Maintaining Friendships After the Baby

For young professionals, maintaining an ongoing focus on our careers is a necessary tactic for success. So what happens when your best friend, the one you grew up with, graduated with, work with, decides to change their focus? How do young professionals cope when their best friend decides to make having a child their new top priority? We spoke with some new parents to find out what they think their career-focused friends don’t often understand about their change in lifestyle, and how best to maintain a relationship with them, after baby.

It’s Not Over  
One mistake many non-parents tend to make is assuming that that the relationship is over when their friends have kids. It may be hard to imagine how the friend you once shared an office with, drinks with, late nights with, is to possibly continue being that same friend once a baby arrives. In reality, your friendship will be different, but your friend will still be the same person. Expect that the usual activities you once shared will need to be modified, to say the least. In fact, the usual routine of even seeing them so regularly will likely change, certainly in the beginning. It’s important to remember that your friend will very rarely be alone now, and so outings must be doable for both adults and babies/kids. As one mother stated, “my best advice is to find new ways to spend time together. It`s not a great idea to bring a two-year-old to a fancy restaurant. It`s just not realistic and it`s no fun for anyone when mom has to shovel her food in and chase her child around between bites, or try to control an embarrassing temper tantrum.”

Finding new things to do together may be a challenge, but for strong friendships, activities rarely matter as much as the company. Working to keep an open dialogue with your buddy about which activities and settings are ideal for them and their child, and which are not, is the easiest way to maintain an enjoyable friendship. 

Take them out
One new parent we spoke with put it perfectly: “Non parents should continue inviting new parents to go out. There’s a thing called a babysitter!” Each parent agreed that spending time away from their children, doing the things they used to do, having the fun they used to have, does continue to be a priority. Don’t think that new parents don’t see you out there schmoozing it up, having a blast out on the social scene, and every so often wish they were still there with you. So help them escape back into the YP social world for a night. Just be sure to give parents ample time to make plans for a sitter. New parents are still social beings but with less of an ability to be spontaneous, as many of us YPs are. Parents certainly continue to have a desire to go out and have fun, but as each one couldn’t stress enough, in order to do so, plans must be made well in advance. 

With that said . . .
With that said, non-parents need also to remember that babysitters don’t usually stay until morning, and so while you may be able to party into the wee hours and sleep your Saturday away, parents do not have such a luxury. One of the biggest pet peeves that new parents report (especially amongst the dads), is when non-parent friends play the peer pressure card. Ragging on your buddy to stay out later or have another drink, or downplaying just how tough it is to get up with kids in the morning after a night out, actually relays a lack of respect for their role as a parent.  One parent stated, “When you try to push me into staying later, or shove drinks down my throat, you are indirectly asking me to put my kids second to your good time.” Appreciate that your parent-friends made the effort to hire a babysitter and came out for a good time, and respect the fact that they will likely have to leave earlier than they used to; unless of course you are willing to head on over at 6am for some diaper-changing and breakfast-feeding fun. 

Additional tips:
– You don’t enjoy when your friends with kids spend the whole conversation talking baby, so avoid spending the entire time talking business.

– Know that if you are visiting during a meal time or bed time that you will have to wait until the kids are dealt with. You may be a guest but you are not the main priority.

– Don’t assume that mommy and daddy are free when the kids go to bed or school Laundry, shopping, cleaning, studying/working, etc. usually get done at these times. 

– Offer to help: Bring a new mom a coffee and lunch when she’s having a tough day. Offer to babysit on your buddy’s anniversary. Read your little friend a bedtime story while mom entertains houseguests.

– Don’t compare their baby to your pet, or their woes as parents to yours as a pet owner; they hate that.

– Most important: be patient and flexible, continuing to be that quality friend you always were.

Photo: Friends With Kids (movie)