Recently on my personal Facebook I reposted something regarding a feeling new mothers (and fathers) often feel both during pregnancy and after their child is born. Loneliness. It seems that for some of us, adding a baby into their friendships unexpectedly ends up creating a rift.
Of course, in the beginning, new parents often need and want their space. It’s when the baby is out of that newborn phase that we start to feel ready to socialize again… only to find that the opportunities are scarce.
It’s an unforeseen circumstance, which makes it worse.
After I posted the meme, I watched the reactions on both my own Facebook and those on the pages of people who also shared it. People definitely felt some type of way.
It was clear that even if you were someone with great friends, you still felt lonely at some point. And this particular brand of lonely was a type that only parents can relate to. I started to wonder… are there expectations we hold for our friends after we start a family?
As unfair as it is, the answer is very clearly yes. But what are they?
The following list is not meant to shame or judge anyone, and I hope that it doesn’t. Instead it is meant to provide insight, and be helpful. No one here is a mind reader (if you are, hit me up, I’d be willing to pay you for your services)… so transparency is all we have when it comes to navigating our separate but equally difficult life journeys.
Personally, the moments where I have experienced loneliness during motherhood have been real, and so hard. But they were mostly because I didn’t have local friends that I trusted to lean on, not because the long distance friends I do have failed me.
So to be frank, I am lucky, I know what the rules are, because I know what my friends have excelled at when the opportunity presented themselves.
Without further ado, here are six ways you can continue to be a good friend after your friend has kids.
1. Play with the kids!
This first one pertains exclusively to when your friends child is over the age of one or maybe even two… Please don’t walk into the home of a friend with an infant and assume that baby will even want anything to do with you.
But listen, if you are going to go visit your friend at their home it is imperative that you are fully ready to channel your inner child! I know you just want to have a good conversation with your pal. You miss hanging out together, and you kind of just want to spend time together. We want that too, but we don’t live in that reality anymore.
Our reality is this: as soon as you walk into our front door our kids are going to either glue themselves to our sides, or they are going to pounce… on you! If you’re not willing to get down on the ground with our kids, we will notice this. And it’ll be filed away in our handy dandy mental cabinet that reads: People We Should Not Invite Over.
I know that seems harsh but the other side of this is that if you come over and you play, like really actually play with our kids you will earn an invaluable kind of adoration from us. We will trust you. And the bonus is that the more you come around the more likely it is that the kids will get bored of you and not jump on you (so much) and then we will be able to have a real conversation!
2. Invite us even when you think we won’t go.
We know we can’t go to certain events, and to be real unless it’s your wedding or something super important, it’ll sometimes be hard to convince ourselves to leave our little ones behind.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to be invited.
We don’t have FOMO (fear of missing out), but we definitely have FOBF (fear of being forgotten). I just made that up. But I know it’s a real thing because I have felt it. It stings a little to realize your friend didn’t even consider to invite you to something they invited everyone else to. And even more so when you have a sneaky suspicion you didn’t get the invite because you are a parent. You aren’t doing us, or our friendship, any favors by leaving us out or deciding for us. So please, for the love of all things, invite us and let us decide if it’s doable. We might surprise you!
3. Be flexible with us.
This is important. If you have a friend who is a parent, and you decide to go for it and invite them out for a meal or day out and about… please please be flexible. Asking us to be at a fancy brunch spot that is 30 minutes away, at 8:45am? Not realistic for us.
Unless you’re willing to accept us showing up late or having to leave early, consider adjusting meet up times. The best method of practice is to just ask us what times work for us, and then reconfirm that day (or the day before) if the time still works.
In a perfect world we could commit to a certain time and stick to it, and trust me, we want to. It’s embarrassing to always feel like the shit show. And to be honest, most of the parents I know are usually very willing to stress themselves out in an attempt to not let people down by being late all the time.
But truthfully all the stress takes the fun out of it, and kids have a way of being predictably unpredictable. So if you want to be our hero, be that friend who tells us not to apologize for needing a little extra time. Be that friend who doesn’t crack jokes about us being late all the time. Be that friend who asks us if 10:30 would work better.
4. Scout out places we can bring our kids.
Family friendly. Those words just give me a special kind of warm and fuzzy. These are the kinds of places that make our heart soar and if you help us broaden our horizons to a new place that our child can enjoy too, you’ll be our hero.
There’s nothing worse than showing up to a place where your kids have no place. These days, the world is becoming more and more kid friendly and it’s a beautiful thing for those of us with little kids. A nice Italian restaurant close by to my house has a play structure on some turf by the patio. Another place has an entire outside seating area where people can play games and listen to live music, and it’s enclosed. places like these are a God send.
So while you’re out, keep your eyes open for us, and then next time you wanna hang out explicitly state that you have seen plenty of kids and parents enjoying themselves at this super cool place. We won’t pass up an opportunity to see you, outside of our home, in a place that works for our kids too. Unless its at 8:30am.
5. Have something in mind.
So, here’s the thing. If you hit us up and say you want to hang out but leave the where and when up to us… you might not get much of a result. Here’s why: All day long we are thinking thoughts that feel really big. Like: do my kids know I love them? Am I going to accidentally kill one of my kids classmates because I sent a pb&j? Are they going to the bathroom while they’re at school? Will they wake up over and over again tonight? Will this cough they have ever go away?
This gig is 24/7 and challenging. It’s a lot. Adding in having to plan something, even something as simple as a coffee date, can feel daunting for some of us. The best thing to do is have a general idea of what you want to do, and where. Yes, we need your flexibility. No, we don’t need to have total control over every aspect. Just a general outline of what you have in mind and times that work for you will help us figure out something that works for us. Team work makes the dream work y’all.
6. Show up.
This is the one I didn’t want to admit is important, but the more I thought about it the more I realized how important it really is. If we invite you to do something with us, and it isn’t really something you would normally do (say: go to the beach, or go to a trampoline park) try to show up.
If we invite you into our world, it’s because we want you in our world. We aren’t expecting you to go out there and play with the kids, we are likely hoping you will be our side kick so we don’t have to sit there alone feigning interest in our kids fiftieth jump.
Alright, this next part is going to hurt a little. If we invite you to our baby shower or our child’s birthday party, and you don’t plan on being there it is crucial that you let us know. Don’t just opt out and hope we won’t notice. If you can’t make it, we get it. If you don’t want to go, that’s okay too. But choosing to just not show, when we clearly would like for you to celebrate with us, well… it hurts our feelings, a lot. Not showing up and not saying anything at all, to us, reads as you not caring about our kids and (unfortunately) us. The same way it would hurt your feelings if we just didn’t show up to something important to you.
BONUS TIP: TEXT DON’T CALL
Sometimes, when we enter new phases of life, we find that what is ahead of us is actually better than what we left behind. This is essentially true of parenthood. But it doesn’t make losing out on our friends any easier.
If you have a friendship that is feeling the strain, it is time to wave the white flag and adjust to the shifting needs. Being the friend that does this will create a new level of love to be shared, that I can promise you.