I have many friends who have gone through the Alcohol Anonymous (AA) program, and I admire them greatly for how they have turned their lives around and live into their new commitments every day. But I have to admit, as I sit here planning my next dinner party, in which my famous sangria will be prominently featured, I am hesitant to include two friends who are recovering alcoholics. I worry that they’ll be uncomfortable. I worry they’ll make the other guests self-conscious. I worry they simply won’t fit in.
Ooops! Did I really think that? What a hypocrite I am!
Recently, Maybe Baby Liz wrote on this site (“Locked Out of the Mommy Clubhouse,” July 5) about her first experience of being left out of a dinner party because she is the lone childfree friend among all the mommies. Your comments attested to what I know, that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Many of us have shared our painful experiences of being excluded from social gatherings (and even family get-togethers) because we are childfree. While I am commiserating, I’m also starting to face myself in the mirror. Have I excluded pregnant friends because I just couldn’t bear to be around them while dealing with my own loss? Have I excluded parents of young children because I just couldn’t take another night of listening to them talk about schools and sports programs and teething issues, a discussion I can’t participate in?
I know there aren’t easy answers. I know we can’t deny our own pain, and it also isn’t right to force ourselves to sit through a long evening that causes us to go home and drown our sorrows in a pint of chocolate-fudge-ripple ice cream. I also know that even when we make the effort to include our mommy friends, oftentimes we’re the ones who end up being excluded from the conversation around us. Believe me, I’ve been there.
But that doesn’t mean we stop trying. That doesn’t mean we don’t still make the efforts to reach out and support our friends no matter where they are on their life paths—or where those paths are headed.
The bottom line for me is I care about my friends and I want to spend time with them. I will be upfront with them about the sangria, I will make sure they know there will also be booze-free options available, and then I’ll let them decide if they want to come. If not, I’ll suggest we get together another time, maybe for brunch with really great coffee.
Because this is what friends do. We commiserate, we support, we show compassion. We reach out and embrace each other and we try to build bridges of understanding. It can start with us.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s mostly at peace with her decision to be childfree.
What I have found is that my true friends considered my feelings, called me before sending me an invite that might upset me or cause me to be conflicted and asked if I would want to go, and if I say yes, then I got a written invite. If I decided not to go after really thinking it through,I would call and be honest about why I couldn’t go and those friends totally understood– in fact I think sharing my feelings with them made us closer. I think the same thought process should be used for everything, not just infertilty. You are taking the correct approach. I quickly found out which of my friends cared enough about me to be sensitive to my feelings, and which didn’t care at all. The people that didn’t care drifted away because it opened my eyes to the fact that we weren’t very good friends after all.
My best friend of many years didn’t invite me to her son’s second birthday party. I saw on Facebook that many other friends were invited, but I was excluded from the guest list. I was hurt. If it was a family only party, I would understand but I could never imagine leaving this friend out of my future child’s birthdays. At the time, we had only been TTC for a few months so I had no idea what was around the corner. In the end, I sent my friend an email because I couldn’t shake the awful feeling of hurt. I knew she would be understanding and she was. She explained that she really just invited friends with kids because it was a kids birthday party. Except that several friends without kids were invited. A specific married couple was invited because it was her husbands BFF and they could be facing a life of childfree living due to medical conditions. She didn’t want to leave them out and make them feel bad. 3 years later, that couple has one son and another on the way. I am facing being childfree due to infertility. She has since invited me to every birthday and has stated how horribly she feels for excluding me in the first place. I’m always aware of not excluding people for reasons based on my own assumptions based on that experience. As you can tell, it still stings a bit.
Michelle, I can relate. My once best friend (since she had kids and I had infertility, we’ve drifted) has never invited me to either of her kids’ birthday parties, we’ve never been invited over to have fish and chips on the floor (a fish and chip picnic) which she did regularly with friends with kids. Etc etc. Can you tell it still stings with me too?
Years ago, one of my closest friends, invited me to her daughter’s first birthday party. That was the only one I was ever invited to. At the time, we were both very young, and she told me she hoped I wouldn’t be bored. My best friend, who is married to my cousin. Has never invited me to any of her daughter’s parties. None of my friends have ever invited me to any of their kids parties. I am asked to be a bridesmaid… have done so 11 times. I am asked to attend baby showers, but after the kids is born, it is Hasta la Vista, Baby!
Kathleen, I wish you were my friend. And the evening with sangria sounds like fun!
I think this is not about principles but about being considerate – both the guests and the hosts. Some people who have nothing else to talk about than schools and sports programs and teething issues i would stop to invite to a party. Because they have simply become plain boring guests. Nothing forces them to do so, it’s their choice. To be honest, i might also exclude the recent ex-alcoholic, if the person has nothing else to talk about than her/his recent problems; though the choice-aspect is a bit more complicated here. That doesn’t mean i won’t be in touch or care about this person. But I think it’s ok to say that when we’re having a party, we want to invite people who want to party with us and relate to us and the other guests. And that means sharing in the fun, being open for other people and discussing other issues than exclusively the new parent’s or ex-alcoholic’s problems.
I just typed a long reply and it didn’t go up on the page because of login problems. Basically, this was my story in a nutshell. I have a college friend who is a stay at home mom of 2 kids. I haven’t seen her for 2 years because she is very busy and neither of us make much of an effort to get together. For the last few years I have had a birthday dinner outing with my closest friends, and always invite her. Last year she cancelled on me at the last minute because she said her kids (7 and 10) were overtired because they were out late at a family gathering the night before. She couldn’t get a babysitter. It was very annoying, because I thought the kids should just have been told they had to go, that mommy and daddy had plans. But I said I understood, we would get together later. Then this year I do a Facebook invite in early August. The friend says she doesn’t know if she can come, her son’s soccer game schedule isn’t out yet, etc. Then she tells me the other day they CAN come, and I write back yay. Then she replies (12 hours after she said yes) that now she CAN’T come because she is organizing her friend’s baby shower, and that’s the only day that works. Give me a break. I understand that you have a bunch of friends with kids in your area, but can’t you find 2 hours to go out with me for my birthday? I didn’t say this of course, just wrote back that I wish her good luck with planning the shower. She apologized but it’s just very frustrating.
I am grateful for my childfree friends who are more available, and usually, more considerate to me.