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Dear Care and Feeding,
I have a group of friends from college that I get together with annually. We now live all over the country, so we pick a new location each year and rent a house for the weekend. We’re in our mid-30s, and I have two very young kids (and by all indications from our friends, I’ll be the only one to choose to have kids). Half of this group is also single, FWIW.
In planning this year’s vacation, I reached out to find out more details about the plan in order to figure out if my family should get our own rental. I received back a pretty shocking response, where my friend basically admitted that “no one likes to plan in advance,” and “this is our vacation and we get to be selfish and we don’t want to have to think about nap schedules.” I certainly never asked them to consider that and really thought we could have a happy medium here (I mean, we’re willing to fly with our two babies to see these friends!). None of these people are crazy partiers, and our vacations usually have been pretty random adventures with a lot of downtime, but nothing that couldn’t be planned in advance or would be prevented by having kids. My husband and I don’t have family to leave the kids with.
Is this basically my friend group trying to say they don’t want kids there? Should we cool it and just accept that our friends-who-don’t-want-kids also don’t want my kids? I am a little heartbroken at the idea that they’re all ready to break up our friendship when usually it’s the person with the family who doesn’t have the time/money/energy. What kind of friendship is this?
—Not Ready to Move On!
Sounds like your friends have a problem with the whole you-being-a-parent situation, and whether that’s fair, it’s true. It is not uncommon, in my experience, for people without children to sometimes develop antipathy toward people with children, often seeing our obsession with baby’s naptime, temperature, bottle feedings, sling technique, teething decisions, and myriad other minutiae as evidence of an obsession with self. And to be honest, I get this. I mean, I get pretty annoyed with parents, and I am one!
That said, the response you got was shitty and unnecessary. It doesn’t sound like you were asking for everyone to plan around your nap schedules; you were simply trying to figure out if you would need to rent a separate place (obviously you would), and your friend’s reply suggests to me a larger buildup of resentment. Can you remain friends with people who are offended by the mere fact of your parenting? This is an answer that only you know. I probably could not. I have a certain amount of nostalgia, warmth, and love for my college friends, but in order for current relationships to work in my life, they need to … well … work in my life. They need to be able to encompass who I am today, which is by necessity somewhat different from who I was in college.
Were I in your position, I would start by asking directly if there’s some stuff that people need to get off of their chests. Good friendships should be able to weather a difficult talk or two. And it may be that the person who responded feels a certain way, but not everyone feels the same. Secondly, I would either consider coming alone or bailing on the event altogether. You definitely don’t want to be trudging through a so-called “vacation” with two very young kids and a gaggle of resentful childless people making snide comments in the background—that sounds like my very definition of hell. And in the larger sense, it’s worth considering if it is time for you to move on from these people altogether. At least for now. Friendships are good while they last, but they don’t always last forever. There is no more sense in clinging to a past that doesn’t work than there is in forcing your kid to wear clothes they’ve outgrown. It is your life, and life changes. You get to find new things and people that fit you better.