Friends like us
Susan and Roxi find out what their friends really think of them.
A couple of weeks ago we were forced to turn down an invitation to attend after-work birthday drinks of a good friend. The problem was twofold – she had only sent out the invitation that morning, and I’d already booked our ever-faithful babysitter, Aunty Adair, for the following night, in order to attend the official birthday party of the same friend.

At 9pm that night, when I reached to switch off my cellphone to go to sleep, I noticed a missed call and message from the said friend that had been left while we were in the throws of wrestling Finn to sleep.

I listened to the curt message... 'Please record Jericho at 9 o'clock.' Ok, I thought. But just as I was about to hang up, I heard some more talking. 'So what was their excuse this time?' the sister of said friend enquired. To my horror, as well as a hint of voyeuristic delight, I realised she'd forgotten to hang up. I sat holding my breath with my palms getting increasingly damper as I listened to the group of friends express their irritation that Roxi and I seem to make excuses to join them in their life of carefree enthusiasm, and that 'if we really valued their friendship,' we would make more of an effort.

After my initial surprise, and vague amusement at how horrified they were all going to be when they discovered we had overheard their rantings, I was reminded of a clichéd and yet very true fact about having children. Until you've had them you don't have a clue what it's all about. You can babysit your sister's newborn until you're blue in the face, you still don't know how all-consuming caring for a baby is.

Listening to my friends talk, it became clear that they seemed to think that we were somehow rejecting them in favour of some other kind of fun. They were under the impression that instead of spending our time with them, like we used to, our evenings and weekends were now taken up with a whirlwind social life of much more interesting other-parent friends who we'd miraculously met somewhere between giving birth and weaning Finn onto solids. Of course, the truth is, most of our time spent away from work is largely taken up by helping Finn learn the art of living, which includes stopping him from eating the entire lifestyle section of the newspaper while simultaneously getting a potted cactus stuck on his head, as he explores the living room.

It's not that we never see our old mates. It's just that we've become more wary of the little time we do have away from our boy. If we do give into the temptation of joining our childless friends for a quick drink, two things usually occur. Firstly, we get so swept up by the taste of freedom, usually in the form of a mojito, that our one drink culminates many, many hours later in a few rounds of tequila slammers. And secondly, we spend the next day very close to losing our minds, killing each other and somehow wrestling more than usual with Finn to protect him from the dangers of innocuous household items.

Having said all of this, I do understand that our friends are just plain pissed off. When once we were always around, we are now gone. And even when we are there, we are distracted by our little boy who is much more interesting to us than to them. And when we do manage to pin down Aunty Adair for babysitting, we stare vacantly ahead while trying to maintain eye contact, as our sleep deprived brains struggle to keep up with the flow of conversation. I can imagine that it sucks. And I hope that when we finally emerge into a space where we are closer to resembling our former selves, our friends will still be around... because as much as we love our little boy, we really love our friends too.


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