When I got pregnant at 21, I was the first in my group of friends to have a baby. It wasn’t until I had my third baby that everyone else started to get on the baby-making bandwagon, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t need my non-mom friends during those first few years of motherhood. In fact, I need my non-mom friends more than ever.
The truth was, motherhood was scary new territory for me. I found comfort in online mom groups and finding people who understood the struggle of consoling a crying newborn for hours on end while wondering, what the hell am I doing wrong?
But I needed a whole lot more than solidarity from newfound mom friends. I needed people who knew who I was before I became a mother, because part of adjusting to motherhood was trying desperately to piece together the “me” from before baby, and the “me” I was now.
I wasn’t only struggling with navigating the rocky new path of taking care of a baby. I was also struggling with finding my identity. I needed friends who saw me as a person first and a mother second.
That’s why I needed my child-free friends so badly after having a baby. Even if they didn’t completely understand my new life, they understood me at a level that my new mom-friends simply couldn’t. The truth is, I wouldn’t have been able to survive without both.
I needed to hear about things that had nothing to do with my baby or my new role as a mom. I needed to have conversations about what was going on in the outside world, because I didn't feel like I was a part of it anymore.
My non-mom friends weren’t able to sit with me for hours talking about 50 shades of baby poo. They couldn't commiserate over the anxiety of Googling all the medical problems you read about in What To Expect When You’re Expecting. But to be honest, that was probably a good thing.
I needed to hear about things that had nothing to do with my baby or my new role as a mom. I needed to have conversations about what was going on in the outside world, because I didn't feel like I was a part of it anymore. I needed to know I still mattered outside the confines of my house where I spent all day with a tiny person who couldn’t yet talk.
I also needed my non-mom friends because, at some level, I felt like they were the only people I could be truly honest with. I could tell them things I wouldn’t dream of bringing up in a online mom forum. I could say that if I had known what it would be like to have a kid, I might have hesitated, and they could appreciate my honesty without judgement. I could tell them it was hard and they would tell me they didn’t know how I did it, instead of giving me a “one-upper” story, as so many moms are apt to do.
My non-mom friends were never looking to compare. They were there to listen. They were there to be friends.
I’m so glad I had my child-free friends by my side after having a baby, because they let me be fully myself. And when many of them eventually join the mom gang down the road, I hope I remember to do the same.