AN ARTICLE FOR SPRING ST. SEE THE ORIGINAL VERSION HERE.
My daughter was born eight months ago. Suddenly most of my waking moments were devoted to feeding, changing, burping and bouncing this new tiny human. I didn’t think about my friends all that much, and can honestly say I never asked myself whether or not I was being a good friend to them.
People give you lots of advice when you are pregnant—most of it variations on, “Watch lots of movies, you won’t get the chance again!” and, “Sleep now while you still can!” Everyone told me, in short, that I wouldn’t be able to do the things I liked once I had a baby. (It’s not true, by the way; you do them less but you appreciate them more.)
But I hadn’t considered that it might also apply to my friendships.
In the early days everyone wanted to visit and cuddle my new bundle of baby. Everyone made the same joke—they were there to see the baby, not me. It was probably true, but I didn’t really care because I was a big fan of my baby too. But then time went on, and the visitors dropped off. People went back to their everyday lives and I was left trying to figure out what my own would be like. I learned quickly: It was very different. No more after-work drinks; no more big weekend nights out; no more spontaneous coffees; no more commute into the city to meet friends halfway.
So how do you make your friendships work?
Location, location, location.
When you only have two hours between feedings, you need to make that time count for sleeping, showering, and eating (in that order, for me). So if a friend came to my place it made my life much easier and maximized the time I could spend with them. (Tip from a midwife: Try to keep just one room in your house clean, and entertain people there).
I loved when people met me at the café down the road or joined me for a walk, a real bonus for a new mum with a baby who would only sleep in the pram. It made it harder for friends who lived far away. But it also meant I appreciated it even more when they made the trip.
New mums are masters of running late, changing venues, or just plain cancelling. It’s really hard to be at the mercy of a tiny tyrant who has no respect for your schedule. So as a friend, do not take it personally when a new mum bails. Remember it’s not intentional; she would much rather be on time.
I can never be sure when a nap will end or an untimely vomit will necessitate an outfit change for everyone involved. I’ve always been one of those people who’s constantly ten minutes late. Add in a baby, a long list of supplies all crucial for leaving the house, and unpredictable pooping, and it went from a mildly annoying ten minutes to an extremely rude half hour.
At my end, I adjusted my preparation time and now always leave the house early to allow for any surprises. If I expect people to be considerate of me, I have to be considerate of their time as well.
If you want to ask about my baby, please do! If you don’t, that’s totally fine. Don’t ask if you don’t care, though, it’s really obvious and makes the interaction awkward for both of us.
I don’t expect everyone to be as interested in my child as I am (that’s what grandparents are for), so I’m happy to talk about my offspring as much or as little as my friends would like. And honesty goes both ways. There are so many media portrayals of the perfect mum and I don’t want to add to that pressure by pretending every moment is a delight. Some of the best conversations I’ve had involved me being completely open about my experiences and it’s brought me closer to my friends.
Mums are people too.
I may be a new mum, but it doesn’t mean all my other interests have evaporated.
New mums still want to talk about the things we loved before giving birth, whether that’s movies, food, politics or The Bachelor. I really appreciated the friends who gave me books and then asked what I thought of them. And if you’re a mum, don’t be afraid to gently change the subject if you’re getting a bit sick of baby talk.
And try to schedule some baby-free time to catch up with friends. I was constantly distracted with my little one around, so leaving baby home with my partner or my parents was a real treat that allowed me to focus on my friends and my own interests.
Text/call/email/use social media.
You might not be able to do all these things. You might not be able to do any of these things. If you can’t get out to visit, or can’t find a time that suits both of you, just let your new-mum friend know you’re thinking of her.
I have friends who I’ve only seen a couple of times in the last eight months, but regular text messages let me know they’re thinking of me and let me keep up with their lives from a darkened room while shushing a baby to sleep. Talk to your friends in whatever way works for you—get in contact and stay in contact.
In general I see people much less now, but I definitely feel very secure in many friendships. With others, I hope we’ll reconnect when things settle down. I’ve become closer to other friends I can really appreciate now, and found wonderful new friendships with other mums.
And some weeks go by when I can’t get it together to respond to a text, let alone see a friend. But my true friends understand, and will still be there when I’m ready.