How to Handle the Post-baby Friendship Blues
If you’ve noticed your friendship pool dwindling after having a baby—whether immediately, several months or even years into parenthood—you are not alone. But let’s be honest: no matter how normal it is, it still sucks. As natural as it is to veer off on a different path from childless friends, it can be startling and saddening to wake up one morning (or throughout the night, at first) to realize that you’ve lost touch with people you used to communicate with or see regularly—especially if you thought they would become part of baby’s life. Here are some tips to help new and seasoned moms alike deal with the post-baby friendship blues:
Make time to reflect on the state of your friendships. That old saying about true friends being hard to find is, well, true, and difficult times test the nature of our relationships.
“I expected most of my close friends to be just as involved in my life as they were before I had a child, but I discovered that many of them fell off the face of the earth,” says O’Neil Supnick. “I felt socially ostracized because of my lifestyle change. Part of it is my fault for not making the extra effort to spend time with these friends, but in a way, I feel like my better friends should have tried to make the extra effort to stay in touch during those times when it has not always been so easy for me to do so.”
Think about friendship etiquette and how it applies to your current situation. In order for friendships to really thrive, expressing consideration is important—like remembering birthdays or other important dates, showing up mostly on time, reaching out if something bad happens, listening during conversation and returning kindnesses. Think about whether or not there are any qualities in which you’d like to improve. This can be difficult to consider, but could anyone’s current absence from your life be attributed to your own lack of friendship etiquette? Theirs? Any areas you wish to improve?
Consider communication styles. Some people enjoy frequent interaction with others, while others feel overwhelmed or drained by too much social contact. Did you ever have a friend you found to be discouragingly high-maintenance? Alternately, ever had a friendship that made you feel as if you were putting in all the energy to make it run, as though it would putter to a stop without your efforts, like a car out of gas? The efforts we make with our friends speak volumes about our social preferences and needs. So what is your friendship style, and does it truly mesh with those of your friends?
Make a list of true friends you want to re-connect with. Do not use social media like Facebook to make these heartfelt connections; shoot for something more sincere. Write cards, if that’s your style, or initiate phone calls—whatever works for you. Set up a lunch date, the goal being to either hear your friend’s voice or see her smiling face. Acknowledge any distance between you immediately with something like, “I hate that we’ve grown apart…” and then bridge it by catching up. Don’t think your platonic rendezvous has to be long—a 20-minute conversation over coffee can be incredibly uplifting.
Recognize which friendships make you feel good and nurture them. Schedule friend dates as often as you wish, and dedicate a few minutes each day or week (or whatever frequency works for you) to friendship maintenance. Facebook, email and texts work well for this purpose; they’re like quick waves from across the street as you both go about a busy day.
“My husband and I try to find a balance with our friends, so I get to see my girlfriends every other week and vice versa for him,” says Nicole Caradona-Whatley, mother of two. “I try to keep up via email and lots of phone calls in the car to keep up with ‘gossip’ and let my friends know I am still around.”
Cultivate new friends. While oldies-but-goodies are important, connecting with other parents can be an emotional lifesaver.
“I found the first few months after [my son] was born to be the scariest, loneliest, most isolating time in my life and I was wholly unprepared for it emotionally and mentally,” confesses Beth Denman. “But when I made mommy-friends with babies the same age or a bit older and started to share these feelings and experiences, I found that they were rather common or, if not common, validated. That helped me in a huge way.” You could join a local mom’s group, attend other child-based events like storytime at the library, or take classes geared toward an interest of yours.
Cutting your friendship losses, cherishing existing friendships and cultivating new ones will enrich your life both as a woman and as a parent. So take care of yourself by taking charge of your social needs. You and your family—and your friends—will be happy you did.
Brit St. Clair is a writer and mom.
Published: July 2012
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