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Maintaining friendships when friends have babies

(57 Posts)
purplefairies Thu 17-Jan-13 10:01:38

I hope this doesn't sound like a silly post but it has been bothering me for some time now.

I have two close friends (both part of the same friendship group) who are about to give birth in the near future. I am currently TTC. We have all been plagued by the "to have children or not" debate over the past few years - this ambivalence towards motherhood welded us together for many years. Eventually, we all decided to "take the plunge", deciding we might regret not at least trying later in life, and lo and behold, my two friends got pregnant right away.

I'm really excited for my friends and have been looking forward to playing an active role in their new lives as mums, also because I hope it will give me a better insight into what to expect if/when the time comes for me and DH. At the same time, they have both been circulating commments along the lines of "let's meet up for a night out soon, because it will probably be months after the birth before we get a chance to meet up again"/"let's go for a meal out because we won't be able to do that (ever again) when the baby's here". Am I being totally unreasonable to expect to see them in some form during their maternity leave (both are taking a year off)? Obviously I don't envisage seeing them in cocktail bars the week after the birth, but I was thinking we could still go over and visit/bring take-away/have them to ours for dinner? Or is that completely unrealistic and really invasive of me?

I'm worried I'll lose my friends, who have been a big part of my life since we all graduated and got jobs in the same city. I've read posts on here about friendships between the childfree and people with kids and some of the advice seems pretty grim (along the lines of: you've got kids now so your childfree friends won't understand, better find some mummy friends instead). Surely my friends won't morph into totally different people even once their babies are here and we'll still have at least some things in common?

To those of you with DC, do you still have childfree friends and how much did you want to see them in the early months of motherhood (if at all)? Did you just prefer to have your own space during that time or what sort of meet-ups do you think I can reasonably expect? Obviously there's a chance I'll be pregnant soon myself, in which case I can "join the club", but I'm also aware of the fact that it doesn't happen for everyone (DH and I agree that we wouldn't want to have fertility treatment), and I'd like to do my best to keep my friends even if we do end up having really different lives.

All sounds a bit rambly now - would be grateful for any input.

ThreeTomatoes Fri 18-Jan-13 12:27:21

purple actually it's my friend who has no family around that I've been more involved with, than the friend who has very strong family ties. The latter seems to be busy all the time, and tends to prefer meeting up without kids (at least if we haven't seen each other for a while), whereas the former likes the company during the day and my involvement with her kids , and of course my occasional babysitting ability! smile

Also, it makes a difference that our DPs are sort of part of the group too, we often all hang out together and get on, whereas the latter friend's DP i hardly know even though she's been with him for years ! If you're visiting each other's houses a lot, and DPs are going to be around at home, this does make a difference.

tazmo Fri 18-Jan-13 13:01:22

purple - your time will come so try not to worry too much. I do sympathise but must admit, within my circle of friends it has been challenging because of the circumstances. Out of a flat of 5 girls, 3 of us had to have ivf. I had ds1 with ivf but went onto conceive naturally dd2 and dd3 (lucky i know). One flatmate had 2 attempts but had bad reactions to drugs so hospital would not treat her anymore. She was 31 and has now gone through menopause at 43 so no children for her. she says shes over it - but her DH isn't. she's been a good friend and has offered to help - but she lives over 1.5 hours away so not practical. However, she does despair at how many people have asked her to be godparents (which she sees as token parenting because she hasn't had any kids - or free babysitting.... ) and she says she can't understand how people take their kids here there and everywhere (what else can you do?? can't take the bus when they're 3?) and is obsessed with all her friends having PND (which I have had - but not too severely - but she's obsessed and it can really drive me crazy). Then another friend had 4 attempts at IVF, 2 miscarriages, one failed and was successful on 4th attempt. Anyways shes had really bad PND and now her son is query autistic. She wanted another baby but DH said no because of her bad PND - now she can't be around me having had another baby and has been complaining to my friends how I just seem to breeze through it and make it look so easy (which is totally untrue; have had my days and she keeps cancelling on me because of her issues - and its driven me mad as I could really do with having a close friend girly chat when - er must go - kids playing up.

VariousBartimaeus Fri 18-Jan-13 13:05:16

I'm not in a great position to reply as I didn't have many close friends (geographically speaking!) before having DS.

DS is now 15 months and quite frankly, I am knackered. I work FT, come home, put DS to bed, grab a sandwich, talk to DH for a bit and go to bed. Then start it all over again at 6am the next day. Weekends I like to see DS and DH as much as possible because I don't see much of them during the week.

I do make an effort to meet up with a friend most weekends whilst DH does his sport.

With friends who don't have DC, I really appreciate it when they come over to see me because my flat is babyproof and I can leave DS to play by himself whilst we chat. I've tried meeting in cafes or parks but DS is either whingy or runs off so conversation is tricky!

Plus I don't have to think about his food etc. and if it's naptime, then he can go to sleep and we can keep chatting.

LoopsInHoops Fri 18-Jan-13 13:07:37

We were pretty much the first of our friends to have kids. No babysitters. We go out less, but still go out, and have always been the party hosts. We tend to go on holiday/weekends away with our friends, now we've emigrated we seem to still be able to do that. No festivals any more though, purely because of the emigration, not the kids. Little DD was 2 weeks old at her first festival, 9 days old for her first camping trip. smile

Corygal Fri 18-Jan-13 13:17:50

IME people with new babes are crashing bores but desperate to get a life, or at least an evening, simultaneously.

The new baby thing is overwhelming, and as a non-parent you may feel very isolated for a while, but they get over it. So will you.

In the meantime, start getting used to even a 15-min Starbucks break with a friend being controlled by the baby - too hot, too cold, too happy, too angry, too hungry, too overfed, add as applicable. Oh, and not being able to get a sentence out without an eldritch shriek chilling you both.

The smells are not life-enhancing. The baby is not good conversation. Your friend looks like death. This can be alarming and tiring. However...

As you can probably tell, I feel about babies the way vampires feel about garlic, but even I can tell you one day you get to the bit where you actually like the babes as people, most lovely. One day.

In the meantime, take migraine pills to appts. with people with small children, tissues, and your most cheerful line of chat from The World. Watch out for signs of friends being depressed - they'll be more tired than anyone would have thought possible, but that's different. And keep things light, bright and normal.

FadBook Fri 18-Jan-13 13:34:52

Some really great advice on here Purple. And I second that you are an amazing friend to be considering what you can do to keep the friendship going.

Friendships take effort on both parties and sometimes when one forgets this, the friendship gets lost amongst the day to day running of things (work, house, partner) and before you know it, you haven't seen or spoken to your friends for several weeks.

Ditto the whole organising a takeaway / cooking a meal and taking it around / arranging a coffee morning at your house etc. I loved my friends making an effort with me (which didn't always happen hmm) but when it did, it made me feel more than just Fadbook's mum / partner or a milk machine!!

My non baby friends have reduced since dd. Location aside (I live around 35 mile from my home town where a lot of my friends still are) I got told: we'll come and see you / we'll meet for lunch etc and it never happened with a very good friend and my best friend. It was hard for me but I had my priorities and they had theirs. I even did the arranging and organising on several occasions which got cancelled by them; one was for a Sunday lunch and it come down to one of them being skint (despite managing to go out on the lash for the last 6 weekends according to her Facebook updatesshock) It was at that point I knew the friendship meant more to me than her so I cut her off.

However, my one friend who has no children but has kept in touch has met me for breakfast/brunch on a Saturday morning, sometimes with dd sometimes without. Because of distance, we don't see each other often but every 2 months we both make an effort to meet up. And it's nice as I like to hear about her work and her life outside of my mummy discussions ( "I've switched to Aldi nappies" or "my dd isn't sleeping well at the minute, what would you do" type of discussions!)

I have also made a ton of new friends at baby groups, and we meet every month without children for a meal out. It's lovely even if we do talk about our kids all night!! smile It just gives us some well deserved "me" time

firawla Fri 18-Jan-13 13:40:59

I have 2 best friends, one doesnt have kids yet, other one has one baby who is younger than any of mine. They are my best friends cos i like them more than i like other people, nothing to do with whether they have kids at the same age or not. Guess it depends on the person, but i dont think having babies means you have to cut yourself off from everyone else and focus only on "mum friends"
I wouldnt worry too much, see how they are when the babies are born. Do go easy on them for first few months though cos there is a possibilty they wont be up to much in the first while they adjust a bit, sure you wouldnt be pressuring them to leave baby with babysitter to come out or anything but obviously if friends do that and dont understand if they are not ready to do that it could be a bit of a problem

Dozer Fri 18-Jan-13 13:45:42

My friendships with people who don't live nearby (most of my friends) have often suffered or ended since I had DC.

I found parenting hard from the start, and harder with two DC, sleep deprivation for years (both DC bad sleepers), mild depression/anxiety, relationship problems, limited family support, working, commuting etc. Just couldn't / can't get it together or find time and energy to keep in touch with or travel to see people ( with or without DC). If I get any time for myself I have a list a mile long of stuff should/would like to do!

The longer I leave it the harder it gets, and tbh I doubt things will improve, largely because am unable/unwilling to travel long distances to visit friends anymore on top of work, domestics, extended family commitments and DC/DH. Am sad about it.

A couple of friends, early on, pointedly didn't want to talk about the DC / my being a parent at all, and lectured about how important it was to "still be you" and maintain "your own life" etc, saying "we're all tired" when I tried to talk about sleep deprivation. what they really seemed to mean was that they wanted me to still do the things we did before, eg travel to visit them, be a good hostm go on weekends away, late nights drinking, and judged me because I didn't want to. That pissed me off.

I have deliberately backed off from two friends after we all had DC because of incompatible parenting styles, eg one friend boasts about her DC and DH and their personal choices (eg she is a SAHM) and is just too gushing/judgmental about others! another likes to engage with / educate her DC all the time rather than have any adult conversation, which is dull, and her DC are - for the moment anyway - annoying!

God, I sound/am really horrible! Don't mean to be.

HollyMadison Fri 18-Jan-13 13:58:07

I want to see my child free friends more than I do and I really miss them. They don't have much time, what with all the going out to bars and restaurants and going on holiday! It's mostly actually that timings don't work out - they can't leave work to have dinner at baby time of 5:30pm and then once I've got him to bed I'm shattered. Also BFing made it difficult for me to go out for a long time.

How much your friends go out after the birth may depend on things like the health, feeding and sleeping of the baby, as well as your working hours and other commitments.

I think the best thing is an early takeaway at their place. Hopefully dads will look after baby whilst you goss but mum and baby won't be stressed about leaving each other.

Good luck with TTC x

CailinDana Fri 18-Jan-13 14:07:07

It's hard to predict how things will go. Two (male, childless) friends of mine, who live elsewhere, called me at 11pm when my DS was tiny, waking me up from much needed sleep. I basically told them to fuck off, and to have a bit of fucking consideration for a new mother. One apologised, the other took the hump. I know they just weren't thinking but to be fair I wouldn't have liked someone ringing at 11pm pre-DC and to ring someone with a tiny baby at that hour of the night just seems incredibly stupid. Feeling that friends just don't get your situation in such an obvious way can change a friendship irreparably.

Other childless friends have been brilliant. As we moved recently they all live elsewhere, but a few of them have made a huge effort, sending presents for my DS, making the effort to travel, sometimes long distances, to visit us etc. The fact that they show a genuine interest in my DS is absolutely key - he is a huge part of my life and while I absolutely do not expect them to listen as I witter on about him, total disinterest, or outright hints not to talk about him, are very damaging to the friendship.

The fact is, the childless half of the friendship usually ends up making more effort to keep the friendship going, in terms of travelling, accommodating the needs of the parent-friend, etc. But that's almost unavoidable really and if you're interested in keeping the friendship going then you have to suck it up for while, until the parent friend has things more under control and can get out more. You have to accept that the child might have to be part of the socialising, depending, or that the friend won't want to leave the child and that's normal, especially when they're young. Making a new mother feel silly for not wanting to go out with her young baby is a surefire way to piss her off and damage a relationship.

tumbletumble Fri 18-Jan-13 14:23:19

My eldest DC is 7. Pre-DC, DH and I were very close friends with two couples who ended up having DC quite a bit later than us (one couple's eldest is 2, the other's is 3). Neither family lives very near us (over an hour's drive in both cases) which doesn't help.

We've found that we've stayed just as close to one couple, and drifted apart slightly from the other. Ironically, we stayed close to the latter until they had their own DC and became very precious about them!!

As people have said, it needs compromise on both sides. You need to accept that they will talk and think a lot about their DC (and you may sometimes find it boring) and will want to do different things, eg meet in the day time rather than the evening, spend time at home rather than going out etc. It can't be too one sided though. They have to do their best to find things that are still interesting for you too. The important thing is good communication - so you could give several possible suggestions of how to spend your Saturday and let them choose ("would you like to drive to us or shall we come to you?"), but each must be something you are happy with as well or you risk the silent resentment thing.

Don't be too sensitive - if they decline / cancel a couple of invites in a row, don't take it too personally as long as you do eventually manage to meet up!

It will help if you get involved with the DC rather than watching from the side lines.

It can work - we've even been on holiday with a childless couple and our DC!

tumbletumble Fri 18-Jan-13 15:30:11

The fact is, the childless half of the friendship usually ends up making more effort to keep the friendship going, in terms of travelling, accommodating the needs of the parent-friend

I would say that, although it will probably feel like this to you, the parent friend will be making sacrifices that you aren't necessarily aware of. Yes you are likely to be travelling more and adapting to child friendly times and places, but remember she may be fighting a sea of tiredness just to have a normal conversation with you!!

VariousBartimaeus Fri 18-Jan-13 15:44:23

One thing I really love about one of my childfree friends is that he thinks of us at random times. We don't live in the same country anymore so don't see each other often, but a few times now I've received a little present for DS through the post because my friend was away for a weekend somewhere and saw something and thought of us. Totally lovely.

We have a strange friendship where we can go months without contact then plague each other with emails or texts, or meetup and nothing has changed.

He was also very understanding when he came to visit and I didn't stay up past 10pm cos I was dead on my feet. He's used to much more party animal friends! But didn't hold it against me.

purplefairies Fri 18-Jan-13 15:50:00

Some really interesting insights here - thanks, everyone.

Makes me feel a bit bad looking back to how I treated my friend when she became a teenage mum. I suppose I never really made much of an effort to discuss her DC - it was hard for me to see as anything other than an entity in herself who'd just happened to have a random baby plonked into her life as opposed to someone who was building a new relationship with a person she really loved. But I was very young then too so hope to not make the same mistake twice smile

I have to say that this thread is also a really good insight into how much having children changes your life (I'm trying not to be just a tiny bit scared!). I think a lot of us without DC assume that all parents are dying for a "break" at any opportunity and will relish any evening doing "pre-DC" things - I suppose I also have to factor in the possibility that my friends may not WANT to be away from their babies smile at least not right away. It's hard to grasp how all-consuming the relationship must be when you've never experienced it and only see "babies" as a generic group without any of the emotions involved.

VariousBartimaeus Fri 18-Jan-13 15:57:40

Yeah I fall into the not wanting to be away from DS if possible category - possibly because I work FT so have reduced time with him anyway!

Friends wanted to organise a 4day weekend away when DS was 7 months - I said no because I was still BF. So they asked when I was planning on stopping hmm I said maybe at 12 months, so the next day they started planning a weekend for when DS was 12 months - and yes, they did suggest the weekend his birthday was on!!! grin

Again I had to make my excuses. I offered to do a weekend where I just stayed 1 night and they did the rest but they didn't want that.

We have now finally booked a weekend away together. DS will be 18 months and it's the first time I've left him overnight but won't be the first time I haven't seen him in the evening/put him to bed so I'm feeling a lot more confident about it. I'll miss him like crazy though!

Incidently, I'm still BF DS in the evening but haven't publicised that. I get too many hmm looks if I mention it.

See, I didn't really expect my childfree friends to make big changes or adapt a lot just because I had DS. Why should they? For that matter, why should I? After the first few months of exhaustion, I was more than happy to do what we had done before, i.e. meet up in the evening for some food and drink and chit chat. DH was happy to take care of things of home. The only real change was that I didn't go out quite as much as before, so I did have to ask my friends to be patient in terms of not meeting up as much, but otherwise things were about the same.

I agree it's annoying if people expect you to be exactly the same but -- well, I was the same person. Having a baby added something to my life but it didn't erase everything that came before.

I was surprised to find that the friendships that changed the least were with my childfree male friends -- perhaps because it didn't occur to them that things would change that much, and I was happy to keep some things in life the same.

Instead it was my friends who had kids around the same time who I suddenly saw less of, because the only things they wanted to do were baby groups and big coffee meetups, which aren't really my thing.

I realise from reading this thread that my experience was probably a bit odd but I just throw it out there so you see that there isn't just one way of doing things. You just have to see what happens.

x-post

Yes I was one of those parents who wanted a break and some pre-DC activity! We do exist!

And I didn't really want to talk about DS too much, not with childfree friends. It's not really that interesting if you're not sharing it with someone who's going through it too (kind of like how work chat can be so interesting among colleagues but so boring to anyone who doesn't work with you).

So don't feel bad smile

ThreeTomatoes Fri 18-Jan-13 16:53:30

Aww got to corygal's post haven't read the rest just wanted to say - I LOVED my friend's little babies! There is nothing like holding a little baby, I could sit there all day although the bizarre thing is when it was dd I was always desperate to hand her over to someone else, for a break grin (dd was ebf & frequently hence far too much babe-in-arms for my liking!).. I fed a lot of bottles to my friend's babies, loved it smile

ThreeTomatoes Fri 18-Jan-13 17:11:33

It's true it isn't everyone who stops doing pre-DC things. I know someone who is now a lone parent and she still seems to be out a lot (when her ex has the kids) drinking as much as she ever did. I always wonder how she manages it. For me, out on the lash in a noisy pub or club, back home in the early hours and then feeling shit the next day is my idea of hell and I avoid it as much as possible - i will only go along to a night like that if it is something special, like the leaving do of someone I'm really friendly with at work, for e.g., and even then I'll only have a couple of drinks and leave as soon as I've had enough. So glad my 'real' close friends aren't like that. Funny, cos I used to do it all the time!

Re talking about the DC a lot - I remember actually in the first year or two when the focus seemed to be constantly on dd, especially with my family (doting grandparents) I used to find it really refreshing when I spent time with someone who wasn't obsessed. For e.g. I had a boyfriend (eventually DP smile ) and we spent a lot of time watching films, talking about his life etc, plus i did try and go out more than i do now & spend time with him & his mates, and it was nice to have a break from dd-obsession.

BertieBotts Fri 18-Jan-13 17:42:17

Have not read whole thread so sorry if I'm duplicating.

Perhaps they just hadn't thought past the way that you usually meet up as a group, and are aware that they won't be able to keep that up at least while the babies are little.

You sound really thoughtful and aware of their situation and that's great, I had DS pretty young and I have some friends who made the effort to ask rather than assume whether I could go out or not and then listen to what I said rather than when I said "Yes I'd love to go out but I need more notice so I can organise a babysitter" they'd hear "Great! Invite me next time you make last-minute arrangements" or "Don't bother inviting me - I won't be able to come anyway" It was the ones who actually listened to my suggestion of "...But you'd be welcome to come over to my house!" and took me up on that that I've stayed in touch with, and stayed good friends with.

CheungFun Fri 18-Jan-13 18:17:08

I wish one of my friends was half as considerate as you purple, she's not a 'baby person' which I totally get as I was never into babies before DS.

Anyway here's my take on the whole thing, at the beginning, keep it short as the new mum will probably be exhausted - maybe a tea/coffee at her house or yours for half an hour. I remember being unable to put a sentence together once when visiting a friend and couldn't remember words blush

At the beginning, and always really, a nice walk outdoors is a good chance to chat without being interrupted. Babies seem to fall asleep instantly once moving. Crawling age babies and toddles can go on swings at the park and on slides with help. Toddlers can run around too!

Always ask how the baby is, my annoying friend never asks and it grates on me tbh as I don't have a lot else to talk about! Just ask questions, anything is fine e.g how are they sleeping? Do they like the bath? Make sympathetic noises about sleepless nights. My friend tells me how exhausting it is working full time she's probably not used to it having only worked full time for one year of her life and I've been working full time for the past 10 years and it's not a tiredness competition!

You don't need to go overboard, but it's nice to get the odd gift for the baby every now and then, like a nice rattle or board book. It's always a nice surprise and shows you care. One single male friend is very sweet and brings a little something for DS every so often when he visits and it's so thoughtful and nice to have something different to play with as much for the parent as the child.

Ask the parent what is best for them e.g. lunch or dinner and where's best yours/theirs.

The main thing really is to communicate and show that you care. I think you'll be fine because you're already being so nice and considerate!

I think the first 6 months are the hardest with a new baby, and I became more and more 'myself' from the tired shell shocked me grin

badinage Fri 18-Jan-13 18:31:55

Have only skim-read sorry but I'm another one like Dreaming. Once I'd got the hang of expressing, I couldn't wait to get out for an evening with my mates. It really used to hack me off when a couple of my other mum friends 'couldn't go out' because their knobber husbands wouldn't look after their own children. Yes life changes after children, but apart from the breastfeeding bit, it shouldn't change women any more than it changes men. It's actually very important to remember you're an individual in your own right and not just a mother.

Totally agree badinage smile

There can be lots of logistical reasons for not going out, or maybe you just don't feel like it, and it's totally understandable. But I do think sometimes there are limits that don't necessarily need to be there, like partners who can't cope with their own kids, or just a feeling like you shouldn't be going out now that you're a mum.

tazmo Fri 18-Jan-13 20:57:41

Hi purple went earlier. Was telling the tale. 5 flat mates. I failed ivf. 1 had child query autistic. Other flat mate young, free and single and about to go to Brussels with work. Has never met mr right. And the final flat ate conceived naturally but has gone on to have several miscarriages but has been a bit 'woe is me' about it which is fine - it is devastating losing a child but she was insensitive when our other friend was going through a miscarriage (ie said to said friend with query autistic child - "I want you to see me pregnant" when she knew she was losing her child. So every situation is different and marred by circumstance.

The best thing you can do is be supportive, offer to take lunch around, show an interest. A lot of new mothers at some point can feel v isolated and not know it - generally once the novelty has worn off and can be a bit down. The peak time is about 5 months and while new mums from new groups can be the new pals, there is a lot of competition amongst mums to be perfect - a time when a good old friend might be needed. So your friends may not actually be able to tell new mums exactly how they really feel and may need an old friend to chat to!

And as I said, it will be your turn at some point and friends remember who was supportive in the best/worst time of their lives. Good luck..

curryeater Fri 18-Jan-13 22:43:04

purplefairies, you sound lovely. I think if anyone can keep these friendships up, you can, and will, because you sound considerate and thoughtful.
but - in the nicest possible way - are you sure you should be tcc if you aren't sure? I am sure you have thought about it much more than in this thread (which is not what it is about) but - it really is fine not to have kids. And as you sound as if you will be lovely to them, you can always borrow other people's!

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