Thinking about friendship and the importance of friends in my life has sparked me to explore a difficult issue on the blog today - what happens when a friend has a child. Does it impact a friendship negatively? Is there indeed a divide or barrier that can be put up between parents and non-parents?
This article recently appeared in the Stylist magazine Female Friendship and the Great Baby Divide - written as a one person story from a new mother on the impact that having a baby had on her and her friendships. One of the key factors the writer talks about is that of suddenly being in a very new and different situation from friends without children means there is a need to connect with other new mothers.
You’re at your most vulnerable post-partum; your relationship feels like it’s taken a battering, your body is a mess, and your mind has scarpered to some far flung place. And yes – you desperately want to tell your child-free mates the initial horror of it all. But you don’t want to scare them off the locomotion of tears, Teletubbies and tantrums. Equally, you don’t want to dish out the breast pump blather – they’re too sassy, they’re lives are too polished for this social lumber.
I really could relate to this very well. As many of my regular readers know, I came to coaching women on the baby decision due to my own indecision. After a year of wrestling with my own ambivalence I decided to have a child and I had my boy Sam.
However much I thought I was prepared, I wasn't. I found the first year very difficult. And what I hadn't anticipated was would be the distance I would feel from old friends of mine. I had someone entered a very different world - one where I was perpetually tired, obsessed with nappies and sleep routines. I also found my ability to travel round and get places with a baby very limited. I moved from being as someone used to hoping on and off public transport with ease to cross London to visit friends to being someone who rarely left her neighborhood. Looking back, I can see how difficult to understand my limited availability was to my friends without children. Like the author of the Stylist piece, I also didn't want to burden my child-free friends with boring and obsessive baby musings. But I also treasured those occasions of being with my friends without my child - of being able to meet for coffee without a baby to worry about, to be able to go see a film or have a drink. And as my child grew older, these became more and more frequent. Now that my child is more independent, I feel as though I have gotten most of my old life back - most of my ability to socialise freely has returned.
For those without children, it can feel like you've been abandoned. Many of my clients say that they end up feeling isolated - particularly if they are the only one of their friendship group who isn't a parent. Sometimes they find themselves excluded which can be hurtful - for example when children's birthday parties are held and only the parents with children are invited.
So how can you maintain your friendships across 'The Great Baby Divide'?
Remember that the 1st year is the most difficult and absorbing for new parents. If you are the friend of a new parent, you will probably find yourself making more of an effort to visit and travel to meet your friend and her baby. You'll probably have to listen to many stories about baby-hood that seem boring but know that this is just a phrase and it will pass.
New parents can remember to connect with old friends even though you will definitely need the support of new mom friends whom will sympathize with current struggles. Sometimes just acknowledging the situation and that you are aware that for a while you might not be as available but as soon as you can you will be up for a trip to the movies/dinner/a drink.