6

I have never liked children or wanted any of my own. I understand how it feels to find something extremely cute and adore something at first sight (I get this feeling with many animals), however when it comes to human babies and children, all I feel is at best a complete absence of emotion, or worse (depending on the parents' tolerance of uncleanliness), mild disgust. This isn't something which is on the level of a values judgement (i.e. I don't think people should not have children), it is just that my emotional reaction to children goes against that of mainstream society.

I have one friend who has recently had a child. I found it was very easy and natural to continue our friendship during her pregnancy -- I don't love talking about children, but while she was pregnant, it was easy to care about her health and physical condition and fears and hopes for the future. Hers, not really the baby's. I was also very happy for her, because I knew it was what she wanted and although I couldn't intuitively understand why having a child would make her happy, it was enough for me to know that it would.

However now that she has had the child, I'm nervous about how to keep our friendship. On one hand, I want to stay friends and this includes hanging out and being there for her through the challenges of parenting. On the other hand, it seems inevitable that doing this will mean I need to interact with the baby. In these interactions, I don't want to have to pretend that I like children, or that I find her baby cute, or that I want to play with her baby, hold it etc. I don't think I could fool anyone even if I pretended...

So how could I convey both of these desires to her with as little awkwardness as possible, and avoid offending her? Generally new parents seem head-over-heels in love with their children and expect others to also be. I want her to know this is nothing personal without triggering an emotional reaction.

11

Something many new parents need is time away from their young children. It seems to me you could couch your needs (to not spend time with her baby) inside an offer to meet her needs (to get out and think about something besides her baby for a little while). Part of how you proceed will depend upon your friend.

I have two young kids myself, and while I know perspectives vary, I can certainly understand why someone might not want to spend time with kids in general, or mine in particular! (It feels good to hear appreciation or praise of my kids, but that's not a prerequisite for friendship, at least for me.)

I also have MUCH LESS freedom to go out and do things than I used to. A lot of what I do and think about revolves around my kids. While this means it's valuable to get out and do other things, it's also difficult to do that. So you can expect your friendship to be scaled back if the two of you used to spend a lot of time together. You can also expect the depth of your connection to change, if you were close, because she's having experiences that you haven't, and not only that, they're experiences you have no interest in hearing about, which is understandable. Just make sure your expectations are appropriate.

In my experience, it has become subtly apparent which friends are interested in spending time with my kids and which aren't, often without any explicit conversation. If you feel that an explicit conversation is needed, you could say something like:

"While I'm so happy for your having had a baby, I want you to know that I'm not well-equipped to support you around this new part of your life. I want to be here for you, so if you want to spend some time away and think and talk about other things, I would love to do that. But I'm not very comfortable around tiny humans in general, and I never have been. If there are other ways you need support, let me know and we can talk about whether that's something I can provide you."

Hope this helps!

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