There is an interesting debate going on at the Good Men Project about whether dads-to-be should be allowed a bachelor party level night of fun with the guys before his baby is born. But in thinking about it, I believe we all missed a deeper issue.
A lot changes when you have a kid. Many of those changes are absolutely wonderful and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. But others are sad. Namely, as a guy, there’s a stark realization that when one of your friends has a kid, there’s a definite chance you’ll essentially lose him as a friend.
There are several factors at work. First of all, having a kid is the ultimate time-suck (and I mean that in the best way possible). Getting into a routine, diaper changes, midnight feedings…it’s exhausting and takes maximum effort. Then they become mobile and require even more looking after, then toddlerhood and finally onto youth sports, drama club, music lessons, etc. It is truly all-consuming. But there are other reasons too.
Some wives use a baby’s arrival as an opportunity to cut “undesirable” friends out of her husband’s life.
Protest all you want, but it’s true. I’ve seen it happen. She makes him feel guilty the minute he says he wants a night out with his friends. She tells him he’s a father now, he shouldn’t be going out, he’s irresponsible, etc. All of his friends call him and invite him out at every turn, but he never comes. Then he stops returning calls. Then the friends stop bothering to invite him. In the blink of an eye everyone has lost a good buddy, and that’s not right.
Much is being made of “dadchelor parties” for men but it’s much more than that douchey name implies. I probably shouldn’t let you behind the Man Curtain, but I’m going to because I think this is important.
I love my friends. They’re extremely important to me. Before I got married and had kids I spent every single weekend with them. We’d gather at someone’s house, drink, eat, talk and have fun. Sometimes we got a little nuts and it turned into a mini bachelor party (no strippers, just booze and girls and fun), but for the most part we just hung out.
And despite what all the sitcoms would have you think, we didn’t just have farting and belching contests. We talked. A lot. We talked about our girlfriends, our jobs, our successes, our failures and where we were headed. I’ve had more meaningful drunk 3 a.m. front porch conversations with my friends than I can count. And sure, while we might spend the majority of our time hurling finely crafted insults at one another, there was some important stuff mixed in there too.
It was so important to me that when MJ and I started talking about marriage, I told her I’d still need a decent amount of time with the guys. Thankfully she understands completely and has no problem with me going out from time to time. Not a lot, but enough. But some guys have far less understanding wives and aren’t so lucky. And that’s too bad.
Men won’t often admit they need their friends. That sounds weak, or even “gay.” And when we get married or have a kid, there is a genuine fear we’ll lose our friends. And therefore a little bit of ourselves. And that’s a valid worry because it happens all the time, made worse when a wife decides it’s irresponsible or disrespectful for him to spend any time at all away from his family.
But for guys like me, there’s no line between good friends and family. And there’s no doubt I’m a happier man—a better father and husband even—when I can carve out a little time with the people I love without being made to feel guilty about it. And yes, sometimes that time could include going on a bender and getting juvenile and stupid. But so what? As long as I’m giving my wife the opportunity to do whatever makes her happy on her own, and as long as I’m not consistently shirking my duties as husband and father, the occasional party binge with friends is just fine.
But ladies, rest assured that what appears to be a regression back to our college frat days has deeper meaning. Sure we’re drinking and carrying on, but we’re also reconnecting and renewing our male friendships. Like any relationship, it takes effort to maintain them. We wouldn’t deny you “Girls Night Out,” so stop getting all bent out of shape about our guy excursions.
Men need friends too.