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ASK RENE: BABY TALK

Hi Rene,

Here’s my dilemma!

I’m a 38-year-old businesswoman who lives and works in Chicago. I run three restaurants of my own, which I started, from scratch and also have a range of side projects and ventures including a local charity, which I oversee.

I’ve been married for five years and my husband and I made the decision that we wouldn’t have children.

However my best friend of 20 years has just given birth to her first daughter and it’s driving a wedge between our once strong friendship. Rebecca talks about her daughter non-stop, insists that she comes along whenever we meet (and you know how hard it is to have a conversation with a screaming baby in the room) and isn’t interested in anything I have going on in my life. In fact I think she looks down on me now and actually pities me!

I’m tempted to end our friendship but I’d hate to close the door on 20 years of closeness… have you ever experienced anything like this Rene and what would your advice be?


Hi Rene,

Here’s my dilemma!

I’m a 38-year-old businesswoman who lives and works in Chicago. I run three restaurants of my own, which I started, from scratch and also have a range of side projects and ventures including a local charity, which I oversee.

I’ve been married for five years and my husband and I made the decision that we wouldn’t have children.

However my best friend of 20 years has just given birth to her first daughter and it’s driving a wedge between our once strong friendship. Rebecca talks about her daughter non-stop, insists that she comes along whenever we meet (and you know how hard it is to have a conversation with a screaming baby in the room) and isn’t interested in anything I have going on in my life. In fact I think she looks down on me now and actually pities me!

I’m tempted to end our friendship but I’d hate to close the door on 20 years of closeness… have you ever experienced anything like this Rene and what would your advice be?

Thanks

Carly

Hey Carly:

I’m going to ask you to go back for a minute, to a time in your life when you got something you desperately wanted. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say it was a boyfriend. Remember how excited you were after those first few dates? He opened the car door, held your hand in between meal courses, the sex was electrifying and he literally could do no wrong. Even his temper tantrums were cute.

Then a shift occurred. He stopped taking you to the newest and best restaurants, instead settling for chicken wings in front of the football game. Somewhere along the way he stopped holding hands unless he wanted sex and the burping and farting were decidedly not cute. It’s not that you didn’t still love him it’s just that the new wore off and you were able to regain some sense of balance in your own life. This is what has happened to your friend Rebecca.

I, too, have friends who are just now having babies and seriously it is an amazing thing. This little creature who is so adorable and loving, smells good (most of the time) and loves unconditionally. You literally fall into a big, thick, gooey vat of baby love. But when they start talking about all things baby, even Good Enough Mother will admit, my eyes glaze over and I long for a root canal. But guess what? I was THAT SAME WAY! When my Casey came along, you could not tell me there was a smarter, more adorable baby than her on the planet. I told everyone who would listen (and even those who tried to get away) what it was like the first time she smiled at me (that wasn’t gas) and what a well-formed poopie she had that morning.

Rebecca will eventually settle into a nice routine with her daughter, but right now, she is high on endorphins and covered in gooey, baby love so let’s cut her a little slack. But until she returns to the friend you once had or some close proximity thereof, here’s what I would suggest to preserve your own sanity.

*IF YOU GO OUT WITH REBECCA, DON’T TAKE THE BABY: If Rebecca wanted to have any sort of real conversation, it’s sort of crazy to think that could be accomplished with a screaming baby anyway. Suggest that she leave the baby with a sitter or better yet, the baby’s dad. If she cannot afford a sitter, you can spring for one.

*SHARE EXPERIENCES YOU DID BEFORE THE BABY CAME ALONG: If you and Rebecca plan to get together, do something you used to do. Was it happy hour at a local pub or wine tasting, or shopping? Whatever it was, take her there. The cues may remind her that there is a big, wide world out there and every conversation doesn’t have to center on the most absorbent diapers.

*MAKE YOURSELF “LESS AVAILABLE”: When Rebecca calls, talk to her, be nice, let her mention a thing or two about the baby but when she starts prattling on, politely excuse yourself as business calls. Or someone is at the door selling magazines. Or the dog pooped in the house. You get the picture and she will too, eventually, without you having to be overly direct or insensitive.

In closing I want to make two points. I know you and your husband have decided not to have kids. Do you still feel the same way or is there something stirring in you that now makes being around Rebecca and the baby talk unbearable? Goals change, people change, could it be that you have changed your mind about having children?

The other thing is that while I don’t think you need to officially put an end to your 20-year friendship, you need to prepare yourself for the fact that it will be different. You and your friend were on the same trajectory for a while, both married, good incomes, no kids. But she got off that path and her long-term goals are now very different from yours. You will probably never recapture what you once had; that does not mean you won’t develop a new, maybe even better, relationship. Just know that that little baby has had a profound impact on your friend and your relationship with her and it will more than likely, be different from here on out.

Good Luck!

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3 Comments

  1. Pamela

    October 13, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Rene, that was a good answer! I can relate to Carly ina way. Not about the child and not having children because I have 2 of my own. But I can relate in other ways. It’s like all you want is to have an uninterupted conversation! Good post, good question. I may be popping on her to ask a question of my own.

  2. Christa aka Never teh Bride

    October 13, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    Huh, I wonder if Carly was excited and joyful when she started those three restaurants and got those side projects off the ground? And I also wonder if that excitement manifested itself in her talking about her restaurants and projects instead of the usual topics of conversation, at least for a little while? Because that’s what people do when they’re happy about something new in their lives.

    Someone who truly cares about you will have patience and listen, even when they don’t really care about babies… or restaurants or charity work or your new favorite author or whatever. That’s part of what being a friend is – having sympathetic joy.

  3. M.E. Johnson

    October 15, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Great advice, Rene, also Christa. When my babies (especially the 1st one) were new I probably didn’t know who the president was. Looking back, I’m sure I annoyed some people but they were kind enough to not ever complain.

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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