I thought that I had a decent idea of what motherhood would be like. I was nothing like the Tacoma, Washington woman who wrote to advice columnist Carolyn Hax (full text).
My only sibling is nearly 11 years younger than me, so I’d done my share of diaper changing, potty training, and homework help as a pre-teen and teenager. I knew twins would be more work, of course, but becoming a mother seemed another small step in my progression to full adulthood. I’d gotten married, finished grad school, started my career, built a house and gotten pregnant, all within a couple of years. One close friend had ditched me when I got married, but that was the only casualty of all these life changes. I imagined that becoming a mother would have a similarly minor impact on my friendships.
I was completely clueless.
I had no clue how all-consuming parenthood is. I had no idea how rewarding it is. I had no idea how completely everything would change. And I confess that I gave very little thought to the impact my becoming a mother would have on my friendships.
I was one of the truly lucky new mothers out there on the friendship front. My closest friends took my babies in stride, completely welcoming them into all social activities. One of them, Kaylan, even moved in with us after a bad breakup when my daughters were just a few months old. She understood why it took me three hours to make it through a single sandwich and why I had to get up to retrieve a crying child or two mid-sentence. My dear friend Sara and I went through our pregnancies together, giving birth 14 days apart. Our husbands deployed to Iraq together, so we were in exactly the same place in our lives, even though she was a stay-at-home mom and I worked outside the home full-time.
I wasn’t much of a drinker or partier, and chatting over a meal in someone’s home or a restaurant was relatively easy with two easygoing, if premature, infants in tow. My good friends thought nothing of my getting up from the group to change a couple of diapers or of my briefly turning away to latch a baby on. The majority of my friends live a good distance from me, so I was able to maintain those friendships by telephone while breastfeeding my nurslings.
There were friends, though, who drifted away. The folks who wanted to go to the movies or a bar or do something active on relatively little notice, I could simply no longer accommodate. Friends who wanted a leisurely meal with me sitting in one place and making eye contact throughout a conversation found new friendships. Those friends who wanted my undivided attention could now afford none of my attention at all. Those friends who wanted just Sadia, not Sadia-the-mom, moved on. Some of them re-entered my life when they had children a few years later. Others, I check in with every so often. And with some, I have simply parted ways.
Yes, I miss those friends, and occasionally wish they understood why I have so much less time for them. I wish that they, like those friends who have stuck around, had become virtual family to my daughters, M and J.
Far deeper, though, are the friendships that have come to me because of motherhood. The neighbours I merely smiled when I moved in pregnant have become beloved friends, people who took the 9-hour road trip to see us when we briefly moved away. Their children are like siblings to mine. We raised our children together. Our kids peed on each other’s floors and in our yards during the Age of Potty Training. There is no friendship more precious than that. The incredible parents I have met through my daughters’ school and extracurricular activities have become our family. These friendships, born of middle-of-the-night ER visits, shared moments of parental pride, and exchanges of discipline and encouragement strategies, are just as strong as the friendships that stuck through my transition to motherhood.
Many parents need friendships outside the context of parenthood. For me, these relationships are fulfilled at work, and my entire social life beyond the workday revolves around my daughters. The people I enjoy spending time with are also those who I want around my children. I am deeply blessed to have friends who are as likely to look forward to spending time with my children as with me, and I enjoy their children’s company just as much. When we offer to babysit each other’s children, it’s as much for the pleasure of the children’s company as it is to help our friends out. Our children repay our affection. My daughters will occasionally want to discuss weighty matters with both me and a friend’s parent. My friend’s children will ask me to send me a picture of their report cards when they’re especially proud of their performance.
To the new parents who are discovering the impact of parenthood on your friendships, I would encourage you not to consider those who draw back as fair weather friends. They just don’t feel comfortable following you into the parenting stage of life. They may come back later, when they catch up. And I promise you that new, lasting friendships are just around the corner.
How did parenthood impact your pre-existing relationships?