My toddler has a best friend who she plays with at nursery.
Their friendship is pretty simple. They both like looking for ants and the only thing that sometimes puts a spanner in the works is when one of them pushes the other.
All is forgotten quickly. Wouldn’t it be nice if grown-up friendships were so simple?
Since having children I’ve found myself relying on friends who also have kids more and more.
Those friendships have in some cases deepened as we bond over shared struggles with our children and the sometimes unbearable treadmill of bottles, nappies, naptime battles and lack of sleep.
It’s been lovely to see our children playing together and forming friendships of their own.
We swap tips, chat about how we’re coping and sympathise when we’ve had another tough night.
What’s brilliant about mum friends is the total lack of judgement. We’re all just trying to get through the day in the best way that we can. We do not judge. We nod along in sympathy and offer advice where it’s asked for.
But what about the other friendships? The ones where you’ve settled down and started a family while your pal is still living it up partying every weekend.
What about the friendships where you were once able to finish each other’s sentences but now aren’t even on the same book, let alone the same page?
Your pal can’t understand why you can’t just leave the house. They don’t understand why everything has to be timed around naps and feeding time. They may not understand that the venue needs to be child-friendly.
They may not understand that you can’t face taking the baby somewhere at all, because they’re right in the middle of a “scream for hours for no reason” phase.
Once you are out, you’re painfully aware that you are a total disappointment to be around now.
Before baby you would be chatting and laughing about disastrous dates and bitching about annoying co-workers. Now you’re yawning constantly and frequently forget what you were talking about as you try to force a screaming baby onto your exposed boob.
This has the dual effect of making you worry about meeting up again, and your friend wonder whether you had a baby or a personality transplant.
I’m sorry to be patronising, I really am, but the fact of the matter is until you have children you cannot possibly understand how hard it is.
I had no clue, no idea at all, until I had mine.
And as much as you might protest that having kids won’t change you, I’m afraid it does. There’s no avoiding it. Your life gets a good shake and never goes back to the way it was before.
But life is better. It really is. It’s just our life now is 99 per cent about our baby. The other one per cent is when we manage to watch the occasional box set. At some point we need to squeeze work in there as well.
When it comes to relating to us, it’s understandable that some childless people may just see us parents as being from another planet.
I look back on my child-free days as the time when I used to be fun. I used to be spontaneous, excited to get out and have a few cocktails and full of hilarious tales that are suitable for grown-up ears only.
My stories now revolve around unfortunate poo incidents and silly things my toddler says.
And I’m painfully aware of how different I am. So much so I can’t really relax when I’m out with childless people because I worry about how dull I must seem, how narrow my life appears from the outside.
So how can we meet in the middle. We’re not different species, we just have different lives.
And we still have so much to offer each other in terms of friendship.
So to the friends of mummies who used to be fun:
Hang in there, please. It won’t always be this hard for us, we’re just in the thick of the most physical and tiring bit of child-rearing.
Forgive us for talking another language. We don’t mean to bleat on about controlled crying, formula brands, baby-led weaning, Bumbos, and our Wonder Weeks app. It’s just our head is so full of this stuff when we’re asked how we are it just kind of comes spilling out.
We may cancel and rearrange plans. A lot. But please, don’t stop asking us to join in. One day we will be able to make it, and we’ll be over the moon to be out.
We are still us. Just because we’ve had a baby, it doesn’t mean we don’t want to do all of the things we used to do. We still want to have a few drinks, a nice meal and a good dance. When we get the chance.
We are still interested in everything you have to say. We might struggle to listen sometimes, but we do really want to hear about your life and what you have to say.
To the mummies who used to be fun:
Good friends will understand and try to sympathise when you’re going through the huge upheaval that is becoming a parent. If they don’t, I’m afraid they are not a very good friend.
Make time for friendships when you can. A good friend will compromise to make the get together easy for you to attend.
Try to remember to answer texts and messages. It’s easy to forget when you’re sleep deprived and veering from cleaning up one mess to the next. But you both need to make the effort to keep in touch.
Accept that some friendships change. As we move through different phases of our lives, friendships can evolve and some fizzle out altogether. Don’t blame yourself.
I would love to hear what you think about this. Have your friendships changed since you had your children? Have you struggled to keep up your friendships in some cases?
I would love to hear from you.