"Actually, I DO Have A Right To Child-Free Spaces"


Someone writes into XX’s “Friend or Foe” column with a question: why does her friend insist on bringing her “bratty and obnoxious” kids — and hubby! — everywhere? After all, “If I enjoyed having kids around, I’d have some myself:”

Here’s the whole letter:

“Erika” and I have been best friends since I was 15. When she was 20, she got pregnant and had a shotgun wedding. She’s still married to the guy, and now they have three children. Erika also has a very hectic professional life. They’ve moved many times, and for years I’d visit on a regular basis. Over time, I began to hate going to her house more and more because her kids are bratty and obnoxious, as is the husband. And the one person that I actually want to speak to (Erika) is too busy breast-feeding or talking to clients on her phone to pay any attention to me. Half the time I end up sitting in the driveway, waiting for her to come home. So I quit making the trips entirely.
Recently we got in a huge argument. She told me I was weird, secretly hated her, that I don’t want to know her children, and that she’s done with me. At first, I thought our split might be for the best. But I love and miss her. I sent her a copy of Beaches to try and make her realize that friendships change over time. I also sent a letter saying that I’m willing to put in more effort but that changes need to happen on her end, too. She needs to pick up the phone when I call, and give me at least a little of her time without her family around. Every time we try to make plans, she has 900 things she’s juggling. If I enjoyed having kids around, I’d have some myself. Why can’t she understand that I want to be her friend and NOT “Auntie Jeanie”?
Erika hasn’t written back. Should I make another gesture or accept that all there is nothing left to this friendship but memories?

Lucinda Rosenfeld replies that, as the single one, the onus is on the writer to be flexible; that surely there’s a way to carve out adult time; and that while no one’s making her adopt the kids, she needs to understand that they’re a big part of her friend’s life and 3 little kids is no small mater. Oh, and: “All this said, I admit that while reading your letter-and trying to makes sense of all the hating (including for the husband)-I wondered if, just maybe, you were a little in love with your best friend and resentful of her kids and husband simply because they, not you, currently own her heart? Forgive me if I’m way off the mark.”

We’d have added “What is it you’re trying to save, do you still enjoy each other or have things in common, and also we would pay money to see you in a debate with this woman, but…in love? When does “good friendship” become love? And when does an advice column become that girl in Middle School who insists you like someone so much that all your denials start to look overly vehement and incriminating? Which is not to say it necessarily isn’t the case, but it’s an interesting conclusion to jump to for what is, after all, not that unusual a tension between the childed and child-less. (Also, the mom in Beaches dies.)

Why Can’t I See My Friend Without Her Rug Rats?

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