Parents Need Friends, Too: How to Hang on to Friendships After Kids
By Lauren Labbé Meher
It’s no wonder that when many new parents look back, they can hardly picture their lives before they had children. There’s a subtle shift in everything as the focus zooms in on your baby, the center of your new world. With so much attention on the baby, it’s easy for the rest of the picture to become hazy. This makes it so important to step back and remember the big picture–and all of the aspects of your life–or friendships can fall by the wayside.
Baby Phase Friends
Baton Rouge mom Grace Boudreaux feels maintaining friendships can be challenging not just because when you have a newborn so many things become secondary, but also because of your friend’s perspective on your new world. Many friends tend to stop initiating contact, thinking you will no longer have time to binge-watch Netflix’s Gilmore Girls revival because you need your space with baby.
Simone O’Connor, LCSW, agrees that maintaining friendships at this time can be a challenge, but it can be done. She explains, “Communication is key. Reassure your friends that they remain important to you, and ease the tension by sharing your struggle to juggle family and friends.
During this earliest newborn phase, it’s easier for the new parents to invite their friends over to spend time with baby and help them feel included in your new family life.
Same-age Children Friends
Moms often feel it’s easiest to maintain friendships with other couples that have children the same age as theirs. Once out of the baby phase, Central mom Jane Leblanc shares that these friendships come naturally when you see the same parents at sporting events, church, and school activities.
“These couples will become your closest friends because as a parent with limited time, most of the activities you plan are focused on your children,” she adds. Trips to the park or swimming lessons become valuable moments for couple friends to bond while their kids are participating in their own activities. Jane adds that although it’s hard to maintain friendships after baby, bonding with other couples who are in similar life phases often makes life easier. For example, every year they plan a beach trip and share the cost of a condo with another family.
Different-age Children Friends
Baton Rouge mom Kathy Guidry shares that it’s significantly harder when your friends have children who are at a completely different age. For example, if they have children much older, your children are rarely interested in the same activities, and houses with older children will have nothing for younger kids to do. On the flipside, when parents of younger kids visit families with older children there is the “helicopter tendency” for parents to roam through the house closely watching their children to make sure they don’t get into everything. Kathy says, “I think any friendship that is important to you can be maintained, and in situations like this, with an open mind, you can actually learn from your friend’s experiences, no matter what the distance in age.”
Friends Without Kids
O’Connor says that although it might be most challenging to maintain your friendships with your friends that do not have children, these also might be the most important relationships to cultivate. “New parents need support from other parents, but friends without children can be helpful as they remind new parents of their lives and identities pre-baby. Your role as a mom or dad is an important one, but keeping your other roles in life as friend, sister, daughter, or co-worker are important as well in helping you stay balanced.”
Jane admits this is a challenge. How do you relate to your friend who is jetting off to a weekend in New York, when your world revolves around diapers, car seats, and sippy cups? These relationships can only happen if both parties want it to. Your jet-setting friends must be willing to experience your real life–in all its glory–with your wild children running around, and parents must be willing to shift their focus from baby-talk to the other activities and interests that connected you to your friends in the first place.
Schedule Adult Time
The best way to maintain your friendships with other couples should include carving out time just for adults. Yes, it’s a glorious thing to have friends that don’t mind coming over on weekends with their kids for wine and grilled cheese, but getting out of the house and out of “parent mode” can be a valuable way to stay balanced. It’s nice to be able to slow things down, not have to talk over the kids, and be able to have adult conversations. Jane shares, “Of course, it may be a little tight on the budget to have a date night with paying a sitter and going out to eat, but it’s worth it to take a break and have fun.” We all need a break, and after taking some time to tend to the grown-up side of yourself, you come back refreshed and ready to handle whatever parenthood might throw at you.
Behavioral scientist, Dr. Steve Maraboli, says, “As I get older, I am becoming more selective of who I consider a friend and find that I would rather have four quarters than a hundred pennies.” As a new parent, there is value in having a few close friends. Take a panoramic view of your new life with kids; keeping your friends in the picture definitely makes it more colorful. ■