Saturday, July 21, 2012

Parent Envy

Two people close to me have recently told me they envy me for having children.

Well, one says he envies me, and the other says she’s upset that my child, years ago, when my child was about four, pointed out that she didn’t have children, which hurt her feelings, because she doesn’t have children. Neither of these people who are close to me visit me regularly. They don’t spend much time with me and my kids.

The one who was offended said, years ago, when invited over, that she spends her working days with small children, and doesn’t want to be with them in her own time. Fair enough. Of course, she could have had a child on her own if she really wanted to. She doesn’t spend time with us because her feelings were hurt by an offhand remark by a preschooler.

My other friend, the male, has pursued a career in the creative arts, and his relationships haven’t produced any children, even though he has always wanted to have kids of his own. He may yet have children. It’s not too late.

Here’s what I don’t get. Since I’ve had kids most of my friends have stayed away in droves. I’ve made new friends in the neighbourhood, friends who have kids. My friends who don’t have kids are living a life of freedom, relationships, work, holidays, parties, outings, and it all looks pretty good from the outside. No-one from my family or old friends have ever taken my children on an outing. The only person who have ever taken a child out is my ex-neighbour, a single woman, who has taken each child in turn on a daytrip to visit her friends who live on an island in the Hawkesbury River.  No member of my family, nor an old friend has ever had my kids stay overnight. They’ve never come to a child performance. Old friends and family members have never offered to take the kids for me because I have an essay to write or an exam to study for. My partner and I know that we’re on our own, and if we want to call on help, we ask local parents for help. That’s why I started the babysitting club.

To tell the truth there have been a few times when I’ve really needed help. When I’ve given birth. It was difficult to find someone to look after my children so I could have a baby. I had to inconvenience someone, who came over, even though she didn’t want to, even though she was on holidays, to look after my kids so I could give birth. When we moved house with three small children. We needed to return to the old house to clean it the next day, and I asked a number of people to come over and mind the kids. Most said no. Even though they had nothing else on. Some said they needed to rest on the weekend. We were exhausted after moving house and hadn’t begun setting up the new house, and had to clean the old house on our own. But they needed their weekend to rest. Thanks to the old friend, who I hardly see, who came through for us. And one time when I was sick. An old friend came over to look after the kids during the day. That’s it. It’s hard to find people to help us. I did once ask a friend of my partners' for help. He did help, but his wife disapproved and I haven't seen them since.

Why aren’t people without kids spending time with us? If I was single, and didn’t have kids, I would want to have relationships with the kids who could be in my life, and take them places and have them over, and attend their events, and enjoy being with them and watching them grow. I know there are children who have aunties and uncles and family friends who are involved in their lives. but those children aren’t my children. My children just have their parents, and maybe their friends’ parents. I really appreciate their friends’ parents being involved in their care.   

So, when people say they envy me for having children, should I take it with a grain of salt? Because if they really think my kids are cool, and smart, and interesting and fun to be with, wouldn’t they actually make an effort to be with them?


sister outlaws said...

They don't sound like good friends. However, I know when my sister had children two of her good friends told her they only wanted to see her without her kids. They said she was different with the kids and they wanted her attention. I do find it hard to have time for friends and for socialising. I also feel like one of my oldest friends, who doesn't have children, is so out of touch with the realities of my life that we may as well be on different planets - yet she sometimes expresses that she wishes she had what I have i.e. children - but when she is here she totally ignores the children and barely engages with them! As for help - it's a shame you don't have more family support and like you my small children have never had outings or stayed overnight anywhere but I'm hoping that their older cousins will get involved one day. I'm lucky to have a large family.

Motherhugger said...

Hi Sister Outlaw.
I am from a large family. My mother has had a disability for the past 30 years, and my siblings all work and all but one have their own children. Two are single parents. One has a child with Down Syndrome, and one with diabetes, and all my nieces and nephews are significantly older than my kids. My sister died of cancer four years ago, leaving four children - they were teenagers or young adults at the time. So, you can see, me and my kids haven't been a priority in the family.
And when I was pregnant with my third child, the person I considered my best friend dropped me, by letter, because I wasn't being supportive enough of her. There was more to it than that, but that's what she said.
Even though I'm disappointed that more adults haven't been involved in my children's lives, I can't say for certain that I would have been any different if I hadn't had kids.
Before you have children of your own, you really have no idea, and don't really think about helping. After I had my first, I rang my friend who was a single mum and apologised for not helping her more.
There is such a big division between people with children and people without.

sister outlaws said...

It is really hard when everyone is busy with their lives. People around us seem to rely on the grandparents HEAPS which astounds me a bit. My mum had a child after me with Down Syndrome and so she was always busy enough without having to help us out. The friendship thing is hard. I’ve realised that many of my past friendships were based on me helping them with things and found that when I had more children and less time for helping them, they drifted away. But then I also I find I have so little time now that when I do have time, the last thing I want to do is to sit and chat and catch up with friends! So maybe it’s good I’ve got none left??? Family life is hard and I think it does require support and friendships and conections with people at different stages of their lives. When I had the twins and my partner had to work interstate often, an old friend of my older sister would come and help me bath the babies. Her children were grown up, she lived alone and had no grandkids and is a practical salt of the earth person who volunteered so be part of the mayhem. And she was in the perfect situation to have the time to help me. Thank goodness! I really enjoyed this post. It's got me thinking...

Jess said...

This was so fascinating to read, because I've just been really noticing that my friends with children don't invite me to events and activities anymore. They just do things with their friends with kids and I have to invite myself to the kids' birthdays if I want to go! I'd love to be more engaged in the lives of my friends' children, but it's the first time in my life I've felt a bit sad about not having siblings because I don't get to play an aunt role in a solid way where I can't be overlooked. My friends call me 'Aunty Jess' to their kids and when I am in their presence, they seem to enjoy it, but don't seem to ever take me up on my offers to babysit and I've noticed that past the first birthday, I don't get invited to the parties anymore. And I know it's not because they're worried about my care of their children (I have a degree in early childhood education and PLENTY of experience) or they don't want me around - it just seems I am simply overlooked when planning kid-based activities, because they assume that I might not want to be involved in something so kid-focused. That's hilarious in itself, because I have been trying to become a parent for several years now, so they know I enjoy children, and would love to spend more time with their family unit.

Anyway, interesting to see things from different perspectives as always!