I’m 37. I’ve been married for 13 years. I don’t have kids* — but many of my friends do.
And my friendships with these women have changed. All of them. Even the ones who swore, all throughout their pregnancies, that nothing would change — it changed. And that’s okay! Honestly! Their lives are completely different, and their priorities have shifted. As they should.
Now, notice I say that the friendships changed — I didn’t say they disappeared. A few have, sure, but believe it or not, a few others have probably even grown stronger.
I have mad respect for my mama friends, and I really hope that I’ve been able to be there for them when they needed me — in just the way they’ve needed me, because just as mom friends are important, I think those of us living life without little ones also offer a specific and valuable type of friendship. As the years have gone by, I’ve learned a few lessons about how to do my part to maintain my friendships with new and expecting moms, and I thought a few of those tips might come in handy for others in my situation.
*One note before we jump in: I’m well aware that all of this would feel much, much different if I were struggling with infertility or wanted to have children but for one reason or another, could not. That’s not the case here.
A Non-Mom’s Guide to Friendships With New Mamas
Expect things to change. As mentioned above, lots of women really don’t intend for their lives to change, but I have yet to see that happen. They will probably talk about pregnancy or their baby a lot, and you’re likely to learn some details you never expected to discuss. Also, especially at the beginning, most new parents I know find themselves running late for everything — even if they’re the most punctual people you know. Some find their “getting out of the house” groove more quickly than others, but … it’s definitely common.
Don’t judge. Your friend is dealing with a lot — hormones, body changes, and, you know, bringing a human into the world which she is also in charge of raising. She’s going to handle that in her own way, and the way she feels is best for herself and her family. That might not be what you feel is best for your friendship, but just know that it doesn’t mean she no longer cares. She’s just got a lot on her plate right now. And that running late thing — yeah, cut her slack. (Pro tip: If it’s Vitally Important that she be somewhere on time, offer to pick her up at her house 20 minutes before you’d need to leave. That way you can lend a hand with the baby so she can finish getting ready!)
Be flexible and generous. Ask her what she needs and what would be easy. In some cases, she might just really need someone to come sit with the baby for 20 minutes so she can shower, or maybe stay a little longer so she can take a nap. Maybe you can bring a meal, or set up a meal train for the family.
Once she’s settled into her routine, continue being flexible about how you spend time together — because, trust me, it’s easier for you than it is for her right now. Some of my friends like to get together at their homes after the kids go to bed, while some prefer meeting up earlier so the kids are involved. And others get a certain sparkle to their eyes when something big enough to warrant a sitter comes up.
Be honest with her … to a point. I’m not a monster, but I’m not particularly comfortable with babies and small children. I have always been upfront about this with my friends who have children, and I find it helpful to set that expectation. I have lots of child-free girlfriends who, upon seeing our friend’s baby, squeal and run over and immediately hold him … and hardly let him go all evening. That’s awesome! But that’s not me, and making sure my friends know it’s my deal in general and has nothing to do with their child in particular makes communication much easier. (And I still get to hold the baby … and hand him back when I cease knowing what to do with him.)
But let me also say that, even if you don’t love being around children, if you love your friend, you have to make an effort. Seriously.
Be honest with yourself. Think about what your friendship was based on and how that fits into your friend’s new life. If you mostly spent time together drinking and dancing the weekend away, that might take a backseat for a while — and in some cases, forever. If you were casual friends without much in common, she might make other casual friends who are going through the same experiences she’s having and you might find yourselves with little to talk about (or time to discuss it, for that matter). That’s okay. Not everyone we meet and like is meant to be a big part of our lives forever.
But if you have a deeper connection — you were serious workout buddies, your careers intertwine, you’ve been close friends FOREVER … well. Your friendship might still be different, at least for a while, but you’ll likely still have a relationship. And once the new baby dust settles (which could happen quickly, or might not truly happen until the kids are spending the day in school), your time together might feel a whole lot more like old times. Or, perhaps, even better.
If you have children, have you remained friends with your child-free pals? Got any tips to share? —Kristen