After I had my baby, I needed a shopping trip with my girlfriend more than ever.
But our time together proved more stressful than relaxing. My friend arrived on time, dressed in tight jeans, high heels, and sporting a fashionable designer purse. I fumbled in late wearing a pair of old maternity stretch pants, a breast-feeding blouse, and the industrial-sized diaper bag I was now using as my purse — complete with giant giraffes on the side and a pacifier dangling from the shoulder strap.
Aside from our fashion differences, we discovered that the cadence of our conversation was off kilter, too. The play-by-play account of the weekend’s partying escapades and work gossip lacked its usual appeal. And as I detailed a visit to the pediatrician and lamented over my ability to get more than 20 minutes of sleep, I noticed she was the one suppressing yawns.
Having a baby changes a lot. Your body, your job, your free time, and, sometimes, your friendships. But change doesn’t mean a relationship has to go sour. With some adjusting and a bit of planning, friendships can become even stronger.
How can you find a connection when baby makes three? Try these tips for getting past the pacifier and nurturing your friendship.
Share your feelings, surprises, and joys about your baby with your friend — even ask advice. It can be tempting to avoid the topic of baby altogether or feel self-conscious when you find yourself gushing over the experience of parenthood, but trying to force conversation will be uncomfortable and make your friend feel left out. Just because your friend doesn’t have a baby doesn’t mean she won’t be curious about your experiences or share in your joy.
If you feel awkward, sense tension, or feel distant when together, express your feelings. And listen if she expresses concerns about growing apart. Talk about the changes in your relationship and acknowledge the new differences in your lifestyles.
Develop a plan.
Once you have a baby, you may feel on-call 24/7 and your friend may have a hard time stealing your attention. Set up a time to connect — on the phone or in person — when there’s little chance of be interrupted. Nap times, evenings when your partner is feeding the baby, or early on a Saturday might work. Let her know you’re making an effort to carve out time for your relationship and she’ll be more understanding, even when nap times end early.
Take interest in your friend’s life.
The truth is that your perspective on work-related gossip or the worry involved in finding a new hair salon has completely changed — these topics that might have consumed your pre-baby life seem inconsequential now. But you can remember when a bad haircut or a ruined date night consumed your life, so make sure you make time to listen with a sympathetic ear.
Connect on the subject of change.
You may not be the only one who is going through a life change — perhaps your friend is starting a new endeavor too — entering into a new relationship, buying a new house, training for a marathon, or starting a new job. Find ways to relate the new experiences in your lives to each other and share the common challenges, fears, and excitement associated with change.
Reclaim common ground.
Remember or revisit the activities you enjoyed together: working out, bargain shopping, or listening to bands at a favorite Midtown haunt. Find ways to spend time together and create new memories.
Leave baby at home.
Babies are amazing, wonderful bundles of joy. They are also unpredictable, demanding, and downright distracting. When you need a little one-on-one time with your friends, it is okay to occasionally leave the baby with your partner or a family member. Even a short hour of coffee sans les enfant can be more enjoyable for you and your friend.
Circumstances may arise when your new child makes a friend jealous, angry, or sad. Friends who long for a relationship and family, have miscarried, or are waiting for an adoption to come through may find it difficult to spend time with you and your new little one. Try to be understanding and not take their distance or emotions personally. Find opportunities where you can both benefit from a friend-to-friend getaway such as a walk at the park or a dinner out together.