Let me paint you a picture. Lady gets pregnant with Baby. Lady’s friends are super excited for her and want to support her. They throw a baby shower. They do most of the same things they’ve always done, only Lady’s wine is replaced by mocktails. Everyone is confident their friendship will seamlessly flow into Lady’s life with Baby, but no one talks about what that will look like. And then Lady has Baby. The friends show up to ooh and aah, then everyone leaves. Friends want to invite Lady to this and that, but they don’t want to pressure her or make her feel bummed she’s missing out, so the invites dry up. Friends want to call, but they don’t want to bother Lady. “Maybe she’s trying to nurse? Or sleep? I should probably just let her call me when she’s ready.” Lady is elbow-deep in diapers and exhaustion and at first doesn’t notice the radio silence. But then the fog of the fourth trimester begins to fade, and she notices. She notices that she feels isolated. She wants to call Friends, but doesn’t. She thinks she’ll just bore them with mom-talk.
This is a classic case of Postpartum Friendship Dissolution. As you probably noticed, much of it is birthed from lack of communication.
While your relationships with your buddies will definitely change, they don’t have to end. Your life circumstances have been shaken up and turned upside down, but you’re still you — the you that loves your friends, and vice versa. There has to be a way to save those friendships. But how? How do you side-step Postpartum Friendship Dissolution and walk the path of Postpartum Friendship Evolution?
What to do
Talk to your friends, one at a time, about how you’re feeling. (If you’re reading this while pregnant, talk to them before you have the baby, so you can all prepare for the changes.) These conversations aren’t meant to cause guilt for either party — they’re opportunities for you to be vulnerable and to co-create a plan for how the relationship will look moving forward. After you let them know you value their friendship and need more of them in your life, the two of you can brainstorm ways you can connect. For example . . .
- Maybe your friend loves talking on the phone, and you can schedule calls for times you’ll be on a walk with baby.
- Or maybe this friend lives nearby and is often free to join you for those walks.
- Maybe this is the friend you used to see live music with or take dance classes with. While it will likely be hard to meet up for your activity of choice as often as you used to, you could commit to doing it once a month — or whatever works best for your schedules.
After you’ve created the plan, forewarn your friend that you won’t be as reliable as you were before baby. Motherhood is predictably unpredictable, potentially causing you to cancel plans at the last minute because of a sick child, or an AWOL babysitter. Being forthright with this information will hopefully prevent your friend from being annoyed that you’re not able to show up for the friendship in the same way you used to.
In addition, ask them to reach out if they haven’t heard from you in awhile. As a foggy-brained new parent, it can feel near impossible to remember how many days you’ve been wearing those pajama bottoms, much less when you last contacted your friends. Remind them that radio silence doesn’t mean you don’t care, it just means you’re overwhelmed.
Here are some additional considerations when navigating friendships as a new mom:
Be thoughtful of conversation topics. While your non-mom friends probably won’t mind hearing a bit about motherhood, they won’t be able to relate to it and will likely tire of the topic if it’s not kept to a minimum. Ensure your time with friends is filled with connection by asking each one about their life, and bringing up topics you used to love gabbing about. If you’re worried you’re incapable of thinking of anything but mom-topics, keep a running list of conversation starters you think would be interesting to your friend. For example, if the two of you love celebrity gossip, write down juicy tidbits you can bring up. If you’re politics fanatics, list hot topics you want to get their opinion on. You won’t always have to put this much effort into talking points, but while you’re trying to find your footing on the balance beam of parenthood and friendship, this forethought will pay off.
Note: If your friend is not child-free by choice, it might be best to steer clear of all talk of baby, unless they ask. Hearing about you living the life they desperately want could be devastating, and it could drive a wedge in the friendship. For more on this, see question 7.
Know that you might need to let go of some friends. Not all friendships will stand the test of motherhood. While it might be painful to let those friends drift away, you can honor them by sitting with the idea that they were meant to be in your life for a certain period of time, and now it’s time to part. This parting will likely be made easier by the fact that your time is now seriously limited, and you have to be selective about who you spend time with.
After I had Hudson, only three of my prebaby friends were still standing. These were the friends who weren’t offended if I forgot to call or text back, or didn’t reach out for months at a time. These were the friends who would try to make a meetup happen if I randomly had a free hour and reached out to them last minute. These were the friends who would come to Hudson’s birthday parties, even when they were the only ones without kids. They understood the constraints of my new circumstances and didn’t fault me for them. They were free of drama (at least the not-fun kind) and always there when I needed them.
Find new friends. One of the most natural parts of parenthood is making new friends. The playgroups, time at the park or library, and other baby-centered gatherings all create organic opportunities for fostering fresh friendships. And many of these connections will feel refreshing as you can gab about the trials and triumphs of parenthood without feeling self-conscious.
While these new relationships will likely be easier to maintain and should absolutely be nurtured and enjoyed, you should still use the suggestions above to hold on to at least a few of your pre-parenthood friends. Those are the folks you probably feel most comfortable being your unfiltered self around, which is a dynamic that can feel like gold as you navigate the unsure footing of early motherhood.