Babies change your life… and friendships.
I always thought it was weird growing up when my parents friends were no longer their friends. Looking back, obviously these relationships didn’t just change overnight. They changed slowly with life, with things like college, jobs, marriages – and for the sake of this story – kids.
For me, the dynamics first shifted between me and friends yet without kids. People were excited about my new parenting status at first – texting during pregnancy, visiting in the hospital, offering to babysit – but a few months in, and, well, life goes on. And as far as my friends with kids, I learned quickly that many of us are juggling the same incompatible challenges.
I tried really hard to make sure having a kid didn’t suck the “me” out of me, but I learned quickly that some things have to give. And when it comes to hanging out with friends:
- Forgive me, I’m beat. It’s rare you’ll find me planning out-and-about activities during my minimal amount of (kidless) free time. These days basics like grocery shopping, reality tv or laying in bed sound like fun to me. And if I am out, I most likely am not going to pick an activity related to the single life. Call me boring. I don’t care.
- Scheduling is required. My kid goes to bed early, which means coordinating plans after 7pm requires advanced strategic planning. It’s not that I’m not available – in some sense I’m more available – I’m just a heck of a lot less spontaneous.
- Please be available. I know you’re busy – we’re all busy, without or without a baby – but in order for me to meet up, I have to coordinate with and tote an extra human along, and I need flexibility. To friends without kids, please don’t be the person with no availability.
- Don’t be offended if you have to reach out to me. Through the chaos of parenting, I need friends to make an effort to reach out to me because there are times I will admittedly fail to reach out to you. And when I do reach out, sometimes I will forget to re-respond. It’s not that I don’t care or want to see you; it’s just sometimes my brain is on life overload.
- Can we plan something with kids? Schedules, early bedtime, efficiency… if you ask me to do something with my kid, if you’re willing to drive, if you don’t care if it’s an odd time… YES, let’s do it! I want and need adult time so desperately, but me and my husband get first priority alone time, meaning it totally helps if my kid can tote along with friends.
- I’ll always be here. Don’t give up on me… or forget about me! These early days of parenting are sensitive, they ebb and flow, and just when you feel like you have it all figured out, whoops, here comes another. Then try aligning life milestones alongside your friends – friend time is tough! But when the dust settles, you can always count on me to be here just the same.
Some of these dynamics are easier when your friends also have kids, but other times having friends with kids can make it just as hard or even harder. Basically if you don’t have kids in the same age range, same boat, same neighborhood, and you’re like most of us juggling a nap and bedtime schedule along with randomly timed commitments and obligations, it’s just hard to coordinate.
However, there’s a certain point where we all need to take a little responsibility in maintaining friendships. (I write that 100% with myself in mind.) The excuse card can only go so far. Here are some of my personal tips for both navigating and maintaining friendships:
- Identify routine scheduling. As annoying as scheduling everything is, I’ve also learned not scheduling leads me to nowhere. I have a monthly lunch date with a college friend of mine who works downtown but lives 30+ miles away from my house. I attempt a monthly (or bi-monthly) evening/after work get-together with another local friend (and sometimes our kids). I have bunco night the third Thursday of every month. I just started a Friday ice cream happy hour with my son and whichever friend wants to join for the week (so far it’s been a solo endeavor). It doesn’t always happen as planned, but overall regular scheduling has been a total success to see faces regularly.
- Find some neighborhood friends. My friends are pretty scattered, which makes quick stop-by’s nearly impossible. However, I have a 2.5 year old who could use some play dates. I’m in the process of connecting with moms from our neighborhood moms group, as I’d love to have to nearby go-to friends. We may not spill our entire lives to each other, but sharing a glass of wine while our kids run around the yard never hurts. Try researching on Nextdoor or MeetUp if you are seeking fellow moms in the same boat. Networking can be awkward, but you’re not alone!
- Leave the excuses at the door. Maybe this is hypocritical of me to say after listing all my excuses about why scheduling with friends is tricky, but I say it because I realize I have a responsibility too. It’s not up to my friends to bear the burden of my parenting challenges when it comes to friendship, however it does help if they know where I’m coming from. Maybe your friends need some empathy too. If we all try just a little bit from both ends, we don’t have let our friendships give way to parenting.
The balance can be a struggle, but none of us moms want our friendships to sizzle. Time is precious, and we just want to make the most every moment, with people who are as important to us as we are to them.
We all go through life phases, and the phases will change. Sometimes even our friends will change. At the end of the day, though, when our kids are grown, I hope that I’ll always still have my great friends to lean on.