When my twins were born this spring, I immediately told friends how excited I was for them to visit and meet the girls. But as one baby’s hospital stay stretched on, I retreated, promising to see people when we were all home. “Surely, once we’re settled in as a family, visits will be easy,” I thought.
But to my dismay, it didn’t become much easier to maintain friendships. I resorted to sending quick emails at 3 a.m. to let friends know they were still on my mind, and I couldn’t wait for the chance to really catch up again. And once the four of us made it to social gatherings, I spent half my time away from the people I came to see. During one football game we watched with out-of-town friends, everyone else cheered in front of the TV and I cringed at every touchdown as I rocked a fussing baby back to sleep in the other room.
It turns out I’m not alone. Many new moms find themselves feeling isolated and struggling to find ways to connect with their single or childless friends. And what if you’re the friend sans kids? It can be just as isolating to suddenly feel disconnected and wonder how to stay close when everything is different.
Here are some helpful tips from new moms and some wise friends for maintaining friendships after babies enter your relationship.
FOR FRIENDS WITHOUT KIDS:
01. Remember your friend is the same woman she was before she had a baby.
I was a reporter and very plugged into current events before my girls were born, and as much as I love talking about my babies, some days I miss being the go-to girl for news updates. When friends ask what I think about a news story or gossip item, it helps me feel like I’m still connected to them and the world in the same way.
When you do get a chance to visit with new mom friends, ask about her baby, but also ask if she’s heard the latest about Kate Middleton’s baby bump or seen the last episode of your favorite show. Acknowledge your shared interests and help her feel valued for the things you’ve always loved about her.
“I think as much as your friend loves being a mom, she also loves being a woman and just hanging out with her girlfriends,” says my friend Emily. “She still enjoys talking about world affairs or the latest celebrity news, not just about the types of bottles are the best for her baby and how fast her baby should be gaining weight. Although, she will still talk about baby stuff—this is now a huge part of her life!—but listen: You may need this info some day!”
02. Be flexible and intentional about visits.
Babies can throw off the best-laid plans and make some of your old pursuits feel nearly impossible. Give mom grace when diaper blow-outs strike and expect that social visits will look a bit different. You may imagine going on a peaceful outing to the park but simply running errands becomes an adventure.
Don’t let the logistical challenges derail you, though. Instead, adjust your old rituals to be baby-friendly by giving yourselves extra time or arranging for babysitting. Tessa, mom to two-year-old Theo, found a new way to go rock climbing with friends every week: “Two of us climb/belay, while the other watches Theo in the kids area. We switch off so everyone gets a chance to climb. Our friends have invested in not only us, but in Theo as well.”
03. Embrace the new normal.
You value your friend for who she is, and now she’s a mother. Sometimes your friend’s role can feel distancing, but it doesn’t have to be. “James and I are very blessed to have friends that are willing to invest in our family,” Tessa said. “Those are true friends who don’t drop friendships when you move, get married, or have kids.”
As relaxing as girl time can be, try also joining your friend for family dinner or playtime, or even babysitting and bonding with baby. You can also bring dinner over to your girlfriend after her baby has gone to sleep.
04. Don’t wait to be asked.
As a new mom, or one with busy toddlers, it can be exhausting to recruit help or arrange for company. The best help is often the kind that volunteers itself. Reach out and then follow through. Try bringing her some healthy snacks or asking if you can drop by after work to fold laundry and hold a baby while she showers. “Be the one to approach the new mom because she probably doesn’t have any space in her new mom-brain to approach you,” said Stephanie, who has twin boys. “My best friend showed up at the worst moment, she cleaned my kitchen, and cooked me dinner. Every mom needs a mom sometimes!”
ADVICE FOR NEW MOMS:
01. Stay present.
Being a mom is busier than you can imagine at first, and it can be isolating without adult interaction and friendship. Staying in touch with friends can be a sanity-saver. “Don’t let yourself fall off the radar,” Stephanie said. “They may be trying to respect your space, but don’t let them forget you’re there.” Send a text, or ask a friend to come over after the baby’s in bed (or, in those early days, during the 9 p.m. “nap”). You’ll be surprised how refreshing some quick girl talk can be.
You can still host friends—just find a baby-friendly way to entertain, like game night. And don’t be afraid to share the “mom” part of your life with your childless friends, too. “I’ve admired how my friends are authentic and humble about the struggles of being a mother,” Emily said. “I remember one friend telling me with joy that her greatest victory for the week was getting her to baby to sleep through the night. And that was an accomplished professional woman working in Washington, D.C!”
02. Stay involved in your friend’s life, just like you want her involved in yours.
Sure, you’ll have babies on the brain, but remember your friend’s lives are just as important, so talk like they’re important to you. Ask friends how their lives are going. Turn the conversation to your friend’s job, hobbies, and dreams; then be a good listener. Put reminders in your calendar to ask her about her interview or date, and shoot her a text that day checking in.
03. Value your friends.
As a new mom, you don’t have much time to spare, and good friends get that—but that makes sharing what you do have even more meaningful to them. Don’t make them do all the heavy lifting, and don’t forget to tell them how much their friendship means to you as you embark on your new journey.
“Life jumps to a new level of crazy when kids come along, but consider sharing one of those rare moments of peace with an old friend,” Mary said. “Call her up and show her that you still treasure your friendship! Sometimes your friends without kids, especially the single ones, can feel very much left behind when many of their friends have started families already.”