Your marriage isn’t the only relationship your new baby will impact—your girlfriends will no doubt be affected, too. Here are some tips to help you keep in touch and hold on to those important friendships.
You used to sip martinis with your girlfriends at happy hour, could take off for a weekend getaway on a moment’s notice, and spent hours on the phone counseling friends through their latest love life crises.
These days, martinis are a distant memory, you have to find a babysitter to go anywhere, and your phone conversations are often cut short when your newest family member demands your immediate attention.
Assess Your Friendships
Motherhood changes your priorities, your outlook—and even your friendships. If you are the first in your circle of friends to have a child, you may begin to feel disconnected from your old sisterhood. Suddenly, the women you used to see eye-to-eye with have no idea what you are going through, and you no longer relate to their day-to-day lives. You may need to decide who you’ll go the extra mile to maintain ties with, even when your life is more hectic.
Odette Faghani of San Francisco, California, says this disconnection happened to her when she had her son, now two. “My friends without kids were either women who didn’t have children and didn’t want them or women who were not childless by choice and were reminded of that fact by my baby,” says Faghani. Because neither situation was very comfortable, Faghani says the relationships eventually fizzled after a few awkward lunch dates.
Mom Susan Jackson of Cincinnati, Ohio, had similar experiences after she had her daughter. “Some of my friends without kids seemed almost threatened when I announced my pregnancy, and there was an immediate cooling off,” says Jackson. “I felt like I was being phased out.” So, are the friendships with your childless friends doomed to dwindle into eventual extinction? Not necessarily, says sociologist and friendship expert Dr. Ruthellen Josselson, PhD, coauthor of the book Best Friends—though she says that maintaining any relationship, romantic or platonic, requires effort.
“There needs to be a shared understanding between both friends that one of them becoming a mother is a shift, and that things will definitely be changing,” says Dr. Josselson. “Some friendships have a natural expiration date, but if you have a dear friend that you care deeply about, you should make it clear that the relationship is important to you and that you want it to continue.”
Remember the Little Things
You’ve taken stock of what friendships are important to you, and you want to make it clear to those women that you still want them to be part of your life. But how can you show your friends you care when you can hardly find time to shower, especially in those first hectic months of motherhood? Though it seems obvious, tell the friends you love that you value their friendships and want them in your life. And don’t discount the little things, says Lauren Esleeck, who is single with no children but has several friends with kids. “Even if you can’t call and talk for 45 minutes, but you have five minutes, just call to say hello,” says Esleeck.
That’s what Genma Stringer Holmes, mom of three in Nashville, Tennessee, did to stay connected to her girlfriends when her children were young; she carved out time on the weekends for check-in phone calls. Holmes had her first child when she was 20 and was balancing a marriage, night school, and a full-time job.
Because Holmes, now 40, made her friendships a priority, she is still in close contact with those same girlfriends today—many of whom are now moms to young kids while Holmes’ children are in high school and college.
“So we’re still in different worlds,” laughs Holmes. “They’re dealing with diapers and Gymboree, and I’m way past that—but I think it is healthy to have women in your life who are of all different backgrounds and stages and perspectives. I think it makes you a more well-rounded person.”
If you just can’t seem to find time to pick up the phone, send your friend a card or short handwritten note—or next time you’re up for that 2 AM feeding, write a quick email to let your friend know you’re thinking of her.
See It from Her Side
Fans of TV’s Sex and the City will remember when Miranda, frazzled mom of a newborn, unbuttoned her top to breastfeed her son and shocked her childless friend Carrie—so much so that Carrie practically ran screaming from the apartment in horror. In reality, many new moms might experience the same sort of reaction from their friends without kids.
“Some friends are going to be excited and want to be part of it—they’ll enjoy interacting with the baby and will relish the role of auntie,” says Dr. Josselson. “Others might be envious or not want to be included in baby stuff at all.”
Dr. Josselson adds that because women bond around shared interests (or shared stresses), very often a woman perceives that a friend with a new baby is preoccupied and no longer has an interest in the things she once did—and the friend without a child may feel left behind.
Alyson Saxe of Scottsdale, Arizona, is familiar with this out-of-sync feeling, as her close friend is balancing the demands of new motherhood and is “consumed” with her six-month-old.
“My advice for other new moms is to remember that while your friends are happy to hear about your baby, they also have exciting things to share about their own lives, and want to feel like you are still interested,” says Saxe.
While you’re certain that your friend wants to hear you chat endlessly about how your baby genius was able to roll over by himself (twice!), balance out your conversations so they include more than just a blow-by-blow of your child’s day.
Colleen Morrison, a work-at-home mom in South Riding, Virginia, has maintained friendships with her childless friends while successfully navigating the challenges of parenting her toddler.
“When I’m talking to my friends, I try to check myself to make sure I’m not continually blathering about my son,” says Morrison. “But, because I have less time now, I’ve found that my conversations with my girlfriends are more purposeful—more thoughtful than they were before.”
While you should be sensitive to your friend’s feelings, friendship is a two-way street, and your friend must also be willing to put forth the effort.
“In any friendship there are natural ebbs and flows—sometimes one person may be more engaged with someone or something else,” says Dr. Josselson. “Unfortunately friendships can break up over jealously, because the friend no longer feels like they are a number one priority, and for whatever reason is unable to handle that.”
If your friend seems unwilling to share in any part of your new life, and—despite your best efforts—is not giving back, then you have to decide if the friendship is worth trying to salvage. You want the friends in your life to sustain you, not drain you.
No matter how your pre-baby relationships pan out, take heart—motherhood is a wonderful time to forge connections with other women who are going through the same things you are. So next time you are at the park or a mommy-and-me class, strike up a conversation with the woman next to you. She just might be ideal friend material.