Ask Erin: How Do I Tell My Friends With Kids To Back Off?

Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez

She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.


Q.

To start, I don't have kids so I know I'm on unsteady ground right now. 

All of the women in my friend group have had kids in the last few years, including my sister and both my sisters-in-law. My partner and I don't have kids and aren't sure we want kids. 

We're not anti-kid; we’re anti-annoying new parents. 

I run my own company ( a real one, not an MLM) and my days can be f*cking bananas sometimes, but I love it. I work from home, and I refuse to put on real pants. I worked really hard for this.

My friends with kids seem to think I'm fair game when it comes to dropping by, calls, texts, Facetime — for blow-by-blow plays about the tiniest details of their day for hours at a time. These conversations always devolve into how easy I have it. One of them even called me just to spend the entire phone call talking to her kid.

I have a blanket text that I send back during work hours: "I'm working right now. Unless this is an emergency, I'll catch up with you later."  

My brother's wife texted me yesterday that since I'm "not as busy" as she is that she put me down to do pick up my nephew at daycare because she needs some "down time" (she doesn't have a job). My best friend dumped on me the other day out of nowhere that I'm rude and distant and that I'm ditching her now that she's got a kid. I'm not doing that; I'm putting my energy into building my business — something my friends with kids aren't interested in. 

When I try to talk about successes or goals or failures I get: "oh wait until you're up late at night with a puking baby" or something equally dismissive. 

I feel angry and shitty about this, and I don't know how to handle it. I think I've done all the nice boundary-setting I can. 

Can I do more?


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A.

I can understand why you are so frustrated. I would be too. I have kids, and I have been (I hope) conscious of balancing my mom self with my friend self. I strive to be present for my friends to the best of my ability. 

It feels invalidating to have your life milestones and the things you care about ignored. 

And it sounds like that’s what your friends and family members are doing. I don’t think they are aware they are doing it. 

It can be exhausting and all-consuming to be a new parent. You are adjusting to new roles, and more importantly, an identity you try to make sense of while “on the job.” Recognize that their single-mindedness right now more likely comes from an internal freakout adjusting to parenthood rather than inherent selfishness. 

But you can and should address this more directly with them. With each individual, you need to have an individual face to face conversation, or at least a phone call. 

Start the discussion coming from a place of compassion. 

Acknowledge how difficult it must be to transition in the new role of parent. Then explain what you are juggling in your life. An essential part of friendship is being able to share where you’re at and how you’re feeling. Say, “When you tell me just to wait until I am up at night with a puking baby… it feels like you’re dismissing me. That feels shitty. I may not understand what you are going through, but I can still sympathize, and I ask that you do the same for me.” 

Be direct with your brother and sister-in-law. Maybe there are times you can spend an hour or two with your nephew, because your role as the aunt is important, too! But you have a say in how you spend your time. You can say something like, “I love spending time with X (your nephew). I can’t pick him up from daycare most days but would love to set up a regular aunt date with him on X (whatever day and time and frequency you can commit to). 

Regarding your best friend, email or text and ask if you can set up a quick coffee date so you can be face to face, acknowledge the changes in your lives, and come from a place of honesty and compassion while being clear about how it feels on your end. 

It is true that as life changes happen, there are natural separations in who you may spend the majority of your time with, based on kids/no kids, work schedules, etc. But you don’t need to give up on these friendships altogether. I believe that with the right communication method, you can come to a better place of mutual respect and understanding. 

If someone, after these attempts, still disregards your boundaries, then it is time to take a break. As those kids grow, your friends will better be able to handle that parent/life balance. 


The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m watching, what I’m reading, Axinite, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at  askerin@ravishly.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share with you my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo

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