Where did all of the social invitations go? This is a reality that has plagued me for the past eight years. What happened eight years ago, you ask? I became a mom. That was the line in the sand for those who used to invite my husband and me over for dinner, out for drinks, along for a VIP concert experience, etc. All of the fun outings we still enjoyed became forced date night activities simply because of the biases people harbor against friends with kids. Now don't get me wrong, some of these people fawned over my daughter and visited here and there in the beginning, and then...crickets.
I would see the fun happening on Facebook in real time and wonder why we were no longer included in the circles that used to welcome us, laugh with us, vent with us and party with us. We desperately needed that and it had simply dried up. The problem was, and still is, that folks assume that it's too much trouble for us to get a babysitter. We work long hours and could never make it anyway. We're always traveling, or running the kids here and there...and on and on it goes. The truth is, we could always make arrangements for child care, but no one was willing to plan anything with more than a day's notice. Working parents need more time to put the puzzle pieces together, to rally their village, but it can be done. Please consider this the next time you put an outing together. You have no idea how important socializing with other adults is for parents. We need to maintain our friendships, mental health and self-worth. We want to "adult," so please invite us to your party.
While discussing this blog topic idea with a friend, she lamented that the same thing has happened to her, but in reverse. Her friends with children had stopped including her in child-friendly birthday parties, religious ceremonies, and the like. The bias here was that since she's childless, being around kids would only make her sad. Or being around kids would drive her nuts because she's not used to the chaos. Or she wouldn't want to talk about daycare programs, summer camps and children's consignment deals. What they didn't know is that remaining childless was a conscious choice for her and her husband. She loves children, but was content to not pursue that path at this stage in her life. She longed to be the "cool aunt" and spoil her friend's kids with the latest toy, doll or slime kit. They will never know what kind of love she brings to the table if she's never invited. The painful irony here is that this same person was good enough to attend your bridal showers, expensive destination bachelorette party, AND your baby shower...so why can't she enjoy seeing your child grow up, too? Stop assuming and start including!
A third revelation came to light with a new co-worker who chose to live within walking distance of our office to avoid the expense and bother of owning a car. He noted that once people find out that he doesn't have his own transportation, it somehow creates an immediate divide. People aren't use to that lifestyle here and it's almost burdensome to folks who think he's going to need a ride everywhere. He has felt the decline in invitations, as well, and attributes it to bias again. People assume he isn't going to want to "go that far," or be "stranded" if alcohol is involved. He's an urbanite who is perfectly capable of making the adult decision to accept your invite for a party out in Goochland, when he lives in the city. It's completely his choice to order a Lyft and carry on with his evening. He lives adjacent to a new bus rapid transit system and has multiple transportation options at his fingertips at any given hour of the day. Get on the bus, people!
My final example of social invite bias really hits home. It has evolved over time, and been dependent on who was on my team and their dynamic, but once I became a manager of people, it was no longer "cool" to include me in outings. This goes for group lunches, after work happy hours, concerts, baseball games and the list goes on. One former employee in particular brought this bias with them from a previous job and soured the team with their philosophy. It was their belief that the boss should be permitted to show up early in the meet-up, buy a round of drinks for everyone, then gracefully see themselves out so the employees could vent about work issues and bond over the latest gossip. We used to have a much more social team in place. We hosted ladies night events and participated in gift and wine exchanges at the holidays. Those days are gone because attitudes have changed and it's easier to send a group text and invite only the people in your inner circle, or clique, to the holiday happy hour. What's unfair and unhealthy for the work environment is when word gets out that an event happened and feelings get hurt. This happens to me quite often and it really erodes trust and my passion for the job. If everyone were more inclusive and open about their work frustrations, we could possibly work through them, make recommendations and find solutions. Unless I'm given the chance to let my hair down and mingle, there will always be this imaginary wall separating the fun and function in our workplace.
The morale of the story here is to remove those unconscious biases and try to be more inclusive when organizing your next gathering. Thank you!
Wife, Working Mom, Troop Leader, Creative, Survivor.