Is it post partum or pettiness?
April 14, 2018 9:01 PM   Subscribe

I’m tight with a couple I’ve known for years. Our families know each other. Lately, I feel she’s been distant, is it post-partum?

There are times when she can be catty or petty for something I’m not sure I said or did. I know if I disagree with her on something she definitely gets petty. I asked them how shes feeling (we talk through chat all the time) and her hubby said, shes just going through some post-partum and stress. So, I took it lightly and tried to ignore the fact she wasn’t engaging with any of my stuff on social media. She insisted shes stressed out too. Didn’t indicate if it had anything to do with me.

Things got better for awhile, until after my birthday celebration. They spent a lot of money on the dinner outing but I felt bad, so I paid for their child, whom they had to bring. They insisted they were good with money (the look on their faces though) but I knew it was way too much for their current financial situation. I wanted to help without making them feel like a charity case.

So, I feel this pulling once again that shes not expressing. And its coming in the form once more of not engaging with my posts but she’ll engage with others. Or not giving my posts in our private chats a response but she’ll give her hubby one. Not responding to my questions in private... that sorta thing.
If it’s post partum, how can I as a friend support her? Do I just simply back off and remove myself completely? Stop offering help, she doesn’t want? Cause I tried and she rebuffs.
posted by InterestedInKnowing to Human Relations (30 answers total)
 
Having a baby can be pretty exhausting. She might just need some space while she deals with this new human who requires a lot of attention.

The best way to support her might be to chill out and focus on other friendships and activities for a while.
posted by rpfields at 9:52 PM on April 14 [4 favorites]


This is not about you. Or, mostly not about you. Having a child is exhausting and there's a tremendous physical recovery as well as lack of sleep, hormonal swings, and stress. She's simply not able to engage with you the same way anymore. She may also be struggling with post-partum depression (don't mention this if she hasn't shared it). She needs to take care of herself and her baby first and any extra that she has is likely devoted to connecting with her husband. If she feels your undercurrent of demands for attention, she may just be backing off to get some needed space for herself. It's temporary. Give her time and space.

Don't try to press her into things like expensive birthday celebrations and don't ask her what you can do, instead coordinate with her husband. Can you drop off a meal for them? Or drop off a treat like baked goods or lovely fruit? If you don't cook, a gift certificate for take-out is a nice gesture. Just drop off something. No visit. No standing in the door for a chat. Ask her husband when you can drop something off and text him when you've dropped it at the doorstep. Don't ring the doorbell in case she or baby is sleeping. Write a quick note saying hi and then don't expect a big thank you.

A new baby is a huge and difficult adjustment. You'll find a new normal, but the old normal likely won't return for a long while if ever.
posted by quince at 9:58 PM on April 14 [8 favorites]


Have to say, if you insisted on paying the dinner bill for my child over my protests because you “knew it was too much” for my financial situation, I’d be pissed off at you too. More than pissed off. That’s extremely patronizing and you very likely humiliated them in front of whoever was at the dinner with you, if anyone, and even if they were the only ones there, it’s still super rude to tell someone that you know they can’t afford to feed their own kid so you have to do it for them.

It sounds like you don’t actually like her very much (describing her as “catty”? Yikes) and I’m guessing the feeling is mutual but she doesn’t want to have a big dramatic discussion about it. So yeah, I’d back off and leave her alone.
posted by holborne at 10:00 PM on April 14 [27 favorites]


Also, do they have two kids? Because if there’s only one, I'm assuming the kid isn’t a baby since he or she is old enough to eat a restaurant meal. In that case, it would be a bit odd for her to still be suffering from post-partum depression, no?
posted by holborne at 10:03 PM on April 14


They have a baby. They didn't expect the kid to be included in the bill. So he ended up costing just as much as the adults with alcohol he never had. It ended up being pricey and they didn't fight me on the kid but also wasn't expecting it to be a big bill. My brother went as far as to even suggest I throw them another $100 after the fact. As far as her behavior, she admits at times she's petty. Even alluded that I'm sure I talk to my SO about them, too. Which I really don't. I'll wonder constantly if I did something wrong but I don't judge her character as a person. I keep her name out of my mouth when it comes to people we know and try not to take it personally.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 10:47 PM on April 14


Hold on, are you saying that you split an expensive restaurant bill equally between you, them and their baby? I’m not surprised they weren’t expecting that! Who made that decision?

And actually I wouldn’t have paid, it’s ridiculous to charge a baby (no drinks, possibly no food or maybe sharing with Mum) the same as an adult. I’d be annoyed if you charged my four year old the same as an adult, but if you gave her baby a bill of over $100 for a meal and drinks that they hadn’t actually had, I would say that you were the one being ridiculously petty here.

If you then “magnanimously” stepped in and paid because “they clearly couldn’t afford it”, I’m not surprised she’s raging.

It’s also pretty patronising to attribute her completely reasonable annoyance about this to “being post-partum” - it’s like suggesting it’s her time of the month. If that has got back to her it’s likely to have pissed her off further.
posted by tinkletown at 12:11 AM on April 15 [34 favorites]


They didn't expect the baby to be included in the bill because a baby should in no way be included on a split bill! I would be annoyed too! It was extremely rude to include the kid. Alcohol is expensive and he didn't consome any, and probably consumed way less food (if any, depending on his age).

Whenever I go out with friends, little kids are never included in the split bill. Either everyone pays exactly what they ordered (couple 1 pays for their exact meals and their kid's meal, couple two pays for their own meals, etc.) or we, the couple without kids, propose splitting only between the adults (so in this example, split the bill four ways, excluding the kid because the kid only ate one thing off the kid menu anyway).

If she keeps rebuffing your help, I think you should back off. If you are constantly wondering if you did something wrong, it doesn't sound like a healthy friendship. Maybe it is time to let the friendship go.
posted by Blissful at 12:52 AM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Your friend isn't being catty or petty or post partum or bipolar or any other slur you'd like to throw at her. (Just an aside, that comment you made about not judging her as a person, well, all you've done here is judge. So there's that.)

Anyway, this woman is debating whether or not she still wants any contact at all with a friend she probably made a huge effort to see, for a big night, carting a very young baby out, which in itself is no easy feat (they'll probably have their sleep schedule thrown totally out of whack for). Only to get stung with a massive restaurant bill they never expected - an alcohol bill for a baby no less - are you freaking kidding me?! and then have the very person they made all this effort for throw it back in their face and act like it was this huge gesture to cover the charges they should never have had to pay in the first place.

At this point, given that she's no longer responding to you, I have grave doubts you even have this friend anymore but if you do, you owe her a big apology. Huge. If you're really constantly wondering if you've done something wrong here, it tells me you have very little self awareness at all and maybe you should turn your overly critical eye from your friend and focus a little more on yourself.
posted by Jubey at 1:15 AM on April 15 [9 favorites]


OP, can you please confirm whether the bill was split as if the baby was a full adult person?

It seems utterly bizarre to be charging a baby a share of the alcohol which s/he cannot legally consume in public?!? So I can only assume that this was not actually the case.
posted by rubbish bin night at 1:43 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


The OP confirms that this was the case in their follow up.
posted by Jubey at 1:54 AM on April 15


Maybe it was a prix fixe beer-course pairing and the restaurant refused to let the baby join for free. That's the only alternate interpretation I've got.
posted by naju at 3:32 AM on April 15 [6 favorites]


If the baby is old enough to be eating real food, and enough of it to have their own meal, then I doubt this is post-partum depression.
posted by amro at 4:00 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I assumed it was a "pay by the person" buffet or prix fixe situation. "They didn't expect the kid to be included in the bill. So he ended up costing just as much as the adults with alcohol he never had." I think the bolded parts would be worded differently if it was just that the baby influenced the division of the bill. It sounds like the baby led to additional costs added to the bill by the restaurant.
posted by salvia at 4:33 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Wow, there seems to be a derail into the whole restaurant thing and how terrible you are for wanting to pay and make a situation right. I'm going against the majority and say you shouldn't feel bad for wanting to be generous with your friends. When did this become a crime? Something came up that wasn't expected, you felt bad, you tried to make it right. If you hadn't offered and they were stuck with the price of the baby, you'd be the bad guy too, so it really is a lose/lose situation. I think of the two choices - offering to pay or making her pay, you erred on the side of kindess.

And its coming in the form once more of not engaging with my posts but she’ll engage with others. Or not giving my posts in our private chats a response but she’ll give her hubby one. Not responding to my questions in private... that sorta thing.

This is textbook passive aggressive behavior. Give her some space; people's lives change in general after babies, so don't take it too personally. You say her behavior merited a comment from her husband, so yeah, something is up with her. If she is the kind of friend that will ignore your messages on social media because you made one faux pas with regard to money (and trying to help), then I'd back off. Friendships should be stronger than this and you should be able to talk about things and work things out. Give her some space, but be prepared to move her from friend to acquaintance. It happens.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:32 AM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Nthing everyone else - that look on their faces was purely “who the hell charges a BABY for drinks.” If your reaction wasn’t similarly who-the-hell combined with “how unfair, I’m sorry they did that, of COURSE I’ll pay the extra charge, don’t worry and omg this restaurant sucks for doing that” then I’d be frosty about that too. Since your tone seems pretty blasé about the restaurant trying to make an infant pay, I’m guessing that came across in the moment too.

Taking care of a baby adds extra layers of logistics and planning and anticipating needs to everything, and new parents often get upset about friends without children expecting them to have pre-kid schedules and pre-kid levels of flexibility. Every parent has their stories about people being insensitive to that, but “the restaurant charged my kid for alcohol” easily goes in the hall of fame, and depending on your actions leading up to and following the incident, you might be in there too.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:34 AM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Not the baby, the child. It was a prix fixe menu and many people were in the party. The bill was split by a large gathering. The child ate what everyone else ate. But was unfornately counted as a head. This isn't about a party. Its an example of possibly something that contributes to a pattern. Cause this isn't new. Its been a bit more pronounced since the baby.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 5:37 AM on April 15


I have to say your whole post comes off as kind of self-centered.

You mention your friend's postpartum (depression? anxiety?) in passing as an explanation for not responding to your social media posts enough (!). There is barely any mention of the creature that has likely turned their lives upside down - the baby - apart from as an unwanted and expensive addition to a birthday dinner. (It sounds from what you say that this was a private arrangement where the restaurant served a prix-fixe to a group - in which case they had no business charging the child / baby (how old exactly are we talking about here?) for alcohol and really even a full food bill seems nuts.

There's talk of her responding to your social networking posts and attending your birthday celebration. What efforts have you made to be part of her new life? Do you know what the kid is eating these days? How is he gaining weight? What new skills does he have? Have you been to play with the child a few times?
posted by peacheater at 5:53 AM on April 15 [11 favorites]


I'm still really confused. "Post-partum" is an adjective, not a noun. Do you mean post-partum depression? And they have two kids, one older and one new baby? But you mention that she was like this before the new baby, so, maybe she's just like this or maybe she had ongoing mental health issues. It's impossible to know without crossing privacy boundaries. You're not obligated to spend time with someone whose company you don't enjoy or who doesn't reciprocate friendship, no matter what the reasons. But take some time to consider what life is like with a newborn (if that is indeed what they've got--your post is unclear) because you come off as being pretty ignorant of what all that entails.

(Charging a kid full ride for a prix fixe with alcohol is bananas though.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:59 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]


I’m so confused by this post. Your friend has a child and a newborn? So maybe she’s just tired and busy and it has nothing to do with you and it’s not post-partum depression?
posted by amro at 6:03 AM on April 15 [7 favorites]


It sounds to me like you are pretty much fed up with this friendship and wondering if it's OK to be fed up and/or to act on it. If the things that are going wrong have to do with her being a new parent, you feel like it's unfair to break up. That sort of thing? But you don't really need any more information. Things are sort of not working out and she is distancing herself from you right now anyway, so giving her space seems like the obvious thing to do for both of you. If your families are all friends, you will come back together at some point and maybe things will be better.

About the party, it sounds to me like a situation where they put themselves out a bit to celebrate your birthday, coming for a big night out when they had a baby at home. Childcare was maybe an issue and maybe money was an issue and it could be that your offer to pay came across as underestimating the effort they made, even an attempt to cancel it out. That would be complicated reasoning but it happens. If you think there was a misunderstanding on that level, you could let her know how much you appreciated her coming, but don't do it in a way that puts pressure on her.
posted by BibiRose at 6:12 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Seems like if you stop monitoring her social media behavior, this problem mostly goes away.
posted by ewok_academy at 6:49 AM on April 15 [15 favorites]


Yeah, not getting into all of the rest of it, but your strong monitoring of and response to her social media activity seems off to me.

And its coming in the form once more of not engaging with my posts but she’ll engage with others. Or not giving my posts in our private chats a response but she’ll give her hubby one. Not responding to my questions in private... that sorta thing.

Well, politely, she is married to her husband; he gets priority in her social media responses. I will also say that since I became a parent, I have used social media as a way to avoid having to repeat the same news/anecdotes about my kid to the 15+ relatives in my and my husband's immediate families, even while having far less capacity to chat with my friends via their accounts. She may be doing something similar -- so you may feel like she is directing her social media energies everywhere but you, and to an extent it could be true, but a lot of that activity may be to assuage her social circles from even more demanding forms and levels of contact.
posted by LadyInWaiting at 7:10 AM on April 15 [7 favorites]


Man you are marking as Best Answer the few comments that are sympathetic to your judgement of this lady, even though they are clearly the minority in this thread. If you don’t want to be friends with her that is 100% fine and your call. But from what you’ve written you don’t care for her very much, and consequently you haven’t been a good friend. It’s transparent to be all “who me?” when the onus is not on her. I think this attitude is crystal clear in real life and she picks up on it. Let her go.
posted by pintapicasso at 8:02 AM on April 15 [28 favorites]


I think the best way you can help is by just not making a federal case out of small things. So what if she got annoyed by something and engaged less with you on social media or chat for a bit. That does seem petty, but sometimes people don't handle things at their best when they're depressed, stressed, sleep deprived, etc. You have the choice of just having patience and letting things blow over, trying to clear the air ("sorry if that was more than you wanted to spend or if it came across wrong when I offered to pay"), asking if something's wrong (is she actually intentionally avoiding your posts? I've certainly imagined something like that before), or escalating the hostility. Seems like you want to choose that last option. You don't seem to really care if she's suffering from post partum depression or stressed, or to even know what that actually means for her. What is going on in her life? It's fine if you don't want to be friends anymore, but what you wrote here doesn't make it sound like you put forth the best possible effort to be understanding or give her space to recover during a challenging time. You're always free to move on from a friendship, but in this case you asked our opinion, so that's mine.
posted by salvia at 8:44 AM on April 15 [3 favorites]


I don't think you sound self-centered, and while the "post partum" description is odd, it sounds like something you got directly from her husband?

It seems as if she has been engaging in passive-aggressive behavior when irritated with you for some time, and definitely pre-new baby. I used to have friendships like this, and frankly I just had to move on from them because it was too stressful and I felt like I was always walking on eggshells. If that sounds familiar, my advice is to move on from this friendship.
posted by lalex at 9:45 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Okay, it sounded like they had one kid (the new baby) and that was who they brought, not that they had two kids and brought the older one, who ate a meal. Though I think at this point hammering out the details isn’t going to add more clarity; the point is you’re not sure you want to continue this friendship, and that’s fine - you’re under no obligation to be friends with her.

But you’re framing this as something being up with her - whether she’s petty and a bad friend or whether she’s just going through stress - and it might be more useful to consider whether you might be contributing something to the strain, too.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:09 AM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Sorry but I don't think she likes you that much but doesn't want to come out and say it. Maybe she thinks this will cause a scene. It sounds like she is giving you the slow fade. I think this because (I'm not proud of this) the way she is acting sounds exactly like me when I want to stop being friends with someone but don't know how to go about doing it.
posted by thereader at 12:58 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


The thing that I don't get is that you're acting like you don't have a clue why your friend is ignoring you on chat and won't respond at all, but then you mention the restaurant debacle straight after (whilst trying to make yourself out like you still don't get what the big deal is.) So obviously you do, or you wouldn't even have mentioned it. You know she's upset. You know why, and you know what your part in it was.

Now if you really don't like your friend at all (and it's clear to everyone here that you don't like her at all) then just let it go. The fact that she's frozen you out says that she definitely doesn't want anything to do with you right now. But if you do want to resurrect the relationship, the effort is going to have to come from you. You can keep marking best answers that agree with you, but you're the one who will lose the friendship, not us.
posted by Jubey at 6:23 PM on April 15 [6 favorites]


[InterestedInKnowing, please take what answers are useful and ignore what isn't. Scolding people for trying to help is not how we do it here. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:11 PM on April 15


I've been hesitating to answer this question, because I have 3.5 month old baby and postpartum anxiety and it is affecting some of my friendships in ways that sound similar to what's up with your friend and I'm probably projecting and feeling touchy as all hell about whether this is how my friends are thinking about me. That said, based on your (deleted) update, it sounds like you are being way more supportive and in-touch than the friends I'm having issues with right now.

Personally, yeah there are friendships right now where my partner replies to the group texts and I don't, because I am tapped out and I am frustrated and I know I will say stuff that will provoke reactions that I don't have the bandwidth to handle right now. I haven't slept through the night for 8 months running. My body hurts. All my emotional energy goes to the kid and my partner and the hormonal rollercoaster I'm still on. It's downright impossible to explain to friends who haven't been through it — hell, my partner doesn't get it and he lives here!

Is it okay for you to feel frustrated? Sure. I was super frustrated when my friends had kids and disappeared on me, it felt bad and it felt personal (now I'm thinking it probably wasn't as personal as it felt). A new baby and postpartum depression/anxiety is a frustrating, destabilizing, relationship-shifting event. It's not fun for her or you. Maybe your friendship will recover to what it was previously, but probably it'll evolve into something different. Maybe it'll be a different thing you like, maybe it won't.

Right now it's super difficult for me to contribute to conversations that aren't about this vortex that's sunk my life — baby poop and milestones and my hair falling out and teething and nap schedules and breastfeeding — and I am so incredibly jealous of simple things like my friends posting a photo of them alone at a coffee shop wearing real clothes (vs nursing clothes) without a ticking time bomb counting down to the next feeding, such luxury! And given the current level of anxiety and sleep deprivation, I am really irritable and so easily slighted and yeah I'm probably petty AF. Small things cut me deeply and I have no bandwidth or time to get it out of my system so I can be gracious about it.

I don't know if any of this is what your friend's side of this looks like. If it is, I don't know what you'd like to do about that. I know I would LOVE for my friends to ask how I am and not ask me to do anything — ANYthing, no expectations that I invest more in the friendship right now or anything! just reassure me that y'all still love me and will be there when I resurface and they understand if I don't check messages for 2 days — because my cup is empty and constantly being drained. And she might not know what she needs from you either, coming up with options like that is really hard sometimes. Maybe her husband has some ideas. Maybe if you can sit with the kids for even half an hour and let her shower or go outside by herself, that might go far because that is how down in the depths it can get. And I only have one!!

My therapist keeps telling me to go with the flow and let friendships shift right now and that it's really common for that to happen after a new baby. Maybe true here too?
posted by sadmadglad at 7:25 AM on April 16 [9 favorites]


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