Many new parents feel a loss of identity. When we become parents, are we supposed to become this new, responsible, better version of ourselves? How are we supposed to maintain our household, much less our friendships? Our resident Dad offers up his perspective on how to keep your friendships alive, with or without kids.
For all the new and expecting parents: some of your friends may already have kids, some of your friends might want kids in the future and some of your friends are boarding up their windows and doors in fear a kid will break off its leash and bite them.
Whichever level on the kid-spectrum your friends are at, you may be noticing a divide between your friends with kids and those without. All-day Halo sessions and martini nights turn into midnight feedings and collecting Elmo dolls.
Out of nowhere, it can seem difficult to relate to one another. So, I have composed a helpful guide to help the child-ed and childless stay on the same team.
For the people with kids:
Just give them the highlights.
You love your baby; your friends love your baby, but love has varying degrees. If your baby grabs your finger, that’s amazing. If your baby rolls over, that’s amazing. If your baby does literally anything, it is a huge milestone. For you.
Your kid-less friends will smile and reassure you that is it great, but to them, it’s a non-event.
The disconnect comes when you want to talk about your baby all the time and they want to talk about literally anything else.
Find a balance. Share the fun stories about your kid and the classics: the first steps, first words, and first drum solo. It can seem hard to notice, but there are certain parts of child-birthing and child-rearing some people just aren’t ready to find out about. You can connect with your friends with kids on the finer and stickier details.
Just be sure to mix up the topics here and there. Let them share their stories, which may include random hookups, all night rooftop parties or who their favourite Game of Thrones character is.
Some of the things single people talk about can seem trite to new parents. At times, we might even feel jealous of our childless friend’s care-free lifestyle and ability to get a full night’s sleep.
Live a little vicariously and look for ways to share in each other’s lives, even if they are different now.
Make the time and if you can’t, be honest with them and yourself
New parents are exhausted. Any outing involves having to find a babysitter. Free time and energy dry up quickly.
However, the day is still 24 hours long with or without a kid. Your baby is important, but so are the lives of your friends. If you want to keep those friendships alive, you’ll have to find some time within that 24 hours to make them feel worth it.
As tough as a baby is on you, it can also be tough for your best friend to lose his wingman or be without her best friend since middle school. As you start to adjust to your new situation, they may be adjusting theirs. So, let them know you’re still out there, even if it’s just a phone call from time-to-time.
That being said, don’t put pressure on yourself to be everything to everyone. Parenthood can quickly feel like an impossible balancing act of expectations and priorities.
Some new parents will close up shop and won’t be seen again for months. Others will bring their baby out to the dinner or various social functions and will be superhuman pillars of energy.
My guess is you will find out what kind of parents you are pretty early into parenthood. Be honest with yourself and them. If you can’t make it out, your friends will understand. Your baby is going to grow up faster than you think. If you keep in touch, they’ll be there when things start to level out.
For the people without kids:
We’re still the same people you grew up with
Yes, we have kids now. Yes, our priorities have suddenly flipped. Yes, we are tired all the time and can’t hang out as often, but… WE STILL NEED YOU.
He’s still the guy who always had your back when things got tough and she’s still the girl who you could call whenever you needed to talk.
After a hard week of Blues’ Clues and breastfeeding, we are going to need an evening with their kid-less friends to have a drink and talk about old times.
You guys had good times before the kids came along and you still want to keep them going.
This could be you someday, so don’t run scared
On a simple summer evening, two lines showed up on a pregnancy test and my entire mindset did an exact 180. The news came on July 2nd and on July 1st I was raising a drink to my independence, probably talking about how kids are way too hard to raise, too expensive and how I can barely get myself through the day let alone a tiny little person who is liable to murder itself at any waking second.
Not everyone is comfortable around kids.
It is really easy to be in your twenties and think you live in a childless vacuum. Once someone close to you has a kid, it can make you want to wall yourself off from the impending invasion of stick fingers and “here hold my babies”.
You can swear up and down, you don’t want kids, you want to live in India for a year and live the Bohemian lifestyle. Decide you have it all figured out, but you could find yourself in the same place on a simple summer evening just like I did.
All the pills, condoms and cold showers exist in this world, yet somehow, babies are still being born every day. There isn’t a human walking the face of the Earth right now whose parents were 100% ready for it.
You don’t have to have kids, you don’t have to hold every one of your friend’s babies. You don’t even have to call us back when our clubbing days are over.
But if your “July 2nd” comes, the way mine did, wouldn’t it be nice if you had someone to call who has been there before and knows how to change a diaper?
The sad truth of life is people go their separate ways. Priorities change and preservation of the species seems to take precedence over friendships. It’ll feel annoying as baby pictures clog up your social media feeds and suddenly all your friends with kids hang out together. It can feel isolating at times.
However, many parents want their friends to be part of their kid’s lives. They want you to be the close family friend who their kids call “uncle” or “aunt”. They want an escape from the stresses of parenthood every now and then. So, if you’re brave enough, don’t run scared; be a part of it.
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.