When it came to growing and birthing mini-humans, I was a pioneer among my friends. Even now, seven years after the birth of my first baby, most of my friends haven't reproduced. I knew that was probably going to be the case going into this whole parenting thing, and I worried about how it would affect some of my most important relationships. But there are things I'm glad I didn't know about my post-baby friendships, because sometimes knowledge is power and other times it's just going to muck up a perfectly good journey through the unknown.
I have amazing friends. My situation is fortunate, especially since it takes two parties to maintain a relationship and my friends have absolutely put in the work to keep the friendship sailing away. (Get it?! Friend. Ship?!) Unfortunately, not all new moms have the same experience, and sometimes people can be incredibly disappointing... even if they're "your" people.
There are things I worried about regarding my friendships before I had kids, and there were things I wrongly assumed. So, so wrongly, actually. And then there were other things that took me by surprise, whether I worried about them or not. Ultimately, I think every lesson I wound up learning was best digested when I went into the situation blindly, because just living through it instead of knowing what to expect ahead of time created the best possible perspective and, frankly, gratitude for my situation.
So with that in mind, here are just some of the things I was more or less clueless about:
Exactly How Hard A Hit My Social Life Would Take
It's no secret that your social life will take a hit postpartum. But if you're like me you simultaneously can't really fathom how much you're going to miss out on and you think (secretly or with a kind of hubris upon which you will look back and laugh) that you're going to be the exception that defies the rule. So you tell yourself, "Yeah, other moms miss out on stuff. But my social life isn't going to be affected because I'm different. My baby is going to go to all the trendiest restaurants and sit quietly with a book while my friends and I have four-hour dinners and they'll love it! They're going to be so well-behaved and urbane because I'm doing better."
And then you have a baby and it's like, "Nope. It's physically impossible to keep pace socially." I feel like this is one of those things it's best to learn on the job, because that little bit of hope beforehand is a good thing.
My Child's Stage Of Development Would Dictate My Availability
For a little while, it felt like all my dreams of being the Cool City Mom who totes her child to all her outings was a real possibility. After the immediate postpartum period, when my body was still healing but before my child was really mobile, I could take my baby pretty much anywhere without consequence. Dinner out? Just bring the infant car seat and stick it on a chair. He's going to sleep anyway, so why not sleep someplace mama can have fun? Party at a friend's apartment? Just bring him along and when he gets tired, stick him in a bedroom and dim the lights. He was like one of those little dogs you can just stick in your purse and they chill.
Then my baby became mobile and aware and wasn't content to just sit in one spot for hours on end. He wanted to crawl and explore and grab absolutely everything that was in front of him, which isn't conducive to restaurants, galleries, or friends' non-childproofed apartments. And that's when my social life got a little bit quieter.
I'd Miss Out On A Lot Of Stuff
Because no one else had a baby and the world doesn't revolve around you. So your friends? Their lives will keep going on as it was. They get to do all the stuff. Correction, they get to do all the fun stuff. You'll be with your kid, which is fun but also not always fun and you're going to miss a lot of the social stuff. It is what it is and sometimes what it is is super-sucky. It doesn't even count as FOMO (fear of missing out), because you know you're missing out. It's DOMO (disappointment over missing out).
What I'd Have Would Be Enough
And yet, weirdly, you're not always going to mind that you're missing out. OK, sometimes you're going to be envious or maybe even cry a little, but I found that a lot of the time I was perfectly content to stay home and enjoy family time or, frankly, sleep, because I was exhausted AF. And if you had told me that ahead of time I think I would have been so disappointed in myself. Like, "OMG! I'm going to change so much that I'll want to sleep instead of go out?! What am I even doing?!"
So, yeah, I miss out on more things than I used to, but it's kind of OK.
"Tier Two" Friends Would Drop Off
When you have finite time for social engagements you don't have time to nurture all your relationships to the level that they need (and deserve) to be nurtured. As such, the more superficial relationships, the ones that were lovely and nice but weren't of the utmost importance? Those will very likely wind up falling by the wayside. And if I'd known that ahead of time I would have been really sad and probably struggled against it, fruitlessly. But it's not malicious or intentional and, honestly, it's pretty natural even without kids that, as time goes on, you lose a couple perfectly lovely relationships along the way.
My Kids Wouldn't Really Be Involved In The Relationships That Remained
I kind of had this fantasy when I got pregnant that my child would be at the heart of my friend group. Like, we'd all stay friends and my kids would be involved somehow. They'd tag along at parties and we'd go on picnics or whatever. But the truth of the matter is that when my kids are around I don't have the luxury of just hanging out. I'm occupied with, you know, making sure they don't choke on random crap they find on the ground.
In the end, I don't want to involve my kids in my social life. I want to hang out with my friends without having to worry about raising my children.
I'd Get New "Mom Friends"
Pretty much none of my pre-existing friends have had children in the years since I've popped out two. But, as a result of reproducing, I've come into contact with other people who have, and I've befriended them. These people fall into two categories — parent friends and friends who are parents. The parent friends are people I hang out with (online or IRL) because we have a similar lifestyle going on and I enjoy their company. The friends who are parents generally start off as parent friends and then graduate to be someone I would be friends with even if our lives were different.
They've all been delightful and pleasant surprises.
I'd Appreciate The Time I Spent With My Friends More
Certainly I miss casual, stupid hangouts. There were times when I'd go to a friend's and we'd grab brunch and then head back to their apartment and mindlessly watch a Real Housewives marathon for hours. But nowadays if I'm going to hang out (even if it is to watch dumb TV or whatever) I really appreciate it in a way I didn't back in the day when things were more casual and frequent.
I'd Still Be Considered In All Plans
This isn't a universal experience, but I really love that even when my friends basically know I'm not going to be able to do something they still include me on the text/email/invite. I was worried I would sort of fade into the background, but I never have and it's been incredible to have that fear so thoroughly allayed even after seven years of saying "no" more often than I'd like.
I'd Stay Friends With All My Best Friends
To be honest this was an overwhelming fear, but I'm glad it's a fear I felt because I don't think one should take any relationship, even the most fundamental relationships in your life (perhaps especially not those ones), for granted.
The Most Important Relationships Would Be Virtually Unchanged
Yes, I don't always see my friends as much. There are things I miss out on. But when we're together nothing has changed.