Care and Feeding

I’m Lonely and Friendless Since Becoming a Parent

A father looks sad and lonely.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by airdone/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband and I are in a bit of a pickle. We love the city we live in and, pre-pandemic, had a lively network of other folks our age with whom we got together at least once a week. Cue COVID and our bubble basically shrank to us … and our two children, both born during the pandemic. This means that effectively, we have 200 percent more children than we did when we were last in “normal” society with our friends and neighbors. We’ve had a really, really hard time reestablishing social connections now that we have kids in the mix. Many of our old friends still want to “hang out” but when they come over, my husband and I are kept busy by our two kids and every sentence is interrupted. There is very little meaningful conversation or connection happening.

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We’ve gotten an occasional babysitter, but we’re still COVID-wary and we don’t have a ton of disposable income to get child care. We are both incredibly lonely, and we know our old friends are getting together for adult time without us. I understand why they don’t want to include kids, but it still stings. We haven’t gotten involved in parenting groups because we are still freaked out by the germs at day care so we aren’t meeting fellow parents via that avenue.

We feel like we’re caught between a rock and a hard place. We don’t quite fit in with our old friends anymore, but we don’t know how to make new ones. I find myself sometimes feeling resentful of my kids (I know that’s awful). So, two questions: 1) How can we reestablish friendships with old friends who don’t want kids around? 2) How do we make new kid-friendly friends without institutions like day care to bring us together?

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—Friendless Father

Dear Friendless,

First off, don’t feel bad for harboring some resentment toward your kids. I think every parent has gone through that at some point, and they’re lying if they say otherwise. I understand that you’re lonely; however, you signed up for this when you brought these tiny humans into the world, and they are your priority now. The trips to the local bar are going to be few and far between.

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I became a dad before some of my friends did, and many of them still expected me to play poker and drink brown liquor with them on random Tuesday nights. Although I missed those nights immensely, I knew that being a dad was the most important thing in my life, so I declined. On the flip side, it didn’t mean I couldn’t hang out with my friends—it just meant that “hanging out” would have to evolve as I did.

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They could come over to my house and watch a basketball game and drink beers while my girls ran around in the backyard, but it also meant they would have to put up with frequent interruptions from my kids. Some of them were cool with it and stuck around; others weren’t, and we eventually drifted apart. It’s a great litmus test to determine who’s a ride-or-die friend.

Keep in mind, you can also split responsibilities with your husband, so you can go out with your friends while they stay home with the kids and vice versa. As for making new friends, you should try joining a parenting group on social media. Pretty much every town in America has a Facebook group for new parents looking to connect. It’s a safe and easy way to meet people from a distance, and once this COVID storm (hopefully) passes, you can meet for play dates and other in-person gatherings.

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Although your life is going to be different with kids, it doesn’t mean all of your personal enjoyment comes to an end. If that was the case, nobody would ever choose to become a parent.

• If you missed Monday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here.

• Discuss this column in the Slate Parenting Facebook group!

Dear Care and Feeding,

I live in Tennessee and we have our share of people here who are unwilling to take the vaccine. My entire family is vaccinated, including my two teenage daughters, but my oldest daughter’s best friend isn’t vaccinated. Her parents are also not vaccinated and will post all over social media that it’s “oppressive” to demand kids and adults wear masks to school and in public places. These are upper-middle-class white people who are claiming to be oppressed, which is laughable in its own right. Now I have to figure out how to navigate this with my daughter. I don’t want her hanging out with this girl and her family and potentially bringing the virus home to our immunocompromised 8-year-old son. How should I handle this?

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—Scared in Tennessee

Dear Scared,

I’ve been following the news in your state and have seen the embarrassingly childish behavior from some of your residents in school board meetings and protests in front of elementary schools. Yelling, screaming, and getting into physical altercations over a piece of cloth over one’s nose and mouth is the height of insanity—but to claim oppression because of it is a whole new level of crazy. It’s simply being done to keep others safe—but as the saying goes, hell hath no fury like some white people who are mildly inconvenienced.

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It could be a lot worse than a mild inconvenience if your immunocompromised son falls ill to this virus because your daughter’s friend and family refuse to take the vaccine. As we all should know by now, even if your daughter is vaccinated, she can still carry the virus without getting sick.

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This is a virus that demands to be taken seriously. Your daughter cannot socialize with her maskless, unvaccinated friend at your house, her friend’s, or anywhere indoors. If you feel she can’t properly distance herself from her friend outdoors, then you may need to limit that as well right now. Your daughter would never be able to live with herself if something happened to her little brother and neither would you.

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From this week’s letter, “My Child’s Friend’s Mom Is a Major Flake:” “I worry that this will lead to Zelda’s daughter being left out at school.”

Dear Care and Feeding,

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Today was my 13-year-old kid’s first day of school. She doesn’t like how little alone time she gets, so she enjoys walking home. She also has not been in school since December of 2020. Since she was full time in 2019 and early 2020, we have moved. We’re still in the same school and city, just in a different house. Her walk home is 2.5 miles. I am fine with her doing it, but I’m realizing the weather might be an issue. Today it was 93 degrees! She said she had to stop multiple times in the shade and have lots of water and a snack. Tomorrow and throughout next week it is predicted to potentially rain and thunderstorm. She still plans to walk! I don’t know if I should forbid her, or allow her to walk in dangerous conditions? There is a phone at school she could use if it turns out to be bad weather, and my husband is available to pick her up. Do you have any thoughts?

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—Worrywart Mom

Dear Worrywart Mom,

Who runs the show here—you or your 13-year-old daughter? I understand that teenagers want to spread their wings and find some sense of independence, but you still have to ensure it’s done in a safe environment. Roundtrip 2.5-mile walks in 90+ degree heat and inclement weather do not qualify as “safe” in anyone’s estimation. (Not to mention, there could be predators out there who will notice a young girl walking the same route by herself every day.)

Let me qualify that I’m viewing this from my lens as someone who lives in a big city, and there’s no chance I’d let either of my daughters walk alone that distance, no matter what the weather is. But even if you live somewhere where the biggest threat is runaway goats, it’s still problematic. It also becomes even less safe if the kid doesn’t have a reliable way to contact you in case of an emergency.

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I think a compromise can work here, and the first step would include buying your daughter a phone (if you’re opposed to that, a personal GPS tracking device could work too). There are plenty of apps available where you can track her whereabouts to ensure her safety. Also, on days with excessive heat or rain, you must insist that she gets a ride to and from school. You can agree on it in advance, or she can call you from the school phone. It’s that simple. Remember, you’re in charge, not her.

Dear Care and Feeding,

It’s a long time off, but my partner and I are planning on having kids together someday. My concern is that we both come from toxic households, and I come from an emotionally abusive one. I want to do the best I can by these hypothetical kids, and I am so scared of inadvertently hurting them, or making them resent one or both of us. People tell me I’m so much like she was when she was younger, and I’m scared of turning into my mother. Do you have any advice on ways to soothe those fears, or ways that I can try to limit or prevent harm?

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—Cycle of Abuse Survivor

Dear Cycle,

Because you’re concerned about being a good parent in the future, I believe you will be an excellent parent. However, as is the case with anyone who suffered from significant emotional trauma, you should seek the expertise of a mental health professional. I also think it would be wise for your partner to join you in therapy in order to work through your issues together in a safe space.

The one thing I’d add is if you’re going to wait for everything to be “perfect” in order to have kids, you’ll never have them. Sometimes it requires you to take a leap of faith and believe that you’ll do what’s best for your kiddos regardless of your past circumstances.

As long as you have a good therapist in your corner, a loving partner, and a network of supportive people who love and support you, I believe everything should be fine.

—Doyin

More Advice From Slate

Recently, my 7-year-old called out to my husband right before falling asleep. He said: “Daddy, can I tell you something I haven’t told anyone? The world is really hard, and sometimes I think it would be better off if I wasn’t in it.” What should we do?

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