Friendship in middle-age: WTF?
June 28, 2018 12:00 AM   Subscribe

I'm having more and more trouble navigating friendships and related expectations in middle-age.

I'm 44, male, married; my wife and I don't have children. Virtually all of my friends have at least one child. Since my peer group started having kids about 10 years ago I have gone to great lengths and effort to keep friendships going and stay in touch, but over time I have come to be bothered by the fact that, with two exceptions, I am *always* the only person reaching out. Last year I tried an experiment and just stopped texting and emailing a lot of people, to see if any of them would eventually contact me, and...nothing. Nobody (aside from the two aforementioned exceptions) got in touch with me in any way, shape or form until I broke down and contacted them. I'm not on social media, so it seemed as though I basically ceased to exist for these people, many of whom I've known for 20+ years.

The other issue is that even if I do manage to arrange a meetup, as often as not at least one person cancels (which, fine, life happens) and the rest take that as a signal that it's okay for them to cancel too. So the end result is the same; I feel taken for granted/unwanted and I don't see anyone.

I guess my questions boil down to; am I being unreasonable? Do I have unrealistic expectations? Is it because my wife and I don't have kids, which cuts us out of the playdate/sports/organized activities thing which brings people together? Is it because I'm not on social media? Any/all of the above?

What I don't expect: to be able to text people on Friday afternoon and have them be available to meet up that night like we're 23, or for them to prioritize me over their families.

What I don't think is unreasonable: the occasional unsolicited text acknowledging my existence, making an effort to see each other once or twice a year (most of us live in the same large city).

I did have a long talk about these issues with one of the friends in question recently, and while he was sympathetic he was also somewhat dismissive; "People are busy, you don't know what's going on with their lives, things will be different when the kids are older, etc.." I know people are busy, I know we've all got shit - good and bad - going on, I know people drifting apart is part of getting older...but can I really consider people who make absolutely no effort to keep in touch with me friends at all? It's really depressing. I've recently started making efforts to meet new people, but as they say...the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (59 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
but can I really consider people who make absolutely no effort to keep in touch with me friends at all?
Yes, you can. Maybe we have different standards / expectations / friends, but I certainly consider those people still to be my friends. I don't see them anywhere near as often as I did 15-20 years ago, but when we meet up, we're right back on it - we pick back up exactly where we left off, even if it was a year or more since we last met. Really, if I got weird about people not texting me in between times, I wouldn't have many friends left.

For better or worse, this is pretty much how it goes in your 40s, in my experience.

Would it be different if you had kids? Maybe, maybe not. You'd probably get a different, possibly overlapping kid-specific circle of friends that you did kid-specific stuff with. I'm not on social media either, so I have no clue whether that will fill your gap, but my guess is "no".

I agree with your friend - this is just how life is.
posted by rd45 at 12:55 AM on June 28, 2018 [14 favorites]

Speaking as a working parent with young kids: I barely have the bandwidth for keeping up with my extended family, let alone friends. I do use social media a lot for keeping in touch because that is all I have energy/time for.

I think it's hard if you're not in the parenting slog to really get how exhausting and all-consuming it can be. Not to say that it's not possible to maintain friendships during this time, but it's just way, way down the list for a lot of people when they have small child, spouse, household, and job responsibilities competing for their every waking (and often non-waking) moments. It's not that we don't want to hear from you, we do! But we're tapped out - really. So you may need to be the one reaching out, for a good while, and bear with us when we flake (because again, tapped out). It sucks, but there it is. Think of us as friends who are working at least two full-time jobs, because that's what we are.

The good news is that we hate it too, and most of us really want to keep in touch. So we love when you reach out. We want to still be friends once the kids are older. If you value these relationships, keep trying. It really won't last forever.
posted by Knicke at 1:32 AM on June 28, 2018 [34 favorites]

I'm a parent. I love lots of people. Currently my life is consumed with my kids and my interests and all of that happens on social media. I don't have the bandwidth to be 100% present for any single friend. But I can do small casual stuff, when it's low stakes. That you don't do social media signals to me how hard you are to connect with. I just wouldn't (and don't) have the head space to do the extra work to make stuff happen outside of group conversations in facebook messenger/groups or in the comment thread on a photo. It's not ideal, and it got difficult when I got a facebook ban (for calling out racism!) but as a parent with a life I seem to only be a passenger in at times, it's the best I can do.

Right now, I see people who won't do facebook, even with a plausible fake name, as too hard and, forgive me, a bit precious. I just can't do it. And when the kids are older and life is more my own, things might change. I hope they do. But for now, it's Facebook arranging or nothing for group hangs.

I will also say that the people I love most in the world, know I love them, and I know they love me. And we send our love vibes out to the universe and catch up and are fully present whenever we see each other. But when we're not in front of each other, we don't exist. It's just how portable busy people live.

Make a fake but plausible profile for facebook and start being in their lives that way. Start a group of "People Who Play With Anonymous" and create events and see what happens. I'm sorry we're all such deadshits. It's not really you, it's us. Be fake you on FakeBook.
posted by taff at 1:51 AM on June 28, 2018 [24 favorites]

As a concrete way toward a real solution for your concern, I have to second Taff's suggestion despite being vehemently anti-Facebook/social media myself. But it truly is probably the only tool available to perform a targeted strike against this disconnection from the friends you miss.

They are all on FB, you are not. In their rare moments of downtime, or while idling in the car outside the preschool, or sitting on the john, or whatever, they browse FB. They don't think, "Gee, with these 2-3 minutes I have available, which long-lost friend will I contact and try to rekindle a connection with?" That is just too hard. When you are overscheduled and tired and tapped out, you can only do what is easiest, and what is easiest is to engage on FB.

If you remove yourself from that arena, you are removing yourself from the place that would most likely lead to significant improvement in the problem you are addressing. So in this case, the burden of change seems to fall on you (even though that feels sucky). If you create a low-key FB presence (fake or not), and try to overcome your distaste for it enough to reap some benefits socially, maybe that will be a Win for you. If you hate it, then at least you tried; and you can see what else might work.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:10 AM on June 28, 2018 [11 favorites]

I am on the yes, your parent friends are really that tired, team. If you don't text them, they are busy for 16.5 hours a day, surf their phone for 30 minutes, feel guilty for a moment for not working out, and then fall asleep. It's hard to plan events for adult only time with young kids. It's possible some of these people have 0 to 5 min child hours a week to workout, watch tv, surf their phone, and poop alone. Getting a text from you may really brighten their day, even though they then convert their childless hours to sleeping instead of actually visiting you.
posted by Kalmya at 2:12 AM on June 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

I guess my questions boil down to; am I being unreasonable? Do I have unrealistic expectations? Is it because my wife and I don't have kids, which cuts us out of the playdate/sports/organized activities thing which brings people together? Is it because I'm not on social media? Any/all of the above?

No. Yes. Not necessarily. Kinda. Moot.

It's reasonable to experience hurt when you feel ignored or taken for granted. You were hurt because your expectations weren't being met. Fair enough. So if you change your expectations, you can change your perception and improve your friendships.

For example, as others say, join the circle of communication that your friends use. Don't think that just because you don't have kids, you can't join in the casual kid-friendly gatherings. Have you made friends with your friends' kids? Do you take a minute or ten to interact with the kids? As a kid-less person myself, I found that making friends with my friends' kids was an important part of sustaining friendships with folk over time. The bonus is, now, that I have young adult friends I've known forever, and I have deeper friendships with their parents who are now kid-free.

Give your be-kidded friends every benefit of the doubt, and then some. Create opportunities for socialising that don't place additional expectations on your parenting friends. I'd sometimes call a friend and offer to bring a big lasagne or something to feed everyone and all she had to do was make salad. Work out ways to be a friend to the family, not just one person.
posted by Thella at 2:28 AM on June 28, 2018 [17 favorites]

I agree that this is in huge part a social media thing. A while ago I found some emails between me and my friends from just pre-Facebook, and I was amazed how much time and effort we were putting into keeping in touch. These days I don’t do that kind of one to one emailing because I already know what people who want to keep in touch are up to because they put it online. And I admit, if one individual stopped posting on Facebook, I probably wouldn’t notice acutely enough that I’d go out of my way to contact them.

I’m single, no kids, and tbh the friends I see the most of are in the same position, so we can still go to the pub after work occasionally, or whatever. Friends with kids, I think if they don’t hear from me, they just assume I’m off doing exciting no-kids things rather than going out of their way to check I’m OK. For the bekiddled friends, my expectations are way down (drop into their place for a cuppa for half an hour or grab a hurried lunch on a work day) and no keeping count of who makes what effort. I virtually never try and arrange any kind of group meet-up involving lots of different people who are parents because that sounds crazily impossible. Have you seen how many birthday parties kids go to on weekends?!

So, yeah. It sucks a little, but it doesn’t have to suck totally. Meet them halfway by going on Facebook and focus your active socialising on people who have the same amount of free time as you, making some friends over a much wider span of ages helps - younger single folk and older people whose kids are grown.

For existing friendships with parents, do just enough to keep the embers of the friendship glowing, then when the kidlets don’t need attention every waking hour you can pick back up more thoroughly.
posted by penguin pie at 2:30 AM on June 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'll be something of a counterpoint.

I'm a similar age to you and don't have kids, many, but not all, of my friends do. I can think of only one friend who has truly dropped out of his friends' lives after kids and he is in a not entirely healthy relationship, which is not assisting things. The rest are busy but largely make time. I'm also not seeing the middle-aged drop off of childless friends.

I don't know why this is. I mean I put a hell of a lot of work in, but it sounds like so do you too. My demographic is arts industry/lefties/inner city people who are largely very socially oriented, maybe that's it?

Anyway, your experience is not universal.

But yeah, get on social media. I hate facebook too but you gotta meet people where they are at, no point cutting off your nose to spite your face(book).
posted by deadwax at 2:32 AM on June 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

It really depends. If your friends can’t do it, they can’t, and it’s going to have to be a “see you when I see you” sort of thing.

I have parent friends (?) I haven’t seen since the first kid came along. They’re more like theoretical friends at this point, though I do get the odd birthday message on Facebook, which is nice I guess. I have other friends I see more like 5-6 times a year, whether that means having a glass of wine at their place (easier for them, and I don’t mind accommodating) or seeing them (with kids in tow) at one or another house party (these start earlier than they used to, which is fine). Those parties are attended by about an even split of parents and non-parents, it may be that the large number of non-parents matters.

I was lamenting my theoretical friends with a newish friend. She apparently doesn’t have this problem, because most of her friends are child-free. I’ve recently met a few people who are similar - non-parents regularly hanging with other non-parents. One can see why, they have more in common - just as parents share more of their day-to-day concerns with other parents.

(I think there’s a general tendency to greater insularity that’s new to our generation. Not sure if that’s because of less leisure time being available now, or more child-centred parenting, or what, but I noticed, anecdotally, that people I know of my parents’ generation were and remain more socially engaged with their peer group, read something to that effect, too. I mean, the whys don’t matter, really - you’ve sort of got to take people on their terms. Old friends are irreplaceable - don’t let those ones go, for sure - but you *can* always make new friends, who are freer to meet. Get involved in the things you care about and have some parties.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:15 AM on June 28, 2018 [7 favorites]

I don’t mean to pile on, but I am someone who is friend-oriented enough that I switched careers because of it (so as to avoid needing to move to a strange city not of my own choosing) and I still found it hard to keep in touch with my friends once I had a kid. I can’t emphasize enough how right Stella is - the friends I still have in town are the ones who make it easy to socialize with a child. The other thing that I find helpful (I don’t know if other parents are the same) is establishing routine social engagements - if it becomes a habit, there is less overhead involved in making it happen, both in terms of reaching out and in planning around it. I was so grateful for the weekly movie nights at my house (to take advantage of bedtime) and brunches-with-kid that my local friends set up, because it was reliable adult time.

I will say, contra everyone else here, that I’m actually not on Facebook! The last time I switched jobs I felt I needed to lose the habit, and the breather from Trump angst was so refreshing that I never went back. I suppose that does make me precious but I just can’t concede that Mr. Zuckerberg is a social obligation.
posted by eirias at 3:34 AM on June 28, 2018 [17 favorites]

Another counterpoint:

I too had the same frustrations with friends, and I also talked to a couple of them about it. But they took my concerns seriously, and either a) made more of an effort to be responsive, or b) made sure I had a clearer understanding of why they were incommunicado rather than brushing me off with "this is just how life is". It wasn't a panacea (the flaking out still happens), but at least I am able to properly identify the problem (it's not "people take me for granted" or "they're being a jerk", it is "argh, it sucks that freelancing is such a tough thing for Sid").

One person was dismissive; maybe that was just that one guy. Maybe talk to one or two others and see what their reactions are.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:43 AM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Just want to say I'm in the exact same boat. 40's, married but childless, not on social media, felt the same way and did the same thing this year with the same result for both friends and family. 0 people reached out to me, even the childless ones. I don't have any answers, I just wanted to commiserate with you. I'm a lot more content to be alone than a lot of folks are, but it's still painful.
posted by heatvision at 3:52 AM on June 28, 2018 [19 favorites]

I can’t emphasize enough how right Thella is

Autocorrect! Sorry, Thella.
posted by eirias at 4:26 AM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

I know people are busy, I know we've all got shit - good and bad - going on,

I guess my questions boil down to; am I being unreasonable? Do I have unrealistic expectations?

I think some of your expectations are unrealistic, but not because you are somehow unreasonable. Having a kid is not like having a second job; it's just something else that really has to be experienced to be understood. It's very consuming. People are just busy, they have kids, maybe job issues, maybe aging parents, and so on. My bandwidth is full; and if I was to think of a relaxing social activity, it would not necessarily be a meetup.

Is it because I'm not on social media?

No I don't think so. You can reach out in other ways.

People are basically in two worlds here, the kid one, and the non-kid one. People I know without kids, who navigate this, they really like kids, they like being with kids, they like doing things with parents and kids that make the parents and kids live's easier. For instance, if they have a dinner party, you and kid are explicitly invited to a kid-friendly space. There is no eye-rolling at kids for failing to behave like adults, etc.

In my experience, it's on people without kids, to make time for the people with kids, rather than the other way round. It does take some effort though, and you do need to like and empathize with kids.

Is it because my wife and I don't have kids, which cuts us out of the playdate/sports/organized activities thing which brings people together?

You are not cut out! And there are plenty of opportunities to cut in with other folks who do other things!

but as they say...the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

Respectfully, this is not true. There's plenty of amazing people out there still to discover!
posted by carter at 4:35 AM on June 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

I wonder if this is somewhat unrelated to the having kids thing. I have a kid and I still feel like I have to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to meeting people. I have no trouble filling my house with dozens of people during a party and people always seem more than happy to meet up but I still feel I have to do the reaching out. I think that's just the dynamic that's been established in my friend group - they subconsciously expect that I'll be in touch. I try not to take it personally.
posted by peacheater at 4:37 AM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm in the same boat as you. There are a few old friends I work very hard to keep up, but a lot of people who had kids just exclusively socialized with other parents, even after their kids were older and they had free time.

The parents who will bring their kids over, or meetup w me at a park, are awesome, but they're few and far between.

I am working hard to meet new people who are either child free, or whose kids are completely grown up and out of the house. It's much harder to make friends in my 40s, it's not like I just meet someone with similar interests and we start hanging out, like it used to be. Joining group activities where I keep seeing the same people regularly over time seems to work better at this age.

I did begrudgingly sign up for FB about 5 years ago, and it does help (because I guess texting is so much harder than FB messaging for people?), but embracing social media did not help all that much.

Sorry I can't be more helpful, mostly I just wanted to tell you that you are not at all alone in what you are experiencing.
posted by ethical_caligula at 4:56 AM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Since my peer group started having kids about 10 years ago

My advice, as a parent of a kid who just graduated college and is almost launched into the world as a bona fide adult, please PLEASE don't take this inattention personally, and know that in a few years, you'll probably get your friends' attention back. I am SO grateful for a couple of people who knew me back BK (Before Kid), and tried to keep in touch despite my inability to give much back. But in the last few years, we've rekindled those relationships, and it's so, so nice.

I regret not working harder at these relationships, because I know my kid would have benefited by having these people in her life more as she was growing up, but damn. It's so, so hard.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:02 AM on June 28, 2018 [7 favorites]

I'm 42; I work full-time; I have a baby and a nearly-three year old. My husband also works full-time.

The friends that we see most often are people who have been able to come along for the ride of parenting with us. People who dropped by with food after the baby was born. People who now make plans with us to hang out at the uncool family friendly restaurant instead of the hip taverns we used to visit. People who will meet us at the playground after work, or invite us to their family cottage for a whole weekend. And, yes, people who do try to interact with our kids.

For people who treat my children as a mirror inconvenience, or who assume that I can always find a babysitter, I just don't have time. They make it hard, they try to get us to eat at fancy restaurants that aren't appropriate for small kids, and they ignore my children. All of that just kind of says that they're not interested in hanging out with me in this season of my life, as much as they might think that they do. I get that they want the old me back, but that time has passed.

The other thing is, the people who make an effort to text and invite me out do see me more often. I do have times that I'm available to just hang out one on one, or where I can just bring the baby who is pretty easy to bring along for the ride. But my days are so busy that I don't always have time to research and initiate new activities.
posted by ElisaOS at 5:03 AM on June 28, 2018 [15 favorites]

The number of text messages I've sent and received with my (relatively few, quite close friends) has gone up significantly since I left Facebook, BUT we all live far apart, so it's not like we're texting to hang out. It's more like: I send a photo of me with a puppy and they send a photo of their kids playing in the pool. And usually a few very short updates go back and forth along with that. It's cool! A lot of this happens, say, while they're at work or late at night. Very little of it happens on the weekends or in the evening, when they are spending time with their kids. I get it.

I do find it satisfying to swap these occasional photos. Hey, maybe it's something they've already posted on FB -- I couldn't say. But it's still cool. If you're looking to get more in-person time, others upthread have good suggestions. You may just have to take the lead. Your friends just don't have the bandwidth. My experience is that many of your friends with kids may desperately want to see friends and spend time without kids, but, man, is that time short! Like, once in many months. And even that requires a partner or babysitter or what have you. Not everyone can swing it.

Bottom line, the rules have now changed in your life. This part of my life was unexpected and hard to deal with when it arrived. It still is. I bet your friends with children were also unprepared for this aspect of their lives. The difference is that they don't have the time to sit around and reflect on it because they have kids occupying every thought and moment.

You could certainly try Facebook, because it might help in some ways. But it's not the one, true answer to what's going on here. Even with Facebook, you or many others could write a substantially similar question.
posted by veggieboy at 5:22 AM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Please don't feed the Death Star that is Facebook, for your own well-being.

The nature of things these days is to make relationships short-term and transactional. It gets worse as you get older; structuring society around work and the nuclear family has a lot to do with it. You haven't done anything wrong.

I've coped by getting involved in DSA and in recovery groups, and by letting relationships where I was doing all the work go by the board. Depending on your interests, try a local meetup group, book club, mountain biking, whatever interests you.

You may not come out of it with any new close friendships, which are in fact hard to come by these days, but you'll meet new people and learn new stuff, all of which is a great defense against cognitive decline as we age.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 5:35 AM on June 28, 2018 [10 favorites]

I consider this another way Facebook has ruined the world. OK, it’s not just Facebook, but like you I’m not on it. I’ve never been on it. That comes at a price though, and sometimes I think the price is too high. I’ve been “thinking about” getting on Facebook for years because I’m in a few clubs that only communicate that way. I haven’t quite been able to bring myself to do it though. I can spy on their pages without actually joining, and I do that.

My kids are grown, but when they were little, my friends were people who considered us a package deal. I was a single parent, so there was no way I could hang out without my kids because of both money and time. But after they were grown, I found at least some friends with kids weren’t interested in my suggestion that we all go to the park together. So doing things with the kids might work with some friends, but not all.

And some people just suck at friendship. Or they suck at friendship with me. For whatever reason, they don’t prioritize it. I would suggest trying to expand your social circle. Go to meet-ups. Join a club. This is advice you hear a lot - but that’s because it’s good.

I think also that friendship just works differently as you get older. And that can be painful. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. It’s hard.
posted by FencingGal at 6:09 AM on June 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

I have found that in one's thirties and forties, everyone is just so fucking busy all the time that it's super-hard to actually make time for social activities. Having kids definitely makes this worse.

Is it because my wife and I don't have kids, which cuts us out of the playdate/sports/organized activities thing which brings people together?

Maybe, a little... but mostly it's just that parents don't have a lot of free time and when they do, they're exhausted and just want to stay home and veg.

Is it because I'm not on social media?

Yes, I do think that being on social media makes staying in touch much easier. I have close friends that are on Facebook, and close friends that aren't, and I definitely feel like the ones that are there have stayed much closer than the ones that have to rely on texting.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:13 AM on June 28, 2018

I have spent a lot of time thinking about friendships and the role they play for me. This might be because I have never been in a long term relationship and so friendships are a major (if not the) source of support in my life.

Some people say that as you age, friendships become less important and you know, that's just life. But the thing is, that doesn't have to be the case!

I had a major health thing happen to me around this time last year, and it made me totally reconsider and reevaluate all the friendships in my life. I realized that I knew a lot of people who were lovely and kind and who I have great conversations with over tea or beer every few weeks, but who did not reach out and offer support when I needed it and were reluctant to give support even when I asked explicitly.

It was hard and painful. But I realized I needed to make space to cultivate friendships with people who prioritized friendships in the same way that I did. And yeah, as you get older, finding these people is more difficult. But the thing is, these people (people like me!) do exist. My closest friend has a long term partner, but she is also very intentional and committed to her friendships (and she is explicit and vocal about this and we have talked about it).

I think our cultural narrative says that once you get into a long term partnership and especially when you start having kids, friendships just fall lower down in the relationship hierarchy. So finding people who do prioritize friendships in the same way that you do is harder.

This is all to say I commiserate and it's hard, but older people who prioritize friendships do exist. I have no magic answer as to where to find these people (I met one of my close friends through a community organization and another through my church), but this all just to say that we are out there!
posted by twill at 6:19 AM on June 28, 2018 [7 favorites]

I think another clue in your post is "large city" because for me, one thing that sucks the lifeblood out of my social life is commuting...not just the time, but because the stress of having to leave work to get to pick up the kids on time, dealing with the whole traffic/transit thing, etc., leaves me wrung out for Things That Require Logistics...along with meals/nightmares/pyjamas/school/birthday parties/sports/art classes/playdates/etc. etc. that kids bring with them.

Which is to say...your friends may simply be burnt out on being thoughtful and organizing, because with kids there are these tiny people that cannot be left at the side of the road after soccer and who have homework (or diapers, or tantrums, or whatever stage it is) and the energy is going into them, and not thinking to get in touch with you. (Do we have lunch box snacks, gifts for Kayden's party this weekend? Someone just grew out of soccer cleats...someone else lost his raincoat and is going on a rain-or-shine hike in camp next juice...teacher gift...oh crap I have to pick Son2 up from art class in 15 minutes...)

Which does suck. It just does. For you and for them because they are pissing you off and probably can't even notice.

Then you add in that in my 40s, anyway, I have to exercise or else bad things happen in my body and I have to get more sleep than 5 years ago and that's where I am.

If you want commiseration though, I hear you. I have (former?) friends I know I have not been good with and I am sorry about it, I kid lost his cell phone on the bus yesterday and so I am sorting that out. And posting on AskMe, I dunno, what the heck me. I encourage you to go out and find better friends than me. Maybe that is about friends who don't have kids.

If you want to keep trying with your old friends, here are the things that make it easier for me to be better about showing up for them:

- they tell me they want to hear from me...mean it...and I hear them. Like it is so ok for someone to say "I miss texts from you." What's not cool is assuming this is a large social conspiracy on my part.

- the best socializing with me right now is meet me for a yoga class/book reading/other shared thing that has a defined start and end and (often) is healthy for the both of us, or come over for low-key hanging out after my kids are in bed. With kids, best planned get-together is a festival, beach, park, museum, or library. And my kids are decently aged and behaved! But still kids.

- make it ok to meet you for a short period of time in the midst of life. I almost typed out a typical schedule but it almost made me cry. If your friends' kids are in sports, one of the most amazing things you can do is come to a game or a practice with a cup of coffee for your friend. If they are younger, parktime is equivalent.

- recognize that what worked before doesn't work now. I used to love restaurants, like show up for soft launches, write about 'em. Right now, the idea of having to meet someone for a meal during my kids' homework/meal/bedtimes + the time I use to pack lunches/collect toilet paper rolls for the craft project at camp/etc. time is like, insanely stressful, plus it's pricey for me right now. So if your meetups have been the things you used to do, maybe that's the issue more than the you.

(this includes weekend nights because my kids have activities that start at 8 am Sat)
(and 9:30 am Sunday)
posted by warriorqueen at 6:38 AM on June 28, 2018 [13 favorites]

P.S. Thanks for this question, I just messaged some friends. :)
posted by warriorqueen at 6:42 AM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

I know this is a bit off topic, but local rec dept. sports is a great way to get exercise and start building an additional peer group. I’ve played badminton for the last 3 years in two towns and am in my 40s. I’ve made a bunch of new friends which has been really nice for giving me more social outlet. (As wel as good exercise).
posted by creiszhanson at 6:47 AM on June 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm exactly your age, a father of two teenagers. I deeply, deeply appreciate friends like you, who take on the hard work of constantly being the one to reach out to maintain relationships. Thank you for doing this. You come across as a good person and a loyal and kind friend.

I am looking forward to being where SuperSquirrel is, i.e., in a position to rekindle my "before kids" friendships once my kids have (hopefully!) been launched. To that end, though, I found this (presumably paraphrased) explanation from your friend interesting (my emphasis):

I did have a long talk about these issues with one of the friends in question recently, and while he was sympathetic he was also somewhat dismissive; "People are busy, you don't know what's going on with their lives, things will be different when the kids are older, etc.."

I sure hope the pace drops off soon, but I can tell you that I am every bit as busy with teenagers as I was when the kids were younger. Here in the U.S., that entails, for us, driving lessons, late nights with homework, changes in friendships, mental health issues, eating disorders, and concern about safety in schools. My wife and I have been very active in local and statewide political campaigns, in the hopes of electing competent and progressive politicians who can help make the world a better place for everyone, including children. It's truly enervating! Who knows if this will change when my kids are in college, but I'll admit to being surprised by how all-encompassing parenthood is at this life stage, in new and tiring ways. All of which is to suggest that your other friends in their early to mid 40s with, say, 8- and 10-year-old kids, may be in the "thick" of things for longer than you might think.

If I may just repeat myself, though... THANK YOU for being a loyal and hardworking friend. Know that there are those of us out there who really appreciate this kind of outreach and feel bad about not always being able to reciprocate in kind. I'd love to hear from a friend like you and I am sorry that this is causing you such (understandable) frustration and disappointment.
posted by cheapskatebay at 6:48 AM on June 28, 2018 [13 favorites]

OMG are you secretly me? Did I take an Ambien yesterday and write this?

I actually am on Facebook ... I use it a lot and enjoy connecting with people on there, especially people from all the previous places I've lived, and people who have moved elsewhere. I don't feel like I experience the negative aspects of FB like so many people talk about. But I do remain frustrated that most all of the people who I thought were my day-to-day good friends seem to be impossible to connect with.

I have tried similar "let them reach out first" tactics, only to realize that nobody really gives a damn whether I'm in their life or not. I mean, I'm sure they would come to my funeral and talk about how sad they are to lose me, but Heaven forbid anyone take the time to go out to dinner or have a drink after work. I usually end up breaking down and being the cruise director, planning something 6-8 weeks in advance, we all seem to have a good time, and then ... crickets ...

Couple of things that I'm hearing here reflect things I hear a lot, and I have to call shenanigans on them .. on the IDEAS not the people who posted them here, because I hear these same things from lots of people:

"I don't have the bandwidth to be 100% present for any single friend. But I can do small casual stuff, when it's low stakes. "

This is not the way a real friend thinks or behaves, at least not by my definition. If you can't be present for me and you only want to interact with me in a casual way, then you are not as good a friend as I thought you were.

"In my experience, it's on people without kids, to make time for the people with kids, rather than the other way round."

This is a one-sided dynamic that ignores the needs of the non-child friend. ... I am childless and grudgingly at peace with it at this point, after a lot of therapy. But part of my coping mechanism has been to be truthful about the idea that no, I'm actually not that interested in kid stuff. I don't want to watch Pixar movies and talk about Pokemon or go to a U12 soccer game. I can do it on occasion, but in return I'd like to have some adult conversation/activity occasionally -- compromise on both sides -- and that doesn't seem to happen.

"please PLEASE don't take this inattention personally, and know that in a few years, you'll probably get your friends' attention back."

How do you not take it personally when the people who used to be a vital part of your everyday life no longer spend time with you or connect with you emotionally? That's very personal! Frankly, if I have to start over at this point and make all new friends, I'm probably not going to be available "in a few years" when you're ready to gift me with your attention again. Why do you think you get to ignore me now and then have me back when you're ready? I wouldn't accept treatment like that in a romantic relationship, why would I let a friend do me like that?

I'm pretty sure this is all pissing into the wind, that there's nothing I can do about it because people basically suck, and that the best thing to do is just spend my resources on therapy and learning to like being alone, right? Don't get wound up about things you can't control. But FWIW, you are not alone in your feelings.
posted by mccxxiii at 6:50 AM on June 28, 2018 [47 favorites]

When you make these calculations, don't underestimate the impact of habit. If you've been maintaining the connection all these years, and then suddenly you drop it, you're not just asking them to make an effort, you're asking them to realize you've stopped making an effort and then make an effort. It seems like a small difference in writing, but in practice, it's huge. People don't keep a rigid social spreadsheet of contact in their brains, and they've gotten out of the habit of needing to reach out to you.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:55 AM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

You have to drastically lower your expectations of anyone who has kids when you don't. Having no expectations is key. There are some folks that will work with you to make contact, but sadly it doesn't sound like any of your former people are going to.

I don't feel like I can add much to the "you have to be on Facebook or you have no friends" argument because that is sadly absolutely true for a lot of people. However, there are occasionally SOME folks out there that are fine with communicating in other ways that are not Facebook. But again....not your former people.

I think this is a case of "need to find new friends." I'd say to start joining activities where people have to show up on a regular basis. That takes it offline and you're not just stuck having to use only one shitty method for making contact all the time.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:26 AM on June 28, 2018

I am one of the childless friends who goes out of my way to be available and flexible for friends with kids, and I love their kids, and I would rather sort of have my friends in my life than not at all, but it still really hurts my feelings sometimes that some of them have essentially backburnered me with a sort of “you know how it is, see you in twelve years” attitude. The reason this hurts my feelings isn’t even because I think those friends are being unreasonable, or intentionally hurtful, or selfish, or whatever. They are helping teach small blobs learn how to be people, and that is huuuuuuuge and I get that (as much as I ever can), but a thing that just exists can still hurt my feelings without there being someone to blame for doing something wrong, you know?

That said, I am also lucky because I have lots of friends with kids who have been very creative and flexible and generous with finding ways to keep me in their lives along with their kids. I have friends whose spouses will agree to take the kids for one night so my friend can hang out with me (not something I would ever request, but so kind). I have one friend who has very cleverly worked out which of my interests align perfectly with her toddler’s interests (honestly not hard) and so I get invited to outings that feature petting zoos or looking at dogs wearing silly costumes. I have friends who can’t hang out much, but who always answer texts with funny or silly things. (It also helps that most of my texts are pictures of animals from the internet, rather than invitations or attempts to have conversations, which have a much higher bar to entry, yes really, people are so tired so so tired.) I have a friend who had a part time nanny to help her get research done, but sometimes she would call me during her nanny time when she didn’t have to worry about interruptions, which was a precious and vital way to show me she cared about talking to me. I have friends who live across the country, but were on a vacation slightly closer to my state, and were willing to drive two hours to meet me halfway so we could spend an afternoon together, their toddler in tow, and the four of us had a lovely time at a country cider place.

I have friends who invite me to come over even if their house is messy and the kids are in bad moods, because they know I don’t care and won’t judge them for it, and our conversations are full of adult topics while the baby mumbles and occasionally squawks, and that is really excellent too.

I would say your feelings are valid, but your expectations sound a bit unreasonable. Hanging out with parents takes some flexibility on both sides (my friends who say they want to hang out but also don’t want me to come over unless their house is perfectly clean = okay goodbye forever probably?) in hanging out style. New parents AND friends without kids who only ever want to hang out the way they used to hang out pre-kids (going to bars, concerts, restaurants, anything that means dressing up, for hours at a time) are two halves of the never hanging out equation, in my experience.

If your friends associate your friendship style with “events” and “going out”, it might not even occur to them that you would be up for “do you want to hang out at Starbucks for forty-three minutes while the kid sleeps in a stroller”.

I also think there’s a gender component here— as a lady, people generally assume I’m comfortable with kids, want to be around babies, okay with kid stuff, and interested in going to an event where you pay ten dollars to pet a bunch of goats. People do not make these assumptions about men as readily, especially depending on your previous friendship contexts. If you are up for hanging out with kids around, even if it is to watch a World Cup game or wander through a museum, you might have to make that more explicit than women do. Parents get a lot of feedback that their kids are a bother or an inconvenience, so they might need to be told that you are even open to a multi-generational hang.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:27 AM on June 28, 2018 [28 favorites]

This is a thing that's happening across age and social groups in the US (no idea if true for rest of the world as well.)

It may be exacerbated by not being on social media, just because that makes you less visible to your friends; but it's not the cause. People on social media experience it too.

People just don't show up for stuff and don't go out. Nobody "knows" exactly why but it's not hard to guess: people can scratch the "interact with other people" itch easily at home in front of a screen, and cities getting more crowded makes transit more stressful and uncomfortable, plus it's getting more socially acceptable (or at least more common) to just flake, so here we are.

It sucks and if you look up "loneliness epidemic" you'll see a lot of discussion of it.

Anyway, you're not alone, and your friends aren't uniquely careless, it's par for the course.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:31 AM on June 28, 2018 [7 favorites]

Also childfree, but female and in my mid-50s now. I coped with this through a number of strategies, some of which may work for you:
-- I befriended people without kids or whose kids were grown, and I made them my primary go-to friend group; this may mean making friends with people 10 yrs or more older than you
-- I joined bookgroups, church groups, other interest groups to meet more people (with or without kids) who had spare time and shared my interests
-- When I worked, I spent work hours partly engaging with coworkers (with or without children) to make work a place that fed me socially (and I hope them as well) -- not possible or desirable in all work situations, though
-- I made it a priority to hang out with friends who DID have kids who took the time to meet up with me -- and maybe one or two other friends -- at a coffee shop for an hour or three once a week (while their kids were in school and they had a day off or a flexible-time job) ... I actually was fortunate to have 4 very close friends with school-aged and younger kids who took the time to maintain friendships! It can be done, but it's just not a priority for many people. These friends needed adult friend-time as much as I did, and three of them are my closest friends now
-- I sought out people with flexible work schedules, or who didn't work, who were sometimes/often free when their kids were in school
-- With friends who couldn't make much time to get together (and friends in far-flung places), I maintained a relationship through texting, semi-regular emails, and other means of catching up from time to time; if your friends are too overwhelmed to get together with you, they might appreciate just a low-key text or email from time to time NOT making any requests of them but just saying hi, offering encouragement, sharing something funny, offering to do something for them
-- I made friends with neighbours (mostly they had kids); it was easier for them to run into me and see me without any planning, and it provided both me and them with easy acquaintanceship and a bit of a local support network
-- this was mostly before Facebook but the people I know now raising kids, while they have a FB presence, rarely post or comment, so I don't see your lack of presence there as a big problem -- unless YOUR friends prioritise social media, or unless they plan get-togethers using a FB group (which is handy, I have to say)

Good luck. I know it's hard and can feel lonely, but there are people, with kids and without, who seek friendship connection and who will find the time for it.
posted by mmw at 8:02 AM on June 28, 2018 [6 favorites]

I'm sorry, but I have many friends with young kids. And those friends still reach out to me and I also reach out to them. And we even do it over old-fashioned text and not through Facebook! I also remember my parents having friends and social lives when I was a kid. It's not impossible to check in/hang out occasionally with people that you care about, if you in fact care about them. Sounds like you are not a priority to these friends, so maybe write them off for now. And hey maybe they will come back around when the kids are older or whatever, but it sounds like they only prioritize their kids and nothing else, so who knows.
posted by greta simone at 8:06 AM on June 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'm in the same boat, you are not alone. Once upon a time I did the bend over backward, be extra accommodating, go to practice too, bring food for everyone, efforts and it didn't work. I had very low expectations. I'm not a foodie and didn't care if we met at Friendly's etc. It is what it is.

Prime difference #1 than when we were kids (IMO, YMMV, etc is this:) My parents had friends from school, work, neighborhood, whatever. Their friends may or may not have had kids, and if those kids existed, we all were friends as well. Today, kids have friends from school, activities, neighborhood, whatever. Their parents are friends with each other because of the kids' friendships with each other.

Prime difference #2 is that kids take up a LOT more time/money than they used to. See all of the well-written testimonies above.

I'm not saying these changes are good or bad, it's just that the catalyst for friendship for parents has changed. I do not think you're unreasonable to want to meet with people once a year, but the game of life has changed.

Do you live near Philadelphia? Wanna be friends? I'm on Facebook! ;)
posted by kimberussell at 8:13 AM on June 28, 2018 [8 favorites]

I have kids - we've had them for years! - and I like to spend time with adults without kids. But people do seem to hermit up when they have children, which is sort of bizarre, but it definitely feels like its true. "Busy" is a state of mind, and while there are periods of time its tough to parent (early childhood) too many of us allow ourselves to become overly family-centric. I have no idea why any self-respecting adult would rather spend time watching a Pixar movie than spending time with friends.

Anyway, I am a couple years younger than you, but feel like I've had a similar progression in friendships - so much harder to make plans, they are easily canceled, and the people with kids are the worst.

One thing that's worked for me is doing more one on one, sort of "dates" with friends to catch up, and if group things emerge from that, great.
posted by RajahKing at 8:30 AM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have no idea why any self-respecting adult would rather spend time watching a Pixar movie than spending time with friends.

Hey man, Inside Out was actually pretty good...

More seriously though, there’s a vicious cycle involved here. Getting time to yourself requires leaning on someone else to watch the kid. If the work+dinner+bedtime slog took you out of the game for a couple years and your social circle atrophied, there may be literally nobody you can ask to do this work: no friend you can lean on, no neighbor you know well enough to be aware that they have teens who babysit. Maybe you can ask your spouse, but then again sometimes marriages involving kids are themselves running on fumes and you may not have the social capital to spend on that favor request, either. (If you don’t recognize your marriage in this, it is possible you have a wife who would.) You’re left with hiring a stranger, in that case, which is sometimes about as easy as hiring a roofer, which is to say it can certainly be done but it takes a lot of phone calls and planning and there is always a nontrivial risk of disappointment, and so a lot of us put it off.
posted by eirias at 8:43 AM on June 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

40 ish. No kids. I've done stints as the de facto social coordinator for a large extended friend group.

Some people fall off the grid when they have kids. Let them. Or rather, don't waste time and emotional energy feeling bad about it.

My approach: I'll plan an event, and blast out an email to 40 or so people*. Sometimes 30 show up. Sometimes 3. It's life.

There are those with kids who rarely show up. There's one couple whose kid asked "where is everyone?" when only 5 people showed up to one event (they obviously aren't letting their kid turn them into hermits).

Life is hard and exhausting. Everyone is doing their best to get by. Put the invitation out there, but don't get hurt if people don't show up. Make new friends who don't have kids.

* Fuck Facebook. I'm sorry, but it's not a real connection. It's reading the news about your friends.
posted by booooooze at 8:44 AM on June 28, 2018 [6 favorites]

Anecdata: my friend group and my closer acquaintance group are (with the exception of one teenager) all childless and this is still how it goes. We just now had book club last night for the first time in 6 months (after a couple years of mostly monthly gatherings) because the host (who has a large studio that is good for gatherings) got frustrated with people flaking. It just takes more work than it used to, and we kind of have to hold each other accountable explicitly but also be supportive because everybody's got shit happening. A lot of us suffer from anxiety and struggle with "I know I'll have a good time if I can just get there," and it can help to pre-emptively remind each other of that.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:44 AM on June 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh, yeah: FB is a primary channel for organizing events for most of my circle, but gmail + gcal invites work pretty well for one segment that has some non-social people.

The trick seems to be A: someone has to take charge, and if you're willing to do it that's great but you can take charge and also delegate, there just seems to need to be some kind of authority/leader figure B: plan things about a month in advance and remind/refresh at the 2-week and 2-day marks.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:55 AM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

My favorite non-parent friends are those who are willing to tag along on kid outings. I kept up with several non-parent friends in Peoria by going on hikes together. My kids would run ahead and be hooligans and tire themselves out, and we got to walk and chat relatively uninterrupted (other than periodic shouts of "stop licking your brother!"). Do you like the zoo? How about proposing an outing to the zoo with your friend AND THEIR KIDS. Or a concert in the park. Or bowling!

This requires tolerance for me splitting my attention between you and my kids, but I have SO much more time if I'm out doing things with my kids (instead of hiring a babysitter), and if we're engaged in an activity like hiking or bowling or looking at animals they're going to be better-behaved than if we're sitting on the couch trying to have a conversation and they're bored. But it's nice to get out and do something with a friend, and it's always awesome to have a spare adult there so I can take 30 seconds to go to the bathroom while you ply my children with ice cream and ensure they don't run into traffic.

(I always get my memberships to the zoo or the botanic gardens or the museum or whatever as the "family plus" where I can bring my family PLUS one other person. Which I think is intended for bringing along your kid's playdate friend, but I use it to bring along MY playdate friend so I can hang out with my adult friends. Also if you come with me to the zoo, when it is snack time and I get out the goldfish crackers for the kids, I will also have a package of goldfish crackers for you.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:19 AM on June 28, 2018 [11 favorites]

Is it because I'm not on social media?

Well, *I* think so. It just makes it so much easier to stay consistently, casually connected. Having to purposefully maintain connections in other way requires comparatively so much effort that I just can't be bothered.

Also, I hate texting passionately.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:47 AM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

I wonder if this is somewhat unrelated to the having kids thing. I have a kid and I still feel like I have to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to meeting people.

And I would note that even without a kid, I'm often much too tapped out to put serious heavy lifting into friend gatherings because my job is 60-65 hours per week.

Because of this, not only am I exhausted, I'm also very SCHEDULED. Whereas most of my parent friends are SAHMs with a ton of flexibility -- their kids are super young, not enrolled in billions of activities yet. So they make more plans on the fly and I generally can't make it. They'd schedule things more in advance if I reached out and made the plan, but see previous: exhausted. So right now, we don't see each other that often.

I don't think this makes us less friends. One day my job will be a little less crazy (I hope) and I'll have some spontaneity back. Or who knows, maybe they'll all go back to work when the kids are in school and we'll all be able to meet up downtown for happy hours and it'll be a whole new thing. Patience is the name of the game.

The easiest way to have mutual-effort friendships in adulthood is the same way you have em in youth: proximity, ease, same wavelength. People who live close by, who are easy to contact and see, and who like to make plans the way you do. The vast majority of my social hangs are with friends I run into on the train/at the store/in the neighborhood, or yes, via facebook.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:16 AM on June 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

>but can I really consider people who make absolutely no effort to keep in touch with me friends at all?

It's okay not to.

There are tons of people I know that I like lots, but very, very few that I have communicated with in, say, the last month, and even fewer that I've actually talked to in person beyond a "hi" when we run into each other somewhere. People in my life with the friendship level you're expecting is... maybe 2? And it sounds like you have two people who care about you that much, so that seems about right. I'm not sure if that's a kids thing or a people thing, really; my social circle shrank a bit when I had kids, but it *shifted* even more drastically; the folks I chat casually with from time to time have almost zero overlap with the folks I did so with pre-kid.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:37 AM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

As an adult without kids who has friends with, I say: you do have to be a lot more flexible. You do have to do more of the reaching out. If it's a woman, it helps to be quite direct about not caring what the house looks like. It really helps if you are willing to spend time with the kid--not just because it makes it easier on the parent, but because it turns out that some of them will grow up into interesting beings themselves. And, yes, Facebook makes at least minimal contact easier, so you should probably nerve yourself up and do it.

That said, I know my friends with kids value our friendship because they actually make their own effort. They don't cancel plans without good reason. They genuinely try to keep track of what's going on with me. I don't ask for their help lightly, but, in a pinch, they're there. Those are friendships. People who think they have meaningful friendships with people they see once every 1.5 years and don't really talk to in between are, for the most part, pretending to themselves. They have people they can enjoy having lunch with every 1.5 years. If they actually tried to continue contact after that, they'd be startled to realize how much those people have changed, how much they don't know. And they certainly can't rely on those people to lend a hand with something as needed. If people aren't willing to take the time to see you, if they treat your plans as trivial and disposable, they don't value you or your friendship. (*) Everyone's busy--you make time or you don't. People have managed to maintain adult friendships outside their families for pretty much of all recorded history; the world has changed, but not that much. (My parents had adult friends with both working or in school and five kids.) Your family's being your entire world is usually the result of a series of decisions, not the force of destiny.

So you shouldn't feel bad about letting such people go. They've already let you go. And if, when their kids are older, they suddenly discover that, gee, it's nice to have social contact with adults, you don't have to take them back, if you don't feel like it. Pick a couple who are the most responsive and continue to make that effort; let the rest do what they want, then wonder what happened to their lives when their kids don't need them anymore. And then make some new friends!

(*) I do have to drop a huge exception here. Parents of kids with serious special needs are often struggling 24/7. With those people, all you can do is try to offer the help you can, on their terms. You can't ask more of them.
posted by praemunire at 11:06 AM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

(I left out the part about hanging out with the kids where you get to have goldfish crackers!)
posted by praemunire at 11:08 AM on June 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm in my 30s with no kids and I feel exactly the same. I actually feel like since some of my friends have had kids, I have lost them. I try to keep up with them on social media but I have just had to accept that my friendship with these people isn't what it used to be. I guess that's just how things are! How I cope with this is that I attempt to make new friends with people who have more time.
posted by thereader at 11:42 AM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think one key to long-lasting friendships in adulthood is being ok with the ebb and flow. Adults have all sorts of things that come up and make it harder to engage socially. Not just kids: work, other family obligations, health issues. And people with kids will have these things ON TOP of caring for their children.

I’m personally really grateful to my friends with kids who still engage. And the ones who are less engaged - I reach out to them every once in a while and if they aren’t responsive, I put the friendship on the back burner, but wouldn’t necessarily write them off altogether.

It does help if you can be really proactive about making plans that are child-free. One thing I’ll do sometimes is text a friend with kids and say “hey it’s been a while, would love to see you sometime. What is easiest for you?” My friends have really appreciated this.

I do think child-free people have to be ok with taking more responsibility for making plans. Try to let go of seeing this as a referendum on your value as a friend.
posted by lunasol at 12:48 PM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

But people do seem to hermit up when they have children, which is sort of bizarre, but it definitely feels like its true.

Going out during parenting years involves either bringing the kid(s) along, or hiring a sitter. (See also: current Ask about teen childcare employees.) If the parents aren't bringing in more than $150k/year, child-rearing costs are a serious part of their daily life. (Which doesn't mean childcare costs vanish above that - they're just less likely to be deciding between "buy the kid new clothes this month, or go out for dinner and tell them to cope with slightly-small shirts for a while longer.")

Going out for an event of any sort is an expense and a hassle. Childcare costs, transit concerns, possibly cleaning the car enough that no-kid people don't mock you for carrying around kidstuff, budget issues, dodging guilt over going out with friends instead of with kids, needing enough energy to leave the house and do something that requires being attentive and probably cheerful - all of those have to line up properly to go out. It's not impossible, but it's erratic and doesn't fit well to schedules.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:20 PM on June 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

Besides everything above, I wanted to say a bit about the importance of advance planning. Since having a kid I've noticed that my calendar basically gets filled up months in advance. Scheduling things is just much more complicated and requires considering a lot of moving parts. This makes things difficult when friends cancel at the last minute and are hard to pin down. For example, I was slightly annoyed at my friend for canceling dinner at our place the day before the event, wanting to push it two days later. Not a huge deal to my pre-kid self, logistically challenging now. And I was super spontaneous pre-kid - I just find it impossible now.

Another example. I'm trying to schedule after work drinks with a former coworker. Decide to try the week of July 9th because that week the nanny is taking a whole day off one day. She'll probably be willing to stay late and make up hours a different day. Oh but coworker can only meet at 5:15 even though I usually get out at 4. Could always do with more work hours but that'll mean my husband will need to get home a bit early and meet the nanny. What day would be best for that for him? He's already staying home on the 12th because of the nanny's day off. Would he prefer that I stay late that day when he's already home or will be be grateful that I get home early after he's spent a long day in solo childcare. Need to consult with him. And so it goes.

Which is fine and I actually happen to enjoy it to an extent as it increases the anticipation, but it really does not mix with any flakiness at all since once I've carefully carved out a block of time, it's non-trivial to move it.
posted by peacheater at 1:24 PM on June 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

"the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young."

This is where I think you are wrong. I think as you get older, friendships are more important, but they don't have to be the same friendships you had when you were young. Developing friendships as an adult has become a very meaningful part of my life. I think people romanticize the friendships of their youth. People change and move and grow in different ways and can't always be there for each other in the day-to-day or even in tragic circumstances. My newer friends tend to be able to there for the day-to-day. I never thought it would be possible to make friends as an adult. I had trouble even when I was younger.

I have also come to terms with the idea that my friends today may not be my friends 5 years from now. It's been extremely difficult to come to terms with this idea. That doesn't make our friendship any less meaningful now. We are taking care of each other now and that's all that matters.

I'm a bit nerdy and met friends through a nerdy pursuit. Some of these nerdy communities are very close, unlike I've ever been a part of in my life. If you have a nerdy passion, pursue it! Meet other like minded people.

Do you have any interests that aren't typical? I have noticed that communities form around atypical interests. Some of these interests might include things like gaming, social activism, horticulture, bird watching, alternative lifestyles, a particular type of car, dog shows, etc. I think of it like this, most people enjoy watching sports, so you can talk to almost anyone about sports. People don't really need to seek out friends with that same interest. On the other hand, social activism? You need to seek out those people out and find your community.

I'm also child-free and in my late 30s. You can make friends at any age!
posted by parakeetdog at 2:47 PM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Heaven forbid anyone take the time to go out to dinner or have a drink after work.

How do you not take it personally when the people who used to be a vital part of your everyday life no longer spend time with you or connect with you emotionally? That's very personal! Frankly, if I have to start over at this point and make all new friends, I'm probably not going to be available "in a few years" when you're ready to gift me with your attention again. Why do you think you get to ignore me now and then have me back when you're ready? I wouldn't accept treatment like that in a romantic relationship, why would I let a friend do me like that?

I think that's fair (especially the not being available part...I'm not sure that's usually an expectation). But the corollary is:

- I have two kids, we both work full-time, the intensive parenting hours are 6-8pm*** every weekday (activities, tutoring, swim class, homework, social troubles, meal prep/eat, "read to your child every day", learn that my child is getting homophobic slurs shouted at him at school, discuss what the slurs and homophobia mean (also, they have to be in two separate places for sports, or one of us does The Thing and the other Does Dinner)

- Sundays are the launch pad days to make the week tolerable

- this leaves Saturdays, so 52 nights a year I can eat out*, 10-15 of which will be booked for holidays/weddings/milestone family events, etc., and 12 of which my spouse and I might book for date night or like, have pinkeye (a daycare favourite!), so that leaves 25-30 nights of which you might like to have 2-3 a year, representing 10% of my leisure dinners-out night.

In my past life, I often had Thurs-Fri-Sat nights to eat out, which is 156 nights, so assuming you are like me, the math would have been the same on the family events, 15, and let's say spouse date night is similar, 12, leaving 129 nights. 10% of that would be about a monthly dinner...which in the dim fog of memory seems about what I was spending with friends.

So, if a friend sees me for dinner twice a year, they are getting the same amount of my leisure time.

Basically before we get into the question of whether on my one night I could go out to dinner I actually still have the will to live, got any sleep that week, etc., I hope that anyone who is doing the math on my relationship with them, especially based on availability for drinks/dinner out, is aware of the calculations I have to make and can recognize that constraint.**

If not, it's fine, but judging me on my lack of caring based on hours of availability...shows the gap here. (Texting and FB are different, I think I agree that this is something friends should be doing.)

* My spouse and I actually do have a "solo parent" night each, so the other parent has one "free" night but that is often when that spouse works out or gets their hair cut or whatever. But yes, this is one way we are actually better than this post suggests.

**I did choose to have kids but I did think it was going to be like the 70s when my parents didn't get nastygrams from teachers about the hour of homework daily, and most of their socializing was on the same block where we lived, and also they told me I couldn't be on a baseball team because it was too much of a pain, and I had to go to Pioneer Girls (Baptist) instead of Girl Guides because I could walk there and they didn't have to buy a uniform. And I was a cheap babysitter for many parents, but the dads felt me up in the car on the way home and now...teens in my area often say "my mom won't let me babysit" and I KNOW WHY.

*** Late fees for daycare for the younger: $20/5 minutes. So yes, this starts at 6pm _promptly_.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:35 PM on June 28, 2018 [11 favorites]

I think that I've definitely deepened friendships with two subsets of friends as we enter this same life phase:
1. my other friends without children: these are the ones that I hang out with most spontaneously, because we're the ones able to suddenly decide to go out for lunch with an hour's notice on a Saturday
2. my friends with children who are really organized about taking turns with a partner for a solo night out: I can usually see one, but not both members of this unit, which is always more of a juggling act when I'm equal friends with both halves.

But overall: everyone is busy, and if you think that you can get a whole group together regularly for social stuff... I think you have to adjust your expectations. I have a small core of friends (6) where all but one live within 20 minutes of each other, and we haven't been able to get all six of us together in TWO YEARS.

So you learn to invite everyone but really only expect 1-2 people to make it, and commit to just hanging out in much smaller subgroups. Also, I definitely now formally schedule phone dates with a handful of friends who live father away; if we manage to connect every 6 weeks or so it's a welcome miracle, and we make sure that we can talk for an hour when it happens. That helps fortify me for long stretches without contact beyond brief social media interactions (to nth many others: social media is incredibly helpful in helping keep the frienship connections viable even when things are hectic).
posted by TwoStride at 6:38 PM on June 28, 2018

I have done the test where I don't reach out to anyone and the few people who reach out to me get gold stars. Ultimately it just made me feel bad and I try hard not to do that anymore.

But I've also had two recent revelations:
1. Each person in a friendship brings something to the table. Your friend may always be willing to be your designated driver or to feed your cat or to loan you ten bucks until payday. Maybe the thing that you bring to the table is the planning aspect.

2. Sometimes you just have to talk about it. I had a conversation with a close friend recently where I said I wished she reached out more often. She agreed that she should reach out more and gave me a very valid explanation of why she didn't. However, since that conversation she's been inviting me to meet up more frequently.

I also agree with TwoStride: if you invite a bunch of people over there may be a few that you can count on coming but don't count on anyone else. Enjoy the friends at your party and don't be discouraged by the people who didn't respond or show up.
posted by bendy at 1:04 AM on June 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

*** Late fees for daycare for the younger: $20/5 minutes. So yes, this starts at 6pm _promptly_.

Yup. Also, at least one of our daycares had the policy that if you were more than fifteen minutes late they were gonna call CPS to come get your kid. I’ve never had a deadline that was more consequential.
posted by eirias at 3:18 AM on June 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Find parenty stuff that you can do with your friends and their kids. Then you become a part of their social circle again and maybe go do adults-only things with some of them when they can get away. But pancakes and bike rides and tigers are always good for adults, too.
posted by pracowity at 4:09 AM on June 29, 2018

Please, all of you who think it is OK to give up on friends who don't spend enough time with you now because they are currently active parents, or active somewhere else. Don't do it. Don't give up. It's not about you. Even friends who don't have kids; don't give them up if they are good people who know and love you. Love between friends isn't judged by the allocation of hours, and commitments are compassionately understood. It costs nothing to let a friend drift for a while as they need to, yet the value of their later friendship can be priceless when you really need it.
posted by Thella at 5:25 AM on June 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

You have TWO friends who reach out to you? You're doing better than most of us. :)

One thing about social media is that it gives a lot of people a sense of connection with the people they interact with there. Many may consider this a false closeness, but that doesn't affect the way it feels for the people engaged in it. If they're seeing multiple updates every week from Bob, Jane, and Li, they feel like they "know" them better, they're on the top of their mind, and they are more likely to think of them when they have a rare opportunity to socialize in real life.

Also, the reaching out you're having to do is something they may feel they are doing to the world at large with their social media accounts. That's how they tell people what they're up to, and they subconsciously expect people to share their lives in the same way, and it's when their friends post that they're triggered to communicate with them. I know this may not help you, but realizing that in many cases they're not reaching out to ANYONE without being prompted might make it a little easier to handle?
posted by metasarah at 12:21 PM on June 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

I HAVE kids and I feel like this, even with my non-kid-having friends! I am always the one who has to reach out. I would never do the experiment you did, because I know it would just make me feel bad! I honestly don't know why things are this way, whether the world has changed or there is just something about me or people are all just balls of overwhelm and anxiety.

Bottom line, if you want a social life you'll have to work for it and work hard and don't keep score if you want to stay upbeat. Not to say you have to keep working the social group you have (but man, if you have people who will respond and actually get together 50% of the time, I would not turn my nose up at that, see my thread about how do people like to be prompted to respond to me).

Most of my friendships today revolve around a new activity I took up a few years ago. I haven't done Meetup at all, but recently I went to a (new activity) friend's birthday party. Turns out she has garnered most of her friends from Meetups, and damn it was refreshing to meet a bunch of people who knew how to hold up their end of a conversation. I realized, OH, these are the people who are working at building a social circle, these are the people who are making an effort, getting themselves out of the house, organizing stuff, and showing up. So, Meetup, try it!
posted by Jenny'sCricket at 2:28 AM on June 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

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