I just wasn’t worried about it. As I saw it, becoming a mom needn’t mean a huge shift in my social life. Yes I’d be sidelined for a while, and certain things — like staying out late — would be harder for awhile, but no big deal, late nights out weren’t really my style anyway. I’d be a profoundly chill, roll-with-it kind of parent who’d wear my baby on hikes by day and out to restaurants by night. Most importantly, I’d host delicious, mildly raucous dinner gatherings while baby could sleep nearby in her bouncer seat, soothed by the din of happy voices. I wouldn’t have to miss a beat.
We all know where this is going.
I didn’t quite achieve that.
Friendships, it turns out — even those closest, soulmate-est ones — do change once you become a parent. And not necessarily for the worse; I’ve had some friendships die out, yet ultimately my circle of friends has grown richer since having my two kids. BUT. Maintaining my friendships has taken way more effort — more planning, more creativity — than I anticipated. And this has especially been the case with my child-free friends, for the simple fact that they tend to be on a different daily rhythm than people with babies.
My friends are central to my life, so since having kids, I’ve put a lot of work into keeping those relationships nourished. A few things I’ve learned along the way:
1) Fly by the seat of your pants
Some people love planning in advance. You know, those people who like to GET THINGS ON THE CALENDAR. Maybe I was even once this way. But once I had a baby, I realized that Extreme Advance Planning didn’t work for me anymore. How can I know what that day three weeks from now will look like? That’s a lifetime away and for all I know my baby will be in the thick of teething and will have been up all night three days running and I’m a zombie and can’t be bothered to change out of my PJs let alone shower let alone leave the house. I noticed that when I made plans way in advance, I often had to cancel them (or wanted to). It worked better for me to make shorter-range plans — like a day or two out. Counterintuitively, this made me less high maintenance, because I could stick to the plans I made. Speaking of high maintenance…
2) Don’t be high maintenance! (AKA don’t be the worst)
True, we moms have precious little free time. So it can be tempting to try to make the most of it by multitasking and combining friend QT with shopping for your baby’s drool bandanas at Target. Don’t do that! Also, make sure you’re not making your friends come to your place every time you get together. Sure, during the newborn phase, your besties will bend over backwards to bring you delicious things to eat and drink and keep you company while you breastfeed nonstop. But don’t abuse this arrangement. It can’t (and shouldn’t) last forever.
3) But don’t be fake low maintenance
My God, how I’m the queen of this. A friend and I will be making plans and my mouth will be saying the words “Oh whatever works for you. I’m totally flexible!” in some weird demonstration of just how easy-peasy I am — a full-on Broadway production to prove My baby does not cramp my style. This is ludicrous, impossible to maintain, and not real. Refrain.
4) Do not talk about boring shi*t
Spit-up frequency, sleep training methods, daycare rates, mucous… OFF THE TABLE. These are, by any measure, pretty boring topics that happen to interest you right now because of your current situation. So, by all means, don’t hide your momness and pretend you don’t have a baby; do share how baby’s doing, and do share how things are going for you in your new role. Just save the dissection of parenting minutiae for your mommy group, where it will be hungrily devoured. Plus, it’s healthy for you to take a break from being with/thinking about/talking about your baby. You need space to discuss other adult things (like The Bachelor and Meghan Markle’s makeup tips).
5) Accept your reality
Don’t overextend. If you can’t stay out past 10pm because your baby still wakes up twice a night, own it. Don’t pretend you’re someone else and make that work for you because you wish it worked for you. Hang tight. Things will change, and at some point soon it will soon work for you.
6) Make your home the hub
OK, so this was the one thing that my pre-baby self envisioned and hoped for, and we managed to make it a reality. Once babies were in the picture, we started hosting more: dinners, wine and cheese gatherings, brunches. It’s been a great way for us to socialize with groups without having to book a sitter and do the whole thing. We even invested in an extra large dining room table and plenty of comfy seating in the living room so we’d always be ready for friends to come play.
Not to state the super-obvious, but any life change (having a baby is just one example) can be an opportunity to reassess your priorities and gain clarity. Not all friendships will be able to withstand the transition to parenthood – some will go the inevitable way of The Drift. But those best, best, beloved friendships that are worth holding onto can not only survive with a baby in the picture — they can grow even stronger.