Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

How a Baby Changes Friendships

I’ve written before about how a new baby changes a marriage, but in the seven months (today!) since having Jackson, I’m also experiencing the effects motherhood has on my friendships. I’ve been surprised to find that having a baby can have many positive effects on one’s social life, like a whole new circle of other mom friends. Being a new mom can also benefit old friendships, too, even with friends who don’t have children.

One of the best effects having Jackson has had on me as a friend is to make me much more flexible, patient, and understanding. Where I once was maybe a little too quick to feel offended when I felt friends weren’t putting enough of an effort into maintaining our connection, I now cut people a lot more slack. And it’s not just because I am not putting as much effort into maintaining connections. It’s true that my free time is much more limited and I don’t have as much of … well, myself to go around, but I think I still do a pretty good job of keeping up with people. I’d say the energy I give to friendships is as much as it ever was, but the time I’m able to carve out is different and the people I give it to have changed. For example, I can’t remember the last time I was able to gab on the phone with my best friend for an hour. Now, we exchange a lot more texts, emails, and much shorter phone conversations during baby naps and walks around the neighborhood.

Once, I would have gotten upset when a friend didn’t return a call or email or text in a timely manner. As recently as a year ago I remember getting my feelings hurt when I wanted to tell a few long-distance friends about my pregnancy over the phone and at least three of them took weeks to return my call. These days, I don’t fret if a friend doesn’t call me back. I’m much more understanding about how busy life can get and how returning a friend’s call gets pushed further and further down the list of priorities, especially when one or two or three months have gone by since the last call and now you have to carve out at least a half hour to play catch-up and when are you ever going to find a half hour of free time between work, errands, cooking dinner, doing laundry, caring for your spouse and family, going on dates, going to the gym, mending your socks, trimming your bangs, emptying the diaper pail, feeding the cats, washing your car, etc., etc.? I don’t like it, but I can better appreciate now that friendships often have to take a backseat to the details, both mundane and significant, of day-to-day life. I can appreciate it better because I have so many more daily details — both mundane (buying diapers) and significant (watching a new season of “Mad Men,” come on) to tend to. I don’t take an unreturned phone call personally anymore. I’m sad that some friendships don’t – and may never again — have the kind of intimacy they did when we were all childless and single (and lived close by!), but I no longer personalize what actually has very little to do with me as a person and much more to do with current circumstances.

And because current circumstances play a much bigger role in my friendships now, it’s a lot easier for me to maintain connections with people who live in my neighborhood. I no longer have time to make the nearly two-hour commute (roundtrip) to upper Manhattan and back or to hard-to-reach areas of Brooklyn very often, so, sadly, I don’t see my friends who live that far away too much anymore (and don’t get me started on how much harder it is to plan visits to Chicago where some of my best buds live). Instead, I’ve been focusing more of my energy on nurturing friendships closer to home, with people who live within blocks of me. It’s much easier to meet a few girlfriends for a couple drinks down the street after Jackson has gone to sleep than to spend an entire evening trekking across the city for the same kind of social interaction. It doesn’t mean I don’t miss my friends who live farther away, but when I’m trying to juggle so much in so little time … this is what happens. This is the choice I make.

I definitely feel guilty that I’ve chosen not to nurture some friendships as much as I used to. But I’m also fully aware that friendship is a two-way street and the same friends I don’t see as much aren’t making the same kind of effort to see me that they once did either. I don’t blame them. They have their own busy lives, too (that may or may not also revolve around babies and their sleep schedules and diaper-changings and music classes and so on). But where I once would have reached out and said something about our waning bond, I don’t now. I let it go. If friendships require equal effort from both friends, maybe I’m even relieved that the pressure is off me to contribute more than I’m comfortably capable of right now. It doesn’t mean I don’t miss those friends. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel sad and a little guilty that we aren’t as close as we once were. But my life has changed and my friendships, understandably, have changed along with it.

Sometimes, when I let myself think about how much motherhood and my new responsibilities — huge responsibilities — have affected every aspect of my life — my marriage, friendships, work, physical and emotional well-being, bank account, waistline, appearance, travel — it’s almost enough to break my heart. Every single aspect of my life has taken a hit, some more than others. But for every hit, there’s been an equal or greater reward. I will always be sad that I don’t have the time to nurture the friendships in my life in the same way I once could. But I would trade dozens of wine-soaked evenings with pals to hear the sound of my baby laughing just once.

The decision to have a baby opens the door to so many more choices that will have to be made. How and with whom to spend your significantly limited free time is just one of those sometimes bittersweet decisions. As is saying ‘no’ to your third cocktail of the night. But hangovers with a baby in the house is a topic for another day…

21 comments… add one
  • avatar

    jlyfsh May 9, 2012, 12:18 pm

    Love this essay Wendy. I don’t have kids but I’ve found that reminding myself that friendship is a two way street has really helped me. I’ve always felt the need to be the one to keep the friendship alive. And I realized that to not drive myself crazy I had to stop that. It’s not always on me to contact them, and if I haven’t talked to them in a while that isn’t just my fault. They have a phone, computer, access to the mail too, just like me. I do give my friends with new babies/kids a lot more slack, but like you said my closest friends who have become mothers don’t put anything less in to the relationship than they did before kids. They just put that effort in to it in a different way.

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    • avatar

      camille905 May 9, 2012, 1:20 pm

      I totally agree! I don’t have kids either (though we’re planning to in a year or two- after we get married and after I turn 30) but friendship is a two way street and sometimes it’s hard to remember that.

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  • JK

    JK May 9, 2012, 12:27 pm

    Love this, Wendy.
    I´ve usually found myself to be the person that makes the most effort in maintaining friendships, even now,with 2 kids. Granted most of my friends also have 2 kids now.
    Thank goodness for text/fb/email. It can be hard talking on the phone with kids screaming in the background. Not to mention meeting up, since most of my friends live 20-30 mins away (by car), and all of us with different schedules.

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  • avatar

    ele4phant May 9, 2012, 12:32 pm

    My gosh he looks like his father in that picture…very sweet.

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  • Will.i.am

    Will.i.am May 9, 2012, 1:05 pm

    I have one close friend that has a blended family, and I would say our friendship is pretty strong. We don’t have as much face to face contact as we once did, but the texting and phone calls are a good reminder. Even if we just jab for 10 minutes, it’s a very good way to catch up.

    It can be a bummer that friendships evolve and change, but it’s nice when the friendship and/or person changes for the better.

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  • avatar

    mcj2011 May 9, 2012, 1:23 pm

    Me too. Having children put everything in perspective for me. Little things used to irritate me and upset me but after my kids, it just doesn’t matter. They are the most important thing and while friendships may get stronger, weaker or come and go, it’s totally different and I’m okay with that. I don’t have time to worry about mundane things, I do what I do with the people I choose and ultimately it’s all about my kids!

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  • avatar

    bethany May 9, 2012, 1:38 pm

    Wendy, he is so cute, I can’t stand it!!

    I think this was a great piece. Relationships are always changing, and if you really value that relationship, you put in the work to make it work. It might be different than it was before, but that’s ok. One of my best friends is a new(ish) mom, and I feel like our friendship has never been stronger. She doesn’t have as much time, but the time that we do spend together now is quality time spent talking and hanging out with her daughter. We’re not getting drunk and dancing on bars like we did in college, but we still have fun– it’s just a different kind of fun.

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  • avatar

    Rosie May 9, 2012, 1:44 pm

    I love your essays Wendy! Sometimes it’s difficult being one of the few childless friends in my circle (I know, I know, make new friends but these are buds I’ve known for about 15-20 years! They’re like family). I have to admit knowing that they probably feel this way: “But I would trade dozens of wine-soaked evenings with pals to hear the sound of my baby laughing just once” kinda stings in a…I’m not sure how to describe it. It makes my life feel a bit trivial I guess because wine-soaked evening with pals are one of my biggest joys in life. Maybe makes me feel a bit unneeded? I can’t put my finger on the feeling really.

    But it’s good for me to be reminded that a baby really does take over one’s life! Or rather, there’s just less time and energy to focus on things you used to focus on once the little one comes around. And that’s really how it should be. Babies need tons of attention, both physically and emotionally, and I need to work on remembering that and not feeling so sensitive at the waning friendships.

    And Jackson could NOT be any cuter. Holy moley.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Wendy May 9, 2012, 2:31 pm

      I hear you. It’s sad to think about not being needed in the same way by your friends once they have a significant other and/or kids. But it doesn’t mean you are loved, appreciated, and thought of any less. And just remember, because parents’ time is more limited than before they had kids, the time they are able to carve for you is really meaningful. They have to sacrifice a little more to see you than they did before (sometimes even hiring a babysitter). That should make you feel special.

      For example, I’m going to fly to chicago in July for my best friend’s 40th birthday, which means Drew is going to have to watch Jackson alone all weekend, and I’m going to hire a babysitter to cover the 10 hours Drew will be working on the day that I fly out. I may not talk to my friend on the phone as much anymore or visit as frequently or as long as I did before Jackson, but I hope the fact that I’m making an effort when it counts will make up the difference, you know?

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    • CatsMeow

      CatsMeow May 9, 2012, 3:18 pm

      I hear ya, Rosie. I have a couple of friends with older children who are able now to spend a LOT more time with friends – including (especially!) wine-soaked evenings. Maybe once your friends get past the “baby” stages it’ll get better for you. Or maybe, once they get adjusted to their “new life” as parents, they’ll find more balance.

      But Wendy, you sound like an awesome friend and I’m sure your buddies appreciate all the effort you’ve put in over the years, as well as your continuing efforts.

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      • avatar

        Rosie May 9, 2012, 4:01 pm

        Thank you Wendy! Your response makes perfect sense. And maybe our hang outs are fewer and further in between, but that DOES make when we do get together more special. And I can’t deny that I love being the cool Aunt Rosie to all these darling babies 🙂

        CatsMeow—I always think about this! That once the kids get a bit older things will change too.

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  • MaterialsGirl

    MaterialsGirl May 9, 2012, 2:16 pm

    Can’t read advice…. Must stare at baby Jackson

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  • Kristina

    Kristina May 9, 2012, 2:23 pm

    This really resonated with me because recently I have found it SO hard to find time for my friends. I am always busy with school to the point where I have a very little life outside of it. I make time to talk to my boyfriend on the phone every night, but it’s not easy to do so, and I’m often multitasking while I talk to him, instead of giving him my full attention. I barely see my friends that aren’t in my classes because we are all so busy. And it sucks. And it makes me feel guilty. We’ve resorted to keeping up through texts and Facebook messages. I also regularly Skype my friends that live in the same city, but not close enough to be at their apartment all the time. I find that Skyping really helps me maintain my friendships.

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  • katie

    katie May 9, 2012, 2:40 pm

    i love these. i feel like i am slowly learning how to be an adult from wendy. i think at some point i am going to round up all of wendy’s essays about being a mom, and have my boyfriend read them. we are so undecided about if we want kids ever. when i first met my boyfriend, he wanted to be a dad by 25.. and after our first year living together, which was also our first year on our “own” he never wanted any kids… haha. all jokes aside, life is hard. and we just dont know if a kid fits into our lives.. definitely, defintely not now, but really maybe not ever. but, we still talk about what names we would like to name our kids. its weird. and so thank you wendy, for these, because they help me think about the real picture of things, and not just omg kids are so cute!!! because they are, i mean just look at jackson!!

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  • avatar

    LT May 9, 2012, 3:15 pm

    Bravo.

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  • TaraMonster

    TaraMonster May 9, 2012, 3:06 pm

    This essay was great! And so timely since I guiltily had to reschedule visiting my friend and her new baby this evening because I will be at my office all effing night. But if you want to squee, here’s me and TeddyMonster holding her little baby boy last week at the hospital:

    She can’t get rid of me as a friend even if she wanted to because now I’m in love with her son too. 🙂

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    • avatar

      ape_escape May 9, 2012, 6:01 pm

      definitely a cute baby!!

      …and the boyfriend ain’t bad either…haha 🙂

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      • TaraMonster

        TaraMonster May 10, 2012, 12:46 pm

        The new mama bullied him into holding the baby. He was so nervous. And then when he held the little guy, my boyfriend was just entranced. It pretty much made my heart melt. 🙂

        And I went to see the baby last night anyway, even though I didn’t get to stay as long as I would’ve liked. He’s even cuter at a week old!

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    Addie Pray May 9, 2012, 7:11 pm

    I’ve said something like this before and my comment wasn’t deleted so hopefully that means it (and this one) won’t be viewed in an inappropriate/creepy light, but: I want to kiss Jackson’s little face off and squeeze his belly tight and then do it some more and more and more!!!

    Whew. I feel better letting that out!

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  • avatar

    Meredith May 9, 2012, 7:46 pm

    I agree with all of this. Not only has becoming a mom helped me to be a better, more understanding, more flexible friend but it’s helped to provide clarity on several of my friendships. I had a couple best friends who have faded away in the past 3-4 years. I’m not the type of person who talks about my kids 24/7 but obviously they are a very important part of my life. When I realized the friends just didn’t show a lot of interest in hanging out with me anymore and only showed interest if I could hang away from my daughter, I realized we’d gone in separate directions. I have a full life apart from being a mom, but I AM a mother so if you don’t like and/or show zero interest in that aspect of me, I have a hard time wanting to still be best friends. Then other friends took me by surprise. Embracing my daughter, asking if the three of us could have lunch, really taking time to keep up with her even after the cute baby phase has long worn off, really warmed my heart and made me love and value them even more. Great blog Wendy!

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  • avatar

    cporoski May 10, 2012, 8:53 am

    Wendy. I think you are pointing out the importance of the “Tuesday night pizza friends”. My husband and I moved about 40 minutes away from our first apartment and our friends were just far enough away. Sure, we still see them, but it requires plans. In our new town, we have a group of couples all with babies and we can see them on a whim. I will get a text about pizza or a quick walk. There is no question the importance of long term friends who remember you from your past, but these really local friends are the ones that keep you sane.

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