This post was also shared in the parents section of The Huffington Post, in the U.S., Germany and Italy, and it also inspired a segment on Maternally Yours, a public radio show that airs in select cities across the country.
Captain Obvious here. I have an announcement:
Our lives change when we have kids.
But when did welcoming your little miracle into the world segue into a funeral for your relationships with childless friends?
Somewhere between up-all-night-with-a-baby-who-won’t-sleep and should-I-do-breast-milk-or-formula, some of us stopped caring what our career-minded single pals were up to.
Or maybe we were just too tired. Or too shell-shocked, or ashamed, that being home with a baby was way harder than we thought it’d be (what I call the Stay-at-Home Mom Conspiracy Theory).
Whatever it was, it’s a problem.
Because our childless friends are hurting. In fact, they’re mourning the friendships that have been lost.
My friend, Marissa, is a news anchor in a top 5 market. She is fair, dedicated and authentic. She doesn’t have kids, and she is a very intentional, quality friend. She wrote me a note about a friendship that ended, after her very close friend had a baby. Here’s part of what she shared with me (posted with her permission):
I made a concerted effort to go visit her so that she didn’t have to leave her house with her daughter, a stroller, diapers, etc. Even after multiple trips to her house, I still felt something was off. She started half listening to our conversations, even after I would listen to 35+ minutes of her debating the pros and cons of cloth diapers. (Um really?) I don’t even know how to give advice on that, other than to go to Google. After a few different instances, I just realized that things that were, at one time, important to US, were now only important to me. She had her daughter and her new family dynamic and nothing else mattered any more.
The thing is: I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND. I know that I’d feel the same way likely: cherishing every moment, taking time for the few rare quiet times with her husband while he was home from work, using the 30 minutes while the baby is sleeping to take a shower. I get it. But I also felt that I was mourning a friend and a friendship at the same time.
I have to tell you… after writing this to you, I feel like I’m being kind of a sap about all this stuff. I consider myself pretty independent and non-needy, but for some reason, this really bothered me. I think it’s because it’s happened with more than one friend and no one really talks about it, you know?
Dear Marissa, and other single friends who have been abandoned,
Here’s the ugly truth:
We suck at doing it all.
That’s right. The moment the doctor handed me my crying, white-paste-covered newborn, it all stopped. I was not just Janie. I was Janie, the Mother of Sullivan. An enormous privilege and an overwhelming responsibility. I became a mom, and for a time, I didn’t care about anything else but my kid.
And that meant I sucked at everything else.
My friends. My former career. My house. My laundry pile. My husband’s needs. My spiritual life. My weight. My personal hygiene. My own sense of self.
Yes, me. This normally-so-organized-and-in-control-of-everything woman was now so wound up with the brand-new, blindingly-amazing, dizzingly-daunting task of taking care of the round-the-clock needs of my newborn that, sometimes, I forgot to breathe.
The newborn who I made certain to feed before we left the house for the grocery store. Where I realized I forgot my wallet. The newborn who wore brand-new outfits for at least the first 4 weeks. While I slouched around in 2-day-old pajamas marked with splotches of crusty spit-up. The newborn who demanded so much attention that I could tell you when he fed, slept and pooed last. But I couldn’t take the time to look you in the eyes while you were telling me about your life.
You know what? I was being the best mother I could. And that meant that other things suffered, including our friendship.
I dropped the ball when you least deserved it.
You, who showed up to our engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelorette parties, weddings, baby gender announcement parties and baby showers. And each time, you had a gift, purchased with your single-person paycheck, from our extravagant, self-indulgent registry. You, who came to the hospital to see our newborn, and then a few days later, smelled your home-cooked lasagna all day at work so you could drop it at our house exactly when we’d asked, at 5:15pm. You, who comments or likes every one of my unending stream of kid-related posts on Facebook and never complains that our once-a-week phone convo has turned into a half-assed once-a-month email.
You, who genuinely loves me.
But here’s the thing.
It’s not forever.
Our relationship has been on pause because of me. I’ve changed. And I’m having a tough time keeping up with the daily demands of raising babies. Like, exercising properly. Like, showering and having decent personal hygiene. And yes, like picking up the phone and calling you. Just to see how you’re doing.
We have a real friendship. But right now, we’re interested in different things. While you talk, I’m watching the clock because my baby needs to eat in 12 minutes. I don’t realize that you spent 30 minutes waiting on me to get here because the baby had a blowout on the way. As your hands move with your story, I’m wishing I had worn a different color shirt that wouldn’t show the baby spit-up. I don’t notice your fabulous choice of color on your new manicure (as I tooootally would have before). As you talk about things at work, I’m distracted by doubts about whether Ferbering was the right move. But I don’t see the doubt on your face about whether your contract will be renewed.
Shame on me. You deserve better. And I haven’t been there.
We had kids. And became self-focused.
Except, we actually haven’t been focused on ourselves. We’ve been focused on the tiny aliens who suck the life, milk, energy, sleep and brain power out of us. The piercing screams that are our new wake-up call every morning at 2am. The tiny hands that are so perfectly-created it brings us to tears. The bundles of soft skin that have made us realize that life is so much bigger than us. The little people who are fine-tuning our patience, grace and tolerance of others on a minute-by-minute basis.
Our children are the perfect miracles who are teaching us what love is. So that, when we get it all figured out, we can actually be a much better friend to you.
So childless friends, I want to thank you. Thank you for being patient with us.
The other friends left a loooong time ago. They were over the boob talk and calls to voicemail. But you cared enough to stay. And you even care enough… to be hurt. Because we aren’t considering your life.
Thank you for loving us, even when we’re too distracted to show we care.
We do care. You are valuable to us. We need you.
We just need a minute to get this parenting thing down. And trust me. When we come up for air, we will be even better friends than we were before.
(And hey, who doesn’t need a friend who gives legit parenting advice and awesome baby gifts?!?)
Post-baby friendships with our non-parent friends is such an important issue, but it seems it’s rarely talked about. I’d love to read your feedback, opinions and personal experiences in the comments section below.