Parenthood has a sneaky way of shaking up almost all our relationships. This is often most apparent when we try to connect with friends who don’t have children, and realize that those relationships have changed. This realization can feel incredibly isolating.
But while the structure of those friendships will change, they don’t have to end. Your life circumstances may have morphed, but you’re still you – the you that your friends love, regardless of whether or not you have a child. So how do you keep the flame of friendship alive? How do you side-step Postpartum Friendship Dissolution and walk the path to Postpartum Friendship Evolution?
One of the greatest healers of isolation is vulnerability. Your friends are unlikely to know how you’re feeling if you don’t tell them, so begin dissolving your isolation by meeting up with the friends you’re really missing, one at a time, and letting them know how lonely you are. Make sure they know you’re not telling them this to instill guilt - you just want to make the friendship a priority.
Then, make a plan with them for what the new landscape of your friendship will look like. For example, maybe your friend lives nearby and is up for joining you and baby on walks. Or maybe they’re a friend who loves phone chats and can be your go-to call when baby’s napping and you’re doing laundry. Once you’ve made this plan, commit to sticking with it as often as possible.
2. Brainstorm conversation topics.
While your childfree friends probably won’t mind a bit of mom-talk, they’ll want other topics brought to the table. The main way to ensure this happens is by asking them about their life. You can also brainstorm subjects the two of you used to love gabbing about (e.g., politics, pop culture, podcasts, or books) and do a bit of research on said topic before you meet up.
3. Avoid comparisons.
It can be easy to offend when you start comparing lives. For example, if you start discussing everything you gave up for your baby - everything your friend still has in their life - she or he might feel like you’re implying that they’re selfish for making different choices. Or maybe, your friend desperately wants to have children, and every time you talk about how contrasting your lives are they feel like you’re pouring salt in their wound. Play it safe by sticking to what you have in common.
4. Include them in kid-centric activities.
A reality of early parenthood is that most gatherings and outings you’ll host and attend will involve kids. While you might think your childfree friends won’t want to join, it’s best to let them choose for themselves. Extending the invite to your baby’s first birthday, or a BBQ that includes friends with kids, will make your buddies feel included in your new life. However, try not to be offended if they decline the invite, as this likely has more to do with them feeling like they won’t be able to connect with the other guests, than not wanting to spend time with you.
Time is obviously a hot commodity when you’re keeping a tiny, defenseless human alive. So, maximize your rare free time by combining self-care and friend-meet-ups. You could invite a friend who’s a workout enthusiast to a yoga class, get your nails done with a fellow lover of gel manicures, or take a cooking class with your foodie friend.
6. Push past fatigue to spend time with them.
New-parenthood-fatigue is no joke, and one of the main reasons plans with friends is broken. No one’s denying that rest is incredibly important, but if you can push past it now and then for the sake of a friend, you’ll likely feel revitalized once you’re with them, and be thrilled you didn’t skip the quality connection for sleep that probably would have been interrupted.
7. Create reasonable expectations.
Sick kids, a babysitter dropping out at the last minute, and other #momlife circumstances can easily derail best-laid plans. Let your friends know that while you might have to cancel plans more than you used to, it doesn’t mean you don’t value their friendship.
8. Ask them to reach out if you haven’t heard from them in awhile.
When you’re a sleep-deprived new parent, you can barely remember to brush your hair, much less make plans with your friends. So, inform your special people that a lapse in contact doesn’t mean they’re not important to you, it just means you’re knee deep in diapers and don’t even know what day it is. Ask them if they’d be okay taking charge of communication (at least for the time being), and know that it may take you a few days to respond.
9. Be prepared to let some friends go.
Many of your deepest friendships will survive big changes. But some will not. While it can be painful to let go of friends, remember that they were probably people who were only meant to be around through a certain phase of your life.
10. Get ready for new friends.
A joyful part of parenthood is making new friends. The playgroups, the parents you’ll meet at the park, and so on all creates organic opportunities for fostering fresh kinships. Many of these connections will feel exciting, as you can relate to their parenting trials and triumphs.
While these new relationships will likely be easy to maintain, and should absolutely be nurtured and enjoyed, you should still use the suggestions above to hold on to at least a few of your pre-parenthood friends. Those are the folks you probably feel most comfortable being your unfiltered self with, which is a dynamic that can feel like gold as you navigate a time of life that can be filled with identity shake-ups.