This is to the people having babies in their 30’s. It is a bit of a whirlwind. Maybe you are at this juncture because of professional choices. Perhaps now is the start of parenting because of earlier heartache. Or maybe you have been terrified of how to afford a kid, and now you finally can.
But you’re here. And one huge surprise is that your friends are not. So, where did they go?
Becoming a parent brings on loads of anxiety that you cannot prepare for. Finding the right doctors leads to having the right gear at home, and eventually, it seeps into finding the right babysitters and nannies. And other things you were able to do quite well before kids, like eating in a restaurant or planning a vacation now comes with so much planning.
The feelings of isolation that piggyback new parenthood aren’t immediately felt.
At first, all of the newness and the physical needs of your baby keep you primed, and in each moment, you don’t realize you haven’t showered, never mind noticing not having seen your best friends. But after a few visits where people have come to meet your baby and give you a hug, they tend to drift away for a bit.
Their lives continue on, and perhaps what kept the conversation flowing smoothly before just doesn’t connect the same way. Maybe you haven’t kept up with the same shows, or you forget to write back to a few text messages because they came through right before your baby erupted. Or maybe, your friends don’t want to bother you as you acclimate into your new role.
It is normal for friends who don’t have kids to be unsure of how to act with people who just had kids. If this is you, you aren’t alone, and yes, it sucks.
Here are some things about friendships once kids come into the picture:
- Some people aren’t going to be able to cope with your new priority hierarchy.
- Most people want to help but have no idea how.
- Other people try to help but have no idea how.
- Some people should be given specific boundaries about how they are allowed to help because left to themselves, many feelings could get hurt.
- And for a majority, there are people whom you will wish would do what they have always done – and be totally on your team 100% – but they really think you will tell them if you needed anything. The kicker, is you need them to show up without being asked.
And that is the pain of parenthood in modern western culture.
Our friends need help in this area of life because people in these situations don’t have a model to learn how to support friends who have had babies. This hasn’t typically been the work of friends. It has been family, but our families are spread far and thin.
So, what now?
Here are a few things that could jump-start a reconnection with the people whom you need now more than ever:
- If you haven’t already, start a group text thread and let the weight of conversation fall on the collective shoulders of a friend group.
Invite a small group of friends over to your house instead of going out, so you have the security and comfort of your space and all the things you need for your baby
- Facetime, Zoom, Skype with your friends. Regardless if you feel like going out, or just can’t get into the same room with your friends, seeing each other’s faces helps keeps connections secure. Body language and facial expressions are enormous forms of communication that get lost when chatting through phone or text.
- Ask for help. This may be hard, but asking for help with a specific item, task, or event allows your friends to reciprocate any feelings of kinship or closeness back to you. Things like asking for fresh flowers to brighten your mood or your favorite take-out to split when they get there, or asking to have them come specifically to hold the baby while you (nap/shower/brush your teeth/go for a walk/eat/go to the bathroom/etc.).
Friend, take a breath and let your shoulders sink in rest for a bit because you are doing an incredible job holding up the weight of your new responsibilities. Your friends have not abandoned you. You are not a failure, or inconsiderate, or selfish. Your friends don’t think so either.
Most friends are not even aware that you are feeling so lonely or full of grief for the life you have had to leave behind as you start the new one with delicious baby cuddles and bright eyes.
You don’t have to do this alone, but you do need to meet people where they are, and luckily, all your friends are just a quick group text message away.