Before I begin this guest spot I have a confession to make – I am child-free. Yep I’m not an official part of the gang: I don’t have a story about cracked nipples; my nether-regions are free from undue wear or repair; I regularly sleep for 8 hours a night; I can spend a day hung-over without having to watch CBeebies and between the hours of 6-8pm I’m not in the monotonous 10th circle of hell that is bath-time, story-time, bed-time. This may not be a forever affair; my husband and I are of the ‘never-say-never’ school of thought but it’s a current life choice that we can’t imagine changing anytime soon.
So, what am I doing here infiltrating the parenting blogosphere? Well this post is dedicated to all those people who, like me, happily enjoy their child-free-ness when surrounded by their friend’s child-full-ness. Yes! It’s time to celebrate our unique take-on being friends with parents.
Now I don’t know where you may be in your child-free existence, if you have maintained your hold on a wild hedonistic lifestyle with friends that regularly indulge in late night parties, groggy mornings at work and the occasional awkward one-night stand this post might not be for you. My reality is very different. Over the past decade, I have become an Aunt to 6 little people and all (bar one) of my oldest most beautiful buddies have produced 12 even more beautiful children between them. That’s a lot of small humans I need, nay want, to have in my life. If you have swapped bonkers and boozy Friday nights out for Friday nights in at your best friend’s house, quietly creeping up the stairs and not flushing the toilet for fear of waking up their little ones – this post is for you! So here we have it, my top three tips for being child-free in a world full of children…
1) Surviving a Play Date
Fizz! Have plenty of it in your fridge. When you make a date to see your pal it is highly likely that little Johnny will be present, they are either still latching to the boob, clasping your fingers as they take their first tentative steps, crying in your face at anything and everything, interrupting any semblance of a conversation you may have going with incessant questions about barn-yard animals, bin lorries, Mr Tumble and dinosaurs or (and this is even more worrying) they have disappeared into your front room and are doing something quietly… A glass of fizz is proven to get you through all of these. More importantly pour one for your buddy before they have even taken their coat off, they need to know that with you they don’t have to be that clean-eating-non-boozy-100%-besotted-child-is-everything-magnificent-totally-in-control-I’ve-got-this-nailed Mama they pretend to be with their new NCT, play-group, pre-school parenting friends. You’ve seen them naked and star-fished passed out across their beds – with you they just need to be themselves – every boozed up, anxious, paranoid, confused and human bit of themselves.
Oh, and invest in a small toy-box to keep the little critters entertained while Mum shovels sandwiches into her mouth before their butter-wouldn’t-melt offspring wreaks further havoc on your home and whatever you do move every item of personal, breakable or monetary value out of reach for the next 10 years. You have to child-proof your houses too my friends!
However much you may have seen your best pals best bits before, prepare to see them MORE! There is no getting around the fact that you will now see your buddies in full on Mummy mode. Get used to it. The more shy among them may try to shield you from their enormous (and I mean massive) nipples with tiny scraps of cotton but most will just think fuck it. And you know what – Yep. Get those baps out ladies. Or not, use a bottle. Whatever floats your boat and feeds your baby is good with me. There is no pressure, no judgement, no breast-is-best argument from this corner. I want happy friends. Happy well fed babies makes for happy friends. End of.
3) The Night Out Out
Now if your friends are anything like mine they occasionally still want to feel and act like the young whipper-snappers they were before the kids came along. After months of diary planning; sorting babysitters; deciding on a bar that is sufficiently young but not so young the music’s too loud and we won’t get a seat (just as important to the child-free of my age as it is to you parents I might add); countless WhatsApp chats about what to wear and changing the date at the last minute because little Hattie has chicken-pox – you are all OUT. At the same time. Together. Without children. And no one is pregnant. This is big news people. Enjoy it.
And believe me you will, your Mama’s are on a mission. They haven’t been out for months, they’ve got their dancing shoes on, organised him-in-doors to be on the early morning shift and you better be able to keep up my friend! The slightest sign that you may be weakening will not be tolerated. If you even hint at being tired you will be laughed at incoherently and god-forbid you suggest going home before 11pm. This is the night for prosecco with everything, an eating-is-cheating mantra and tequila shots by 8pm. Prepare yourself for the inevitable tactical chunder, clear your diary for the next day and enjoy this moment with your ladies.
Yes the conversation will include discussions on the best make of pram, what weaning technique is currently in vogue, how outrageous the mother-in-law is with her care-free chocolate distribution, not to mention potty training, star charts and parental sleep deprivation. However much you may think “shit-in-hell I can’t have the school chat again” have another glass of wine and remember this is your friend’s new reality. It will soon pass and in another 15 years you can start planning that big trip to Bora Bora you promised each other. But right now, go get another bottle and listen to your buddies, you can even join in – do what you always used to do. Chat. Just ‘cos you don’t have kids doesn’t mean you don’t have an opinion. Give it. But pull back when confronted with the statement “As a Parent”. Yuck. Hideous. Anathema to any conversation. If this happens go get a round of Jager and enjoy the fact that as a non-parent you can stay in bed tomorrow drinking tea and reading the papers until noon. Bliss!
So, there we have it, my new reality involves embracing all that parenthood has thrown at my nearest and dearest. I have huge respect for how they are creating and moulding their little people to become hilarious, smart, daft, intelligent and friendly humans who I really enjoy spending time with. This is not a journey that I want to take, but I love my friends and I take huge pleasure seeing how they cope with it all. Yes, I may forget your kid’s names occasionally, I may not always make it on day trips, I may even refuse your kind offer to babysit the little dears but I will always be there for you and your small people.
And that’s the best advice I can give to all the child-free living in world full of children – revel in your friends new mad and remember it’s just a phase!