So there I was talking to my neighbor the other day when, smack dab in the middle of a sentence, I realized that I was telling the most uninteresting story this poor fellow had likely heard in his entire life. I was discussing my ten-month old’s latest inability to sleep through the night when it occurred to me: this guy, polite and friendly though he is, could not possibly care at all about my recent sleepless nights.
I ineloquently wrapped up the conversation as quickly as possible and moved on to other things, but it got me wondering about keeping friends during the first year or so after having a baby. Because it’s true what they say: having a baby changes everything.
Now, we’ve all known people who continue their lives after having a baby as though it were no big deal. They eat out a lot and party with their friends, seemingly without missing a beat. But, with rare exception, those people are most of the time not committed parents. For the rest of us though, having a baby changes things.
At first I didn’t want to admit it to myself. The birth of my first baby was the best thing that had ever happened to me, and I rode that feeling through the first few months. I still had to work and pay bills and do my stepdaughter’s carpool, but that was no big deal. I’ve never been one to need a solid eight hours per night, so it didn’t bother me if every once in a while my baby woke me up with her cries.
But after those first few months, I started noticing some small differences. I felt ready for bed half an hour earlier than usual, and then an hour. The laundry took an extra few days to get washed, and an extra week to be put away once washed and folded. Shoes never quite made it to their spot by the front closet, and my shaving routing became more like an every other day thing.
It was about six months after my daughter’s birth when I noticed I hadn’t been out of the house for any reason other than an obligation (work, errands, etc.) in more than half a year. Football season was half over and I had yet to watch a game from kickoff to the final whistle. Even with a gun to my head, I might not be able to pick my best buddy out of a police lineup because I simply hadn’t seen him.
So, how do people go about keeping friends after they have a baby? Well, it’s complicated. For those whose friends are also parents themselves, it’s easy. My wife and I have friends that get our situation, and we know they will be there for us if and when time allows. But for parents whose friends are mostly non-parents, it isn’t always so easy. Sometimes it takes effort to carve out some time, to find a babysitter and make a point to do at least one friend thing on a regular basis.
Becoming the best parent you can be is the most important job you’ll ever have, and can’t come at the expense of your desire to go back to your pre-baby lifestyle. That said, though, friends are important, and keeping those deep friendships can go a long way towards keeping your sanity during the difficult time you’ll face in your first year of parenting. But remember: true friends will understand why you haven’t been around as much, and will be there for you when you need them, even if you’ve been scarce of late.
Just don’t bore them with your kid stories when you do finally see them again.