7 Ways Friendships Change After Motherhood

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My girlfriends are who I go to when my instruction manual for motherhood begins to look like psychotic ramblings scribbled in a bathroom stall.

Thankfully, I have had a lot of the same women in my life for many years who can talk me down. But if I start to look back, it almost feels like we are an entirely different species now than we were before we had children.

Here are just some of the ways friendships change after motherhood:

1. Making New Friends:
Then: Oh my god! I am totally in that same class! You are coolest, let’s hang out.
Now: OK. So I see from the stains on your pants that only go from the knee down that you have some type of toddler living in your home. Me too. Wanna come over and watch them wrestle each other over some measuring cups?

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2. Exercising together:
Then: First coffee. Then stretching. Cute spandex outfits. New shoes. Boundless energy to run up that mountain, conquer that yoga class, scale that rock wall, all while gossiping about how cute so-in-so is, who is getting married, our career choices, our future husbands, our adorable and well-behaved future children.
Now: Rolling out of bed before anyone else is awake so that I won’t have to deal with my daughter’s very regular morning bowel regimen, not even changing clothes because, lets face it, I am now sleeping in my workout clothes. Or working out in my sleeping clothes. Noticing that my shoe has an actual hole in it and then deciding it can probably wait a few more months. My friend meets me at the door, and we discuss… nothing. Because we can’t breathe and talk and jog at the same time.

3. Talking on the phone:
Then: Hours. Of. Chatting. Uninterrupted. About? I don’t really remember.
Now: Hours of chatting, and I still don’t know about what but I can seriously multi-task now. While talking on the phone, I can: make sure the children aren’t eating poison, wash last night’s dirty dishes, do 10 of 20 loads of laundry, superglue a broken piggy bank and probably invent something. I’m that good.

4. Girls night:
Then: Drinks. Dancing. Food. Again with the cute outfits. Splurging on a cab to take our drunk selves home.
Now: Fancier drinks ’cause now we know what the good stuff is. And we just sit. Just sit and relish being able to sit. Being able to sit with other rational human beings with the same-lettered chromosomes as us. Which makes us automatically understand exactly what each of us is going through. We probably don’t even have to talk, we can just look into each other’s tired eyes and nod. I see you, girlfriend. I’ve been to where you’ve been. No words needed.

5. Couple’s night:
Then: Dancing our booties off. Making S’mores on our friend’s stove. Jumping into the ocean naked. Falling asleep under a rug.
Now: Perfecting the art of ignoring our collective offspring as we try to socialize intellectually at someone’s home. Said offspring try to see how much crap they can get away with, which in one recent memorable instance involved glitter and egg cartons and water. Which is, oddly, a horrible combination. The food and wine are way better, however.

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6. “Play” date:
Then: Spa day with the girls. Having lunch and then hours of relaxation with massages, salt rubs, hot tub. Soft white robes. Painted toes. Hours of talking.
Now: Simultaneously trying to listen to how my friend’s vagina now feels after birthing a nine-pound baby while making witty comparisons to my own downstairs area, all while keeping our toddlers from murdering each other via head injury or suffocation or jealous rage.

7. Weekend trip:
Then: Poolside. Bikinis. Fruity drinks and staying up late.
Now: Say, huh?

Related post: 30 Ways You Know You Need a Night Out

What Matters In a Friendship

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I don’t care if your house is a mess. I will move the laundry off the couch, sit down and help you fold it while we laugh about how much we hate putting the clean clothes away. I don’t care about your big, slobbering, rambunctious dog. I will accept his kisses and toss his tennis ball. It’s also fine that you don’t have any food in your fridge since I ate before I came anyway. I like your cheap coffee and your microwave popcorn too.

I don’t care if you go out of the house looking like that or if you bought your purse at Payless or if every single piece of clothing you own came from the Goodwill. Likewise, if you shop exclusively at Neiman Marcus, I can handle that too. We will both survive if your roots are showing, if you have a weird mole, a hideous and regretful tattoo and if you’ve recently gained fifteen pounds and none of it is in your boobs.

I don’t care what you eat or don’t eat or if that is organic or even if it isn’t. I don’t care how you feed your children or if you sleep with them, push them in strollers, let them watch Sponge Bob or if you could only breastfeed for a week. I won’t judge if sometimes you are so tired that you give your children chicken nuggets for dinner, put on a Tinkerbell movie, pray they fall asleep early and make yourself a margarita because you’re so damned tired and over it all. I have been there too and you know what? A few parabens and food dyes once in a while are not the end of the world.

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If your child is fussy and throws a royal fit when we are out in public, I don’t care. We all have bad days and of course I will hold your baby while you take the toddler to the bathroom only to find that he has already peed his pants.

I don’t care if you have a dead-end job or if you haven’t yet found your passion. It doesn’t matter to me if you go to yoga twice a day or church once every three or four years and only to make your grandmother happy. I do that too. One day you will finish your novel or start your business and I will be there clapping and grinning and shouting with joy at your success even if we are ninety-seven by the time you get there.

You can cry to me. Tell me about what an ass your spouse has been and how your mother won’t stop tearing into you about each and every little thing and how sometimes you wish you could just get in the car and start driving and leave everyone behind.  For a little while. I have these fantasies too. Mine involve a dark, cold, hotel room where I can sleep and order room service for three days straight while watching every trashy show on TV that I can find.

It’s okay that you can’t cook and that you haven’t thrown me a fancy dinner party with homemade tablescapes that you saw on Pinterest. We can get takeout. There’s this amazing, little, cheap Thai place on the corner. You’ll love it.

I don’t think you’re a loser because you made a stupid mistake and lost your job and now you fry chicken for a living. I’m proud that you went back to school and followed your heart to finally get a degree in what you love instead of what your dad loved. Who cares if you’re thirty-nine when you graduate?

None of these things matter.

If we are friends, this is all I care about:

Are you kind?

I care that you are kind.

Do you mean well even when things don’t always work out? I care about that.

I care that you love, that you are friendly to little kids and servers in restaurants. I need you to be nice to animals, even if they are ugly and whether or not you choose to eat them.

I care that you don’t hurt with your hands or your words. I care that when you mess up, you admit it and that you can apologize sincerely, because of course, everyone makes a poor choice once in a while. We slip sometimes. The ability to recognize our wrongs are learn from them is more important than being perfect.

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Your politics don’t matter to me. Your religion is insignificant, but I care that your words and actions aren’t based in hate. I care that you can tolerate people who are different. I care about empathy and compassion.

I care that in the midst of the noise and clutter of our messy lives, that in the tiny moments we find to connect there is meaning, there are smiles even through tears, that we part feeling just a little bit stronger, a little more hopeful.

That we are better off because of our friendship, that we are not alone – nothing else matters.

Related post: 10 Tips on How to be a Good Friend

The 10 Mom Friends Every Mom Needs

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Before you have kids, finding friends is all about you; who you want to hang out with, who you have the most in common with and who you can you can depend on for a good time. Once kids enter the picture, though, friendships take on new meaning. You need friends who understand exactly what you’re going through and won’t be annoyed when it takes six months to get a lunch on the calendar and can’t maintain a phone conversation for more than three minutes. You need moms who just plain get it, and make motherhood easier, not harder, for you.

Do you have the right mix of moms surrounding you? Here are the ten moms every mom needs in her life:

1. The MacGyver Mom. She’s prepared for everything, always. Find yourself at a nasty rest stop with no sink in sight? She’s got the Purell on hand. She carries enough extra snacks for your kids, always has Band-Aids and baby wipes on her and keeps a few extra booster seats in the car for impromptu playmates.

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2. The Mom Who Can’t Be Grossed Out. She wasn’t phased when your kid puked in her car, and gets a sick thrill combing other people’s kids hair for lice. She’s the first one you call about that nasty rash… on them, or you.

3. The Mom Who Lives To Cook. This mom gets off on receiving compliments on her cooking, and she’ll go above and beyond to get her fix. She’s always inviting you over for dinner, creating meal wheels for sick friends and bringing homemade goodies to book club. She’s a complete culinary over-achiever, but you don’t mind because, hello — home cooking?!

4. The Crafty DIY Mom Who Knows Every Home Remedy. Whether it’s a cabinet door that won’t stay closed, how to get Vaseline out of your toddler’s hair, or where to find 2000 popsicle sticks at 3AM for a school project due in five hours, she’s your girl. And she already has everything you need, right there in her tidy little craft room.

5. The True Blue Friend. Nothing shocks her, she never judges you and she never, ever makes you feel like a failure of a parent. She may not be your go-to for the best time ever friend (if she is, she’s gold,) but you can count on her for anything, anytime.

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6. The Neighborhood Fun House Mom. Her house is like a magnet. She always has snacks, games, kid-friendly new releases, and most of all, never seems to mind entertaining the whole ‘hood. She might be an angel in disguise.

7The Mom Who Likes A Good Glass Of Wine But Hates Drinking Alone. Wine mom never minds if you need to bring along a kid or two to your lunch and won’t give you a hard time for being late. You never feel guilty in her presence and she’s always up for a good time. She’s chill, she’s happy and she’s… wait, is she passed out?

8. The Mom Who You Can Ignore Your Kids With. You adore her, she adores you, and you have kids who play well enough together that you can pretend they aren’t there and catch up. It’s the trifecta of mommy-friendships.

9. The Mom With A Baby. The last thing you want is another baby, HELL NO, but a sweet little baby fix every now and then? Yes, please. Plus, once your kids are no longer the cute ones, it’s nice to be reminded of just how trying those days were… especially when you have a tween or teen slamming the door in your face. (Younger Kid Mom also serves as excellent free birth control.)

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10. The Mom With Older Kids. She’s out of the trenches. Her hair is done, her clothes are stylish (and clean), and her kids are reasonably independent and well-behaved. Hanging out with her makes you feel like there might be hope for you yet… Someday. Maybe.

Related post: The Six Mothers Every Mother Hates

Why Losing My Friends Meant Losing Myself

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Like most people, I’ve lost my share of friends. Every move was a source of culling, intentional or not. Each time I changed schools, I left friends behind. I’ve lost friends when we drifted away from each other, when our interests diverged, and after unrecoverable fights.

The ghosts of my friendships past still haunt me to varying degrees. The losses all hurt in some way or another but the most hurtful time I’ve lost friends was after I became a mother. Losing them was painful. Depressing. Gut-wrenching. Four years later, I’m still mourning the loss of not just my friends, but what those friendships represented.

When we’re young, many of our friends are chosen for us. Whether by school assignments, activities, or play-dates, forces beyond our control dictate who we are surrounded by. But, as we age, we begin learn that friends are more than just people we’re obligated to be around. By the time we’re adults we’re able to choose our friends for the most part. They’re people who often share our beliefs and interests. Who make us laugh. Who care for us, have fun with us and make us better people.

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And, most tellingly, our friends reflect where we are in life. When I went to art school, I made friends with creative, uninhibited artists. In my early, carefree 20s, my friends were partiers – we hit up bars and clubs at night; brunch was never before noon. A few years later though, I was looking for something more substantial. I wanted to have more meaningful friendships with people I could confide in rather than just yelling in their ear at 2 am, straining to be heard over the music.

I began to value and cultivate friendships with women who were just as much fun on the dance floor as they were chatting over cupcakes or flea market shopping. And I was pleased when we formed a group of all-around, all-day friends. Real friends.

Leaving my partying and single life behind, I got married and pregnant soon after. Everyone was happy for me and we, of course, intended to stay friends after my son’s birth. I wasn’t sure what motherhood would bring, but I knew what kind of mother I didn’t want to be. I didn’t want to lose myself to motherhood. I didn’t want my son to consume both my life and my identity. After all, I was a modern, feminist, independent woman and there was no reason for a baby to change that.

But then I had a baby. A baby who wouldn’t sleep. And as I was swallowed by my deepening depression and an overwhelming anxiety disorder, my former life, complete with friends, ideas and goals slipped away from me.

My depression meant that I wasn’t the best mother I could be. Or the best wife. Or the best friend.

It’s not that I didn’t care about my friends anymore – I absolutely did – I just couldn’t figure out how to fit them into a new life that revolved around nap schedules, feeding schedules, and oh yeah, crying anywhere and everywhere.

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Friendships without cultivation wither and die and that’s exactly what mine did. I had less and less in common with friends from my former life. They were in a totally different place in my life than I was. They didn’t understand what it was like to wake up ten times in one night or get up at four every day for a year and a half. My only priorities were about my family: making sure I could function on a day-to-day basis; keeping my son alive; trying my hardest to keep my strained marriage together.

My friends from my pre-baby life didn’t understand why I couldn’t meet them for dinner, drinks or shopping. They didn’t know that being without my son made me feel like I couldn’t breathe, like a physical part of my body was missing and that I was only whole when I was with him. Even though when I was with him, I was sure I was doing everything wrong. I worried about everything and anything and felt like nothing would ever get better, nothing would ever change. He would never sleep and I would never feel like myself again.

Fortunately, I was able to get help. Therapy, anti-depressants, and my son sleeping into the five o’clock hour allowed me to emerge from the deep pit of depression. Also of help? My “mom” friends.

I am supremely, unbelievably, fantastically lucky to have made several wonderful “mom” friends over the past few years. They were able to understand my challenges as a new mom and support me through them. I’m able to be a new Jen, Mom Jen, with them as we share stories about our kids, husbands and lives. But they haven’t replaced my other friends. I still care about them. I still think about them and miss them immensely.

But like I said, it wasn’t just losing their friendship that was devastating to me. It was losing what our friendship represented. I had lost myself. I often don’t feel like Jen, the friend and person anymore. I am Jen, the Mommy. My pre-baby life is gone. Everything about me and my life has been redefined. Wine glasses? Try sippy cups. Going clothing shopping means buying from sales online for my sons. I’m in bed before I used to go out. And any alone, art or writing time is at the end of the day, after the kids are asleep and the chores are done (are the chores ever really done?).

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Four and half years after having my first son (and a year after having my second), I’m in a much, much better place. A good place. And even though I’ve embraced motherhood, I still think about the kind of person I used to be. The kind of person who wasn’t concerned with nose or bottom wiping, eating schedules, or missed naps. Who was fun, adventurous and spontaneous. I see glimpses of her every so often, but I know she, like her former friendships, no longer really exists.

Related post: Mommy Friends

This piece was written by Jen Simon as a companion piece to her essay in the anthology, My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends. You can preorder the book here

10 Ways To End A Mom Friendship

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Mom friends are really hard to come by. Once you get a mom friend, you better keep her. There’s nothing worse than making a wonderful mom-friend-unicorn in your area who you think is legitimately cool, only to lose her friendship a few months later. Your kids play well together, your husbands get along, you actually enjoy talking to her about non-mom things, and then BAM! You step in a landmine, and your friendship is over.

If you want to keep your mom friend, you need to be sensitive to a few hot button parenting topics. Here are 10 sure ways to offend a friend and lose her forever:

1. Schedule a playdate and then don’t show up. Flaky friends always get a black mark in my book.

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2. Hover over your kid during playtime. Talk using the voice of your child and blame fights on your friend’s child. “Why won’t Aiden give you the tractor back? Is he a meanie?”

3. Comment on how your kid has hit all his milestones early. Comparing kids is the best way to lose a friend for good.

4. Ask if her child has been tested for fill-in-the-blank. “Oh, Aiden isn’t walking yet? Has he been tested for LEPROSY?”

5. Judge her parenting. Make sure that you do this with a very distasteful look on your face.

6. Ask her to judge your parenting. Ask for her opinion on co-sleeping, breast-feeding, or potty training, and then get offended at her response.

7. Share scary parenting stories that you read on the Internet. Make sure not to cite your sources.

8. Ask about her birth experience. Remember to feign interest and then compare her labor time and outcome to yours in a passive aggressive manner.

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9. Gossip about her parenting with other mom friends. This is the perfect way to implode a mom group.

10. Bring up one of the Big Three parenting debates and start an argument. SAHM versus working mom, vaccination versus anti-vaxx, breast-feeding versus formula-feeding — take your pick.

Related post: 10 Tips on How to be a Good Friend

This post first appeared on Mommyish. Read more here.