• Fri, Feb 1 2013

SAHM No More: I Don’t Want To Be My Kids’ Friend

parent child relationshipSAHM No More explores the the ups-and-downs of navigating a new world of parenting, transitioning from married stay-at-home motherhood to a full-time working, divorced motherhood. And there are a lot of adjustments being made—a lot of adjustments and not a lot of sleep.

It’s been said that the hardest time to make friends is once you enter your 30s. You don’t have the same opportunities to meet anyone in places like school or even work really. It’s partly because so many people who you might meet are frequently in serious relationships at this point in their lives, and it’s just not as easy to socialize casually. And this is all fine, though, I guess, potentially lonely. But, I have to admit that, as a working parent—or really any kind of parent—sometimes it can seem like a relief not to have the pressures of socializing too frequently.

It can so easily be overwhelming to even find time for yourself, let alone your friends. And so all this is just fine until the day you realize, as I started to awhile back, that your closest friends in life are your children and that this isn’t exactly the parent child relationship you want.

I definitely never set out to be the parents who is “best friends” with my kids. This wasn’t something that necessarily interested me because, well, I had friends, plenty of them. But as time has gone on and my sons have gotten older and my life has gotten busier with work, I’ve found myself having less and less time to spend with friends. So, by default, most of my social activity tends to revolve around what my kids are doing.

I can’t remember the last movie that I saw without them. I tend to take them out to restaurants far more frequently than I go meet a friend for dinner. I show them funny things that I find online, like that amazing cat with eyebrows or the Ikea monkey. I let them stay up late so that we can hang out and have quality time together on nights when I work late. And really, it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes in how I talk to my kids compared to my friends. I might not talk to them about everything, but we do talk about a lot.

But recently, I’ve started to see the need for more boundaries. Part of this is because my kids, at ages eight and 11, are entering a time in their lives when I think it is incredibly important for them to know that, while friends are amazing, a parent is so much more than a friend. As a young, single parent, I frequently find myself in a weird position wherein I often get mistaken for my kids’ sister or a babysitter. Not that this should necessarily diminish my parental authority. But when you add together all the times that my children’s schoolmates have asked if I was really their mother or the fact that I am not the strictest person in the world, I start to wonder if I need to make a more distinct separation between my children and myself.

None of this is to say that my children don’t respect me or are particularly disobedient. They also are aware of the difference between hanging out with me and hanging out with their actual peers—trust me, they’d never choose me over a sleepover with a friend.

So, really, the problem isn’t how they’re doing. And it isn’t even really my relationship with them. My problem is that I need to make more time for myself and my adult friends because I have started to become all too aware that I am depending on a relationship that is altogether too fleeting.

Soon enough, my kids are going to be teenagers and not want to have as much to do with me as they do now. Hopefully, our closeness and our healthy relationship will continue through those tumultuous (or at least they were for me and everyone else I know) years and come out well on the other side. But I will still be living my life and don’t want to become too wrapped up in them at the expense of fostering my own adult friendships.

So lately, I’ve been easing back a bit, encouraging my kids to go on more playdates and worked at setting up my own dates. I adore my kids, but I don’t need them to be my best friends.

(photo: OtnaYdur / Shutterstock)

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  • Justme

    As a public school teacher, more parents need to be like you.

    A youth minister I know once said in reference to her church kids requesting her as a Facebook friend: “I am not your FRIEND, I am an adult who cares.”

    And personally, I like having friends that can drive and drink wine with me….not at the same time, of course.

    And if I’m friends with my child….who will listen to me complain about my child!? :)

    • K.

      I’m a teacher too and I totally agree. Moms and Dads who worry about their children “liking” them wind up raising insecure children–probably the opposite of what they intended.

  • LiteBrite

    Has anyone ever seen the movie “Boiler Room?” If you have, there is a really funny exchange between the main character, Seth, and his father at a restaurant. Seth is going on about how hard his dad was on him and says “Our relationship has suffered.” His dad just looks at him and says, “Our relationship? What are we, girlfriends? Seth, I’m not your best friend; that’s your mother’s job. My job is to tell you when you f*ck up.”

    That’s pretty much how DH and I feel about our son. We love him. We want to have a good relationship with him, one based on trust and respect. But we are NOT his friends nor do we want to be. We are his parents, and there is a difference. Our job is to teach him how to be a productive member of society. His friends may help him screw that up. Our job is to tell him WHEN he screws it up (and to dole out the appropriate punishment for it).

    I know that may sound harsh to some people, but I really think that parents need to be careful about blurring that line between parent and friend. I know of a few cases where that line hasn’t been set, and it’s not working out well (at least IMHO).

  • whiteroses

    My mom is one of my best friends. But that only happened when I hit my twenties. Before that, she was very much my parent. We had a great time together when I was a kid, playing and watching movies and reading books, but she was also the person who grounded me. Our relationship developed as all friendships do- based around mutual interests and respect. But I always felt like I could tell her anything and she’d give me good advice. It’s a very fine line to walk.

    I’d still spend time with her if it’s offered, but I still go and hang out with my peer group friends. Frankly, they understand me more in a lot of ways than my mother ever could, and vice versa. I think this whole idea of parents being friends is only a good one when the kids are adults themselves.