Friends. They’re pretty bloody great. They support you through the highs and the lows, from bad haircuts to sh*tty relationships, and everything in between.
They are also a booster for your mental health, helping stave off things like loneliness, anxiety and depression, which are all common after having a baby. But, no matter your best intentions, adding a child into the mix can put a strain on things.
Babies are tiny adorable dictators. They control nearly everything you do in your life, and when and how you do it. Meaning they can make maintaining friendships downright tricky.
So what the heck is a mama to do? Well, we’ve pulled together this two-part guide to break it down. Part one (this article) will look at how to approach friendships with your current mates when you have a kid. Part two (stay tuned) will look at making new mama friends. Let’s go!
Over time, your pals will start to separate into two camps:
- Those that have kids
- Those that don’t have kids – they may be waiting, they may be trying, or they may have chosen not to have kids.
Let’s start with those that have kids.
Two words: collective trauma. They understand what you’re going through – the sleepless nights, the violently pooey nappies, the tantrums and more. They also understand that you have limitations when it comes to catching up – think nap times, grumpy moods, sleep training, whatever you’re going through.
They’re in the same (dare we say sinking?!) boat as you. They’re f*cking busy, they’re trying to navigate a little terror, they can’t just pop over on a whim. Meaning seeing your friends can become a logistical nightmare.
Reframe what catching up looks like. So you might:
- Agree – and stick to – a six weekly hang. It could be a picnic in the park, brunch or a BBQ at someone’s house. You could hire a sitter for the kids so you can go hard…
- Chat more over text than over the phone or in person for the time being. Calls can be hard because they depend on everyone’s kids being asleep or quiet at the same time, which they never are. But you can likely text while crouched on the floor next to your baby’s cot teaching them to self settle…
- Book in for the same activities – e.g. music classes, swimming lessons, baby sensory, mum and bub yoga. You can catch up while the kids are entertained and learning! This is especially handy if you and your girlfriends are on maternity leave together (you can check out more ideas for things to do during maternity leave here!)
Socialising with your friends that have kids has another pro: the discussion may be quite focused on your little ones and their development, their activities, their lives, you name it. While this is great to compare notes and to know you’re not alone on the tough days – and also an easy topic of conversation when you’re operating on two hours of sleep! – it can be a con if you need a break from all things baby.
This is where your friends that don’t have kids come in…
They’re not living and breathing kids, babies and parenting, meaning they have other things to talk about! They’re also more flexible with their time and ability to travel places (read: they can come to you!).
If they haven’t spent a lot of time with kids, and even if they have, to be honest, they may not understand what you’re going through. Unless you’re living it, parenting can be downright hard to relate to. There’s something special that happens to a person after being awake every hour overnight…and my god, it can make having any sort of coherent conversation hard.
Explain to them how you’re feeling, why it’s hard for you to string a sentence together, why you smell like you haven’t showered in three days (because you haven’t), how awake and nap times work and their importance, why it’s difficult to haul your a*s across town to a new cafe, that FaceTiming on a whim is dicey because you’ve always got a boob out ready to feed your little one.
Describe to them what the least traumatic version of a catch up looks like. Let them know you might need to cancel 10 minutes before you are meant to see them because your kid is refusing to nap. And that your kid will likely be with you 97% of the time.
They may not understand it fully. And you might lose some friends along the way. But try.
And hold out hope, mama. Your kid will grow up, and it will become easier. Like many other parts of motherhood, it’s all about reframing your expectations.
How have you maintained your relationships with friends while having kids? Tell us in the comments.