Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: My wife and I have a 2-year-old and a baby on the way soon. So we’re talking about a very uncomfortable and tired mother/mother-to-be.
When trying to organize plans for dinner, or anything really, some of our extended family don’t want to compromise or accommodate our restrictions (like being home for bedtime routine).
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They don’t have kids. Are they just ignorant? Do they have compromise fatigue? Or are they just being jerks?
– Kid Fatigue?
DEAR KID FATIGUE?: Whatever it is, they have their stuff and you have yours, and you’re all better off if you resist the temptation to take each other’s stuff personally. If they won’t accommodate? “Bummer, we can’t go/will have to leave midway through — but we’ll catch you next time!” Do what you need and make sure your fallout umbrella is in good repair.
Besides, assigning motives is how feuds are born. You can’t ever fully know what they’re thinking, so stop there.
And, hey, well done, having your wife’s back on this. So much more important than the other noise.
Re: Kid fatigue:
As a person without kids, it can be very annoying to have to be the one to accommodate kiddos every time. I love love love the friends who go out of their way to get a baby-sitter and come visit us once in a while. It’s never 50/50, but it’s fantastic when they make the effort. The friends who expect us to come to them all the time because they just can’t leave the little one with anybody else, well, we don’t see them as often. So, parents, you can’t complain if you want everything your way all the time. Other people have lives too.
DEAR ANONYMOUS: True, and I completely agree on the people who “just can’t leave the little one with anybody else.”
However, it’s also wonderful to recognize that reciprocation is over the long haul, not day-to-day, week-to-week or even month-to-month. The original post, for example, was about a toddler (tough age) and a mom wiped out with pregnancy fatigue. That is not the time for them to get a sitter and rally just to make a point. In a matter of months, both situations will have changed — for better, for worse, who knows? — and with it their rally-readiness.
So, it’s OK to see these friends as preoccupied, giving them some time, no hard feelings. The reciprocation there is that they harbor no hard feelings toward you for not always coming to them.
This can even be a multiyear proposition: Baby people do their thing during the hardest years, and you come to them when you feel like it, and don’t when you don’t, and when they’re on the other side you resume the more active friendship on terms more appealing to you.
Re: Kid fatigue:
I was in law school part time and working full time several years ago. Many friends were very impatient that I was often busy with work or school or both. One friend told me — and I’ll never forget this — “Listen, for the next few years, we’re just going to be inviting you over for dinner and we’ll feed you. Don’t worry about reciprocating.” I was so exhausted, I think I cried.
– Long Haul
I might cry. This is lovely.