They showed their true colors, and I made new BFFs.
One of the unexpected bonuses of having a baby is a whole new circle of awesome friends. And those friends will come in handy, because in my experience, some of the old ones will ditch you faster than you can say “pass the baby wipes.”
In fact, some of my fickle friends started slipping away before my first baby even arrived, my alcohol-free state of pregnancy somehow throwing a spanner into their social occasions. Indeed, rather than being happy for me that I was finally pregnant after six years of trying, several miscarriages and years of fertility treatment, there were a few friends who instead were publicly lamenting the loss of their party pal. But that was just a taste of what was in store because when my son arrived, the trickle turned into an avalanche.
While parenthood made me become more flexible, patient and understanding, it appeared to have the reverse effect on some of my pals. There were some who felt sidelined by my repeated passes on dinner and drinks, because the time and energy once reserved for spontaneous nights out was now devoted to my newborn baby and/or the three minutes a night sleep that he accessorized with. I understood that my friends had no point of reference for my new reality, but I barely had time to shower let alone spruce myself up for a night on the town. On the odd occasion I did drag myself out, they couldn’t comprehend why I had to keep catch-ups short and that my exploding boobs were now setting my social clock.
It became clear that the undivided attention I was lathering on my baby – you know, to keep him alive – was being taken as a personal slight by some of my more neurotic friends and they thought my dedication to parenting meant I didn’t give a shit about them anymore. But rather than taking offence, I took action. I tried to cut them a little slack and put more effort into maintaining the relationships. I explained that though I had family responsibilities and less time for spontaneous social gatherings, their friendships were just as important as they ever were. I tried my hardest to return calls quickly, and attempt conversations that didn’t revolve around my new baby, but it wasn’t long before the calls and invites were replaced by the sound of crickets. Turned out it was them who didn’t give a shit about me.
And I was okay with that, because I’d just made my own person and damned if the 24/7 gig of looking after his not insignificant needs suddenly seemed a whole lot more fun than dealing with their petty dramas and desperate need for validation.
Work friends were horrified that my ambition to work my way to the top of my trade had been replaced by an ambition to get my baby to eat his pumpkin puree without wearing it, and they too slowly disappeared into the ether. There were also those friends who stuck around, on condition that I come to them. Coming to me was always too hard, so I was expected to pack up my newborn baby, and all of his accoutrements, and make my way to them for social time.
Funnily enough when their own babies arrived a few years later, I was still expected to chase after them. It was at this point I learnt my definition of ‘friend’ may have been slightly skewed. My presence in their lives was based on what I could do for them rather than mutual care, and so I allowed these relationships to lapse too.
With minimal free time, I wanted to spend it with friends that were in it for the long haul. And so I set that time aside for my closest friends as often as I could.
Without making my new baby completely off-topic, I made an effort to chat about all the same crazy stuff we did before he came along. I was, after all, the same person, and not defined by my new breastfeeding schedule. But these friends, who I still count amongst my nearest and dearest, wouldn’t have cared anyway, because they loved me unconditionally and understood that things were going to be a little different with a tot in town.
In hindsight, I look back at those early days of motherhood as being a time of friendship natural selection, because the strong flourished while the fickle died their slow and sorry deaths.
The silver lining was the shiny new friendships that came along to replace those that were lost. Some of those, nudged into being by the very same children that scuttled others, are the stuff of TV sitcom perfection. Picture the gang in Friends toting nappy bags and taking turns changing diapers in the parents’ room at Central Perk, or the gals in Sex and The City wearing slightly more sensible shoes and gossiping about head lice instead of penis size. That’s us. We swear, we drink, we laugh and we do it all without feeling the need to make excuses for the obligations we have to our families.
With the utmost respect and love to my wonderful pre-baby pals, it is some of my new fellow mother pals who have been the ones to show me the true meaning of friendship. It is they who have been the ones to hold my hand through seven rounds of IVF, and theirs that I have held through their own considerable personal heartbreaks.
It is they who I have called upon at 5am (even when they’re not morning people) to look after my firstborn when I went into early labor with my second. It is they who have helped ease the load when juggling it all simply becomes too hard. It is with them I commiserate when something goes wrong and whom I cheer with when something goes right.
And it is they – no matter the distance when they move away or how their lives may change – whose friendships I will continue to nurture, because my life is so very much better for having them in it.
Featured image via tumblr.com.
Comment: Did you lose friends when you started having kids? How did you handle it?