Dear Mr. Dad: My husband and I used to spend a lot of time getting together with friends and family. But ever since our baby was born, our social life has changed for the worse. I understand that some of this is normal, but it doesn’t feel very good. How can we save our friendships?
A: It’s kind of amazing, isn’t it? These little creatures who can’t walk or talk or feed themselves land on planet Earth and by simply being there, drastically change the life of nearly everyone around them. They can bring families together or ignite feuds. They change people’s roles and responsibilities. You and your husband, for example, used to be a “couple,” now you’re “parents.” Your own parents and in-laws have added “grandparent” to their résumé. And, as you’ve discovered, babies can – and do – also change their parents’ friendships. Here’s what this typically looks like:
New parents generally can’t just drop everything with 15-minutes notice and go out to a movie or on a double date with friends. If you do manage to scrape together a few minutes of free time, chances are, you’ll want to spend them sleeping instead of socializing. Friends who don’t have kids may feel neglected (those who do have kids will understand).
As new parents, your relationships with single friends may be the hardest hit. There’ll be fewer girls’ or boys’ nights out, fewer all-night poker games, fewer mani-pedis. Your friends my quit calling you because you always say ‘No,’ or you may quit calling them because you don’t want to hear about their care-free, obligation-free lives. You and your single friends just don’t have as much in common anymore.
On the other end of the spectrum, friends who have older kids may start annoying the heck out of you by giving you unsolicited advice and criticizing everything you do.
If you have friends with kids the same age as yours, those relationships might be affected by competition. You may find yourself actually comparing notes about whose baby smiled first, walked first, had the biggest diaper blowout, slept through the night, got into that exclusive day care, is tallest, got a modeling contract, or whatever.
As your baby gets older, her influence on your friendships will increase. Early on, she’ll play with the kids of people you already know. But when she starts making friends of her own (at day care, for example), you’ll start socializing with the parents of your baby’s friends, some of whom you might never have gotten to know otherwise.
So how can you salvage your existing friendships?
First, accept that you may not be able to. The truth is that you’ll lose some friends (and they’ll lose you) now that you’re a parent. But you’ll gain plenty of new ones along the way. Plus, some of the friendships that go into hiatus now may come back when those childless friends have their own kids.
Get a calendar. Aside from focusing on your baby, your first priority should be your relationship with your husband and making sure you have time together. After that, carve out some time for yourself. Hanging with friends is in third place (fourth, if you count the baby), but it can be done.
Incorporate the baby into your life. You may not be able to go out for a drink with your friends, but you can certainly take walks with them while you push the stroller.
Watch your mouth. People without kids may nod politely and smile, but they really don’t want to hear about what your baby did today or how many times he filled his diaper.
Read Armin Brott’s blog at www.DadSoup.com, follow him on Twitter, @mrdad.
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