When one friend has a baby and the other doesn’t, it can suddenly seem like you live in two different worlds.
You and your pal have shared so many life-changing experiences—you survived the boss from hell together, commiserated over dating mishaps, or have a history so deep, you can’t even remember a time you weren’t friends. But now one of you has a baby, and everything has changed. Your schedules may be completely out of sync, one of you is spending her former “going out” budget on diapers and day care, and it’s impossible to talk about your shared love of rom-coms when the only movie one of you has seen this year is Pooh’s Grand Adventure, 142 times.
Not every friendship is going to survive the seismic life change of having children, but the friendships that mean the most to you are worth working at, no matter how difficult it can be at times, says Shasta Nelson, author of Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness.“We go through a lot of different life stages and we don’t have to go through them at the exact same time as our friends to remain close,” says Nelson. “Motherhood is one of the biggest transitions you’ll make, and it’s inevitable that there’s going to be some ebb and flow in your friendships, but the goal is to transition a few close friends to being a part of your new normal.”
Here, some steps moms and their child-free friends can take to keep their bond strong.
Find a Balance Between Your Two Lifestyles
You may not be able to go out to concerts together all the time like you used to or even spend more than a few uninterrupted minutes on the phone, but you can still find ways to connect that make you both happy. “As with any relationship, there has to be a balance between what you need and what I need, and everyone has different limits with their money and time,” says Emma Johnson, author of The Kickass Single Mom and creator of WealthySingleMommy.com. “So I would have my friend with no kids come over and take a walk with me with the stroller and get a coffee, and then every month or two I’ll leave the kids at home and go out for dinner with her.”
Make Sure You’re Still Each Other's Biggest Cheerleader
“The friends we always return to are the ones who make us feel loved and rewarded,” says Nelson. That means continuing to express what you admire about each other. “The woman without kids should affirm how excited she is that her friend had this cute baby, and what a great job she thinks she’s doing as a mom, and the mom should be able to express what she misses or thinks is great about her friend’s child-free life.” Nelson adds that it’s important to keep in mind that that by affirming your friend’s lifestyle, you aren’t in any way devaluing your own choice. She also encourages curiosity—ask about the things in each other’s life that are completely out of your current reality, from what it’s like to breastfeed to how that new dating app is working out.
Make a Special Effort to Check in With Your Single-mom Friends
Moms who are raising a baby on their own need the support of friends more than anyone, but can often be stuck in a lonely place, since it can be harder to fit in with the coupled moms. “Single moms can feel ostracized socially,” says Johnson. “Sometimes we don’t even get invited to picnics where everyone’s going.” But she says while she loves being included with other new moms, she also cherishes her time with child-free friends. “I love meeting up with friends to talk about business and my career. With my single friends, I talk about dating and sex. When I’m with adults I want to talk about adult things!”
Take Advantage of Bedtime
One of the biggest obstacles for socializing with mom friends is that babysitting costs a lot of money—and frankly, you may just be too exhausted at the end of the day to put on makeup and heels and go out. Johnson has found a solution for this: “I invite my friends over to have dinner and hang out with my kids, and then when they go to bed, we can sit on the sofa and have a glass of wine and talk.”
Making New Mom Friends Doesn’t Mean Giving Up Your Old Crew
When you become a mom, you crave the company of other women who can understand exactly what you’re going through—but making new friends doesn’t mean you’re replacing the old ones. “We need people who get our current experience, so it is important to make friends with other moms,” says Nelson. “But that those friend’s may know you mostly as your child’s mother, and your old friends know you as yourself, they know your history of who you always were, and they share memories of you.” There is a place for both in your life.
Understand That Some Friends May Need Time
This is especially true of friends who are going through fertility struggles, or who feel like they are just too far away in life experiences to bridge the difference right now. “Even if you’re not connecting now, don’t write off that friendship for good or make any drastic changes,” says Johnson, “You may need to go your own ways now, but you can come back to those old friendships later.”