To be honest, I figured it would happen. At 24, I was the first person in my friend group to get married, so we all just assumed I'd also be the first to have kids. I was. In fact, my first child was almost 1 by the time the next of our friends got married. Mostly this all went very smoothly, but I'd be lying if I said there weren't struggles in being the first of your friends to have a baby.
Not to brag or anything, but my friends are the best — there's a reason we've been going strong since we were teenagers. When you click with a group so perfectly you don't let little things like decades and distance change that core closeness. Of course people change, their situations change, and you have to learn to adapt to those changes if the friendships are going to survive. Long-distance moves, new romantic partners, demanding jobs, and even just the standard-issue emotional growth that goes along with getting older and wiser will necessitate at least some changes and, really, that's a good thing. But it can be hard. And bringing a very small, very young human into the mix is going to be challenging at times for everyone involved, especially when your group isn't used to dealing with very small, very young humans.
The struggle is real, people, and here are a few examples:
You Miss Out On So Many Plans
I was able to deny this for longer than maybe most people, I think. My first child traveled well, and for the first few months of his life I could just tote him pretty much anywhere and he'd sleep through it. So if my friends had an impromptu cocktail party at one of their apartments, I'd just grab the baby carrier and head over. Going out to dinner? Cool. I'll just pop him in his infant car seat and set him on a chair next. Maybe he'd wake up to nurse, but that was no big deal. It was great!
But then he got mobile and less drowsy. He got into a bedtime routine that was best not messed around with. As such, I wound up missing out on a lot of plans, particularly the last minute ones.
You're Constantly Reminded Of What Your Life Used To Be
You have never experienced envy in your life until you look at your friends' vacation photos during a 3:00 a.m. nursing session. Hell, sometimes just knowing that somewhere, across the city, your friends have been in a sweet, uninterrupted slumber for four hours and will sleep for four more hours before they wake up is painful.
They Think You're More Enlightened Now
Every now and then, when you're the only one with a baby, you will be put on a pedestal. Not that your friends think you're perfect (they knew you in college) but they think you've somehow evolved to a higher plain of consciousness because you're a mother now. This, they figure, means you know everything about babies and that, in turn, makes you generally more "grown up" or something. Yeah, that's not how it works. I had no idea what was going on, I was just legally responsible for another human being.
They Don't Always "Get It"
On the other hand, having a baby does imbue you with the experience of, you know, having a baby, and you certainly learn from that experience. And if you don't have a baby, well, you don't know what you don't know. Obviously that's nobody's fault, but sometimes that experience gap is very much on display and there's not much anyone can do about it. Again, my friends are amazing and generally get it, or know enough to be gracious about the things they don't get, but it can occasionally be a little bit awkward.
There's No One To Ask For Advice
At least not among your peer group, which would be so helpful. Because, like, the older women in your family can give you some general parenting advice, but a lot of the specifics (best new products, for example) and best practices (best position for baby to sleep in, car seat safety) change over time. Without friends who are going through it at the same time, it's up to you to figure all this out on your own.
You're "The Mom" Now
It's not that your friends stop seeing you for you — they're your friends and they love you and get you — but they will start seeing you also as "a mom." Some of that will be projection, but chances are it won't be completely baseless. All of a sudden you're the one who has everything one could need in her purse. You're the one who's making sure everyone has a glass of water before bed after a night of drinking. In the end, it's hard to get out of "caregiver mode" once you're in it.
Your FOMO Is Raging
It's not just the fear of missing out on get togethers and vacations. It's deeper than that: you will worry that your friends will continue to grow together and leave you behind. Because they're still together doing their thing and you just can't anymore, or at least not to the level or the frequency that they can. Fortunately my friends are amazing and, as a result, always tried to include me and understood when I couldn't join in.
You Need To Figure Out Your New Normal
Having a baby won't necessarily change you or the core of your friendships, but it will almost certainly change your life and therefore your dynamic, at least for a while. And when you're the first to have a baby, you and your friends have to figure out what your friendship is going to look like and how it's going to operate with a baby being taken into consideration.
So, for me and my friends, it meant less random hang out sessions and more dedicated plans. It also meant more FaceTime and more daytime engagements in parks so my kids could run around without bothering anyone.
There's No One For Your Kids To Play With When You Get Together
This can result in your kid either being bored or barging in on your good time by insisting you pay attention to them while you're trying to have an adult conversation. It can be a little annoying, sure, but for the most part it's fine. And it definitely gets better as they get older and are more capable of entertaining themselves. I'll also say, you can always tell a kid who is used to hanging out with a lot of adults and they're pretty badass.
You Have To Make "Parent Friends"
You don't have to, but there's a reason most people wind up doing so: it's nice to have someone who gets you on a parent level, and has someone to play with your child. And, if you're lucky, a "parent friend" will upgrade to an actual friend who just happens to be a parent as well.
But OMG is making parent friends haaaaaaaard.
Your Friends' Homes Aren't Child-Friendly
There's nothing scarier than your child-free friend saying, "Oh, don't worry. There's nothing they can get into or hurt themselves on." Because their assertion that your child will be find will undoubtably lead to you walking into their home and immediately seeing a white rug, crystal knick-knacks on the sharp-edged coffee table, unattended glass of wine, uncovered electrical outlets, and various trachea-sized items scattered about.
This isn't on them. Before you have the experience of seeing how much crap a child can get into you can't recognize the possibility for disasters literally everywhere.
You Worry About Being Left Out On The Other Side Of The Equation
Because right now you're the only one with kids but uuuuuuugh, what if they all decide to have kids at the same time after yours are much older and then they can't do anything and you're going to be antsy to go out and have fun?!
(If this happens, I'm just sort of relying on the idea that my kids will be old enough to babysit theirs.)
It's Hard To Show Your Friends How Much You Still Love Them Sometimes
Your baby is taking a lot of your time and energy, and sometimes that means you're not giving your friends the attention they deserve (or that you'd really, really love to give them). And it's hard to feel like a flake or inattentive! The best of friends will get that you've got a lot on your plate. And of course, it's good to try. Yes, being a good friend takes a lot more energy and dedicated effort these days, but they're worth it.