I am an older mother. This means that most of my friends have teenagers or even grown-up children. And I am shocked at how quickly some of them have forgotten what it was like to have a toddler. I had a rather upsetting exchange of words with a friend this week when she accused me of distancing myself, not bothering to turn up to anything, shutting DD off from my community (how can you expect us to embrace her if you don't let us anywhere near her?), and generally falling short of any semblence of friendship.
I started to think about the implications of these accusations. Firstly, on reading the above you would think that I am shutting my daughter up at home, away from society. This is not the case. Although we don't tend to socialize so much in the circles I used to frequent, DD and I have a lovely community who we see regularly. Secondly, if we don't go somewhere it is because it is not convenient for a 2yo - not because I can't be bothered.
For 20 years before I had DD, I understood the restrictions of family life with young children. I was totally laid back and accommodating. I waited until everyone's children were bathed, fed, in bed, whatever, until a planned evening could begin. I cut short outings to be back in time for school pick-ups. I sat around the table with sticky-fingered, attention-grabbing, screaming babies. Luckily there were often other children around as most of my friends had kids about the same ages. The children would run off and play together and the adults did get some adult time. And if we didn't, we didn't. My friends' lives were also their children's lives and I understood.
Mostly our social life centres around Shabbat (Friday evenings and Saturdays). Many people prefer to socialize on Friday night and then relax on Saturday. Families with small children tend to make a bigger thing of Saturday lunch, for obvious reasons. My friends from 'before' no longer have young children. For DD I have necessarily been socializing with younger families so that a.) she has other children to play with, and b.) the hours are condusive to the life of a 2yo.
I choose not to take DD out in the evenings as she gets over-tired and hysterical (see Singlemum And The Seder Night). If she falls asleep in the buggy on the way home I have to wake her up to walk up three flights of stairs. It's no fun for anybody, least of all one exhausted and uncomfortable little girl who just wants to be in her bed by 8pm. That, coupled with the fact that I don't have money for babysitters at the moment or a partner to leave DD at home with, means that I see the wonderful friends who are willing to come round to me of an evening, for coffee or a glass of wine and a pizza.
As a single woman on my own I was always available. I could come early to help set up and stay late for the clearing away. I could drop everything and be anywhere at a moment's notice - and I frequently did/was. But now it's my turn to put my family first. How dare my friend expect me to fit in with events arranged for the convenience of her teenagers. How dare she not allow me the right to make decisions on how I bring up my daughter. How dare she have forgotten that I never once told her how to mother her children. How dare she think she has any authority over me and my life.
End of rant. Thank you very much.