I am noticing lately that there are numerous articles and posts about how single friends just don’t understand the new lives of their married-with-children friends. There are actually lists of things for singles to read to help them realize that life has changed for their friends and what they should or shouldn’t do about it, things telling them how to “adjust”. HUH?
Let’s be honest, once there is a baby in the picture, yes, life changes. Mom is tired and it takes time to settle into the new routine of caring for a baby 24/7. But it isn’t some kind of tragedy that removes her from having a regular life, enjoying friends and outings; it doesn’t mean that life stops and she can just no longer do the things that keep a friendship going because she is too consumed with her new role. Single friends might not know what it’s like to be up all night with a baby or have to pack up a carseat and a bag every time you leave the house, but perhaps the new mom also needs reminders about the importance of friend contact and finding ways to keep relationships alive, and that it isn’t all about her, her schedule, her convenience. She has embarked on a very long term life change that has been managed by millions before her, and a lot of the adjustment is up to her.
I think back to my own experience of having a first baby, and I remember being tired, but I also remember enjoying going out and about with my new little bundle. My husband and I went out for dinner and our new baby slept happily on the table as a tiny newborn and later in the booth beside us. I still went shopping, cleaned my house, did laundry, cooked, went to appointments, and visited my single friend who also visited me. When our second baby came along it wasn’t much different; it was more work, yes, but I grew into it and kept going. We were out several times a week, even if it was just to Gramma’s house, and I continued to get together with my single friend.
I’m not talking about living a party life with a baby; obviously lifestyle changes are inevitable, but I never had to explain to my single friend that from there on, I wasn’t able to get together, or make plans with her ahead of time because my schedule was so all consuming that everything had to revolve around me. She was happy to continue to be involved in my life and in the life of my growing family and became an auntie of sorts to my kids. She was part of their birthdays and Christmases, and she even babysat them once in a while because she enjoyed spending time with them and they loved her. The friendship mattered so we BOTH made the effort.
The bottom line is this: do YOU care about maintaining the friendship or not?
I feel sorry for the single friends out there who are left in a quandary about what is expected of them now that one of their peers is a mommy. Do they run to see the new baby because they want to or hang back until invited? Do they pitch in and help or do they hang back and give the new mommy her space? According to the many resources available online which are sometimes posted by friends, they really can’t do any of it “right”. I think these modern day articles and subsequent Facebook posts that are shared and liked by other married-with-children friends serve to further reinforce that the single person is the one who needs to change. Isn’t friendship about working TOGETHER to stay connected?
In response to some of the “helpful hints” I have seen or heard about from new moms for single friends, I would like to offer this:
1) Be careful what you post online and be sure you are comfortable with the possible results. If you continually post things about how tired you are and how you just don’t have time to do anything but sleep and look after your baby, and how much work all that is, don’t be surprised if your single friends back off because you’ve just made it clear you have no energy for anything else. They are waiting for you to have time for them and will likely respect what you have expressed about your limitations.
2) If you make it clear in posts that there are only specific times you are accepting company, and a single friend isn’t available during those times because they either work full time or live in another place, don’t be surprised if you don’t see them at all. They might be near your place one day and think to call, but remember your instructions about not disturbing you, and will respect your wishes.
3) If you are promoting the idea that when friends visit you and your new baby they should be cleaning your house or doing your laundry instead of holding your baby or talking with you, don’t be surprised if they don’t stop to visit for that half hour they might have had to stop while in your neighbourhood between taking care of their own appointments or personal business, because they want to see you, not spend the short time they have being your maid. Any friend with common sense will offer to be helpful, but setting ground rules for visits is a turnoff.
4) If you want to get together with a single friend, recognize that some advance planning might be helpful FOR THEM, because they are probably still working full time and can’t just drop it all to come to you because you decided last night that you’re up for a visit during a work day! If you really want to include them in your life, make the effort to show them that.
5) Remember that roads go two ways and if you are able to get together with other married-with-children friends and post about it online where single friends can see it, they might begin to wonder why you have time and energy for those things but not for them, based on your “I’m too tired and my single friends don’t understand” posts.
6) If and when you do find time to keep a relationship with your single friend alive, try to remember to show interest in what they are doing and don’t make the visit all about your new baby life. They want to hear about you, they are happy for you, they care about your baby, and are often looking forward to having one of their own, but they also want to know you still care to hear about them.
Most single friends understand much more than you give them credit for, and they quickly come to understand when they have been put into the zone of being less important in your life than others who have kids to play with yours. If you care about maintaining a friendship with your single friends, some of the work is up to you. If you notice that as time goes on, you see less and less of your single friends, remember that it takes two, and if you were busy setting the tone based mainly on what works for you, they might simply have moved on.
It seems to me that some new moms of today are making this whole thing a lot more complicated than it has to be. And before anyone says that the world is different now or that I’m too old to have a perspective on this, I know moms out there who make having one baby look like a reason to expect everyone to dote on them, and others who make having five or six kids look like a cakewalk. Of course, personality comes into play and I’m talking about normal healthy people, not those who have some other factor affecting their mental health. In general, I just notice a lot of modern thinking that makes me shake my head. I was happy that my single friend still wanted to be part of my life! The last thing I would have wanted was to discourage her by making it seem as though I was leaving her behind.
Just saying …