A Friendship Survival Guide for New Moms (And Their Friends)
By Shivani Shah
People seem to think female friendship is complicated, especially when one woman has kids and the other doesn’t. This, they say, is when your friendship will change dramatically. For the new mom, the friend supposedly becomes an afterthought whose existence she will remember when she’s not too tired from parenting. For the friend without kids, the myth goes, the new mom becomes an alien who can only talk about diapers, nannies, and pre-schools. Slowly, the friendship will fade, as any existing common ground slips away.
I call bullshit.
Of course the friendship will change with a new human added to the equation. But while the circumstances of the relationship may be different, the quality and depth of the friendship can remain unchanged. Friends need to accept that just because things are different, that doesn’t mean they love each other any less. It sounds simple, but can be difficult to navigate. Here’s how to keep the ladies in your life around.
IF YOU’VE GOT KIDS:
Don’t be a ‘sancti-mommy.’
We all know that one person whose life was so enriched by having children that you’d think she was the first person on Planet Earth to do so. She’s the only one who understands how complete life is now that she has pushed a baby out of her vagina. She’s so sanctimonious about her new status in life that she can’t wait to remind friends who don’t have kids how empty their lives are. It’s not an attractive habit in a friend. So remember: Your child may be the best thing that happened to you, but don’t make your friends feel small because they don’t have kids. Remember, when they’re sipping in sundowner in Goa instead of navigating bathtime/bedtime routines, your childless friends are probably judging your life choices as well.
Respect her problems.
Remember before you had a baby? When your in-laws / parents / boss / husband / boyfriend / sibling / dog were the problems in your life? They’re still things people deal with every day, whether or not they have kids. Your problems aren’t automatically more serious now because they involve a child. If your friend is venting, listen. And if you think your problems are worse because you have to deal with these things and the kids, keep it to yourself. You can’t wax eloquent about the joys of motherhood and complain about how big your problems are in the same breath.
Never say “when you have kids…”
Not everyone wants to have kids and not everyone can. Saying “when you have kids” is patronising, potentially painful, and a quick way of dismissing your friend’s experiences and emotions. She may be able to relate more than you think, bring a new perspective, or simply disagree with you — with or without children of her own.
Catch up on shared interests.
You had a child, but you’re still a person with other interests – hopefully. You may not have the time to stay on top of what’s going on in the world, so let your friend fill you in on the things you used to be (and probably still are) interested in. She’s the perfect friend to hang out with when you want to talk about anything other than children and motherhood.
IF YOU DON’T HAVE KIDS:
Accept that your friend’s life has changed overnight.
Those spontaneous coffee dates and shopping trips are a thing of the past. You will see her, just less often, after much scheduling, and when it’s convenient for the baby. Leave the spontaneity for friends without kids and learn to be okay hanging out on your own. There’s no shame in drinking coffee, watching a movie, or shopping sans sidekick. And if you need someone’s opinion on whether you look good in that dress, ask the person in the changing room next door. You’ll probably get some refreshingly honest answers.
Shoot for quality time, not quantity.
Your friend will be tired, especially in the early days. Be prepared for a lot of tea dates at her house and sitting around on her sofa. What you do isn’t as important as the fact you’re spending time together. Talk about the things going on in your lives or sit in comfortable silence watching bad tv. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re both happy to be there.
Don’t expect an immediate response.
The days when you had rapid-fire WhatsApp conversations are a distant memory; now your conversations will take place in spurts separated by long lapses. It can be a little unnerving and potentially frustrating, but it isn’t a reflection on your friendship. Trust that she will respond when she has time. In case of emergency, call her, but leave it for emergencies only so she knows it’s not a drill when she sees your name on the screen.
You will probably miss some of the things you used to do together, but it’s a drain on a relationship to dwell on what-used-to-be. Saying things like “I never get to see you anymore” is only making you a bummer to hang out with, and it’s not going to change anything. She already has one needy human relying on her; don’t make it two. Learn to take care of yourself, even if you aren’t confident in the new role. It’s better for both of you.