“Congrats on the baby! Say goodbye to your social life!”
The typical narrative is that kids hinder their parents’ ability to get out and socialize. And it’s true that after kids, what was once simply “going out on Friday night” necessarily becomes a scheduled and labeled “date night” requiring prior arrangements. Family trips are never spur of the moment, instead involving complicated logistical considerations and added expenses, snacks, and bathroom breaks. Not to mention the fact that facilitating kids’ activities and events often takes up a sizeable chunk of our own social calendars.
But if I’m being honest, my son is often not a social hindrance to me at all; in fact, he can be a giant social crutch.
When you have a baby, you have a built-in reason to either 1) not attend a social event, or 2) attend, but excuse yourself at any moment. As a bit of a closet introvert, the second escape hatch option came in especially handy for me as I slowly inched my way back into the land of adults after my maternity leave. Feeling overwhelmed by a massive crowd of grownups with questions and expectations? Time to find somewhere quiet to breastfeed! Navigating a barbeque where you don’t know many people? Oops, the baby’s crying, better go…away!
As babies grow, the escape hatch changes, but it’s still there. Toddlers and little kids offer up their own disruptions—biting and punching each other, tattling, peeing their pants, needing a very specific snack opened in a very specific way, getting some unidentifiable viscous substance in their hair. There’s always a dependable distraction around the corner that will require your immediate attention.
As my son has gotten older, he’s developed a fun-loving, outgoing temperament and I’ve noticed that he’s not only a handy social crutch, he’s often a literal shield. As in, I physically hide behind him when we’re out together. My husband and I joke (I hope it’s a joke?) that our friends like our son more than they like us. Whether or not that’s completely true, I personally think he’s much cooler than I am, and his big personality and joyful exuberance are the perfect excuse for me to hang back or disengage when I need a break from being “on.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love being with friends and going to parties, and I am really not constantly looking for reasons to bail. But going out with my son in tow admittedly makes me feel protected and safe. Plus, I actually enjoy having him with me and talking with him—he’s great company! As my son gets older, I know I’ll gradually start to lose this safety net. And soon, when he’s embarrassed to even be seen with me, the safety net will be gone for good. At that point, I’ll have to adjust back to navigating the social landscape not as a mom, but just as me, without any handy kid-armor.
Bekah Page-Gourley is an attorney and contributing writer for LittleGuide Detroit. She lives with her husband, Jason, and son Isaac, in Lafayette Park, Detroit. They love experiencing the city’s growth, hosting visitors and talking about Detroit’s virtues with anyone who will listen. Bekah and her family love going to Detroit City Football Club and Tigers games, Eastern Market, the Riverfront, and Downtown.