Anyone who’s been there can tell you — friendship changes radically once children enter the picture. When your friends become parents, life as they know it undergoes a complete transformation. Every thought and action is dominated by the demands of their child (whose life literally depends on them). As such, their focus shifts from independent life to parenthood, and the free-time they previously shared with you all but disappears.
As a childless friend, this can be a hard transition to make. Certain activities you used to enjoy together are totally off the table until the children are older. Conversations now include the parenting decisions they’re making and the milestones their children are reaching. You may start to wonder where exactly you fit in — or if you even matter to them at all anymore.
Believe me when I say that you matter a lot, maybe even more than ever.
Your friends still love you dearly, they’re just dealing with a rather traumatic life shift. And though things have certainly changed, you can not only maintain your friendship, you can actually strengthen it. It all hinges on being willing to make some adjustments.
Be Respectful of Their Point of View
First and foremost, don’t take it personally when your friend doesn’t have as much time for you as they did before the baby was born. Daily or weekly get-togethers may need to take the form of texts or brief phone calls for the first year or so. Be aware that even these “quick” conversations may have to be set aside to take care of the little one’s needs. Remember, it’s not that they don’t want to talk to you, it’s just that they’re incredibly busy/exhausted.
When you do have time to chat, conversations are going to involve some parenting talk. Their child is a huge part of their life, so it’s only natural that they’ll want to talk about diapers, sleep schedules, milestones, and so on. These issues are important to them, and they need to someone to talk to about such things. This doesn’t mean that this is the only thing you’ll ever talk about, it’s just going to be a new addition to your discussions.
When you have kids, spontaneity is a thing of the past. There are babysitters to secure, activities to work around, and routines that are outright hell when interrupted. This is why parents of young children often don’t nail down plans until the last minute. Nine times out of ten, they’re far more inclined to stay close to home. Consequently, last-minute texts to come to dinner or hang out are likely to be turned down.
Having friends with children means learning to plan way ahead; we’re talking weeks in advance. Not only do your friends have to deal with all the things mentioned above, they’re also burnt out. They need time to amp themselves up for a night out — even if it’s just dinner at a quiet restaurant.
Turn Home into a Hangout
You need to expect that social visits will look a bit different. Children — babies in particular — can turn even the most mundane of errands into a three ring circus. While you might consider a coffee shop date to be pretty low-key, a parent will be spending the majority of their time trying to keep their little one fed, entertained, and safe in a non-baby-proofed environment. That means that they’re not going to be having much fun catching up with you. To truly enjoy some quality time together, you need to visit them in their own home.
Plan ahead, offer to bring some food, and be ready to give them a little grace for diaper blow-outs and spit-up emergencies. Be willing to work around the baby’s schedule — i.e. don’t show up right at nap time. If you’d like a little one-on-one time with your friend, ask if they’re willing to have you over just after the baby has gone to bed. Order some takeout, watch a movie, or just spend some time catching up.
In time, your friends will be able to go out again and do many of the things they did before they had kids. Once children get older, it becomes much easier for parents to get out of the house. However, for those first few years, you’ll need to be flexible. Trade wild nights out for relaxing brunches in, and you’ll keep your friendship alive.
Celebrate Holidays Together
Spending the holidays with your friends is one of the best ways to strengthen your relationships. What’s more, enjoying the holidays with children brings back much of the magic that seems to dwindle as we grow older. To them, everything is still new and special — and their excitement is extremely contagious.
Here are a few ways you can celebrate the holidays with your friends, and ease a bit of their financial burden (because kids are crazy expensive):
- Include the little ones in a fabulous New Year’s Eve Party
- Bring kid safe fireworks to the Fourth of July BBQ
- Decorate pumpkins in a way that doesn’t involve sharp knives around little fingers
- Host a kid friendly “Friendsgiving”
- Have an ornament-making party
Involving your friends’ children in your holiday celebrations is a fantastic way to bond with them. Together, you’ll make memories to last a lifetime!
Love Those Kids
This one seems like a given, but I thought I’d put it out there all the same. If you care about your friends and want to stay close to them, you have to love their children as well. Read books, sing songs, play games, make crafts, have conversations — join in their fun and enjoy every minute of their childhood that you can. Your friends have given you a gift by allowing you to be a part of their child’s life, so don’t squander this unique opportunity.
Despite the almost cliché assertions otherwise, it’s completely possible for parents and the child-free to be friends. True friendships can weather even the most turbulent of life changes, as long as the people involved remember how much they sincerely love each other. Having children is much like any other major life change, you just have to make some adjustments.
How have your adult friendships evolved over the years? And what adjustments have you made to stay close across the changes?
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Photo: Gobind Khalsa