The transition from life “before kids” to life “after kids” is dramatic, to say the least. You may have initially assumed that your new baby would just slide right into your life, without you missing a beat, allowing you to continue living your awesome, full life, just with the addition of a sweet little pal to be along for the ride (except when that pal was sleeping, which would be for 12 hours every night, hours you would fill with friends, sex, creative pursuits, and sleep of your own, easy). Much like the token purse chihuahua, you’d just tote baby along to your favorite hotspots and bask in the “ooohs” and “awwws” of onlookers. This, at least, was the plan.
Once you actually have a kid, reality quickly sets in that your world now revolves around baby, and not vice versa. Though having children will undoubtedly impact every possible aspect of your existence, the social life seems to be a particularly vulnerable realm: Unlike, say, work and sleep, spending time with your friends after you have a baby feels slightly more…expendable. And when you suddenly never have enough time for anything, your social life is often the first thing on the schedule cutting room floor
To be clear, this isn’t just a shocking transition for people who went out all time before they had kids. I can’t claim to have been a party animal before I became a parent. My homebody tendencies mean that I’ve always preferred the comforts of a night in (Netflix and wine) over heels, cabs, and making out with strangers. However, I did enjoy the freedom and spontaneity that my pre-kid life afforded: Tailgating with friends before a big game, meeting up for after-work drinks, or having game nights with girlfriends were all commonplace on my social events calendar. Since having kids, that aforementioned social life has definitely undergone an... evolution.
This change isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. In some ways, having a baby — and thus less time — makes you look more carefully at the social things you were doing, and really think about which ones matter most to you. But that distinction can be hard to hold onto when you’re in the thick of the baby days, unable to find an hour for a shower, let alone a whole morning to go to brunch with your crew.
Here are a few of the ways your social life will probably change when you have kids:
You know that outrageously early o’clock, when all the old people show up for the Senior Citizen Specials? After kids, you’ll probably be finishing your meal right about the time they arrive. The concept of “going out to dinner” undertakes a serious overhaul. Gone are the spontaneous nights out on the town and random outings to grab “sushi or whatever” with a friend. If you want to go out to eat, you have two choices: leave the kids at home, which means overcoming a small mountain of parental guilt, and finding a suitable, non-psychopathic babysitter; or you can bring the kids, which means you’re relegated to kid-friendly venues, and enduring their non-gourmand menus. Not to mention the military-esque packing missions you will have to undertake in order to come prepared with everything you could possibly need to keep the kids quiet and entertained. And there’s always the risk that a kid is going to have a massive meltdown or pee their pants or do something else that could bring the whole excursion to a swift halt, possibly before you’ve gotten to eat a damn thing.
When I say “costly,” I mean it in every sense of the word. Of course there’s the obvious financial cost: If you bring the kids anywhere with you, you have more mouths to feed, but if you leave them at home, you’ll have to fork over a small fortune to the babysitter. However, there’s also a physical and emotional cost. Before kids, self-indulgent nights of excess were easy: a bottle (or three) of your favorite wine, dancing and running around town, and sleeping the following day away, aka, the awesome stuff that the best 20- and 30-something memories are built upon. Don’t get me wrong: Becoming a parent certainly won’t stop you from drinking or dancing the night away, but the first time you wake up to a room that won’t stop spinning, a splitting headache, and a toddler who is ready and rearing for the day, you will understand the impossible cost of outings after baby. 6:00 a.m. is a very real thing, and it is coming for you.
No need to join the convent just yet. Having kids doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to a life of celibacy. You can still date, and you can totally still have sex, but long gone are the days of meeting someone awesome and randomly deciding to bring them home with you the same night. Because, Umm... hello, there’s a kid there who won't be well-served by having a bunch of rando strangers up in their space all the time.
Back in the day, it may have been commonplace to crash at a friend’s house after a night out of serious partying. You probably even remember that one particularly crazy night during your junior year when you ended up camping out in your Corolla. Given the choice between drinking and driving, just driving when you’re too bleary eyed and exhausted to read the interstate signs, or just crashing somewhere other than home, you always made the right call and chose the latter. In your post-kids life, that’s no longer an option. Come hell or high water, you have to make it home at night. Whether this means calling it a night early, avoiding drinking, or springing for a cab, the end of the night has to result in you going home.
Someone once said the the two most terrifying words in the English language, in succession, were “pool party.” I’ve never been overzealous about the concept, but in my pre-baby days I had few reservations about stripping down to my bikini and strutting my stuff. After carrying two nearly 10-pound children inside my body, and undergoing 2 cesarean sections, I’m now inclined to list “pool party” as a new phobia of mine. Though having my children was a miraculous and wondrous experience, it definitely changed the landscape a bit: Stretch marks, saggy skin, and the dreaded droopy boobies now abound where a taut tummy once existed. Slowly but surely, I’m learning to make peace with that and love and embrace my new body Until then, I’ll keep rocking my full coverage, maternity bathing suit. (Hey, might as well get my money’s worth out of it while I’m working to undo a lifetime of being told to hate my changed body.)
Sadly, the dawn of parenthood often means the end of another era: the “Awesome Weekend Plans” era. Life after kids will involve way more trips to Costco and My Little Pony birthday parties than boozy brunches or Sangria Saturdays. Fortunately, Costco at least has samples on Saturdays! At least there’s that, guys. Make the rounds a few times by the wine sample employee, and you’ll be that much closer to channeling your past self.
It’s clear from the myriad of reasons already listed that navigating a night out when you have kids can get tricky. Therefore, you’ll probably find yourself pulling out all the stops in order to lure your besties, to your house, for a night in instead. You’ll bait them with an amazing* bottle of wine that’s just begging to be opened, or a favorite television series premiering. Really anything that will help keep you from having to desperately search for a sitter or change out of your comfy yoga pants for the evening.
There’s no easy way to say this: Having kids will possibly create a giant chasm between you and some of your friends. For most people, there’s a phase during/right after pregnancy when it feels utterly impossible that you’ll ever feel “normal” with your friends again. Your life is so different, so far removed from where it used to be, that it’s hard to even imagine where your friends will fit into it. Don’t despair! With enough hard work, patience, and dedication, the chasm can definitely be bridged and you can manage to maintain a semblance of normalcy in your friendship. But not everybody is up for that challenge, and you have to accept that. Either you or your former buddy might begin an actual phasing-out process.
This phase-out can happen for numerous reasons: Maybe the newly packed schedule of your life will force one or both of you to realize that you don’t actually care that much about the friendship, and really just hung out because it was convenient (nothing wrong with either end of that equation, for the record); or maybe it’ll just come down to the fact that you have less in common with one another.
And honestly, that's all OK. The truth is, whatever the specifics look like in your social life, change happens. It just does. If it’s not a kid, it’s a new career move, or a relationship, or whatever. People’s lives change and with that, their habits and pastimes and friends change too. And that fact, in the end, will be the thing that saves your sanity when mourning the way having kids has changed your social life: Change was always inevitable. It was going to happen. Yours just happened to change along with a super cute little friend’s entrance into your life. So like, it could be a hell of a lot worse.
While the transition from your wild and free, unencumbered self, to your responsible, child-rearing self, may not have gone as seamlessly as you had hoped, there’s something to be said for change. Now when you do manage a kid-free night out, you will appreciate every millisecond of uninterrupted adult conversation, and you won’t take for granted drinking from an actual wine glass (as opposed to the unbreakable plastic ones at home) or sharing the moments of absolute frivolity and freedom with your friends (because yes, you will still have them.)
Images: Red Granite Pictures; Giphy(8)