Sometimes you just want to share a cocktail with friends and talk about anything but
One of my oldest friends recently told me she thought she was ‘a fifteen year old trapped in a 40 year old’s body’. She has kids that age and is — honestly — an amazing mom. She spends most of her social time with her kids and their friends and her kids are, easily, her number one interest.
So when we get together, she talk about kids. We were regular dog walking friends through the pandemic so we would see each other a quite a lot. She said her mind is quite fixated on what what her kids are up to, what their plans are for the future, issues around social media and internet safety. As things have opened up, she loves being invited to chaperon parties or simply to hang out with her son and his friends or with her son’s girlfriend. She actually got a bit of blowback from her son because he found out she was still hanging out with his ex girlfriend occasionally.
As parents, all of our worlds — to an extent — revolve around our kids. But I would life to think we all also have separate, adult, lives. I have kids too — about the same age as my friend’s kids — and I do enjoy talking about them and, clearly, writing about them. Sometimes.
When we were on a walk, not too long ago, I asked if we could talk about other things. We have a long history together and we used to discuss everything from career to sex to politics. We actually used to talk about sex a lot, and she credits my wife and and with reawakening her sexual spark after she had kids. She said she and her husband went through a pretty long sexual drought after kids. They met us when their kids were 5 and 6 years old, and our openness about sex reignited them.
When I asked if we could talk about other things, she was at a bit of a loss. She said — in a very non defensive way — “I don’t know if I know how anymore”. As she had been pulled into the world of her teenage kids, it seems she was pulled out of all other worlds. She knew the latest videos on TikTok but she had no idea what was going on in the news. She new the acceptance rate at the best engineering schools, but she didn’t know our neighbourhood restaurant had switched to an all takeout menu. She knew her kids were starting to have sex, but she had no idea what her husband did every night after she went to bed at 9:30 (no cause for alarm… he watches TV and sometimes a little porn).
She said she used to have more adult company. Before the pandemic, she did go out occasionally with old friends or other moms. The discussion would often centre around kids, but not exclusively. But since the pandemic — nothing. They allowed their kids to bubble with a couple friends, but because that already extended their circle — and she an auto-immune issue that makes her vulnerable — they had no adult bubble. Just me, who would walk the dog with her every few weeks.
She fully realized she had forgotten how to be an adult among other adults. I asked her if she had regrets about it. She said she hadn’t really thought about it. She liked hanging out with her kids friends and they seemed to like hanging out with her (I think she’s mostly right… as far as moms go, she would be a pretty good person to hang out with).
I asked if she missed adults and adult conversations. She said not really. She was quick to point out that she really liked the things we used to discuss. But she didn’t really feel these things — sex, politics, going out — were an active part of her life right now. I tried not to judge. Personally, I would really miss all of those things. But she did seem happy.
She did say she missed the closeness she used to feel with my wife and I. She said she ‘must not seem as interesting to us anymore’. That was a little tricky to respond to, because she was right. But I didn’t want her to feel rejected. I told her we do have different interests but that we’re still strongly connected. I did say that I missed, somewhat, our old relationship.
When I started this post, I was setting it up to be kind of critical of parents who cannot talk about anything other than their kids. I was going to do a bit of a tip sheet on how parents can broaden their interests again and socialize in the adult world. But I changed my mind half way through. Maybe there is nothing wrong with being 24/7 in that world of parenting. Maybe those parents don’t have to be ‘fixed’. It’s not for me — I like to stay eclectic — but my friend seems pretty content with it.