When you hold your baby for the first time and look down into their eyes, your whole world changes — and that includes your friendships. If your friends already have kids, they're probably excited for you to join them in the parenting world and might have offered you all sorts of advice and hand-me-downs. But it can sometimes seem like you've crossed a chasm and your friends without kids are now on the other side.
It can be difficult to maintain your friendships with your kid-free friends in the months after you become a parent. With some effort and awareness, you can work to make sure the people who really matter are still in your life to celebrate your baby's first birthday.
Don't Expect Your Friends to Immediately Worship Your Baby
It's natural to look at your child and think, "How could anyone not adore this little face?" But you've got all sorts of hormones and genetic predispositions helping you out there. Some people aren't really "baby people" and might struggle to bond with your little one. Your friends might not love your baby straight away just because they're yours, just like they may not have loved your partner at first. Be patient and let your friends get to know your baby in their own way and develop their relationship with them.
Stay Interested in Their Lives
One of the things I found particularly challenging about the early parts of parenthood was how little mental space I had to devote to anything other than my baby. I'd lose my keys, forget to reply to text messages, and forget more than a few birthdays. To stay connected with your friends, you need to put aside some of that precious mental space for them. Ask questions about how they're doing. Put reminders in your phone to text them. Keep a journal with your conversations if you're worried you'll forget. It might not be as organic as your friendship was earlier, but that will probably return after you're sleeping through the night again.
Limit the Kid Talk
Yes, your friends love you and want you to be honest with them. Yes, they want to know what's going on in your life. But that doesn't mean they need to know every little detail. Saying "my baby's not sleeping very well and so I'm exhausted"? Fine. But comparing the finer points of the Ferber method vs. responsive settling? You might want to save that one for your parent friends.
Leave Your Baby at Home
If you are raising your kids with a partner, let your partner take solo parenting duty so you can have a night out with friends. If you're breastfeeding, try pumping so you can have a few hours away from baby and really focus on your friends.
Schedule Regular Catch-Up Times
As soon as your baby is old enough, make regular times to see your friends. Maybe it's a monthly trivia night or drinks after work every second Friday. Dedicating regular time to the people you value, even when it's a challenge to do so, will ensure your relationships don't just survive, but thrive.
Don't Expect Them to Always Come to You
Yes, it's harder to travel with kids. Yes, you have to pack a thousand things and be prepared. But even though it's probably much easier for your friends to come to you than vice versa, don't always expect them to do it. Friendship is give and take. It might be more difficult to give now, but it's still really important.
Watch What You Say
"I didn't know what it was like to be tired until I had a baby" or "I feel truly fulfilled for the first time in my life" or "This is the most powerful love I have ever known" might all sound like honest and innocuous statements, but they're potentially hurtful to your friends who don't have kids. Without meaning to, they can minimize other people's experience. Think about what you say and how it could be understood. Talking about comparisons between your pre- and postbaby life is a fraught subject, so tread carefully.
Be Open About Your Challenges
If none of this is possible and if you're really struggling, open up to your friends. Tell them you might need to disappear for a few months while you adjust to your new life. The good ones will understand that. The great ones will show up at your door with Thai food and a movie and sit with you while you cry. And the ones who don't understand? Those are probably the friends you can live without.