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Moms Talk Q&A: How Much Do Your Children Influence Your Friendships?

Sometimes it's easier to be friends with the parents of your children's friends—but is that a good idea?

Each week in Moms Talk, our Moms Council of experts and smart moms take your questions, give advice and share solutions. Moms, dads, grandparents and the diverse families who make up our community will have a new resource for questions about local neighborhood schools, the best pediatricians, 24-hour pharmacies and the thousands of other issues that arise while raising children.
 
So grab a cup of coffee and settle in as we start the conversation today, then share your thoughts in the comments.

Question: Remember when you were a kid and your parents had their own friends, people you didn't know and didn't particularly care for?  You were forced to have dinner at their house, take vacations with these people and their children, whether you liked them or not. What happened? How did we get to the point where the majority of our friends are determined by who the parents of our children's friends are? How much of your life is shaped by your children's lives, specifically your friendships?

  • Valerie Brown

As a parent, it is difficult to balance your need for friendship and companionship and your efforts to parent your child. You end up compromising by meeting your need for companionship within the circle of (parents of) friends your child has created for themselves. Not that this is a bad thing—oftentimes they are fabulous people and you are so thankful you connected. But your primary connection is through your children, not a genuine common interest. You find yourself merely cultivating the low-hanging fruit, building connections with the parents you spend hours together with at sports practice, school activities, Scouts and performances instead of cultivating the friends you might have sought for yourself if there was time.  

We thought we had done a good job with our children about making the time to visit family and those friends so close they were reckoned as family (surrogate aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents), whether they liked it or not. Visiting was just what was done, especially having been raised in the South. However, the first time I took my children to see an old college friend who I kept up with by phone and letter and email but hadn't seen since either one of us had children, it was painful. They were just a hair shy of being rude and very offended that I would pick up the whole family for a day trip to Santa Clarita to visit people (and kids) they didn't know because the family was moving to Connecticut the next week. They had plans and things to do and very strongly questioned who was I to change everything and torture them so?  

The same thing happened when I ran into my college sorority sister at the zoo after 15 years. Both sets of children wanted to run their own way and we were barely able to squeeze in five minutes of conversation, much less catch up. And even the dear friends I have met through my children are expected to interact (or not interact) as the kids decide. So, I decided to educate my children that my friends were my friends and my timelines for interacting with them my own.

I made time for the friends I have cultivated through my children sans children, coffee with one friend, crafting with another, taking a trip together because we could. I started adding visits to my friends to our family vacations. Going to Texas, stopping in Austin and spending the night with an old friend from San Jose; driving through Atlanta, having dinner with a college friend ... the education continues. The interesting part has been that my daughters now view me as a person in my own right. When I grab the time to be myself with my friends, I forced them to see me as a person, hopefully interesting, that others value. And they now are interested in spending time with some of my friends, asking me to invite them over for dinner, taking an East Coast trip with me to visit my college friends and pursue my agenda. It's a start.

  • Marla Cruz

As a child, I can remember sitting quietly and well behaved while my parents visited with their friends. We were well behaved and didn't complain much. I remember one time, probably around age 8 or 9, we were visiting friends of my parents and I must have fallen asleep sitting on the couch. Apparently they decided to put me in one of their back bedrooms so they could continue visiting. My mother and father had driven separate cars that evening, and it wasn't until they both arrived at home (quite a ways across town) that they realized they had left me at their friend's house!  That must have affected me since I obviously still remember it after all these years! 

As an adult, I have a hard time remembering friends I had before I had children ... even now that my children are all grown!  We moved from California to Washington state two days after we married, so I left my old friends behind and had to make new friends in a new place and a new job. Three years later we had our first child, and 18 months after that we delivered twins, so from then on our life, and friends, revolved around kids. My best friends were from my Mothers of Twins Club and as a couple, our friends were other parents from Little League, softball, soccer, basketball, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. We owned and operated our own business, so besides business associates all we had were other parents! Now our children are adults with children of their own. As adults, my daughters actually enjoy the occasional visit with an old school chum of mine.  They seem to enjoy hearing the old stories about their mother!

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