There’s this theory among single people and couples without children that when a couple becomes parents, they suddenly start hanging out with only other parents. My husband and I have a wide variety of friends in different stages of life, so I was sure this wouldn’t happen to us. Not by our choice, anyway. We aren’t the kind of people to dump friends or hole up in our house because we have kids.
Or so I thought.
Lately, I’ve become much more comfortable with the idea of NEVER leaving the house again. With two active kids (an almost 3-year-old and a just-turned-1-year-old), even going some place relatively safe, like the grocery store, where I can contain at least one, if not both of them, in a cart, has become a bit stressful. Especially with it being cold and wintry now. Coats, hats, mittens on, out of the house, into the car, strapped into seats, out of the car, into the cart, into the store, at least hats and mittens off, shop, hats and mittens back on, coats zipped up, in the car, out of car, back home, outerwear strewn across the floor.
Is it worth it? I sometimes ask myself. Maybe we should just become hermits and emerge when the children are, say, teenagers. Of course, by then, they probably won’t want to leave the house anyway.
But back to the friend issue. It’s not that I don’t want to hang out with singles or couples without kids or whose kids have grown and gone; it’s that sometimes, doing so stresses me out, especially if I don’t know the layout of the house. At one recent get-together, I spent most of the evening worried that the 1-year-old was going to take a fall down an open set of stairs. And I didn’t know where I could change a diaper. And the 2-year-old rearranged most of the decorations in the house.
At another dinner, the 2-year-old continued her streak of breaking something when we visit. This time, it was a Christmas decoration. Glass. She shattered it. The last time, it was a bunny figurine. Our hosts assured us it was fine, but even without the carnage, I was stressed by having to bring toys and a high chair for a chance at fellowship.
When we first moved here, and had only one child, we didn’t receive a lot of dinner invites from our church family, something I guess we sort of expected because that’s how we tend to get to know people better. As time went on, I figured it was because we had a baby. As time goes further on, I rarely expect to be invited anywhere because of the wee ones, and when we do get invited, and my husband says “yes” without asking me, I stress out about all the extra preparation involved, unless it’s to one of the “safe” homes on my list. (To make the safe list, you probably have kids around my kids’ ages or have grandkids that age, are relatives, or don’t keep a lot of nice things in your home, or you are so persistent that we can’t say “no”.)
I’m not an outwardly social person most of the time, so I don’t know why it bothers me that having kids limits my social circle a bit, except that I’m also insecure so I don’t like to be left out of things. I struggle with this even at church. Our church is smallish and has trouble staffing the nursery from week to week (with people other than a willing few who step in often to fill a gap). Since more Sundays than not my kids are the only ones in the nursery, this sometimes makes me feel like we’re a burden on the church and shouldn’t be there. (Not true, I know, but it’s the thought process I go through.)
Jesus said we’re to welcome little children in his name, so I keep that firmly in my mind when the children are crying, shouting or screaming during a serious or silent moment. Jesus wants them here, I tell myself.
I can’t always use the same argument for being at people’s houses, though. Even if Jesus wanted my children there, that doesn’t mean the homeowner has to agree.
I’d love to hear some other thoughts on this topic. Does anyone else struggle with this? I don’t want to use my kids as an excuse to not go places, but I also don’t want them to break something valuable, stain the carpet or swallow something inedible. Nor do I want to be hovering so much that I don’t enjoy myself or make the person hosting feel like less of a person because they didn’t babyproof their house for me.
Let’s hear it, moms. Tell me I’m not crazy.