Friendship is a tricky thing. There are many kinds that can have very different impacts on your life. Some feel like they’ll last forever, others blow through your life like a hurricane, with the same after effects.
I am one of those people who can make friends with just about anyone. Trying to connect feels natural when you have a friendly and open personality, and always try not to judge books by covers.
I know this, however, internally I have a deep rooted fear of social interaction, specifically making friends. (This probably began in High School. That’s a story for another post…)
I find it very difficult to figure out whether or not people actually like me.
Often people will be friendly, eager to talk to me and complimentary! But, the moment I leave their presence my stupid brain will immediately start worrying. They were just putting up with me to be nice, I was annoying them, they probably were offended by something I said and just too polite to say so… etc etc.
This is linked to my Negative Automatic Thoughts issues. Although I know this now, it is still hard to ignore sometimes.
These days, I have very few friends who don’t have kids. Of the friends I consider my close circle, the group I see on a regular basis all have children. Outside of that group I have maybe four others I consider close or lifelong friends, and only one hasn’t had children.
By the time you’ve made it through pregnancy, you are kinda braced for the whole ‘world turning upside down’ thing that comes with creating a little person. You’ve read the books or taken the classes, you’ve rearranged the furniture and re-written the budget. Your childless friends however, are most likely not prepared in the slightest.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some who will be supportive and excited for you, and some, who might have young siblings or nieces/nephews, who will be able to appreciate the changes coming.
Most though, will not understand the sudden need to talk about baby related things 24/7, nor will they understand your excitement doing this and will, most likely, be grossed out by talk of labour.
They will certainly be confused, maybe even resentful when you pop baby out only to not suddenly return to the party animal you were before.
Unfortunately, as you get older you realise that friendships can be transient things.
It’s not all sad news in the friendship department when you have kids. There are at least some humorous and heart-warming things to take from this.
I’ve made you a little list of five things I’ve learnt about friendship since having kids, hopefully they’ll make you smile!
1. Friendship is not dependant on constant interaction.
Back in High School, I remember feeling like I’d missed out if I didn’t hear from my friends over the weekend, if you didn’t keep up with everyone you’d be overwhelmed by gossip on Monday morning!
Now, for example two of my closest friends; one I met at 17 and now see about once a year in person, due to busy lives and living almost five hours apart. The other I met at eight and in her 20’s she moved, all the way to China! I have seen her in person once in the last six years. Once!
Does that mean that they or their friendships mean any less to me? No, absolutely not. A true friendship survives no matter how far away you are, how often you meet up or how often you talk in between.
A friend for life understands that life is busy and complicated, and they won’t hold it against you.
2. You don’t have to agree on everything or be compatible in every way.
No two people have ever existed, or ever will, who agree on every single thing. It just isn’t possible.
As a teenager, one small disagreement between friends can feel like the end of the world, sparking a week long round of cold shoulders and round-robin texting before the problem is resolved.
Raising kids can be one of the biggest minefields when it comes to different views. There are so many things you can have different opinions on and when it comes to the well-being of children, some people can be very passionate about their opinions.
Personally I don’t like my son having things like fizzy drinks or too many sweets, but I’m pretty laid back about having the TV on quite a lot. I know people who let their kids eat whatever they fancy, but are strict on screen time. Hey, your kids, your way!
Some of my friends co-sleep, some don’t. Others breast feed, others don’t. Some work full time while the kids go to nursery, others are stay at home mothers.
Do my friends and I all raise our kids the same way? Nope.
Is that a problem that affects our friendship? Nope.
Why? Because we are adults and respect each other’s decisions. We understand that other people have different views to us and honestly? Being respectful and understanding rather than dismissive or confrontational, only makes a relationship stronger.
As long as the kids are healthy, happy and loved, it’s no one’s business but their parent how they are raised!
3. You don’t care if they see your boobs.
Stay with me, this is the best one!
For a woman, having a baby can be pretty undignified. This was something I learnt in the hospital with my first. It was best to just abandon my sense of propriety.
I had just pushed a tiny person out of my lady parts with several strangers watching, after all. After being induced which involved them um… getting things started in the first place.
I also had several midwives try to help me get to grips with breast feeding over the few days we were there. It helped to remind myself that they saw approximate a dozen boobs a day and mine were nothing new!
The second time around I was like ‘Hey random nurse/midwife/lady over there, is he latching right? *brandishes boob* yeah? Cool.’
The point is, that kind of experience can completely change your views on modesty. And yet, outside of those situations, such a relaxed approach to our bodies can still makes us cringe.
Unless you have mommy friends with babies. Not only can they understand that sort of worldview/perspective/life changing experience, but Oh boy, I have seen boobs. Many, many boobs. And y’know what? Meh.
I’m so used to seeing my friends boobs that I don’t even register they’ve whopped ‘em out to feed the baby until they’re done and putting them away again.
If I stop to think about this, it is hilarious to me that I am so unaffected, but also a good thing.
It has actually really helped me relax about my body image because these amazing mums are so confident, so nonchalant about doing what nature intended their bodies to do, that I have slowly but surely found reassurance.
My body is not damaged, it is experienced. I’m proud and grateful for that.
4. Some people just won’t get it, and you won’t care
Losing a friendship is hard, and can hurt for a long time. But sometimes the reason is clear and can be perfectly understandable, in its own way.
Of course you don’t want to lose friends as a result of having kids, but if you have childless friends who just aren’t interested in that sort of thing, how can you avoid it?
After all, if the majority of the time you spent together revolved around partying… well, you try going clubbing and drinking until two am when you know baby will wake you at five!
Some people just will not understand your change in perspective, how could they? Becoming a parent is something you just can’t explain.
I tried to explain it to some friends as ‘being sucker punched in the chest so hard, I was winded by the love I felt for my baby the first time I saw him’. They smiled and nodded and ‘aww’ed’ but didn’t ‘get it’. (I’m pretty sure some thought I was crazy.)
Suddenly, you will change your entire life to revolve around your little person. you will naturally place them squarely in the centre of your world and give them number one priority.
The one, most important bit of advice I have for this point? When you have a kid and this inevitably happens, you won’t care.
You might be a little hurt, maybe even angry, that’s okay. Those people who don’t want to keep you in their life, if you don’t fit what they want you to be? Screw ‘em. You will make new friends.
I guarantee your new friends will understand, because they’ll be right there in that boat with you.
5. Your Mummy friends will become your village
Ever heard the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’?
So, so true.
One person should not feel they are solely responsible for raising their child. It is just not healthy for their stress levels and emotional wellbeing!
Raising a kid is bloody hard work. No matter how many books you read, you will never have all the answers. Even if you are lucky enough to have an amazing, hands on partner, you will still need a bigger support network.
I didn’t have a network after my first, where we were living I was pretty cut off from baby groups and things and had few friends with kids. Since moving into our new house when he was nine months (three years ago!) and attending baby groups, I’ve found an amazing support network.
One thing that makes me laugh is how you will slip into ‘mum mode’ even when your child doesn’t need it. If we go out as a group, you can regularly hear several voices calling the name of the same child if that child isn’t listening to mum.
I also find myself on play-dates or at baby groups automatically taking responsibility for my friends’ kids. If I notice one is snatching a toy before their mum does, I’ll automatically tell them to share. If one falls over while mum is looking the other way I’ll dust ’em off, pick ‘em up and take them to her.
My friends regularly do the same for me. When I first had my second I was still weak, sore and struggling with my mobility for a long time.
Baby group was difficult. It was hard to keep getting up to see to Gray, luckily I found I could go entire sessions without needing to as my friends would keep an eye on him for me, without me even having to ask.
It’s a shame when you lose friends, but I firmly believe that some people come into our lives for the purpose of being there temporarily.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. All you need to do is appreciate them while you have them and think of them fondly when they are gone.
Or if they’re that other kind of friend, once you see them clearly, cut them lose asap and throw a party when they’re gone!
The friends you make when you have children will hopefully be with you a long time, but if you worry about these things try this exercise:
Think back over your life and all the different areas of it; primary school, high school, university/college, work, present. In each area of your life you will have had different friends. Maybe you will have some who have continued with you over the years, that’s great!
The point is: You won’t have kept every single one, but you will have made more.
Now that you can look back with hindsight, it’s easier to see the pattern of things and appreciate it.
I hope you like my list of things you learn about friendship when you have kids! I’m sure there are some excellent anecdotes I could add, why not leave me a comment with your own?