Motherhood is a rite of passage. It’s a kind of life (and a kind of love) that you can only truly understand if you’re also a mom yourself. So, what about our friends that haven’t birthed babies or otherwise become parents to little humans?
I often hear from moms that it feels like there’s a disconnect in the friendship once one of the two has become a mom. And sure, sometimes relationships run their course and not everyone is meant to be in our lives forever. BUT… still. Isn’t it kind of a shame sometimes?
I want you to know that if you really love this friend that you’re feeling distanced from, it doesn’t have to be this way. If you want them in your life, it’s possible to make room for reconnection. I would bet that this friend likely feels the same way and wants you to be a part of their life too.
Why we need our child-free friends:
- They remind us of who we are
- They know how to have fun
- They keep us connected to social circles, community, the world
- They yank us out of our bubbles. They give us plenty of other things to think and talk about besides babies.
- They knew us back when…. And are powerful witnesses to how much we’ve grown and evolved.
Why our child-free friends need us:
- We keep things in perspective and don’t sweat the small stuff
- We provide them opportunities to get their “baby fix” without having one of their own
- We can be pretty fun too.
- We yank them out of their bubbles and remind them to keep things in perspective.
These maybe seem obvious, but I think they’re worth reminding ourselves.
Because moms get lonely! And I think it’s good for us moms to remember that though having mom friends is important, support can come in a variety of ways.
And I think for some friends who remain child-free, sometimes the assumption is that they’ve lost their friend to motherhood for good, but it just isn’t true. Or, it doesn’t need to be.
Yes, some things have to change. Maybe we moms can’t chat for very long on the phone before we’re interrupted with naptime ending, or we can’t stay out as late as we used to. Maybe we’re consumed with how hard breastfeeding is at times or struggle to think of other things to talk about because we just haven’t gotten out of the house or spoken to another human being for 3 weeks. The point is, these issues are either temporary or work-around-able.
I think the biggest problem in friendships like these really just boils down to misunderstanding. I had a conversation recently with another therapist friend of mine (who happens to be child-free herself) about relationship strain between moms and their child-free friends and I was really struck by how much the child-free perspective sounded similar to the way I hear many new dads talk about relationship strain with their partners: They feel left out of the equation.
The good news is that this situation can be dramatically improved with just a little communication.
What You Can Do:
- Give her the benefit of the doubt. If your friend hasn’t reached out to you or hasn’t come over to meet the new baby yet, it’s probably not because she doesn’t care about you. Maybe she’s afraid of bugging you. Maybe she loves kids, but feels uncomfortable or nervous around babies. Maybe she’s in the middle of a personal storm or family emergency of her own (if you haven’t talked to her for a while, you never know). Or it could even be that she’s trying to get pregnant herself and is struggling to conceive. Or, it very well could be something as simple as her wondering why you haven’t invited her over.
- Try meeting her part of the way. Now, I’m the last person to want to pile on more expectations onto any mom’s plate. But, can you shoot her a quick text to see how she’s doing? Or tag her in a funny post on social media that you know she’d enjoy? (Don’t pretend you don’t have time to mindlessly scroll your feed!) If you initiate contact, she just might surprise you.
- Remind her (and yourself) that you’re still you. Motherhood is transformational. There’s no doubt about that. But who you are at your core...that’s still there. Can you tap into that and connect with her on that level? It could be as simple as texting an inside joke that you two share or telling her that you miss joining in on an activity you used to enjoy together.
- Ask about her life. Sometimes having something else to think about besides feedings, diapers, cholic, and our postpartum bodies can be a welcome break from our new normal.
What to Ask of Your Friend:
- Ask her how she’d like to participate. If she’s uncomfortable around babies, she might not be the friend you can call to come rock the baby so you can take a shower. But, maybe she’ll meet you for coffee while you’re working on getting more comfortable bringing your baby out in public? If she’s worried she’ll be in the way, maybe you can give her a task to help with, like bringing Chinese take-out for dinner or loading the dishwasher after you both eat together. Maybe she’s not able to come visit for a while, but you two make a pact to text each other weekly just to check in.
- Tell her what you need. For most moms, this means asking for a bit more understanding or flexibility. Because sometimes you have to flake at the last minute or because it might be too hard to focus on what she’s saying in conversation. Or, maybe you’re just struggling to come up with anything to talk about that doesn’t involve nipples or poopy diapers or your lack of sleep. If you need her to come to you because leaving the house is just too hard, say so. If you can’t promise her a whole hour to chat on the phone, but you can give her 15 minutes while baby naps, tell her. If you definitely do want to meet her for dinner, but a 7:30 meetup time just isn’t going to work for baby’s nap schedule, tell her you can do 5:45 instead. The key point here is to tell her that you still value your time with her, but you just have to modify expectations a little bit.
One of the best stories I’ve heard about child-free friends really getting this point about modifying expectations involved a child-free couple deciding that they still wanted their best friends (and new parents) in their lives, so they decided that if their friends couldn’t come “join the party”, they’d bring the party to them. So, they picked up some sushi and beverages and went over to their friends’ place at a time when they knew baby would be in bed for the night. They understood that they’d have to sit through some of the usual “life with baby” talk for a bit, and though that wasn’t their favorite topic, they trusted that their usual old banter would start back up shortly after and it would be like nobody had skipped a beat. And, really, isn’t that what true friendships are all about?
But if you’re really feeling a strain on a friendship you care about with someone who is not a parent, a simple “I miss you” text or phone call to say that you know you’ve been sort of “MIA” lately, but that you still want her in your life can go a long way. Why not give it a shot?
Sometimes support and connection can come in the most surprising ways.
Want more support and real-talk for what new parenthood will really be like? To make sure your relationship is rock solid in time for your new “littlest roommate” to move in? To know what sex will really be like? And how to ask for the support you need from friends and relatives?
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