Friendship Series: Stay Connected to Non-Parents
I had my first child five years ago and my relationships with my friends had to shift especially with my friends that did not have children. The relationships that suffered the most were my friends who did not want children. I was having sleepless nights because of kids and my friends were up all night partying and having fun. The divide between the two worlds was the biggest as a new mom because I craved speaking to other moms as I felt clueless and wanted to soak up all the experiences that others had with their children. As my family grew I started to realize that my friendships were suffering as I was deep in the trenches of motherhood. I found I needed to also take the time to nurture all of my friendships, including the friends that did not have children.
Working on friendships is always a work in progress and I needed to adapt my style when my family went from one to three children and as my children get older and grow into new phases themselves. My friendships important to me and they do take effort to sustain, but some of my best moments in my life and as a mom has been with my dearest friends. Here are some tips that have helped me over the past five years create long lasting friendships with individuals who do not have children.
Stop the Grass is Greener Syndrome
There were plenty of times when I saw on social media or caught up with a friend who didn’t have children and I was green with envy of lifestyle. At times, I would be irritated by trying to make plans as it didn’t fit with my kid’s schedule. There were also feelings of resentment of the numerous stories of them sleeping in, happy hours, eating out, and having adult weekend getaways whenever they felt like it. In hindsight, those same friends were feeling similar feelings of envy when they might have longed to have a family of their own. It was frustrating for them to realize I couldn’t be as spontaneous with my plans and even if I did make plans I might have been in mommy mode. There could easily have been resentment for my non-stop mom stories when together, breaking plans because of my kids, and posting pictures of my children on social media looking so happy and perfect.
For all of us moms, it is important to realize that no one has it better and that it is normal to miss your past relationship with your friends. The friendships are different, but that doesn’t mean that a friendship has to die because of these differences. It can be really difficult to find common ground when you can no longer relate to each other’s stresses and issues. It is also good to acknowledge these feelings as many times that I told my friends that I am jealous or sad or upset they would almost always say “me too!” and those honest conversations ended up connecting us and strengthening our friendship. Another added bonus was that these friends helped me feel like my own person and not be in “mom mode” every single second. When I connected with these friends I felt refreshed, happy, and an easiness about life that sometimes disappears when you are taking care of small humans.
Connect Without Your Child
I really appreciated all my friends who made plans to hang out with my kids and asked how they were doing. There were plenty of times I was very self- involved with my children that full conversations or outings could turn into how my life was doing now that I was a mom. This happened often when I was a new mom, but as time went on I found ways to balance out the “kid talk” when I spoke or saw my friends. I started to make plans with just my friends without the kids and made sure the conversation steered away from my children. When you are immersed in mommyland it can be difficult to remember life outside of your children. Your friends without kids are a great way to remember you are a person and that they can be a huge part of your self-care plan. Whether it is a phone call, texts, or in person, it is important to go beyond the kid talk and dig deeper in conversations that are important to them as well. After time with my friends without children, I always felt refreshed and energized and I was thankful for still being included in their adventures.
Be Excited About Their Milestones
So, you kidless friends go to every baby shower and watch you open and coo over every single baby sock that someone gifted you. They listened for hours as you contemplated names and worried about labor. Your friends were there in those first few weeks of having your child and celebrated all their birthdays whether they near or afar. Those same friends would change plans for us and schedule more girls night in rather than going out. Then it is their turn to have their milestones celebrated and it is radio silence on your end. OUCH.
This has happened to the best of us and we all have good intentions to be there for them when it is their turn for their big celebrations (promotions, moves, marriages, babies of their own, birthdays, etc), but sadly life gets in the way. Making the best effort to make them feel special during their milestones is an important aspect of maintaining a friendship. Whether you can do exactly what they did for you isn’t what matters, but the effort you put forth is what matters. If they are important in your life you will make them a priority in whichever way you can that will not stretch you or your family too thin. Now if you have missed a milestone that just occurred then you can apologize and either make plans to celebrate or if plans can’t happen then sending them a gift or token of your friendship would make their week! Now if you have missed a milestone don’t stress out as it happens and they will understand.
Remember, There is Always a Chance to Reunite
There is always a chance that you can reconnect with friends and get back to the closeness you once had with each other. Sometimes the reconnection occurs when the friend who didn’t have a child becomes pregnant and have a child of their own. You reconnect over the excitement of a baby entering the world and at times can blossom back into a strong friendship. Even if that individual does not have a baby it is never too late to reach out and say that it has been awhile and let’s catch up over coffee (or even better a drink!). If the friend wants to reconnect then they will make the time and you can work on building up your friendship again. Recognize that there was a drift and apologize if you felt the drift had to do with you being absent from their life. The friend will appreciate the honesty and will be thankful for the effort in working towards a friendship again. Even if a close friendship doesn’t occur it is nice to connect and will give you peace moving forward with your life.
Do you find it difficult to stay connected with friends who aren’t moms?