Throughout my life, I've been acutely aware of just how important friends are. Growing up with an abusive parent, I viewed my friends as my family members, and forever held onto the idea that our friends were the family we were lucky enough to choose. I prided myself in being a good friend, but I didn't realize all the ways becoming a mom makes you a better friend; a friend that truly understands the needs of someone else, how to support someone else, and, at times, how to let go and let someone else live their own life.
I must admit that I was terrified that motherhood would end the majority of my friendships, as I was one of the first in my friend group to have a baby. I was afraid they wouldn't adapt to the changes I would inevitably experience, and the shift in my priorities would mean a palpable shift in my relationships. Thankfully, I found the exact opposite to be true. A difficult pregnancy made me realize that I needed my friends more than ever before, and I knew that the friends who continually supported were the friends I needed to work hard to support, too. Every time they listened to me complain, talk about my fears, show up unexpectedly or just tell me I was stronger than I realized, I silently vowed to return the favor any way I could. I made a personal, unspoken decision to be a better friend to them, because they were wonderful friends to me.
Now that I'm a mother, I have been able to use the lessons motherhood has taught me to better myself in other aspects of my life. In a way, while I am teaching my son, he is also teaching me. He's teaching how to be a better mom, how to be a better partner to his father, and how to be a better friend to his many, wonderful aunties. It's pretty awesome, I must admit. So, with that in mind, here are just a few ways becoming a mom can make you a better friend:
You're Used To Change...
I've never been one to be rendered uncomfortable by change, but I won't lie and say that the changes motherhood threw at me where easy to adjust to (and sometimes, even that welcomed). One minute I was pregnant, and the next minute I was a mother; that took a while to sink in and motherhood wasn't all that easy to get used to.
It also made every other change in my life somehow easier to manage. When friends moved or made a life decision that varied from my own, it seemed much easier to understand, adjust to and accommodate. I didn't feel like it as the end of the world that my best friend moved hours away; I knew I could handle it and be there for her in any way I could and in the ways she needed, even with the added distance between us.
...And Don't View It As A Negative
Change is inevitable, and nothing makes that more obvious than motherhood. I don't think it's a "bad thing," when a friend changes or makes a change in her life. I used to, though. I used to be terrified of it, and what that change could possibly mean for our friendship. Now that we've been through something like the birth of a baby, I know that any other change doesn't necessarily mean that we will no longer be there for one another.
It's a good thing that our lives are moving forward and we're experiencing different things. It's a very good thing that we're not the exact same people we were when we were in high school or college. We're evolving into the people we're supposed to be, so I don't get scared or anxious or even defensive when a friend changes or is experiencing a change; I get excited and try to find ways that I can be part of that change and support her in that change.
You Support Different Choices And Opinions
Motherhood has made me acutely aware that there is never just one way to do one specific thing. Even something as universal as motherhood can be tackled in a thousand different ways.
So, I don't take it personally when my friend has a different opinion than I do. In fact, I'm kind of excited about it, as it gives me an opportunity to hare my difference of opinion and learn something from someone that I trust; someone I respect; someone that I know isn't being combative or difficult, but is genuinely being themselves. I don't think there's a better group of people you can learn from than your friends, and there's no better way to learn than by surrounding yourself with different people, different life experiences and different perspectives.
You're More Understanding...
While motherhood has definitely made me more of a worrier, it has also made me more laid back. I am far more understanding now than I was when I didn't have children. I mean, after a kid poops on your kitchen floor and uses said poop as a tool to "express their artistic side" by rubbing it on your walls, it's easy to let the little things go.
What's that, dear best friend? You're going to be a few minutes late to our happy hour date because of traffic? Oh, no big deal. Why? Well, because I spent an hour listening to my child scream and throw a temper tantrum because his red cup wasn't magically turning blue. If I can handle that, I can handle anything. You take your sweet time while I order myself another drink and wait patiently. Patiently. Quietly. Peacefully.
Man, this is nice. So yeah, seriously, take your time.
...And Realize That, Well, Sometimes Plans Have To Change
Sure, it's frustrating when someone cancels plans. Sometimes. (Honestly, sometimes it's the best.) Either way, I am way more understanding about canceled plans and last-minute schedule changes, because I experience them regularly myself. I know that life doesn't give a sh*t if we had something "on the books" for a few weeks (or even longer). Sometimes, a kid will get sick or work will call you in or you'll have an ex-lover randomly show up in your life and ask to have coffee and, well, you just can't pass an opportunity like that up. Maybe.
Either way, I'm far more supportive of my friends and their ever-changing plans than I ever was before. If you say you have to reschedule, I don't pitch a fit or give you some subtle (or not-so-subtle) guilt trip. It happens, and I want to be just as understanding with my friends when it happens to them, as I hope they'll be with me when I inevitably have to cancel last minute.
You're Better At Communicating Regularly
I think I talk to my friends more now (thank you text messages) than I ever did before I had a baby. I know I have to make more of an effort to communicate regularly, so I am more conscious about said effort and really do my best to stay involved in their lives.
Plus, I need my friends more now than I ever have at any other point in my life. I talk with them not just because I want to hear about their lives, I have to hear about their lives. I need that connection and that relationship; I need that bond with the people who knew me before I was a mother; I need to feel like a complete person with multiple, valuable relationships and not just somebody's mom.
You're Acutely Aware Of How Important Friendship Is...
I've always known how important friendship is. As someone who grew up in an toxic household with an abusive parent, my friends were my family and the one port I had in an overwhelming and seemingly unending storm.
Still, nothing made me appreciate my friends more than motherhood. They were there when I was pregnant, offering up support and listening to my fears. They were there when I lost one of my twin sons at 19 weeks, refusing to tell me it would be "OK" but, instead, telling me that I could handle whatever wasn't OK. They were there when my son was born, two of them literally in the room with me. They were and have been there very moment since.
The least I can do is return the favor, so every day I try to be the friend they've been to me. I know how much a difference I can make in their lives simply by being their friend, because they've made such a huge difference in mine.
...So You Don't Take Your Friend For Granted
It's pretty easy to take your friends for granted when you're in high school or college. Chances are, you see them every day (or even live with them) and your lives feel relatively the same, as you're both probably making the same — or at least parallel — life choices.
When you graduate, though, and you go off and start making different life choices that can take you to completely different parts of the country (or world) and give you different life experiences, you realize just how valuable your friendship is. I don't take for granted the times I see my friends, because those moments are few and far between now that we're adults with our own, unique set of challenges. When we're all together, it's a big deal, and we all try to talk longer, hug longer, smile more and just enjoy one another for as long as we possibly can.