I’m sure there are plenty of groups of 20-something friends out there in the world who all have kids relatively young and go through the experience together. I’m somewhat jealous of this. It’s completely different from what I and so many other 20-somethings experienced. When I got pregnant a few weeks before my 25th birthday, not only did none of my friends have children, the very idea of procreating felt like something we had all unspokenly agreed to do in the far, far future. I had a few random friends and acquaintances here and there who were married or headed in that direction, but even that was a rare leap into adulthood. I was (and largely still am) a part of a social network full of people who have proudly, intentionally set aside their 20s (and maybe even most of their 30s) to focus entirely on themselves, their careers, and building their lives before even thinking about kids (and that's if they plan to have kids at all, which many of them don't, and ours is a social environments that not only fully accepts that, but might even respect and prefer it more).
So when I got pregnant, it was a mildly radical departure from the shared path my friends and I had been on together for so long. A few years later, I’m still hanging onto my 20s (take your time, 29), and my friends and I have had endless fun having my kid as part of our lives. That said, there are unavoidably some unique ways in which your relationships with your friends will be altered by your detour to parenthood. Not all of these changes are wholly good, nor are they completely negative. Things just… change. This is how that change looks when you’re the first of your friends to get babied up.
Your Friends Think You Suddenly Know Everything About Kids
But you don’t. Getting pregnant was like sitting down to take a test I hadn't studied for. (Or, since I obsessively made it my ~business~ to spend my pregnancy learning as much as possible about my fetus and the human it was rumored to be turning into, it was more like being taken into a room and told you'd be taking a test you hadn't studied for in, like, an hour. And then they handed you a book, left you alone, and said they'd be back soon give you the test and judge your entire worth as a person based on how well you did, and also, millions of people would be grading the test and each one had a different set of correct answers, so good luck.)
Point being, your friends will think you magically know everything about kids as soon as you have one, and you don't. You're doing well enough to just know things about your kid, who, truth be known, is probably very different from every other kid, and you really don't know sh*t about those little dudes. But still, every time a baby-related question comes up, your friends will look to you like you must know the answer because you are now the group’s resident Baby Authority. It’s like, “No, guys, I don’t know how early you have to start applying for preschools; I’m in my first trimester. Sorry, I’m still googling “how does a breast pump work.”” Although eventually you will kinda know everything, so then this becomes a little more fun. They’ll still judge you a little bit when you don’t know the answer to literally every single parenting question in the world.
You Have No Real Idea What To Expect
Sure, you can ask your parents and some of their advice is bound to be timeless and accurate, but so much of what they did parenting us is not at all applicable to having babies and raising kids in 2015. It would be kind of nice if at least one or two of your friends had been through this madness before you so they could tell you how the hell not to screw it up.
You Have To Make New Friends Who Do Have Kids
I’m not saying you have to drop your childless friends. Don’t be insane. You’ll need your friends more than ever after having a baby; they’ll remind you who you really are in the midst of so much rapid change in your life that it can be all too easy to forget. (You have not seen a quarter-life crisis until you’ve seen the identity self-doubt meltdown of a 20-something who’s just had a kid.) But that said, you definitely need to put a little effort into making new friends who do have children. Not only will playdates become a crucial part of your life in the not-too-distant future, but having people in your life who personally understand what you’re going through? It’s invaluable and irreplaceable and you will probably lose your mind without it. Find thee some parent friends to add to your circle, immediately.
You Feel Like A Bit Of A Badass
There is nothing scarier to most 20-somethings than the idea of kids. Even if you really want kids — hell, even if you’re actively trying to have one — the idea of actually having one is overwhelming. It makes sense: Kids pretty much go against everything we’ve come to define our 20-something lives as being: free, full of adventures, bad relationships, our friends and careers being the center of our universe, and basically making bad choices in the hopes of trying enough things and learning enough lessons to eventually know what we truly want, and how to live life like functioning adults. The idea of throwing a kid into the middle of the process makes the whole thing full of infinitely more consequence; You can’t make crazy mistakes or go on a last-minute trip to Barbados or stay in bed for a week straight with someone you just started dating. So if you’re brave enough to embrace parenthood — and not be a goddamn disaster about it — during the years when you’re still figuring out who you are and how to live, you’re not the least badass person alive.
You Feel Suddenly Way Older Than Your Friends
You’ll feel like you’ve rapidly aged past the rest of your friends, which can be both good and bad. The downside: Who wants to feel grown up all the time? You’ll also find yourself more exhausted, going out way less, and occasionally feeling like a legit old person. You aren’t actually old, and you do still have fun, which logically you know. Like, you've regretted a drunken Instagram at least once in the last 6 months; your heart still beats, dammit! But on the rough days, you’ll still feel like you’re spectacularly elderly while the rest of your friends are still having a youthful blast.
On the other hand, it undeniably feels great when you’ve been forced to reprioritize your energy and subsequently gotten rid of a lot of the useless drama that cluttered up your pre-baby life. You have to be more selective about what you spend your time on once you have a kid, and when you do, you’ll undoubtedly end up feeling a little bit grown past some of the more immature aspects of your former life. Which is a cool comforting thought to hold onto while you're getting fitted for an artificial hip.
You Become A Hoarder Of Kid Things
Kids are the perfect storm of money wasting: The biggest marketing forces in the world are all singularly aimed at convincing you to buy an endless stream of stuff for your child, who, by the way, grow and develop so rapidly that they never get the chance to use most of it for long. And of the crap they can use, they won't care about half of it. So there you are, filling your house with clothing, toys, books, and gear that you’re sure you’ll make excellent use of when you buy it. You’ll end up using about 60% of it, and for half as long as you originally thought you would, which means that if you don’t want to feel like you totally wasted your money on the winter coat your blue whale-sized infant was too big to wear by the time it got cold, you stash them away and thrust them upon your friends as soon as they have a kid. It’s their problem now.
If/When Your Friends Do Finally Have Kids, You Are The Wise Parenting Master
There’s absolutely nothing more satisfying than being a few years into the parenting game and coaching your friends who are back at the starting line. You get to have a thick-ass playbook, you get to enjoy the excitement of having a brand new facet of your lives to bond with your newly babied friends over, and your kid is already potty trained and sleeping through the night. It’s pretty good to be you at that point.
And that's the balance of being the first of your friends to have kids: You might have to endure being the trepidatious, solo pioneer into untrodden lands, but by the time people start following behind you on the same path, trudging through the sometimes unforgiving landscape, you're already chilling in your fully built cabin, getting wasted on moonshine (OK, I have no idea what pioneers did and I might be drunk on moonshine right now, which is totally fine because guess who's been done with breastfeeding for over two years HAHAHA ENJOY YOUR NEW BABIES, FRIENDS. *mic drop*)