonderful.

    Some friends of ours have a “kids are like pets” mentality. Ask before you bring it, don’t bring it if it won’t sit still, and keep it under control cause GOD, we don’t have these things FOR A REASON. That vibe is super clear, and kind of understandable, and even if I don’t judge them for it, I can’t afford to put much time into friendships where that’s the case, cause these kids aren’t going anywhere.

    Even if your house is unsafe, there are measures you can take to make it safer *if you are so inclined.* Tethering kits are cheap and easy to install to keep the shelves upright, for example, and some plastic outlet plugs that you keep handy for when someone small is coming over, speak volumes to the parents/caretakers. You can snag a laundry basket or cardboard box and toss some safe household objects in for the kiddo to explore… a soda bottle with popcorn kernels in it, a whisk, and an empty squirt bottle (sounds, funny shapes and moving parts) and you’re in business. Above all, getting down on the kiddo’s level to explore the space with them, and teach them the “right” way to interact with things is the best option, even if you have to sacrifice some visit-time to do it. That’s how they learn to do it, after all, and that’s how they’ll learn to be safe in your home while mom/dad visits. I love when my friends treat my son like a guest to be included and introduced to their home and their friends, instead of an added factor.

  3. When I hear that the ‘place isn’t childproof’, I automatically assume that it means I will need to watch my child as they explore not that they can’t come. I think it will need to be specified which one it is when an invite is made.

  4. So many good suggestions–and it really saddens me to hear of the moms who have felt left out or forgotten because their friends stopped inviting them to things after they had a baby. I’ve been on both sides of this issue… a friend of mine had a baby and retreated from our entire circle of friends, simultaneously implying we were guilty of leaving her out (there were also a lot of other issues though, such as a terrible relationship with the baby’s father, choosing to defend him and overlook all of the problems even after complaining about him to us, etc.) I think she found it was easier to tell herself we didn’t understand and cut ties than face the reality of the choices she’d made and how unhappy she had become. We could only reach out so much before it was clear our invitations weren’t welcome. In this case, sadly, it seems as if this was just the time our friendship had come to a close. We’re all still on good terms but certainly not real friends anymore.

    On the other hand, a few years after all of this happened and I had a baby myself, we all worried what that might mean for our very close friendships. I’m happy to say that even though my social life was no doubt affected, it wasn’t eradicated because I’ve made the effort to be flexible with my baby (now toddler) and my friends all made efforts to be flexible with what we all did together. Sometimes I’d bring my daughter with me, if it was appropriate (book night with wine at a friends’ house=appropriate. Live band at the bar=inappropriate 🙂 or sometimes I’d have family or other friends watch her for me. It’s harder now that she’s so much more mobile and independent, but taking turns with my husband (if that’s an option for her) about being able to go out helps, and asking friends and family to watch her also helps. I’m always careful not to ask for too much (don’t always ask the same person to babysit, or too often) but found that often times people fight over who gets to watch her because everyone loves the time they get to spend with her alone. I always remember that it is still a favor though, and as thanks I bring a bottle of wine or order their choice of takeout for anyone who is watching her during dinner time.

    Bottom line is, you can find a balance between friends and kids if everyone puts in just a bit of extra effort and thoughtfulness. Communication is key so be honest about your concerns and listen to your friend’s concerns too, so you can come up with solutions that’ll work for everyone.

  5. best advice my mom ever gave me… “don’t say no for someone else” not inviting her is saying no. it always feels good to be asked, even if the person knows you may have to say no. it feels a lot better to say “no but thank you” than it does to just feel rejected.

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