I swore I’d never do it. I swore I’d never change. Sure, I would be “mommy,” but Me and Mom Me would be two different people with two different personalities. We’d have two different sets of interests and two different agendas. And while the two would forever intersect, I swore to keep the Me Before Baby pristinely intact. I vowed that motherhood wouldn't change my relationships. And oh, how I was wrong.
I swore I’d make time to take care of myself, that I wouldn’t become the typical new-mom stereotype women — the kind everyone believes sits around in yoga pants all day, hair unwashed and greasy. I swore I’d be able to keep up with my pre-parenthood social calendar, promising myself I’d still be able to attend the occasional party or enjoy girl time at least once every couple of months. I swore I’d call my friends during nap times and “down times.” (What the hell I thought those would be, I cannot tell you.) I swore we’d still see each other and we would be the same, things would be the same, I would be the same.
I also swore I would shower every day, eat breakfast every morning, and brush my teeth at least once a day.
I was so, so wrong.
Two years later and I am finally coming to terms with my new normal. I am a flake. I suffer from chronic lateness and have something I like to call a “functional style.” I may not get a solid night’s sleep until I’m in my 40s, and I may forever smell like spoiled milk and peanut butter. And, despite all my pre-baby planning, motherhood has affected my relationships, specifically with my childless friends.
Motherhood didn’t just change me, it changed each and every relationship in my life. I didn’t plan for it, and it isn’t all bad. I feel closer to my family now more than ever, and the time I spend with my friends, parents and non-parents alike, is far more valuable. Now, instead of doing shots and singing karaoke, we talk, blow bubbles at the park, and sing songs about buses with wheels that never ever seem to stop going round and round.
But there is a subtle change, one that takes shape the closer you look and listen. We talk, and we talk often, but it’s like we’re on different planes. While my childless friends are talking about getting married or going on a cruise this fall or what so-and-so did in the office did last Friday, I’m worrying about potty training, toddler “boyfriends,” and night terrors.
The long and short of it is: I wasn't ready for motherhood to totally change my relationships. In fact, I wasn't even expecting it.
But now, when my friends without children and I do have time to talk, our conversations are constantly interrupted, and I often need to pause to keep my daughter from coloring on her bedroom walls, playing in the trash, or taking off her diaper. When I do get the chance to pick up the phone, my conversations are strained, and I feel like I have nothing important to say. I feel like a fraud, both as a friend and as a human being, and so instead of filling the silence with meaningless banter, instead of telling a friend I haven't seen in weeks all about the slew of new words my daughter has learned, I shut up and pull back. I shut up and sit still. I shut up, and the gap widens.
Even when I think I have it together, even when I feel like I finally have something important to share or can offer an ear ready and willing to listen, curveballs like conjunctivitis or the “family flu” come up. (And they come up with terrifying frequency.) I feel guilty and like I suck at maintaining the promises Pre-Baby Me swore to make to my non-baby-having friends, because Post-Baby Me is all too often battling a bug or a haphazardly strung together night's sleep.
I've learned, now, that I need different sets of friends for different things. I call on my friends with kids for advice, for help understanding why my toddler is so damn independent and moody, to make sure whatever the latest obstacle we’ve run into is normal, and that she’s developing normally. I call on my friends without kids to remind me that I existed before my daughter, and that I was someone who cared about office drama and wedding seating arrangements and which bar was hosting the best happy hour deals. I call on them to anchor me in the life I once had, even if only flecks of it appear in the life I have now.
These relationships help balance me. I need these people (and they need me) for different reasons. Before baby, I thought I'd only need one set of friends — but that only proved to be the flaw in my thinking. I didn't just need one friend group. I needed more.
Even though there have been moments I wouldn’t change — I love playing tent every morning, even if it is at 6 a.m., and I love having an excuse to eat donuts for dinner — the one thing I wish I could change is my relationships. I wish I could give my childless friends more time. I wish my mind wasn’t always so occupied and cluttered with toddler crap. I wish I could drop everything and go to dinner. I wish I could turn to close friends for advice instead of relative strangers. In lots of ways, I still wish I could relate to life without kids.
But I am also thankful: thankful that although I’ve changed, my friendships have changed too, and no matter how they look now, they're bound to change again. I'm thankful that no matter what our circumstances may look like, my friendships will keep changing and reshaping themselves, and throughout it all, we’ll all find a new normal. Though we may no longer share everything, but we'll all still share each other.
Becoming a mom has taught me so many things, but perhaps the most important lesson has been that change can be good. Change can be great. Change can happen for the best, even when it feels like the worst. And through all these miraculous, crazy, wonderful, upside-down changes, I’ve learned that I don’t need childless friends and mom friends. I just need lifelong ones.
Images Courtesy of Kim Zapata (4)