The Big Lie Everyone Believes About Having Kids

Before you have kids, read this.

BY ERIN MCNEELY RELATIONSHIPS March 16, 2017

About a week before I found out that I was pregnant with my first child, one of my college roommates and best friends asked me to be the maid of honor in her wedding. I was so touched and gave her an enthusiastic yes. Then I learned my due date. It was literally the day of her wedding, which unfortunately, was 1,000 miles away. She was gracious and understood, of course, but that experience was a crash course in a truth that I have learned over and over again since: Having a baby changes friendships. For better or for worse, it just does.

My friend group is currently in the midst of a baby boom. Lately our weekend afternoons are filled with baby showers, gender reveals and first birthday parties (which, lets be honest, are much more fun for the adults than the one year olds.) It’s an exciting time for our community, but it wasn’t long ago that I found myself on the other side of the coin. It wasn’t that long ago that I was childless and yes, loving the freedom, but feeling many of my friendships bend and flex under the weight of new babies and growing families.

Now that I am a new mother myself, I understand all too well why relationships have to change when a baby comes along. Children are gifts from God, absolutely. Babies are truly little glimpses of the divine. It’s all true. However, they are also exhausting. And demanding. And require a ton of your time and resources, often taking up space that used to be reserved for your friends. But now that I am a whole 10 months into this new life of mine, there are some things I’ve learned about how to keep and nurture relationships as a new parent:

Keep your calendar close.

Even if you are someone who prefers spontaneity to schedules and routine (like myself), if you want to see friends outside of the walls of your home you’ll need to plan for it. This was counterintuitive for me at first, but my husband and I quickly learned that post-baby friendships require a lot more forethought. Moreover, plan things you know that you can commit to. Parenting can be really isolating, especially in the first year. So while making a plan way ahead of time can be a lot of work, but it is important in order to see the plans happen.

Adjust your expectations.

You can’t expect time with friends to look the same as it did pre-children. You have changed, and with that, your relationships will change. But change doesn’t always have to be a negative thing. Find new, baby-friendly versions of your old favorite spots. Plan activities that will meet the needs of both you and your friends. It’s normal and healthy for you and your friends to mourn your former lives together, but with honest conversation and a willingness to compromise eventually you’ll find your new groove.

Prioritize and maximize.

Understanding that healthy relationships are going to take a little more effort to foster after having children, I’ve found that it is so important to prioritize not only who I give my time to, but also how that time is spent. This is the time to really invest in those friendships that bring you life and energy. In that same vein, this is not the time to be investing in toxic or dead-end relationships.

Maximize your quality time with friends, and remember that friendship is not a one-way street. Make an effort to find childcare every now and again so that you can give your full attention to those you are with. Ask about their lives even if you feel you can no longer fully relate. Set aside time to go into their world too. You know, the world of adult conversations and kid-free dining. That place you used to inhabit. It’ll be good for your sanity.

Accept when it’s time to let go.

Understand that relationships ebb and flow, as most good things in life tend to do. Be open and honest about your changing friendships. Sometimes friends drift apart when they are in different seasons of life, especially when you are not naturally headed in the same direction. This is no one’s fault, even though it can be difficult to accept. To everything there is a season, and the truth is that it is impossible to keep things exactly as they once were for very long.

Be open to new friendships.

Some of the best friendships in my life right now are ones that we’ve made since having our son. Having a child doesn’t mean you can only be friends with other parents, obviously, but it sure is nice to connect with others who are in the same stage of life and get what you are going through (and who are OK with calling it a night before 7 p.m.) The old adage is true, it really does take a village to raise a family. So while keeping and maintaining friendships after having children will certainly take extra effort, the hard work of building community is always worth it.

ERIN MCNEELY

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