While many of us like to assume that friendships last for life, the truth is that life sometimes gets in the way. There are big moments that can affect our friendships — moving cities, important promotions, getting married, and having children. Now, none of these have to mean the end of a friendship — they don’t even need to damage it. But some of them will inevitably, change things.
The hard truth is: it’s very unlikely that your friendship will stay the same after you have children. Unless your friendship already involved you both being sleep deprived, preoccupied, and maybe a little covered in vomit — and not from alcohol — things are going to change. But that change doesn’t have to be a bad thing — and it certainly doesn’t have to spell the end of your friendship. The important thing is that you’re realistic about the shift and open to your friendship evolving, rather than trying to force it into a mold it doesn’t fit into anymore. Here’s what you need to keep in mind.
Accept That There May Be A Blackout Period
Whether you’re the one having a baby or not, it’s crucial to accept that there may be a blackout period. When you’re heavily pregnant and then dealing with a newborn, it’s totally natural to be drawn into your own little world for a while. If you think that you’re going to be gossiping over coffee with a one-week old baby happily sleeping in the next room, you’re probably going to be sorely disappointed. And this blackout period may last longer than you like — so don’t be afraid if it takes a few months, rather than few weeks, before you’re really connecting again. Message when you can, remember the important days and events in each other’s lives, but know that it may take a while before things look anything close to normal. Setting realistic expectations can protect you from a lot of unnecessary hurt and awkwardness later on — and remember, the early days will be the most intense.
Be Gentle With Each Other
During this transition period — and even after — it’s so important to approach each other with compassion. So often, it’s easy for someone who feels left out when their friend has a baby to feel like their friend has disappeared, has abandoned everything they used to care about, and has become so self-involved they don't care about anything else. Meanwhile, someone who has just had their first child can feel overwhelmed, resentful that their friend isn’t being more understanding, have too-high expectations of other people working around their new schedule — and the new life that they’re taking care of. And, usually, they’re both a little right.
Someone with a new baby can project their frustrations with the struggle of motherhood outwardly, getting annoyed with their friends who don’t understand — and friends without kids can severely underestimate the total transformation that having a child can be. So try to approach each other with some compassion and, crucially, open ears and open mind. Listen to each other, pay attention to what the other person has to say, and know that even if your priorities are different now you can still care about each other and be interested in each other's lives. Be gentle.
Find New Rhythms
Knowing that your friendship can return more to normal once the child is a little older, try to find new ways to spend time together. Accepting that nights of nibbles and chardonnay might be out for the time being (or have to start at 2 pm) is so much better than trying to force yourself to fit into old habits. So embrace weekend coffees, walks in the park — with the buggy in tow— and, when it works, you can fit in a girl's night. You will still get those moments together, but take the pressure off by finding new moments, too.
Address Issues As They Come Up
Finally, the most important thing in any friendship is to keep the communication flowing. If you start to feel a wedge growing between you, if you feel like your friend is annoyed or you’re just not connecting, then say something. You can bring up the fact that something seems off without attacking the other person. So don’t pass blame, just say “I’ve been feeling...” or “I’ve been noticing....” and try to start the conversation. If there’s a problem and you don’t address it, it will either fester and make you resentful of each other or drive you apart. So instead, start the conversation from a place of acknowledging that this can be tough and that things may have to shift a little, but you that you want your friendship to stay strong.
The idea that a friendship won't have to change when one person has children just isn’t realistic — but you can think of it as a shift or an evolution of your friendship, rather than a loss. Accept the difficult early days, find new ways to make time for each other, and don’t let awkwardness or animosity go unaddressed. Life happens — but friendships are adaptable, so put in the effort to make it work.