One of the most common complaints I hear from STFU, Parents readers is the concern over losing a friend post-baby. I've received hundreds of emails about this subject, and the majority of the emotional outpourings aren't even related to the submissions themselves. They're related to a longer history, a backstory that unravels when a submitter tries to explain the meaning behind a submission. Sometimes I get the sense from submitters that the point of emailing wasn't even to submit to the blog, but to share a sentiment in the hopes of feeling understood. As much as I don't believe that parents and non-parents can't get along or remain close friends after babies wedge themselves into every hour of a new parent's life, the truth is, there are a lot of frustrated and lonely folks who are left wondering where their friend(s) went. They ask themselves if it's "them." Maybe they're not paying enough attention to the friend's new post-baby stories. Maybe they're not exhibiting enough interest. Or maybe they're exhibiting too much interest? Ultimately, I think most people come to realize that babies transform parents' entire lives -- and, occasionally, their personalities, too.
The types of relationships I've heard about that match this description run the gamut, and not everyone who feels like she's mourning the loss of a friendship is a non-parent. The upset usually has very little to do with Friend A being disinterested in hearing about Friend B's baby, but rather Friend A feeling like she doesn't even recognize Friend B anymore. Most people (even us heathens without children) are genuinely excited to see the latest baby pics and follow along with the documomtation of big milestones on Facebook (as all "quality" friends in 2014 should). It's not the baby fodder that leads to the loss of friendship. It's the fact that some people just change after having kids -- a shift that parents of the internet are anything but shy about detailing on their blogs and on sites like Huffington Post Parents and Scary Mommy. While these posts are funny, they often seem to translate to, "I'm a MOM now, so don't ask me to "go out for drinks" unless they come in a sippy cup! And no, I won't attend events that require attire other than yoga pants, and I won't apologize for not caring about your meaningless life when I've got my awesome kid on my mind, because guess what? He's more interesting than your marathon training or political views or whatever it is you want to chat about."
When I posted the link to the Huffington Post Parents blog post '10 Reasons You Don't Want to Be My Friend Now That I Have Kids' on Twitter, the responses were not too kind.
It's a bummer when you feel like your friend isn't "herself" anymore, and it especially sucks when she starts saying things like, "Who cares about the upcoming elections? I'm focused 150% on my little doodlebutt!" or, "Why would I leave the comforts of my own home, where I've built a 2,000 square foot love nest out of organic diapers and baby blankets, just so I can catch up with my friends? Who needs friends when you've got a 15-pound pooper-dooper to cuddle?!" Of course, that's not to say that all moms who lose touch with their friends are baby-talking members of a parenting cult. A few just like rubbing it in that, in case you're unaware (and possibly in a childfree daze), SOME people can't really "hang out" anymore, okay? Aside from parenting being a 24/7 job that doesn't pay, it's also extremely rewarding and fulfilling and requires the rearranging of one's social calendar (and/or mental capacity). Don't take it too personally, if you can help it. Being a mom is fundamentally more important than being a well-rounded person or decent friend at this time, but the phase probably won't last forever. (Only long enough for old friendships to dissolve and fade away. No biggie.)
Let's take a look at some examples of moms whose pre-baby identities are on shaky ground. And to all you shunned or ignored (ex-)friends out there, remember: Once your friend has packed and shipped herself off to Mommy Island, all you can do is wave goodbye and wish her well. You never know, she may come back around when the kids start kindergarten. (I should also point out that there are numerous blogs posts and articles written by women who haven't lost their pre-baby identities, like this one on Offbeat Mama, or one of my favorites, 'Have Babies, Keep Reading,' on Book Riot.)
1. Stimulating Conversation
I understand where Jacqueline is coming from, but the difference between Jacqueline and everyone else is that most people who have had this thought keep it to themselves, or write it in a journal, or tell one or two close friends (who will hopefully remind their friend to stay active in her own hobbies and interests). Only having your husband and baby to talk about isn't too terrible, but letting hundreds of friends on Facebook know that they should expect a "Matt, Peyton, and baby" story hour when they see you might not be the best way to keep those friends. Also, just because Jacqueline is cool with having "nothing to talk about other than her little family" doesn't mean that everyone else is. It doesn't seem like she's too concerned about that, though.
2. Old And Boring And Loving It
Things Angela Has Talked About Over The Years:
-- Her Husband
-- Her Unborn Son
No wonder she feels "incredibly old and boring" and loves it. When the active parts of your developed brain don't occupy much real estate, I guess it's easy to feel like husbands and babies and "make-up" are the only things to talk about. But believe it or not, there's also art, music, sports, politics, religion, books, science, and much more! Maybe someday a friend will loan Angela a copy of a book that wasn't written by a pediatrician or Nicholas Sparks. Maybe it will make her feel young and excited about new ideas. Or maybe she will continue on in her ignorant bliss, swapping diaper rash stories with her "girls" over frappuccinos, and living her old and boring life to the absolute fullest.
3. Chesney's Lil Angel > Everything Else
Keep on turning down invites, Chesney, and those invites will eventually stop coming in. Sure, maybe not right away. It could be a while before your friends utterly abandon you (or feel utterly abandoned by you) -- but in the meantime, it doesn't help to post updates on Facebook that indicate that you have baby tunnel vision and will remain in that state for the foreseeable future. It's okay to step away from your kid(s) sometimes. It's not only important to your own health as a mother, but it's important to your friends' health, too.
4. Mommyhood Makeover
Julia seems like a bright, cheerful gal who is offloading some pre-baby clothes and shoes. Nothing weird about that! Except... just because a person becomes a "Mama" doesn't mean she has to get rid of her entire wardrobe. The point of buying a nice pair of shoes was never to trade them in for a pair of sensible Aerosoles. Yes, women's feet can swell during pregnancy and can change sizes for good, but that doesn't seem like what's happening here. It's almost as though Julia can't just sell her stuff without mentioning being a mom, when in reality, almost every woman I know gets rid of used items in her closet on a semi-annual basis -- baby or not.
Has "Mommy-hood" taken away Julia's use for this dress, or has Julia's perception of herself as a mother eliminated her use for it? Also, why not just say, "I love someone will love this dress for me!" without including the part about being a "mommy"? No personal details are needed when selling off your crap, folks! I don't care if you're selling your car because you're getting divorced, nor do I care if you're getting rid of clothing items because you've gained some weight. When a person includes personal details in an ad for a shift dress, and those details amount to, "I can't wear this dress anymore because mothers don't wear dresses like this, silly!", my finger keeps on scrolling down my newsfeed.
5. The Party Is Over.
Dearest Aaron (you fucking idiot),
Meredith appreciates your enthusiasm regarding her birthday, but what she'd really appreciate is if her friends got a goddamn clue. Hellooo, Meredith and her husband have a baby now. Whether or not the line "When/where's the party?!" was written in jest or in seriousness, it is not funny anymore because a baby exists and therefore semi-serious jokes are unwarranted. Babies require constant care and attention. They do not allow for parties, or celebrations, or anything that resembles a "jubilant atmosphere among friends," so please don't bother bringing it up. It just makes you look like an ignorant, childless jerk who can't accept reality. But thanks for the birthday wishes and Meredith will hopefully see you this weekend in-between trips to Home Depot and The Children's Place. This is life now so you better get used to it. Next time you tell a parent friend "Happy Birthday," consider what it is you're saying.