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Perhaps an uncommon question, but I'd like to know if you, as a parent, are really as busy as my friend.

We're childhood friends. Growing up, we spent countless hours speaking on the phone. She got married, moved abroad, and now has a 15-month-old baby. I got into a serious relationship at the same time she fell pregnant. My romantic relationship has its ups and downs, so I started calling her via Skype to talk about it instead of just chatting by text. She's level-headed and always gave me good advise. I always felt better after talking to her.

After her baby was born, we still talked on the phone three or four times when her baby was asleep (2-3 hours at a time), but then she put a stop to it by saying that she's very busy with the baby. I waited a few months, but she said she was still busy and tired. I only asked for a night each week, or even a month, but she said she couldn't talk on the phone, since a baby's schedule is unpredictable. Every time I ask her when I can call her, she'd say that she prefers to text, because she's only free at midnight. Once I called her nevertheless amidst our texting, and she didn't answer, saying her baby was asleep, and she didn't want to move to another room.

She's normal when texting, but she absolutely refuses to talk on the phone. I admit I'm quite desperate and hurt. Are parents really this busy? I don't remember my parents were like this. She's a stay-at-home mum doing a remote work part-time, and I know she can make time to have a work meeting via Zoom from time to time, but apparently not to talk with an old friend. I'm really curious, that's why I'm here. Am I being unreasonable here, or her?

Thanks for your insight.

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    You've had some good answers, I think in my experience (I have one child, now age three) that I've started to have me-time again since he was about 2.5 as he started to prefer having his dad to do bedtime so I get some alone time! And he now sleeps consistently well so we are well rested. Its the 'mental load' of having a kid which means any extra requirement on your time can feel crushing when you have 0 decompression time. Hopefully over time things will get back to 'normal' with your friend.
    – R Davies
    Aug 16, 2023 at 7:48
  • Great answers, but I would just add - especially at this early an age - that children are unpredictable. When children are older they'll normally accept some time where they're by themselves and parents are in another room, but early on they will need constant attention, as well as their parents to drop everything at a moment's notice. That is a contributing factor in why parents are so busy - the child takes precedence over everything. If you want to talk to your friend, you'll have to try and schedule a time - but be prepared for it not to work or for her to suddenly have to leave.
    – user25730
    Jan 4 at 1:50

7 Answers 7

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Yes she is.

What I think makes this so hard for non-parents to understand is that there's pretty much no days off when you're parenting. Sure, there might be times where you're not obviously doing anything, but you might just be trying to catch your breath or figure out what you're neglecting before getting interrupted by a concerning banging noise.

To exemplify my experience as a dad who works through the week, on the weekends I will try and make the most of things by spending as much time with my kids as I can (4 & 6 for context). Part and parcel with that might entail making lunch.

So I'll ask the kids what they want to eat and I'll get no answer because they're very absorbed in whatever they're doing (i.e. watching tv, coloring, building a blanket fort, etc). So I'll then need to go over to them and re-ask the question, but perhaps this is a time they're watching tv and are far too easily distracted by it to really listen. So now we've gotta find the remote so that we can pause the tv; oh it's behind the couch again, guess we gotta move a couch now. Third time now asking the question and the answer is they don't know and want choices. Ok, so I come up with maybe 3 choices that I'm fine with making at this point in time and they make their choices and I return to the kitchen. It's now maybe 10 minutes after I asked the initial question.

So now, I proceed on making things. My daughter wanted a turkey sandwich so I proceed on making that, but I realize that we're out of cheese which is really going to be an issue for my son who wanted a grilled cheese. So now I've gotta let my son know that I didn't realize that we're out of cheese so he can't have what he wanted, but it's relatively early in the day so he's ok with this sudden change (if this happened after 4 pm, it could've been a real problem) and he says he wants a slice of the leftover pizza.

Ok, so I proceed on making the lunch. The pizza's going to take the longest so I start that and while it's cooking I try and make headway on the dishes in the sink. I also pop on a podcast or something to listen to, but while trying to find something I want to listen to I can hear the kids are yelling at each other over something (probably somebody's leg is on someone else's cushion); the tone isn't at a level where I'm concerned, so I do nothing to see if they resolve it themselves.

I start on the dishes, but probably like 3 minutes after I actually start, the toaster oven dings so I gotta dry my hands and pull the pizza. I pull together a quick turkey sandwich and call the kids to come get them; but I might have to call at least twice if they're really focusing on something. They come get their plates and my son goes out to eat but my daughter stops and says that she doesn't like that I cut her sandwich into triangles because she wanted rectangles. Now this might seem like a silly little thing, but if I totally ignore it, she'll probably be very upset because it's important to her. So I sit with her and we talk about it and maybe figure out some creative way to find rectangles in the triangles or something.

With her accepting the shape of her sandwich, I then get back to dishes. I get 2 plates done and then my son asks me for some apple juice. So I dry my hands again and pour him some juice and remind him to hold the cup with 2 hands. Being proactive, I ask my daughter if she wants juice and she says 'no'.

So I go back to doing dishes. After about 20 minutes, I manage to finish the dishes, but this endpoint is perhaps nearer to an hour after this whole thing started. Also, it's entirely feasible that my daughter will have changed her mind in the middle of this and decided she did want juice. Also, I will have to remind the kids to bring their plates to the counter so that I can wash them.

This is maybe one hour of a typical day for a parent in our house. And oftentimes, it's at least 14 hours of this everyday for our kids.


The point I'm making is that parenting is hard work in every sense. It can be physically demanding (to move a couch, to squat down and talk to a little person), it can be emotionally demanding (to keep your calm when you're getting annoyed, to be in-tune with your own kids' needs to know how to approach them) and it can be mentally demanding (to deal with multiple interruptions plus come up with solutions that might be acceptable to your kids).

At least in America, it often feels like so much of this work isn't perceived as real work because nobody's paying you to do it. But I can assure you it is definitely work and at the end of the day, I'm often far more tired than I would be if I'd just gone to my actual job that day.

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  • Thanks for sharing. It does sound tiring. Is it possible to hire a day-maid? In my country live-in maid is pretty common.
    – Juli
    Aug 15, 2023 at 9:50
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    @Juli yes, but such things usually cost money and that might not be viable if prior to kids, your friend was part of the household's income stream (i.e. going from 2 incomes to 1). Even if it is affordable, it doesn't fully negate the parental responsibilities, but it probably helps alleviate some of the pressure (i.e. it is so easy to fall behind on laundry). Aug 15, 2023 at 12:44
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    @Juli one other thing to mention is that as parents it's soooo easy to fall off the radar of your friends. Before kids, I had a very active social life with a bunch of people that didn't have children. Afterwards, it's been nearly impossible to interact with those same people because they just don't understand where I'm at with regards to my responsibilities. But truly, it is very helpful to not feel forgotten if as a friend you keep in touch via texting, it lets your friend respond when she has a few minutes. Aug 15, 2023 at 12:48
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    Also, understand that if she were to call you she'd either be too mentally exhausted to have much of a meaningful conversation or something (TM) would happen that would distract her. To exemplify, my mom called me over this past weekend at 2 in the afternoon, but the call happened right as I was walking in the door. So I tried to head downstairs to talk with her, but my son followed me because he just wanted some attention. He realized who I was talking to and wanted to be involved. Long story short, my mom had to download Duo, call back, my son showed her his bike, and then I had to go. Aug 15, 2023 at 12:52
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    @Juli - to be fully honest it's hard having a meaningful conversation even with your partner in the same room, not to mention a phone call. For years on end, once you become a parent.
    – iulia
    Aug 18, 2023 at 18:56
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Yes, parents, especially new parents, are that busy.

I used to take care of pregnant women and then their babies as well. With every first pregnancy, as the due date approached, I'd tell them to lower their expectations significantly: they would not be able to cook, clean, and care for a baby. If they took care of the baby and got a load of laundry done as well, that would be a good day. I reminded them of this often.

When I had my first baby, I was shocked to still be in my pajamas when my husband came home from work. I couldn't understand where all the time was going; it was only a baby, and all they did was eat, sleep, sometimes cry, and soil themselves. That took up my entire waking hours? Yes, it did. And I was sleep deprived to boot.

So no, it's not just you. But, I feel you should know that it was you who backed your friend into a corner so tightly that she (wisely) refused to answer the phone when you violated her request not to speak on the phone.

I admit I'm quite desperate and hurt.

I'm sure it is painful, but there is someone in her life now who needs her much more than you do. You have no idea of how much generosity she showed you in speaking to you for hours once her baby was born. Please try to take care of your problems yourself now as much as possible, and honor her boundaries. And please know that she is being generous and cares enough about you to text you. That's something to be thankful for.

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Welcome, Juli!

I am a stay at home mom of a 9 month old. My husband works from home and shoulders most of the housework and helps with baby care. Baby care is my sole responsibility in life these days.

While there are many different ways to raise a child and my preferred way may involve more effort (exclusive breastfeeding, staying home with baby), I can fully relate to your friend not being able to talk on the phone with you, and I am impressed she made time to chat with you on the phone after her baby was born, as she was likely sacrificing precious sleep, meal time, or shower time to do it. As I write this on my phone, my baby is suckling and sleeping next to me. If I were to move from this position she would awake and require my full attention. Texting works, but phone calls do not.

I am sorry for the loss of your friends' phone calls and I know that may feel like she has abandoned you in your time of need, but if she is still texting you, she hasn't abandoned you! Refusing to do phone calls is an act of necessary self preservation as a mom in my experience.

As the mom of a 9 month old, I have what feels like 0-10 minutes to myself on any given day. I still need my husband's help to be able to eat meals (that he prepared) most of the time. And I have life "easy" because my husband is so involved.

I think none of us remember how hard being a parent was for our parents, because, well, we're not them and a lot of the time, the struggles don't show.

Please continue texting your friend. Maybe even order a meal for her if you can. :)

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    Thanks for sharing. How do you keep up with your friends with a baby on board?
    – Juli
    Aug 15, 2023 at 9:48
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    What friends? ;) I generally fall off the radar for weeks or months, and then text or email them. I keep up the most with new friends that have babies near in age to mine because we're going through similar life experiences.
    – Kilobyte
    Aug 15, 2023 at 13:37
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    However, the companionship of old friends is also very important to me, because parenting has a way of swallowing my identity and interests. Old friends remind me that "I" am still here, somewhere... the me who always loved the outdoors, photography, writing and reading, camping... I'm here somewhere, buried under diapers and onesies.
    – Kilobyte
    Aug 15, 2023 at 13:45
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There are excellent answers here already about dealing with babies. Only warning you it does not completely go away as the children get older. Even 10 year olds like to interrupt. The only time I talk to my friends is when my kids are watching TV.

Even then, I keep the topics generic unless I am far away from them. I do not feel comfortable talking about sensitive topics with children around. I know my kids are listening, and either they will form opinions which may not be correct or ask me for uncomfortable details to make sense of what they hear.

I have even heard of 18 year olds who generally don't talk much to parents wanting to talk about something very important when their parent is on the phone.

The point here is not that the friendship is lost. It is to keep your expectations practical. Expect interrupted or unfinished conversations. But that does not mean that the relationship is going bad. Sounds like both of you value each other, but just hitting the limits of the situation.

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Yes, parents are that busy! Moreover, one's ability to care for others gets used up. She sounds like a nice, giving, friend, but she's not YOUR mother and she's not a therapist. The last thing she needs is another dependent on top of her load, but she deserves kudos for defending her boundaries firmly but kindly.

Her priorities right now are to keep the baby thriving, keep her bills paid, keep the household running, her marriage from imploding, and (if the stars are aligned once in a while) slip in some self-care. Self-care might involve chatting with friends, but if she's an introvert, it's probably alone time that she craves. Even if she stops at one child, she probably won't have spare time until the child goes to school... provided she doesn't start working longer hours at that point.

If you'd like to spend more time with her, perhaps you could visit her one day and offer to babysit or to push the stroller while she does errands.

From my experience as a work at home mom with three kids (the oldest is off to college and the youngest is 9, which is why I have the time to answer random questions), I find that I have had time to spend with my closest old friends only 3-4 times a year at most, and some I have not seen in a decade though we will chat on birthdays. I tend to socialize more with work friends or other parents while waiting to pick up kids from activities, or during play dates, since there isn't much discretionary time to spare.

Of course you miss her, but it is an opportunity for you to grow as well, working on your other friendships and trying to channel her wisdom when you find yourself in a relationship dilemma.

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I think this is totally normal. Give it some a few years and you may get back into normal phone calls.

Tldr version -

When you have a small living thing that cannot verbally communicate with you, who knows nothing of night or day, availability, or even the mental state of those around them, then you tend to figure out subtle, parental means of taking advantage of every little victory you can, be that a successful nap, or avoiding crying, or whatever else becomes the roadblock in an otherwise already impossible day. A phone call is almost positively dead last on the list of things you need to intercept a moment's peace, no matter who it is from.

But texting is a different story. You can text while feeding. You can text while holding a baby in both hands as they nap in a weird position that leaves you with a nasty cramp in your side that you won't fix because moving may end the nap and start the horror all over again. It's silent, and you learn to become efficient in your communications that definitely will not be the same as voice, but you will likely find to be every bit as complete.

Zoom meetings and babies don't mix. She has no doubt had her child interfere with that process, and no doubt the people in the meeting understand when she has to mute to deal with something. That is a factor of life she has no choice but to abide by. Friends are not exactly the same, as an argument with a friend is not likely to leave you without a home or the ability to feed your child. I would let that one rest and not try to compare her ability to juggle zoom and a baby with her ability to juggle you as well. Figure the little things like how to navigate a guaranteed war between children and zoom possibly several times a day are the very things that take all the steam out of her and are the very reason why you should not try to join that bandwagon and become the next thing on the list that takes her sanity away. If you want to get the most out of your friendship, you might want to dial that back a bit and make your communications one of the treats she gets occasionally.

Having a baby is a lot like being on house arrest. It's not just exhausting, unrelenting, and isolating, but it is also new to her as well. She may be one of those people who just glides through it and loves every second of it, but in all probability, she is finding out that it is a soul sucking nightmare that is equally delightful as it is awful. I believe any parents here will understand that sentiment. Changing diapers and dealing with food disasters are horrid but you don't hate your kid for it. But just having a kid doesn't automatically make you like dealing with bags of feces or piles of food strewn all over everything. And the list is miles long. And don't forget, this is every day, all day, for at least 10 years or so before the kid(s) are merrily existing in a way that does allow you to remember what it was you did with your time before having kids... if they ever reach that point.

Most of us go through waves of good and bad emotions on the parental voyage. I believe it is perfectly healthy to love your family but also admit it is not a joy ride. At this point in her parental career, she could easily be in the "how the hell do people do this" phase that may be best supported via text. Eventually the phone will be an option. But for now, figure that is off the table.

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That's how I lost a good friend.

At university, we were inseparable. Then we both found a partner. She moved away, married and got pregnant, but we were still best friends and talked via the telephone at least once a week. Until the day her baby was born.

From that day on, the situation was just the same as you describe it. Whenever I tried to get in touch, she was busy feeding the baby, changing diapers ... whatever. I missed her, but I was patient. I didn't want to give up this friendship. After all, this was only a phase of her life, wasn't it?

Well it wasn't. Her whole life had changed with the baby. She was extremely occupied with everything that had something to do with the child. Nutrition, baby swimming, toddler group. Sorry, no time for an old friend. I was patient.

After three years she had a second baby. The situation got worse. She had no time for visits or even phone calls, and when I e-mailed her, it took her weeks or months to answer. She always told me that she wanted to keep in touch, but she didn't. The children went to kindergarden, then to school, she was busy with homework, sports, birthday parties. And in the meantime, she had made friends with other parents. No time for an old friend.

I really wanted to keep this friendship, but when both children were in school and the situation was still the same, I gave up. It was impossible. It was as if she was living on another planet.

I don't know what went wrong. I really didn't want to lose her, I did everything to stay in touch, but she simply disappeared out of my life. Perhaps this is normal, perhaps she exaggerated her role as a mum, I don't know.

I hope that your friendship will survive, but be prepared that you might as well lose her.

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  • I'm so sorry to hear that! Weren't you invited to the birthday parties? My friend lives abroad since she's married, so it's impossible to keep a touch except through texting.
    – Juli
    Aug 29, 2023 at 12:11
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    She did not celebrate her own birthday - these were birthday parties for the children. Or she simply had other children overnight and was busy with them.
    – sisee
    Aug 30, 2023 at 13:04
  • I feel this answer. But remember @sisee if she answered an email after months she did think about you and she took the hurdle of returning an email after months which is not easy.
    – Ivana
    Sep 11, 2023 at 9:10

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