I recently went to a birthday party for an adult friend, and there were a lot of kids in attendance. The hosts had so kindly thought of the mini-guests and provided toys and crayons to keep them busy. They even served child-friendly foods and drinks.
Even though I was there to celebrate my friend's 35th, I spent the entire party chasing around my toddler, while trying not to step on the sea of cars and plastic animals sprawled across the floor. I was actively hand-feeding both of my kids, so they didn't smash mini-quiche and cupcakes all over the floor and couch. I alternated between the bathroom with the 4-year-old, who couldn't reach the toilet paper roll, and changing the toddler's diaper on the floor in the hallway.
When I finally had a minute to sit on the couch, I sighed and tried to remember what it was like to go to a party without kids. Or, better yet, what it was like to go partying as a youthful adult in my childless days.
See, back when we didn't have kids, parties were different. They were for adults and about adults. When you have young kids, parties become just like everything else in your life: all about kids. It changes every single aspect about the party going experience.
With kids: You try your best to make sure your kids are fully clothed. By the time you're done with that, you're too tired to worry about yourself. You feel lucky if you can find a matching pair of shoes at all, since your toddler joyously hid them all throughout your house earlier in the day.
2. What you bring with you
Without kids: keys, wallet, phone. Done!
With kids: You'll probably need a diaper bag, or in my case, a diaper backpack. At the very least, you've got your diapers and wipes, probably a change of clothes for the baby and one for the preschooler. And maybe some food or a bottle of milk.
Then, there is the miscellany that we have stashed in the bag, which includes, but is not limited to sunscreen, a fork and a spoon, plastic bags for wet or dirty clothes, crayons, rocks, a pair of swim goggles and some temporary tattoos. The chances that you'll need these things are slim. But as you likely know from experience, it's better to be prepared.
Without kids: You drive, take the bus, call a cab, or get a ride with a friend. Walk, ride a bike, try Uber. There are so many options to consider when it's just you.
With kids: One choice—the mom mobile. With car seats and cheerios crushed on the floor.
Without kids: Potential topics include anything and everything: work, sports, politics, that cute person you want to meet, the new restaurant or club you want to check out, the weather. You can talk about anything under the sun. It's up to you!
With kids: You can also try to engage in interesting conversations, but you can expect to be interrupted every five seconds. You may try to talk about current events or what's new with your work, but you're also not fazed when things like "Stop trying to color the dog!" or "Why are you licking my phone?!" fly out of your mouth.
5. Party fouls
Without kids: when a drunk person spills a drink or breaks a glass
With kids: when a toddler spills a drink or breaks a glass
Without kids: You worry about getting beer spilled on you.
With kids: You worry about getting all sorts of body fluids on you, as well as smashed food and spilled juice. It's less of an "if" and more of a "when," so you're usually prepared when it happens.
6. Awkward conversations
Without kids: When you get cornered by that over-friendly guy or that annoying co-worker, you may dart your eyes around the room hoping to catch a friend and give her the "help me" look. Or you may have to wait for the right moment to excuse yourself to the bathroom.
With kids: Here's one great thing about having kids at a party—you have a built in excuse to get out of any awkward conversation. Try sniffing the air and saying, "I think my kid has pooped, excuse me." Or "I should make sure little Susie isn't putting jellybeans up her nose again!" Where are those little tykes, anyway?
Without kids: We all have to keep an eye on that clock. Party animals want to make sure they don't miss that last call for alcohol or the last train home. Or maybe you have work in the morning, so you want to make sure you can get enough shut-eye to show up at the office without being a complete zombie.
With kids: You've got one of two curfews—naptime or bedtime. You want to stay at the party as long as you can but also have the kids out the door and in the car before the meltdowns begin. So you've got timing down to an science.
There's no doubt that I love my kids, and I wouldn't trade them for all the raging parties in the world. But there's also no denying that parties will never be the same, for better or for worse.
Maybe for old time's sake, you'll hire a babysitter and get yourself back out on the town. But that will probably only remind you how old you are, and how happy you are to be on your couch in your pajamas after the kids have gone to bed—it's a lot of work trying to impress people with your clothes and witty conversation. You'll remember that you have it pretty darn good.