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Helping Friendships Survive Parenthood

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Carefree nights out. Adventurous trips away. Work-related wins and woes. My childhood girlfriends’ excited chatter washed over me, near strangers to me as I retreated deeper and deeper into the shell I called motherhood.

Being the first in the group to become a mum (and a stay-at-home one, at that), my small domestic victories, like how I could change a nappy with one hand tied behind my back, seemed to pale in comparison with my friends’ career successes and glamorous child-free lives. Slowly but surely, we were drifting apart.

makchic’s #MamaSecrets recently explored how life goes through a massive upheaval when you become a parent- as do your relationships with friends who don’t have children of their own. But the mere existence of a new life in your world doesn’t mean those important relationships have to end.

It took several months of cathartic crying and brutally honest heart-to-hearts before I finally learnt to let go of my insecurities and navigate the altered landscape of my friendships. Here are some of the lessons I’ve picked up along the way. Hopefully, you’ll find them helpful to you too:

Understand that your identity is not rooted in you being a parent

Parenthood fundamentally matures your character and changes your priorities in life. However, the person you were – that hilarious comedienne, or the fierce and fabulous dancing queen – whom your friends fell in love with is still in there somewhere. She’s a huge part of you that you should never forget.

Photo credit: TV Guide

It can be easy to fall into the trap of isolation as a parent. “I isolated myself after giving birth. It’s been 5 years. I don’t know where to start,” a mom confessed. 

Still, you owe it to your friends (and to yourself) to remain relevant and connected to the world beyond your child. Do share your life during meet-ups, but make a conscious effort as well to focus on topics of conversation beyond parenthood. Remember: it’s not all about you.

Make sure that your friends understand that their lives are important to you too, even though you might not be on the same journey they’re on. After all, you still care for them, don’t you?

Be vulnerable

One of the worst things a mum can do is to assume that her friends are disinterested in her child, or in her life as a parent. Often, our friends are merely waiting for us to open up about how we’re feeling and can be surprisingly supportive in hearing us out. 

Speak honestly about your needs and expectations; about how you require patience and understanding as you grapple with the demands of motherhood. Share the life changes that you’re going through so that your friends know how to adjust accordinglyTrue friends would be willing to accommodate your new timing and responsibilities to your child. Do take care however not to take their graciousness for granted. 

If you sense any underlying feelings of distance or awkwardness, be open and courageous enough to lovingly confront this. Even if it’s been a while, try picking up that phone to check in on your friends and reassure them that they’re still important to you.

Be willing to compromise  

When it comes to meet-ups, don’t constantly tether your friends to your child’s naptime or feeding schedule. Try your best to strike a healthy balance. Some meet-ups might involve simple, family-friendly nights in, whilst others might require you to enlist a family member’s help to catch some much-needed quality time with the girls.

Initiate plans, too. Your friends may have gone quiet for fear of disrupting your (or your child’s) day-to-day routines. They’d welcome the effort on your part and would appreciate the fact that you’re thinking of them.

If you’ve been inadvertently left out of certain plans, as many followers lamented on #MamaSecrets recently, make sure to raise this with your friends in an honest manner. Explain that you’d still like to be included in fun activities – even though you might not always be able to make it. 

Don’t be a smug married

Bridget Jones’ fans will relate…there’s nothing more irritating than a married friend-with-kids who lords their domestic bliss over their single friends! Well-intentioned (but ill-advised) comments (such as, “when are you going to give my child a playmate?”) will only serve to alienate them from you, and possibly foster a sense of competition or jealousy over who has made the “better” life choice.

Realise as well that those Instaworthy shots of your friends’ child-free crusades don’t always reflect their reality (the same way your #blessed parenting photos on social media don’t necessarily reflect yours).

As another follower commented, “Parenting and kids do not have to be in competition- we’re in this together,” it’s time to stop competing and start reconnecting instead on a personal level with friends you might have forgotten along the way.

Be willing to acknowledge the changes in your respective lives and work through them. Honest communication is a balm for any latent feelings of resentment.

Accept that seasons change

Photo credit: Martin Rak

Maybe the winter of discontent you’re going through with some of your friends is temporary, and maybe it’s not. Some friendships need to bide their time until a new season arises to grow, whilst others just run their natural course. And that’s okay.

The only thing you can do in these situations is to just let go of any bitterness you’re holding on to. Be grateful instead for the time you had together and the impact that that person had made in your life.

As you move forward, spend some time getting to know the new person you’ve become, and invest effort in building her up. Widen your spheres of interest, take up that cardio barre class you’re always on about, and be open to the possibility of creating exciting new friendships in the days to come!

 

 

As a litigation lawyer turned full-time mum, Kimberly Lee finds that arguing court cases never seemed quite as difficult as arguing with an obstinate toddler over carrots. She writes about life, loss, love and everything in between as she explores her greatest adventure yet- motherhood.

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