Hanging Out With the Boys: Maintaining a Balance
Updated: Aug 28, 2018
Childless adults often look at their parent friends in a different light, and for good reason, when you become a parent, your life becomes drastically different. You become boring, very easily distracted and obsessed with everything related to child-rearing. Worst of all, you become unavailable, both literally and figuratively.
And, as a parent, we don't exactly blame you for becoming such a person.
Nature and society all but demands that parents put their lives second to that of their children, with the rest taking a backseat. Fail to do that, and you risk being looked and judged as a less-than-perfect parent who isn't doing everything in his or her power to make sure that the children live an ideal life.
For fathers, the effect of this is subtle but profound. Where once your inbox will be full of your friends asking you to hang out at the local pub or bar, you'd be lucky to have them checking in on you every now and then. You'd chalk this up to saying that "life goes on" and that "they'll soon understand you" and maybe that's true. Life indeed does go on, and your childless bros aren't beholden to your availability. However, this shouldn't totally be the case either.
While your life does indeed change a lot once you have children and you'll find it hard to maintain as many close male friendships, it doesn't have to totally come at the expense of losing out on the relationships you have built prior to having a family and kids.
Having said that, here are tips for fathers to help them maintain prior relationships and still be able to "hang out with the boys".
Dial Back On Talking About Your Children
Your friends understand that you won't have as many drunk stories to tell these days. But, that's okay. They just want to hang out with you. Don't make them NOT want to do that by drowning them with a brain dump of everything that your kids did the entire week.
This isn't to say that you shouldn't be proud of your kids. You should be. You should share their achievements. You shouldn't just talk about them all the time, though.
As a general rule of thumb, for every time you talk about your kids out of nowhere, find two to three things to say that aren't totally related to them.
Stay in Touch With The World
Remember, the rest of the world doesn't stop just because your full attention is now on making sure that you and your family live a good life.
So, while you were busy teaching your daughter or daughter how to walk, talk, count, and so on, the world around you has also changed as well. That's the reality of being a parent, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't at least try to keep up with something that ties you to the world outside of your family.
Sports, for example, is a good example. You may not have the time to follow all of the teams now, but you can follow just one team. Or at least, a couple of them.
There are other things outside of your family that you can stay in touch with as well. Reading books that aren't about parenting is another good example.
Whatever it is, just do it. This should give you something else to talk to your friends about that they also can relate to, or something that they might genuinely be interested in, which, makes it easier for you to avoid talking about your kids too much.
Find a Hobby
No, we're not talking about that woodworking project you have got going on over at your garage that you do with your kids every weekend. That's awesome, by the way, if you're doing that, but do find something that doesn't involve your kids.
We know and we get it. Your friends aren't insensitive to it too. Your kids are a huge part of your life and they always will be. You spend nearly every waking moment of your life making sure that they are well provided for. However, you owe it to yourself and to your family to find a hobby outside of them.
According to a report published by beyondblue, roughly around 25 per cent of 30 to 65-year-old men had no-one outside their immediate family that they felt they could rely on.
That's rough, and you can only imagine what that does to men's mental health – YOUR mental health.
You Are Not Any Better For Having Kids
Your friends could go on and get married without ever having kids, or they can choose to remain single until they die. Either way, whatever they do or whoever they choose to become, you being a parent doesn't make you any better than them. Nor does being a parent grant you the license to tell them that your life is so much better and fulfilling than theirs.
Remember, you are still who you were before when you became a parent. You may be a bit wiser and you definitely know a lot more about vaccinations now. That, and other things. But, the point remains. You are still you.
So, don't suddenly try and act like you're an expert on everything now, because you're not. While you've grown, your friends have too. And they'd be more than glad to tell you about everything awesome that's going on in their life now if only you got off your high horse and stopped talking about how feeding your baby "all-natural" baby food makes you so much better.
What do you do if your buddy from the ye olde days of singlehood invites you to have lunch and, on that day, you find out that your kid has a fever? Do you call your friend to cancel? Most parents will do that. Or, better yet, most parents are expected to do that.
Society puts immense pressure on the modern parent to be there for their children every step of the way – sometimes quite too literally. This causes so much anxiety that parents often feel that what they do is never enough; that their every thought is about how much and in what ways they are failing their kids.
That's not healthy.
First of all, you're not perfect. You never will be. Your kid isn't either. You'll make mistakes. You'll miss a milestone or two, here and there. No matter how hard you try, you will screw up as a parent, especially if you try to measure up to the impossible, imaginary standards set upon you by society.
So, cut yourself some slack. Take some time for yourself. Instead of calling your buddy to cancel, ask if the babysitter can come in, even if it's only for a couple of hours. Going out will not make you any less of a parent. The mere fact that you're worried that it will is enough of a sign that you're doing everything you can.
Understand that while your friends are willing to extend their patience for you to some extent, they'll eventually stop calling if you flake out every time they want to spend time with you. This is bad for you, your wife, and your kids!
Never Stop Trying
Just like a plant that dies when not watered and cared for, your social networks need to be nurtured and kept active as well.
Unfortunately, many men, especially fathers, just stop making an effort to maintain close male relationships, even if they see some value in maintaining a healthy social life.
Don't be like that.
You don't need to be the party animal that you were when you were single, but you don't need to be a social recluse either.
So, never stop trying to maintain healthy relationships with your bros – you, your kids, and your relationship with your spouse will be all the better for it.
The Benefits of Having Friends to Your Kids
According to a study from the Oregon Health and Science University, "Phone calls and digital communication, with friends or family members, do not have the same power as face-to-face social interactions in helping to stave off depression."
As a father, it's easy to feel like you've only got so much energy for work, your wife, and your kids that you don't have time to create and maintain friendships anymore. But, just like everything else when you're a parent, what you do for yourself always extends to your kids as well.
For children, seeing their parents having healthy friendships teaches them how to make friends and, more importantly, how to have friends that last, as it gives them something to model themselves after. Like, for example, being friends with someone for as long as you've been friends with them.
Your friends can also act as extended family members to your children. In today's world, where families become smaller and smaller, it's important for kids to know that they have a group of trusted adults, other than their parents, that are also looking out for them.
More importantly, children also benefit from being away from the prying eyes of their parents as well.
Seeing their parents having friends make children realize that mom and dad also have other important relationships that they need to tend to. Also, children need to be reminded that their parents also need to have fun on their own time as well.
Humans, as a whole, are social creatures. We do better when we're together.
Even if you don't discuss your problems, or have a lot to contribute, whenever you hang out with the boys, just being around other people outside of your immediate family members helps a lot.
Do yourself, and your family, a favor, and go take that night out.