Q: A friend is constantly canceling plans at the very last minute, citing her 18-month-old son's nap schedule as the reason. But it seems he just isn't on a schedule, or else we'd be able to make plans around it! I feel like her constant canceling is really rude. Who's right here?
A: You're right that your friend's constant canceling is rude. And she's right in the sense that only she can say what her day is like or how overwhelmed she feels by the demands of motherhood. You're not in her head or her home (and I'm not, either, of course). A thousand different things could be keeping her from following through on plans. If your friend's disorganized by nature, an 18-month-old (who may be in the midst of shifting sleep needs, incidentally) could be just enough to throw her into a tizzy and prompt her to cancel.
I've known people like this, and usually their flaky behavior manifests itself before they have kids. They're the ones who leave you cooling your heels in the diner/bookstore/bar you were supposed to meet at 45 minutes ago, then -- if they show up at all -- rush in with a flurry of apologies (can you tell I've been there, done that?). If this description fits your friend, work around it. Stick to pals who, like you, are eager for some kid-free time, and keep in touch with your cancel-prone friend by phone or e-mail.
But if you think this behavior is coming out of left field, there may be other explanations. As I said before, you don't necessarily know what's going on in her head or home. She might be so child-focused right now that even though part of her wants to see old friends (the part that makes plans with you), the other part would just as soon stay home and cocoon with her son (the part that calls to cancel at the last minute).
Or, she may be having a rough time of it -- maybe her baby is in a particularly challenging phase, her husband's being less than helpful, or she has other family, financial, or medical worries. If you suspect there are reasons other than inborn flakiness behind her behavior, cut her some slack. If you're quite close, you might try asking her, flat out, what's up. Could you possibly go over to her house and have a cup of coffee and talk? If this is a friendship you value and would like to continue over the years, it's wise not to let resentment fester. You may be exactly the sort of friend she needs.
Denise Schipani, a freelance writer in Huntington Station, New York, is the mother of two boys.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, April 2007.
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