Staying close with your non-parent friends
Even if you don't feel like you have the energy to track your non-parent friends down right now, a day is going to come when all you’re going to want in the world is to have an adult conversation with someone who isn’t your co-parent, and you may not want to have to start that conversation with, “Hey, how have you been for the last year and a half?”
Relating to non-parents can be difficult, though. You may have had so much in common before that you felt like twins, or clones, but now your baby has moved into the space at the center of your universe. Your friends probably have a lot of the same concerns and interests as they did before you went and gave birth to a human being, and those problems and preoccupations seem as important to them as they ever did. But between finding the time to actually make plans with your non-parent friends and your changing priorities, it can take a little effort to connect with friends who don’t have children.
- Do your research: Maybe before your baby came along, you could effortlessly follow the ins and outs of the soap opera that is your childhood BFF’s love life, but now that you’re staying up half the night with your baby, you’re having trouble keeping the names of the creepy ex and the cute new guy at work straight. Lucky for you, social media has your back. Spend five minutes glancing through your friend’s Facebook or Instagram before that first coffee date in three months. The sense that you’re engaged and interested in their lives when you do meet up with your old friends will go a long way towards bridging the gap.
- Look for buy-one-get-one deals: Here’s a secret: savvy shopping isn’t just important for parents when they’re buying in bulk, or at an outlet store. New parents tend to find themselves short on a lot of resources, but one of the most important ones is time, and one of the tricks to master about time is budgeting it to make it stretch as far as possible. Maybe you don’t have time to catch up with an old friend over a long lunch the way you used to, but if you can carve out an hour every other day to drop by the gym while your partner is home with your baby, maybe your friend would be up for joining you. You can pant your news at each other from side-by-side treadmills!
- R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Your friends’ boundaries, that is. If they’re uncomfortable with children, it doesn’t matter how secure you are in the knowledge that, as difficult as other babies can be, your baby is perfect enough to change anybody’s mind. Spend time with that person at those rare times when you can manage to be in ‘adults only’ settings. It’s totally okay to let that friend know that if this is their limit, they’re going to be seeing a lot less of you, though.
- Make proposals and counter-offers: There are going to start to be a lot of events, outings and parties you just can’t make now that your baby is here, either because they’re on too short of notice to find a sitter, or you just don’t feel like you’ve spent enough time with your baby this week to leave her with someone else. Your friends probably understand, up to a certain point, but they still want to see you, and even the most understanding friend can be discouraged by too many ‘no’s in a row. Instead of just refusing, try coming up with alternatives - no, you can’t make it to their dinner party, you’re sorry, but you’d love to see them, and why don’t they join you and your baby at the park next week? Even if they can’t make it to the time you suggest, it will feel more like an effort is being made on both sides.
- Respect your own limits: Sometimes when you’re exhausted, meeting up with a friend, and thinking and talking about new and different subjects can be the perfect pick-me-up - exactly what you need to start to feel more energized. Other times though, when you’re exhausted, you’re just that - exhausted - with no more resources to draw upon. You know you don’t have any more energy to give to a friendly conversation, and it won’t be all that satisfying for you or your friend. If they’re the kind of friend you feel comfortable vegging out with, suggest a change in venue, like somebody’s couch with an album you’ve been meaning to check out on in the background, or your favorite brand of the kind of TV that lets you just check out. If they’re not the kind of friend you feel comfortable not being ‘on’ around, don’t be afraid to ask if they’re up for rescheduling. your baby won’t be little forever, but while she is, she is going to have a claim on the biggest part of your energy, and that’s just the way it is.
- Assume: You know everybody’s favorite play-on-spelling saying about assumptions. Don’t assume your friends want to come play with your baby, but don’t assume they don’t either. On one hand, they’re your friends, and your baby is a different person, and one that your friends have a whole lot less in common with! On the other hand though, babies are fascinating, and adorable, and your friends could easily want to be a part of your child’s life. The important thing about figuring out how your friends are going to fit into your baby’s life is to ask them about it, to figure out what they actually feel comfortable with.
Don’t assume that your friends don’t want kids just because they don’t have them - there are all kinds of reasons that people who want children don’t have them yet, and a lot of those reasons can be very personal (personal enough that you might not know a thing about them) and very sensitive. Don’t assume it’s just a matter of time before your friends follow you into parenthood either, though - plenty of people don’t want kids, and feel like their lives are perfectly fulfilled without them.
- Preach the gospel of your baby: One of the biggest issues that a lot of non-parents report about trying to stay in touch with those friends who have children is that they often get the impression from those friends that they are being judged by those friends who are parents. It’s true that your baby’s existence has changed your life in a huge way, but lots of things change people’s lives in lots of ways. Statements that pin importance on the understanding you get from being a parent at the exclusion of all other experiences can be hurtful to your friends who don’t have children, either by choice or by circumstance. It’s a little bit like when you were younger, and people would tell you that you would understand certain things when you were older. It’s an infuriating thing to hear, and sometimes it was true, but sometimes it wasn’t, and that always felt even worse. Maybe your friend without children doesn’t know exactly how you’re feeling right now, but then, maybe your neighbor who raised three little girls doesn't know exactly how you’re feeling either. That doesn’t mean that both of them can’t empathize.
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