When you have a baby, your friendships — along with your body shape, relationship with your spouse, and just about everything else in your life — can change dramatically. Whether you have less time for your old friends or they have less time for you and your little one, becoming a parent can test even the strongest of friendships.
Notes psychologist Irene Levine, “It’s natural for a new mum to fall so in love with her baby that there is little emotional energy left for anyone else, including her friends. The logistics of taking care of a newborn can be disruptive. And you may feel so overwhelmed by your new responsibilities that your life is no longer your own. It’s common for friendships to take a back seat.”
When you find time for a chat, you may prefer to speak to new mums you’ve met at prenatal classes who are struggling through the same re-adjustment. But once you emerge from your new baby bubble, you’ll realise how essential your old friendships are for your emotional well-being. You may even regret having let a friendship fall by the wayside.
"Investing time with old friends makes women better, happier mothers."
“Being with old friends allows a new mum to rejoin the world of adults,” Levine says. “Investing time with old friends makes women better, happier mothers.”
#1. Have baby-free dates
“Friends will want to visit your baby for the first time, but once the visitors tail off, it’s important to schedule in time to see them without your baby,” Levine notes. Put dates in the diary and stick to them, so friends don’t get lost among diapers and feeds.
#2. Old chums can be a source of advice
“In prior generations, family and friends helped new mums master the art of mothering,” says Levine. “If you’re having trouble breastfeeding or getting your baby to sleep through the night, ring a friend who has older kids for advice.”
#3. It shouldn’t all be about baby
“Conversations shouldn’t revolve around baby talk — that can get boring fast,” Levine points out.
And don’t overshare. The odd cute picture and “He got his first tooth!” text are okay, but don’t go on about how he’s rolling ‘weeks before his friends at play gym’. Friends without children often don’t care.
“A child-free friend may also feel uncomfortable as she renegotiates your friendship,” she adds. “Show interest in her life as well — her latest work saga is as exciting to her as your latest baby dilemma.”
#4. Be sensitive to friends’ feelings
Not everybody wants or can have a child. Says Doris Tan, 34, a real-estate agent and mum to Jenn, 7 months, “My baby caused tensions with some of my friends, who were struggling to conceive or had gone through the silent anguish of miscarriage.”
So, don’t ask your child-free friend when she’s going to have a baby. You may feel life has new meaning now that you’re a mum or wonder what you did before having a baby, but don’t reveal these thoughts to childless friends.
“If you try to stay in touch and your friend doesn’t reciprocate, or you find you have less to talk about, it’s likely the friendship has run its course.”
#5. If a friendship fades, let it go
“Not all friendships survive children,” Levine notes. “If you try to stay in touch and your friend doesn’t reciprocate, or you find you have less to talk about, it’s likely the friendship has run its course. That’s okay — you’ll find other friends to fill the gap.”
Tina Michaels, 28, a teacher who is six months pregnant and mum to Brandon, 3, agrees. “When I had my son, my friends who didn’t have kids didn’t visit as much,” she recalls. “They just weren’t interested in kids.” She eventually met more friends through a parenthood group on Facebook.
#6. Invite friends without kids
“Make child-free friends feel they’re still a part of your life,” says Levine. “Involve them in family get-togethers, like birthdays.” Make your old pal an honorary aunt or, if you’re very close, a godparent. This will boost the bond between you and create one between her and your baby.