Dear Childfree Friends: Thanks For Not Giving Up On Me
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a girl’s girl. Or a woman’s woman, if we’re being age-precise.
Female friendships have played an important role in my life, and I’ve always had a close-knit group of friends to rely on throughout life’s growing pains—breakups, job losses, the works. It was something I prided myself on. After all, friendships are voluntary, with no familial bond to keep us together, making them even more significant.
When I learned I was pregnant with my first, my friend circle exploded in a frenzy of baby shower planning and creating the perfect baby registry. The excitement was doubled by the fact that I was the first one to have a baby—half of my friends were living the single life, with no motherhood plans in sight, and the other half was seeing it as a distant possibility.
In my naiveté, I was looking forward to weekend brunches with the girls and evening strolls at the park with a baby in tow, only to have those dreams bulldozed by the reality of caring for a newborn.
To put it mildly, I was a hot mess. My nipples were bleeding (breastfeeding turned out to be a lot trickier than advertised), and in one moment I became aware that switching from breast milk to formula was inevitable. To top it off, I was shedding hair by the brush-full, and my mood swings were giving my hubby whiplash.
My friends—bless their hearts—helped out by bringing over hot meals and doing our laundry, but one look at my state told them everything they needed to know: There was no way I’d be joining those brunches anytime soon.
And as I changed yet another pair of nursing pads, the curse that is social media let me know about all the things I was missing out on. It wasn’t long before I felt the familiar pang of jealousy in my stomach (and no, it wasn’t my C-section scar) and panic that I’d end up friendless by the time my daughter cut her first tooth.
But trying to make plans was even worse, as I had realized that I’d rather spend my free time sleeping than socializing. Oh God, it hit me one night. So this is what everyone was talking about.
One of my friends joked that setting up a lunch date with me was like scheduling a meeting with royalty. Although I clearly wasn’t Kate Middleton, I knew that the days of spontaneous meet-ups were over. I now needed Google Calendar and an automated reminder 24 hours in advance so I wouldn’t stand anyone up because I forgot what day it was!
However, when we did finally manage to get together, it was worth all the planning in the world. Listening to my friends’ love problems and work troubles pulled me out of my mom brain fog and reminded me that, yes, there is an outside world out there that I would experience again.
Phone calls became more frequent than before, especially if I had a really bad day and needed to speak to someone who was not my husband. But I also made it clear that even though my priorities had shifted, I could still offer a friend support when she needed it. Even though I could no longer relate to the whole concept of getting ghosted by a guy you were dating for two months, I could certainly still call him a total jerk and tell you to block his ass.
Likewise, they listened to me go into every detail of my daughter’s last checkup and my breastfeeding woes, despite them having no clue about what engorgement really felt like and why in the world anyone would want to stuff cabbage leaves down their bra.
On the other hand, it took me a while to realize that my friends were hesitant to invite themselves over for a visit because they didn’t want to disturb the family peace. And no one wants to be that person who barges in when a baby is screaming her head off. After we’d settled in with our new routines, I made it clear to my friends that they were welcome to come over, as long they called first.
However, over the course of the first year of my little one’s life, I made some new friends, too. Living in a big city, it wasn’t hard to connect to other moms after I had my first child, and it felt natural to seek out friendships with women who also had a seat on the same rollercoaster. With them, I could go into all of the gross details of my baby’s last blowout and be fairly certain they weren’t internally screaming for me to shut up.
I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that making new mom friends could alienate you from your old friends, and there are many cases where this holds true. But the flip-side of the coin is that new friendships can strengthen your older ones. They balance out your need to talk about mom life to those who can’t relate to it, leading to less resentment in the long term.
Looking back, motherhood proved to be a sifter for the people in my life. Not everyone made it through to the other side, and I must admit that growing apart from some women in my life was painful.
But I am eternally grateful to those who stayed; they’re now my daughter’s favorite aunts, and the best role models any parent could wish for.