Friendships after kids(28 Posts)
Had a conversation with a single, childless friend yesterday which really got me thinking.
She accused me of having no time for her, hardly ever calling her anymore and just not making the effort.
I didn't even know where to begin with defending myself. Should I start with the fact that I struggle to fit it all in? That in between full time work, keeping the house from descending into a shit tip, making sure my husband doesn't feel neglected, looking after two kids (one with SN) and working my way down the ever-expanding list of Things To Do, I barely have time to sleep let alone check in regularly with high maintenance friends?
In the end, I didn't bother. I said I was sorry she felt that way, heard her out, mumbled a few half hearted words about trying harder to see her more regularly, and then hung up feeling mightily fucked off.
Advice please? How do you manage the change in friendships when you have kids and they don't and you are both just worlds apart in your every day lives and expectations of friendships...?
Bless her, she's clueless, she has no idea..
Invite her round for a normal Saturday to see what you do to catch up on your mental week.
Well, IMO, a good friend would take account of your changed circumstances.
My closest pre-baby friend lives a long way from us. We talk on the phone four or five times a year and we pick up where we left off. We never had to discuss the change in our friendship - it just happened. She's a wonderful friend. So that we get to see eachother, she comes to stay here because she understands, without me having to say it, that it would be very, very difficult for us to go and stay with her. She stays for a week and is very generous (not that that is what makes her a good friend!). She understands the changed circumstances and we have adapted our friendship accordingly.
I wouldn't bother with a friend who refused to do that. Fancy having a go at someone for not keeping in touch enough!
Well, I am going to play the devil's advocate here... Your friend does have a point: she has not changed, YOU have. And as you yourself admit, she does not have a clue what a change it is to become a mum. You do know, because you are living it. If she is a good friend, why don't you try to explain it to her, instead of getting angry at her?
Your friend sounds very selfish.
It is not easy maintaining friendships once you have children. I swore that motherhood wouldn't change me but it did and there is nothing you can do to stop it.
I have a friend who I was very close to, when I first became a mum we were still close but over the years we have drifted although we do still do make the effort to see each other a couple of times a year. Your priorities and interests change as well as finances. Before I had ds we would regularly meet for cocktails then go on for a meal before catching the last train home, now I can't afford the train fare and the money I spent on a night out is now the equivalent of a weeks grocery shopping! I feel so dull in comparison to my childless friend, because we have no money we don't do anything so when we do catch up I don't have anything to tell her. She isn't interested in my weeks holiday on the Suffolk coast when she has just returned from Brazil and I don't really blame her.
FlamingDuBeke - she has been very supportive to me at times in our friendship (e.g, when I had PND a few years back), and although she says she understands how my life has changed (and I think she does try to understand), she just 6doesn't^ get it.
Aurynne - The thing is, I have explained. I have had several long winded conversations about this since having my first child nearly 5 years ago. And although I have married and had children and she hasn't (yet), she has changed, too. She has had all sorts of ups and downs and some major life changes, and I have tried to be as accomodating and supportive as I can. I just don't know how to say to her without being hurtful 'This is my life now. Deal with it or don't.' I thought we had dealt with the this ages ago, but it has obviously been festering away, as she sounded really hurt and a tad bitter.
I find facebook a great way to keep in touch with other friends... it means I can catch up with thier photos / updates when I have time and vice versa.
It also means that they read my status updates - often posted at 4am in the morning - along the lines of 'Haven't slept for 24 hours' or 'these children are torturing me'
So, they have a far better understanding about why I don't have as much time as I used to.
I also now always text them when I DO have time to talk to them to check if it's OK (AKA: I don't assume that just because I have time, they should drop everything to talk to me... IYSWIM)
Just one idea.
Weirdly, though, the only friend I've lost touch with because she doesn't think I spend enough time on her DOES have kids. All the ones without kids have been great!!
She absolutely hates email and facebook and doesnt even text. She actually gets insulted if I text her rather than call her...
It sounds like you don't have anything in common anymore.
She sounds a bit needy to me, if she is not in a larger group of friends you care about it sounds like this friendship might naturally die off, you can just let it go.
Sorry if that seems mean but she is not your partner or family, so why would you feel you owe her your quality time if she will not share her quality time with you except insofar as it pleases her e.g. I mean if she was helpful when you got out of hospital or something then fair enough, you should spend emotional support time with her, but if she only wants whinging time and has not / does not reciprocate then bobbins to that.
Oh dear, I can see both points of view here. It was unfair and unkind of your friend to say what she did to you. However, I do sympathise a bit with her (of course I don't know the details of your situation, and for all I know she may be behaving completely unreasonably).
I have no children (TTC for years with no luck and presently facing up to IVF, which almost no-one in RL knows, partly because I want my friends with children to go on feeling that they can be honest with me), but most of my friends now have at least one. I entirely accept that it's up to me to make the running for a few years and to be as supportive as I can, because their lives are far busier and harder than mine and when they see me, they want to have a relaxing time and not do yet more emotional work.
But I had a drink with a friend, also childless not by choice, a few days ago and it came out in conversation that we've both gone from having good networks of supportive friends to feeling pretty lonely. We're reasonable people, we know it's not for ever and communication will get better as the children get older, but at the moment we're both having a slightly difficult time and we can't talk to most of our friends about any of it because there simply isn't the time or the space to do that any more.
Sorry, I meant to add that I don't think it's necessarily "needy" to acknowledge that you feel sad about the way a friendship has changed.
Thanks for all your input, folks.
Petsville - really interesting to hear your viewpoint. I saw this friend yesterday at a Sunday lunch and I did see things through her eyes a bit more. Almost everyone there was with a partner and kids, and she was slightly on the outside of conversations when they turned to family-related stuff. It was quite an eye opener and, putting myself in her shoes, I could see how difficult it must be for her a lot of the time, especially as she would very much like to meet someone and have children.
I'm going to have a heart to heart with her about all of this, I think. It just isnt as simple as letting our friendship die out. We have been friends since we were 12, she is Godmother to one of my children and has been very much like a sister to me over the years..
Before I had children I found it difficult to be around friends who did - I could handle the first hour or so of baby talk but after that it started to grate.
I think it pays to be a bit mindful of what you're saying - I know that with most good friendships that kind of filter usually isn't necessary but after a major change perhaps its good be a bit careful.
When I had kids my childless friends were amazing and I am humbled by how generous and kind they've been. I guess some of us are just a bit more self centred!
Its very sad, but its inevitable - circumstances mean you have grown apart - and yes its you thats changed, but thats the way the cookie crumbles, and the problem is she wont ever really understand unless she herself finds herself in the situation you are in. She can't - its just not possible.
Its lovely that you're going to have a heart to heart, you just need to make it clear that you arent deliberately pushing her out, but your priorities are now completely different and that won't change. She's not being selfish, she just genuinely can't see why you arent giving her as much attention - because she has the luxury of 'me time' and you don't.
I completely empathise with her, because I didnt understand when I was childless either. I got irritated when I'd ring a friend and she constantly interuppted the conversation to tell off her boys or whatever - I just didnt get it.
Now I'm a mum I completely understand - of an evening I often think 'oh I should ring so-and-so' but once I've finished all the chores I just want to sit down and watch a bit of telly with DH then go to bed.
Its horrible, but if she cannot use 'quick' messaging to keep in touch then I dont see how you can maintain this. If you've tried already but hit a brick wall, then I dont see what you can do. You can't help the fact that she is not with a partner and kids, and you can't ignore the fact that you are.
Yep agree that some friendships will fall by the way.
I was hurt when one really good friend said she gave her kids with newborns 6 months to get over it and then expected friendships to get back to normal. Not being a mum I didn't really understand what she meant but when I had mine I DID. She wasn't interested in kids - she's a party girl and she reckoned the first 6 months you're hard wired to think only about kids - but what about after.
I have no babysitter and I couldn't go out even if I wanted to.
She stopped returning my calls which pissed me off as I really made the effort to call and see if she was well etc and not talk about my little one.
Don't stress about it. Situations change for everyone - my bf has gone to live in LA so space has changed our relationship not necessarily kids.
I've lost one good friend to motherhood. I can't ring her, because I might be interrupting bedtime/ precious sleep time/ bathtime etc so I have asked her repeatedly to ring me but of course she doesn't.
When I do ring her she can't talk to me, either the kids are climbing all over her or they're in bed and so is she.
She's delighted to be a mum so she has no regrets, and on the very odd occasion that I do see her we have a great time, but we both know that our friendship as we once knew it is over.
If you don't have time to maintain a friendship then what is it that you do want from your friends? Do you just want to exchange christmas cards etc?
My BF has also moved (only two hours away, not LA) and I have to suck it up that I simple won't see her nearly as much. It is what it is.
For me, the frequency of calls and visits to my mates has decreased for many of the reasons other people are saying!
But when we do see each other it's great to catch up. Personally, whilst I understand the perspective of the person who used to have alot more of your time pre-kids, I tend to think it's just one of those things, and real friendships endure, even when you don't see or speak to someone as regularly.
I moved away from alot of my close mates which didn't help matters, and though a couple of my friends get frustrated that I can't be as attentive as I was, for the most part they (and I) see it as it is - life changes and moves on, and sometimes you are taken away from the friends you love.
So long as you are there when it matters and put as much as you can into the friendship (kids, husband, work, house, life aside), it will survive, and the times you do get to spend together will be all the more precious.
I guess what I want from our friendship is to speak and see each other maybe less often than she would like, but to still maintain that closeness. I don't feel the need to speak to people every few days or see them loads to be close to them - not when we have had a friendship that spans years. My friend is totally different, however, and really does feel she needs that level of contact. We have grown into two different people, I guess...
This happened to me. But IMO the situation could have other issues lurking behind the facade of ''I have kids, she doesn't'.
My longtime friend had kids, I didn't. I *bent over backwards* (as I'd see it) to accommodate the kid thing (went round and cooked her lunch whilst she was on mat leave, taking ingredients with me, asked her interested-sounding questions re babies etc).
But over time she basically became less interested in anything I had to offer, spent more time with NCT pals etc - and crucially never took the time to explain to me (the- then childless person) why she never had time any more.
Now I have a child myself. I can see why she never returned my calls. But she could have said at any point - 'look I'm tired out and can't speak - give me a couple of years and hopefully we'll be back to normal'.
She never did that though. Essentially she didn't want to - in the end she preferred the company of the new NCT-type chums.
What that friend would like is probably a little like what you describe - see me once or twice a year etc, remind herself of the interests she previously had (perhaps even to remind herself how much improved her life is now!). However that's not what I want from the friendship - and although we've never had the conversation you describe the friendship has sadly now ended.
I don't think it was so much about 'she has kids, I don't' as a one-sided rewriting of the 'rules' of the friendship which then cracked under the strain.
Myself, I've tried really hard since having a baby to maintain good relations with two particular baby-free pals including explaining to them why I can't stay out late at the moment, but I still love them etc. So hopefully those friendships will continue to prosper.
I have moaned on here - and had a touchingly supportive response - about new motherhood and the exhaustion etc. But deep down I know I am so very lucky because of a. the very existence of my marvellous pfb, b. and her brilliant kind loving father, but crucially also c. everyone understands what I am going through, and there is real support for me. People want to help you when you are pg or have a new baby. No, not everyone, and there are always wankers who won't stand up on the train, but there are also so many other people who totally get it. Before I was pregnant I felt so alone when I was going through tough times. It was hard to explain why basic getting on with life could be so hard sometimes. I was pretty desperate a lot of the time and the business of just getting on with it, with no real sense of why or how, was such a bloody merciless treadmill.
Anyway I just wanted to sound a note of caution about the tone you use when you say how tough things can be to childless friends, especially single ones. It is a pity that you are not able to be available to her in the way that she needs, and I don't blame you that you can't, but please be careful when you explain this in your heart to heart that you are not in any way complaining.
Another thing is that when parents go on and on about how hard work it is, how little sleep they get etc then to the uninitiated childless like me it can make you think 'why did you have them then, it was your choice'.
I must admit that sometimes I think that on here as well but I'd never dream of saying it!! It's the unsayable isn't it.
I know what you mean, Morris, some parents wear their tiredness almost like a badge of honour. I remember complaining of a bad hangover, and a friend with children pulled a face and said something like "try looking after a six-month old". Because of course I wasn't allowed to be more tired than her, god forbid! Now that I've got a ds, I've sworn I'll never to do that to childless friends.
There is also, I have found, not particularly related to this thread, a situation you get where one person is the first to have children, and the childless friend is always visiting, buying presents and generally dancing attendance.
Then a few years later they themselves have a family and the friend they spent so much effort fussing over hasn't possibly got time to fuss over them and their baby.
'Tis a shame.
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