Having children is life changing in ways I never imagined, one unexpected way was how it would change my relationships with my existing friends. Since becoming a mum four years ago, it hasn’t been easy to maintain these friendships but looking back it has made our bonds stronger.
I couldn’t reach out to my friends because I struggled to relate to them because they were all working, going out for dinners, basically living my old life and my new “mum” life didn’t fit right yet. Suddenly there was a huge divide.
I need my friends
Before having children I never really needed my friends. I loved their company and we spent a decade or so making brilliant memories together but life was good. When I had a baby, I was suddenly operating in a different time zone. I was, as the old cliche goes, stuck at home all day with a baby and for the first time in my life I felt lonely. How could I explain this to my friends who had only known me as their light-weight, dance-till-dawn, space cadet of a friend? So I didn’t, and they didn’t really ask.
I imagined that they would take my absence from dinner as a sign that I “had become all about the kids” and everyone would nod understandingly at how awful my fate was. I was one of the first of our number to have kids and really struggled with the idea that I would also be labelled this way and found myself dismissing my family life as trivial when I saw my working friends and definitely never shared much about them on our WhatsApp group for fear of “ proud mum” ridicule.
It’s hard for people to relate to things when they are not experiencing them themselves, but holding that view itself made me feel unfairly patronising. Making friends with other new mums with babies at the exact same stage was really valuable. They understood my anxieties and obsessions with nap time and sleep regression but I still missed my old friends. I started to reconnect with them and accepted an invite to after-work drinks. It was always going to be easier not to go but I got a babysitter, dusted off my heels and when I got there my anxieties melted away.
Fast forward a few years and this weekend we had our annual get together, admittedly most of them were punch drunk in love with their new babies, and while the conversations didn’t all revolve around family life, it was no longer felt like a taboo subject.
Switching parties to quiet dinners
These days I am far more comfortable one-on-one than in a group. I find people, myself included, change in large groups and I really don’t enjoy navigating them. Days later I would find myself ruminating on boozy throw-away comments. My friends haven’t changed or done anything wrong, but for my own self preservation I decided to make a few changes to how I communicate with my friends and try to socialise with them in smaller groups. This year I have applied this to meals out, WhatsApp chats and my own birthday party.
Ironically this feeling started around the same time I started this blog and I have no issue with public speaking, blogging or social media but when it comes to “real life” friends I crave intimacy, I don’t have that much time with them and need a connection that you can’t get from a large group POWOW. This hasn’t been easy and has offended some of my closest friends, particularly when I left a large WhatsApp group. It went down like a fart in a lift with one particularly vocal friend but by changing how I interacted with them individually I feel I have become a better friend to them all in the long run. Time will tell.
Be the fairer sex
Some women, myself included, are intimidated by other women. I know countless smart, funny women who confess to not being very good at making friends with other women and it is usually a hang up from their experience at school. I have matured emotionally since I was at school yet I assume other women are being catty, two-faced and unkind.
Admittedly this can be the case sometimes but shouldn’t be the default view I have of women. Thankfully it does feel that recently there has been a backlash against women being pitted against each other and we are more supportive after all we are all winging it on this journey called life.
Or maybe I have just become more MOLO.
For more from Lucianne check out her blog The Tantrum Times