Motherhood is lonely. And I think we all know that starting to seek connection with those who are going through a similar experience is the antidote. We feel less alone and more supported when we find members of our own mom tribe.
But what happens to the people who were there for us before baby? What about those friends that knew you long before diapers and breast pumps? How can we continue to nourish relationships with people who can’t relate to the sometimes all-consuming experience of motherhood?
I feel most connected to my pre-mom self when I’m with my non-mom friends. These friends have seen me at my weirdest and weren’t embarrassed to be around me, supported me when I wasn’t sure where my life was going, and made me laugh so hard I couldn’t breathe.
I may have a mom tribe, but these women are my soul sisters. Sometimes it’s work to keep in contact, and I never seem them as much as I would like to, but I know every time we get together that I feel truly myself.
Here are some ways to keep your old friendships going after you become a mom:
Don’t make assumptions
It’s easy to go there and think, “They probably think I’m not fun anymore,” or “They probably don’t even want to hang with me anymore.” This can make you resentful and less likely to make an effort in maintaining the friendship.
In reality, a lot of times friends aren’t sure how to act. They may be worried about inviting you places and making you feel disappointed when you can’t come or even not wanting to “bother” you since you have a new baby.
Bottom line, never make assumptions unless you have evidence. Assumptions create unnecessary and unfounded tension and distance in your relationships.
Be assertive in the face of judgement
If you have a friend who says, “I know you’re all baby now,” or “I know your hands are full and you’re too busy for me now,” put it back on them. They may make assumptions or judgments, and you can set the record straight.
“Yes, a lot has changed, but I’m still your friend,” or “You’re right, I’m busier now, but I would still like to make time for us to hang out. Please don’t assume that I’m leaving you behind.” Putting things on the table reduces passive aggressive attitudes and opens up the relationship for more honest and deeper communication.
Let them know you need them
When your life is consumed by baby and family, it can be easy for friends to start to think you’ve “moved on” and don’t need them. It’s an important part of any relationship to feel there is reciprocal desire to keep the relationship going. Let them know you miss them, how much you value your time with them, and the fact that you need their support or whatever else they bring to your relationship.
It can be easy to just want to hang out with other moms because they get it. Remember your other friends and put effort into those relationships. Make a standing monthly or weekly date that takes priority over other committments. If that’s too difficult, make an effort to text or call them once a week to see how they’re doing.
Be open and honest if things feel different
You can always reach out and say, “Hey, I feel like we’ve been disconnected lately. I know things have changed a lot. Your friendship is important to me. Can we get together and talk?” Be honest about your expectations from them. Ask them what they need from you to heal any wounds and maintain your connection.
Be empathetic to their feelings
Sometimes friends struggle with seeing their friends married and having a child if they want those things, too, but don’t have them yet. If you feel this is the case with a friend of yours, you may need to give them some time.
This may be especially true for friends who have struggled with infertility. Time and space can offer the healing they need before they reconnect. When they return to the relationship, try to offer understanding and compassion. You never know what your friends might be going through or how they see your situation. Try to feel them out and be there to listen and support them.
They won’t get it and that’s okay
Did you “get it” before you became a mom? Most likely not. So don’t expect them to “get it” now. Just because they can’t necessarily relate doesn’t mean they can’t or don’t support you. Try to find other ways to relate and limit the time you spend talking about your mom stuff. Remember there are things you can talk about outside of motherhood. It’s refreshing!
Some friendships just won’t make the transition. This is just a part of life. You may have friends whom you easily partied with before but don’t find much in common outside of the bar. It’s okay to prioritize the friendships you want to keep.
The friendships that are meant to be will somehow make it through.