After I had my baby, I needed a shopping trip with my girlfriend more than ever. But our time together proved more stressful than relaxing. My friend arrived on time, dressed in tight jeans, high heels and sporting a fashionable designer purse. I stumbled in late, wearing a pair of old maternity stretch pants, a breastfeeding blouse and carrying the industrial-sized diaper bag I was now using as my purse.
Aside from our fashion differences, we discovered that the cadence of our conversation was off kilter. The play-by-play account of work gossip and the weekend activities seemed to lack its usual interest for me. And as I detailed my recent visit to the pediatrician and lamented my inability to get more than 20 minutes of solid sleep, I noticed that she was suppressing yawns.
Having a baby changes many things: your body, your job, your free time — and sometimes, your friendships. But change doesn’t mean a relationship has to go sour. In fact, while it may take a little adjusting and a bit of planning, friendships can become even stronger when a baby arrives. The following tips may help:
Listen to each other
Share your feelings, surprise and joys about your baby with your friend but don’t go overboard. Make sure you allow time for your friend to talk about what is going on in her life.
If you’re feeling awkward when you’re with your friend, sense tension or feel distant, get it out early. Reassure your friend that you don’t want her to feel uncomfortable. Listen when she expresses concern about growing apart. Talk about the changes in your relationship and acknowledge the new differences in your lifestyles.
Develop a plan
Once you have a baby, you may feel on call 24-7 and your friend may have a hard time getting your attention. Set up a time to connect — on the phone or in person — when there’s little chance of being interrupted. Naptimes, evenings when your partner is feeding the baby or early on a Saturday might work.
Take an interest in your friend’s life
The truth is that your perspective on work-related gossip or the worry involved in finding a new hair salon has completely changed. But, you can remember when a bad haircut or a ruined date night have consumed your life, so make sure you make time to listen to your friend’s worries, concerns and stories with a sympathetic ear.
Reclaim your common ground
Maybe you worked out together. Perhaps you loved to bargain shop or grabbed drinks at a favourite Mexican restaurant every Friday during happy hour. You may not be able to spend an evening eating chips and salsa at your favourite cantina, but you can invite your friend over, whip up something delicious to drink and share a bag of chips on your deck one evening.
Include old friends in your new life
Perhaps you’ve met new friends through a Mommy and Me class or you’ve connected with a couple through a prenatal course. Don’t feel a need to keep your circle of friends separate. Invite old friends to birthday parties or baptism receptions so they can meet your new acquaintances.
Leave the baby at home
Babies are amazing, wonderful bundles of joy. They are also unpredictable, demanding and downright distracting. When you need a little one-on-one time with your friends, it is okay to occasionally leave the baby with your partner or a family member. Even a short visit for coffee without baby can be more enjoyable for you and your friend.