Why friends are like underwear when you become a parent
I vividly remember having a teary, underwear-related moment post-baby once my tummy had kind of shrunk back. I knew that I had to chuck out the size 18 Marks & Spencer pants, which I wore 24/7 towards the end of my pregnancy, along with the now-grey soft bra which I also wore to death during my pregnancy, as it was the only pretty one that I could find that didn’t rub and allowed enough expansion post-eating. I knew I had to do it, but mourned for these things that I had known so well and was comforted by (literally) for so long. Funnily enough, a similar moment and feeling of loss also appeared around the same time but instead, with my friends.
Friends are funny things. You have friends who you label your best friends. These are people you party, shop, laugh, cry and can talk for England with, yet these, in my experience, are the friends that are least likely to stick around when you have a child. I know, weird huh, as this is the total opposite of what society tells us. It’s the friends who you can go without seeing or talking to for months - who when you do see or talk to, don’t give you aggravation; don’t make you feel guilty; don’t turn things on you to divert the attention from their f*ck-ups and don’t ignore you for no reason - who will stick around and for a very long time. They simply listen, talk and make you laugh and you do the same with ease. The word ease is the buzz word for friendships when you’re a parent and a key component of a great friendship that is built to last a lifetime.
Sadly, I had a few friends who I thought were my best friends and I fought, alone, to work out why I was being given the sh*tty cold-shoulder treatment later into my pregnancy and the weeks that followed after my son’s birth. It broke my heart as I really really needed some normality and reminding that I was still Lauren, by spending time with them. Even more so, once I slipped into the dark hole and battled sadness, feelings of despair and desperation. I sadly didn’t realise that it was a good thing that our friendships came to a natural end once Flynn had arrived, but now I do and I am weirdly glad of this. At the time, I took on the guilt and blamed our friendship loss on me having a baby. I’m not angry at these friends, but sadder for them that they can’t share the experience of my son, Flynn. And before you ask, yes they are childless at present, but I’ve known the same thing to happen with people who already have children.
The simple truth behind this friendship malarkey is that we all go through lifestyle changes multiple times in our lives and with that brings the risk of losing friends, but also the opportunity of making friends who are better suited to the parent-you. Yes, everyone talks about how you don’t have to change just because you’ve had children, which I agree with to some extent, but on the other hand, children give you perspective and like me, you might suddenly become more patient and more aware of your surroundings and things you didn’t have time for pre-children. I have found that my interests have changed as well.
Another truth of friendships is that having a child presents the opportunity to cull friends. This sounds harsh, but we’ve all got that friend with whom we’re not sure what we get out of the friendship, or they never seem to offer anything back despite you giving lots. You probably knew that the friendship was turning sour a while back, but nobody likes to tip the apple cart. Kids will tip it for you.
As I get older, I’ve also realised that I don’t need an army of friends to feel like I have good friends. Never has the statement ‘quality over quantity’ applied more than when you’re assessing the friend landscape post-baby.
So if you’re pregnant, about to have your baby, or just had a baby (and this applies not only to first-time parents, but also second or third-time parents), you will find that your friendships change and for the good and the bad or rather, for the better. All in my experience of course and by no means the way things will go.
The important thing to remember, is that there are so many other ways to make friends once you have had children and the boundaries of these friendships aren’t the same as when you were a 15-year-old. You may not speak much and when you do it will be to moan, you may go into business together and flourish or fail, you may enjoy lots of alcohol just not together in a posh bar and you may be envious of one another. You will find shared interests in places you may not have previously thought were of interest or placed value on, especially because having children has more than likely changed you as individuals.
Most importantly, do not blame yourself for other people’s actions, especially unjustified ones. Mourn a friendship but also know when to move on and recognise that perhaps it was meant to end, as sad as that sounds. There are plenty more fish in the sea and you’ve got to look for friends and make the effort, which may sound daunting, but making mummy friends especially, is a lot more forgiving than when you were at school!