Mix ba­bies and friend­ship

Be­fore you have chil­dren, you can’t imag­ine that it will change your re­la­tion­ships with your friends – but it does, and stay­ing in touch with child-free friends takes a lit­tle more ef­fort once Ju­nior ar­rives

Your Baby & Toddler - - Must Reads - BY JULIA BOLTT

How to keep the friend­ship flame burn­ing af­ter baby

Hav­ing a baby turns your world up­side down in so many ways. But what you may not have an­tic­i­pated is how it would af­fect your re­la­tion­ships with your friends, es­pe­cially those friends who don’t (yet) have kids of their own. It’s un­avoid­able – and it can be chal­leng­ing to keep those friend­ships go­ing.

AC­CEPT THAT THINGS WILL CHANGE

When a baby ar­rives your life will change, no mat­ter what you promised your­self be­fore­hand. You’re sleep de­prived and your head space of­ten doesn’t re­ally al­low the same room for your friends that it did BC (that’s Be­fore Chil­dren). You also have far less time for your­self than you did pre­vi­ously.

“Once you have a child, your pri­or­i­ties shift and the way that you think about the world changes. You more than likely won’t think about your friends as much. What can be­come prob­lem­atic is that the friend some­times strug­gles to un­der­stand the shift in pri­or­i­ties

ONCE YOU HAVE A CHILD, YOUR PRI­OR­I­TIES SHIFT AND THE WAY THAT YOU THINK ABOUT THE WORLD CHANGES. YOU MORE THAN LIKELY WON’T THINK ABOUT YOUR FRIENDS AS MUCH

and can find it hard to un­der­stand the lack of ef­fort that’s be­ing put into the friend­ship if they don’t have chil­dren them­selves,” says clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Jea­nine La­musse.

How­ever hard it is to do when you’re tired, busy and pre­oc­cu­pied, it’s im­por­tant to make space and time for your friend­ships, ad­vises Jea­nine. “Are you still tak­ing care of your­self in other ways, that you have other life ex­pe­ri­ences so that you can still con­nect with your friends? So of­ten, with your pri­or­i­ties shift­ing, all you end up talk­ing about is baby, baby, baby, but ob­vi­ously your friend can’t re­late to that,” she says. If you’re tak­ing care of your­self in a mul­ti­di­men­sional way as much as pos­si­ble, par­tic­u­larly when you’re through those gru­elling first few months of new­born par­ent­ing, that gives those friend­ships a lot more room to grow.

TALK ABOUT IT

Even friends without chil­dren can un­der­stand the pure chaos of those first few weeks with a new baby, but when it turns into months without sus­tained or mean­ing­ful con­tact between you and them, your friend­ships can start to feel the strain. “It’s im­por­tant to com­mu­ni­cate that ‘things have shifted, time is tight for me’, so that you cre­ate the room for your friends to un­der­stand what’s go­ing on in your life,” says Jea­nine. Eas­ier said than done when more of­ten than not mommy brain means you for­get to re­turn a mes­sage, but at least re­as­sure your friends that you are keep­ing them in mind in some way when you fi­nally do man­age to send it. “If you wrap your head around the idea that your life is chang­ing, and you ex­plain that to your friends, it makes that ad­just­ment so much eas­ier,” she adds.

MAKE A DATE

Friend­ships, like all re­la­tion­ships, need your time and ef­fort in or­der to thrive. It’s easy to fall into the trap of promis­ing to meet up some­time and then some­how just not get­ting around to it, but the sup­port you get from friends is im­por­tant. Make a firm date, then pro­gramme a re­minder into your phone, write a note on your fridge or add it to your di­ary – what­ever it takes. “You need to make an ac­tive ef­fort in your own life to in­clude your friends,” says Jea­nine. “It’s not only for your san­ity that you need to do that, but also be­cause if you don’t make that ac­tive ef­fort to take time out for ‘me’, to take care of your­self, you can be­come very lost in that baby bub­ble,” she warns.

Some­times, it’s all about tim­ing. What worked for you as child-free friends is of­ten now the worst pos­si­ble time of day – drinks af­ter work has mor­phed into feed-bath-bed hour. Ex­plain­ing why that time of day doesn’t work for you and then sug­gest­ing an al­ter­na­tive that fits bet­ter into your new sched­ule can go a long way. Take it one step at a time and check in with your­self to see what you can man­age.

And if your friends aren’t the type to hang out at a child-friendly venue, get­ting a babysit­ter for the oc­ca­sional evening out or af­ter­noon away isn’t such a bad thing ei­ther. “It’s okay to have a few sep­a­ra­tions here and there to go and see your friends and ground your­self, be­cause if you are not tak­ing care of your­self, you ac­tu­ally have less ca­pac­ity to deal with a child,” says Jea­nine.

TAKE A DEEP BREATH

It’s eas­ier said than done, but if some of your friends don’t seem as taken with your baby as you are, try not to take it per­son­ally. It doesn’t mean that they dis­like your baby, but for peo­ple without chil­dren their priority isn’t nec­es­sar­ily spend­ing their time be­ing with or talk­ing about a tiny hu­man and ev­ery­thing it does. This is also a time that of­ten re­veals your in­se­cu­ri­ties about your­self and your par­ent­ing abil­i­ties, and with mommy hor­mones rag­ing, you can be hy­per­sen­si­tive about any com­ments. A friend might think she’s be­ing sup­port­ive by giv­ing you space and not be­ing in daily con­tact, while you might per­ceive that she’s dis­in­ter­ested in your life right now. Without be­ing open about how you feel, these mis­aligned per­cep­tions can dam­age or even sink a friend­ship.

“When things are so hor­monal, we do project a lot, so if some­one is giv­ing you space to be a mom, it could be per­ceived as, ‘She doesn’t like my child’. We need to check those pro­jec­tions,” says Jea­nine. So if you’re not com­mu­ni­cat­ing clearly with that per­son you can eas­ily get caught up in your own ball of in­ter­nalised anx­i­ety, while the real­ity might be quite dif­fer­ent.

NOT EV­ERY FRIEND­SHIP SUR­VIVES

When you meet a new friend it’s easy to as­sume that this will last for­ever, but the truth is that some friend­ships sim­ply won’t weather the storm of moth­er­hood. “The no­tion of pri­or­i­ties shift­ing is some­thing that a friend needs to wrap their head around. Some peo­ple can get that, and some peo­ple can’t,” com­ments Jea­nine. “Some­times friends can only sup­port you in cer­tain ways, so when you go through ma­jor tran­si­tions they strug­gle to ad­just to that,” she says.

If you want your friend­ships to last and hold onto some san­ity between the baby day-to-day stuff, you need to say to your­self in a very con­scious way, “I am go­ing to make it a priority to make time to see my friends.” Although your baby will al­ways be your first and most im­por­tant priority, it’s im­por­tant to care for your­self and ac­tively en­gage with that process rather than al­low your­self to be con­sumed to­tally by par­ent­ing.

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