There are many things that happen when we become parents. I’m not only talking about that profound love that changes us forever in the very pit of our hearts or the declaration of never knowing love until that moment. Or the fact that we all of a sudden find ourselves ogling over our babies, like they are the cutest things to hit planet earth.
I’m not talking about the very obvious things that change as you embrace the sleepless nights, the crying, the poop, the vomit and squirting boobs (I’m addressing the moms here) or if you are a dad, the emotional highs and lows of an emotional wife. Big ups to you oaks. Seriously. BIG ups.
No, I’m talking about one of the most profound changes that occur when we become parents, our relationships! The friendships we have nurtured long before our kids were so much as a thought. And as much as we promise our single and kid-free friends that nothing is going to change, promising your PERSON that you will always be tight and all that, a mom knows that as she approaches the birth of her first born, she is mourning the ‘loss ‘of a friend or sometimes even a large circle of friends. It’s as if she knows there will soon be a wedge put between them. The friends she thought would be her everything are pushed aside to make room for the little person who ultimately changes EVERYTHING.
We are all of a sudden thrown worlds apart (by something so tiny!) and divided by a world of sleep deprivation and chaos. We are separated by a parallel universe where breast pumps, colic cries, feeding schedules, sh*t showers (my first time mother friend’s name for when her baby poops on her), nipple shields, sterilizers, bum creams, and cracked nipples become the norm. A world of cold coffee, tracksuit pants and oversized t-shirts. A world where lose floorboards are enough to turn your blood cold (I don’t need to explain this to those with kids, but for the sake of the others, they wake a sleeping baby easier than it takes Kanye West to interrupt an awards ceremoy.). A world where lullabies, butternut pure, Barney impersonations and 5am wake-ups are all part of a days work. The only thing that often stays the same is that we are often both still awake at 4am. But for VERY obvious and different reasons.
For the very sake of this article lets not forget that the same can be said for the person without kids. Our lives move further and further away from theirs as their lives fill up with deadlines, promotions, weekends away, work events, business lunches, parties, family commitments, gym and often work trips. Gee I wonder who got the short end of the stick here? Can someone please remind me why we have kids again? In all seriousness, they have their stresses and responsibilities too as well as a growing list of priorities just like us! It all boils down to this: We are just at different phases of our lives.
After much thought and deliberation over the issue over the last 4 years since becoming a mom I have come to quite a few realizations. While everyone is on their own hamster wheel of chaos, there are certain things we can take into consideration when we embark on the new journey of parenthood. And yes this applies to the single nomads and childfree friends amongst us too, so listen up!
Firstly, we may to accept that it’s ok if there’s a brief time where you go your “separate ways”. I don’t mean that you don’t stay in touch. I mean that you accept that life is going to be different for the first while. There’s no way a new mom is going to keep up with the usual drinks, tea dates or any of the stuff she considered normal before her darling ray of sunshine arrived in all it’s screaming glory. If your friend has just had a baby, visit her every so often, take them a meal and send a text every few days just to check in. DON’T arrive unannounced at 6pm with a bottle of wine expecting some quality time. You will turn suicide hour into a death wish. You can’t expect life to go on as usual. Expectant moms, if you haven’t realized already that things are seriously about to change, I would suggest you come to terms with the fact that you wont be making happy hour for a while…… or gym, coffee dates, nail appointments, long lunches and your usual leisurely shopping sprees. Hell you may be surprised if you make your daily shower or manage to get dinner on the table. You will eventually make your way back to each other, and although it will take more planning on the new moms part, those lunches and nights out together will return in all their much-needed splendor. Make those moments count.
Secondly, don’t make assumptions! I cannot assume my single friends/friends without kids have nothing better to do than talk about my kids and fit in to my schedule (a round the clock marathon of feeding, burping and changing nappies in the early days) Sometimes finding a time that suits us both is what makes it so hard but assuming my routine is more important than theirs is wrong. On another note, please don’t assume I cant make girls night every so often. When I eventually find my feet after having a baby, I like to be included or as least given the opportunity to say “no”. It’s nice to feel like I’m still thought about, that I’m still missed! Just because I’m a mom now it doesn’t mean I don’t want to get pickled (occasionally) on cheap tequila over a bowl of nachos. Just because I’m called mom all freaking day doesn’t mean I can’t be called “friend” at night. And just because I shout at my kids all day doesn’t mean I don’t have enough energy to kick your ass if you need it (yes I still care about you enough to tell you the truth) and MORE than enough energy to celebrate your promotion. Oh and just because you always see my in my fat jeans when you come over, doesn’t mean I cant rock a pair of heels. (I wont embarrass you by wearing my mom clothes when I meet you out) One thing is guaranteed though; I’m a much cheaper date than before so take it easy on me.
Thirdly, stay genuinely interested in what is going on in each other’s lives. I love to talk about my kids and sometimes I really NEED a friend to listen about my frustrations and offer some words of encouragement, even though they may not have all the answers. Having a friend I have known for a long time reminds me of who I am and what I’m capable of. They have the capacity to take me back in time and remind me who I was before kids. This can be important when you start to lose your identity and when the new highlight of your day is getting under a hot shower or locking yourself in the bathroom to eat a whole pack of cookies (for realsies). And I may need to know when to stop talking about the color of my baby’s poop and the fact that I haven’t slept in weeks and really listen to what’s going on my fiend’s life!! Sometimes listening to what is going in her busy life is a welcoming distraction from the mundane and often frustrating time I’m having with kids. Be a support to each other regardless of where you are in your lives. And don’t judge one another for it.
I’ve realized too how short life is. So instead of focusing on all the negative and moaning because “we just don’t get each other anymore”, we need to love each other even harder through the change and push through the tough times. We need to find it in our hearts to forgive each other if we have let silly things get in the way. Maybe it means going back to your PERSON and saying “I’m sorry I lost faith in our friendship, I’m sorry I gave upon you!” I have learnt we need to be more understanding, more flexible, more loving, but most importantly we need to give each other the freedom to be who we are now and who we have always been to one another. That my friends, is the deepest and most satisfying friendship you will ever know.
BY: LEIGH GEARY