BY SAMMI JOHNSON
Crossing the threshold into babyland is scary. There are fears of giving birth, how your life will change, whether you’ll be a good parent. It’s at once exhilarating and exhausting.
But often overlooked before starting a family – at least for my husband, Tyrel, and I – is how child rearing changes your existing friendships and priorities in what was once a myopic, kid-free life.
It’s going to change. But how?
We didn’t dwell on thoughts of family life before kids. We knew parents and children existed, but never noticed them outside of the occasional public meltdown. But once we broke our joyous news to our freewheeling, kid-free friends, their reactions varied and the aftermath has been, too.
“Well, nice knowing you. Now, see you never,” was one reaction. We were shocked, but what would we have said? Justifying our shambolic plan, we explained, “We’ll bring the babies wherever we go.” We’ll still ski, hike and socialize the same way, actually believing the words as they exited our conscience.
Now, two babies deep, we know a little better and know it takes initiative from us to help friends cross the chasm.
My first humbling days as a new parent were spent convinced that during delivery I somehow acquired two non-functioning left hands. I was fumbling over delicate feet, tiny outfits, baby bird cries and feedings. Therefore, any preconceived notions of parents and how they handle their social lives or any aspect of parenting were erased. The thought of “working” on existing friendships was not even part of my thought process.
So, a couple of years into our new roles as parents, I analyzed our circle of friends and realized we needed to do some work. I made some simple observations and noted two types: those friends who made it through to the other side with us and our kids in tow; and those who ran for the hills and needed some assistance.
The friends who crossed over seamlessly understand sleep cycles, have witnessed the magical powers of snacks and can publicly withstand a fit. These friends are here to stay. They love our kids and us. I’ve never fully understood the meaning of “it takes a village” until now, and thankfully our village is strong.
But, for those who drifted away since we expanded our family either needed some effort from us, or it was time to accept that those friendships had run their respective courses.
It may seem monumental to make the first move. But if you miss them, make the move. These fringe friends may now assume your life is inundated with diapers and baby talk. It is. But it is also important to remind your pals that underneath the kid chaos you still treasure their friendship and have the energy required to maintain it.
It is easy to place blame and wonder why your previous besties aren’t leaping at every opportunity to kanoodle and discuss every aspect of your babies’ lives. That is reserved now for your new circle of Mom friends. Don’t expect these kid-free friends to immediately understand your new life. Take the humble high road and make the first call.
Just don’t make that first call when you can’t dedicate time to them. Having conversation with a friend and your 2-year-old simultaneously does nothing for anyone except annoy everyone.
From experience, these newly fostered relationships can last the test of time. Then, if and when these kid-free friends eventually make the leap into parenthood, you’re there for support and understand the journey.
Sammi is a mother, wife, business owner and production and marketing coordinator at the Flathead Beacon in Kalispell. Have an idea for a column, or story to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org