6 things you realize when you try to make friends when you're a parent
There is an endless amount written about how your life changes when you have kids. You know the go-to points: You sleep less, you spend more, you discover previously unexplored depths to your capacity to love and empathize, etc. One alteration to your pre-kid life that people don’t talk about as much, but really should, is what it’s like to make new friends when you’re a parent.
We all tell ourselves the same thing when we are staring down the barrel of parenthood for the first time: “I am who I have always been, and even though having a kid will undoubtedly change a lot about my life, it isn’t going to change me.” It’s fair that we tell ourselves this. The truth is, if we allowed ourselves to completely face the changes that being a parent will instigate within the most fundamental parts of ourselves, the magnitude would crush us. And frankly, there’s enough other shit to worry about when you have kids. No time for crushing magnitude, TBH.
But if there’s one thing that’s constant about life, no matter how much it changes — and it inevitably will, be it by way of kids, career, or simple age-earned perspective — one need that never goes away is having the support of friends who love and get you. We spend the first part of our lives learning how to cultivate and nurture those relationships, only to promptly find the entire social situation turned on its ass once we become parents. It can be disorienting, stressful, even legitimately depressing — but it’s definitely not hopeless.
Here’s what you realize about making friends once you’re a parent:
1Schedules really do matter.
Okay, we all love to say that we would “always make time for our BFFs, no matter what,” and for sure, we mean the hell out of that when we say it. After all, we adore our friends almost too much. Like, real, deep-blue love them. How could we ever let something as cold and boring as conflicting schedules stand in the way of a friendship that’s clearly ordained by the universe itself? Sorry, guys, but when you have kids — probably not immediately, but over time — you realize just how many of your friendships are (and probably always were) largely functional because your schedules allowed for it.
Maybe you both had a fondness for going out on Thursday nights and forgoing the Friday going-out madness; Maybe the bulk of your hangout time was spent over happy-hour beers at that bar you both work near. Once you have kids and have way less time to grab drinks after work, and staying out all night means sacrificing sleep (aka, the most precious and rare commodity in your life), you’re way likely to be doing it a lot less. It’s not that you never have time to hang, or that you never opt for a night out with your friends over the sleep you desperately need…but you’re definitely doing it all much less frequently than you were before you became a parent.
2Some friendships aren’t built to last forever — and that’s okay.
And when you find your schedule completely changed, and find that your life with kids involves a lot of new activities that your pre-kid friends never do, and a lot less of the activities your pre-kid self engaged in regularly, it’s easy (and almost unavoidable, unless your pre-kid friends all had kids, and you were the last holdout, in which case, almost none of this article applies to you) to find yourself far removed from so many people you thought were ride-or-die BFFs.
It’s not that your distance from some friends means those relationships were any less real or meaningful. It doesn’t mean you don’t still love each other. But let’s be honest about what friendships are actually based on: shared interests, shared hobbies, generally getting one another, and being in sync. Sure, you and your friends have always been totally different people in a lot of ways, but after you have kids, you’ll realize how minor those differences always were — and how big the current ones are.
This (as painful as it can be) is totally fine. Some people aren’t going to be in our lives in an everyday sort of way forever. Expecting everyone we love to do so is actually weird and illogical, when you think about it. Everyone is constantly evolving, and the shape of our lives is constantly changing. Maybe our besties are just in our everyday lives during the period at which our lives intersect — and then we keep going our different ways and intersect with new people. It’s really fine (and maybe makes us value even more the times when we’re at the same points in life as people we love).
3The realest friendships transcend all changes.
But also… Hell, some people are just going to be stuck to you like glue. Their asses are not going anywhere, no matter what. Settle in.
4Making new friends as an adult is so awkward.
So, okay, you have a kid (or kids) now, and your life is totally different, and for various reasons, you have to make new friends. Maybe your squad is depleted because life changes have pushed old friends out. But also, maybe life changes have brought new people in. When you have a kid, you quickly realize that, holy shit, there are tons of other kids out there, and they all have parents too, and those parents want to talk to you and maybe even hang out.
Why is it so jarring and weird when we’re faced with making friends with new people as fully formed adult humans? Like, we’ve had lots of friends in the past, and obviously those friendships started somewhere, but you’ll be damned if you can remember how that happened. And now you’ve got these totally seemingly cool parents whose kid wants to have a playdate with your kid, and they’re looking at you with big, hopeful “let’s share a bottle of wine while our kids fight over Legos” eyes, and suddenly you don’t remember how to talk to other people. Ah, so you really never grow out of social awkwardness. Cool. Great. Fun. Is it time to die yet?
5You really are different.
And then you figure it out. You power through the awkwardness, make some parent friends, and get on with life. And it’s not just other parents that you become new friends with after you have kids, because the actual presence of your child isn’t the other change. A lot about you and your life is modified post-kid. Maybe you stop going out to bars as much because it’s honestly just not worth trying to deal with a toddler and a hangover, which incidentally gives you a lot more time for, say, volunteering at that women’s shelter you’ve always wanted to get involved with. Probably some people there you’ll make friends with too.
The fact is, becoming a parent is a choice that sets off an endless series of little changes and choices that move your life in new (and mostly positive and amazing) directions. There’s no predicting exactly what kind of personal evolution will manifest in you specifically, but what you can count on is the fact that new people will be waiting down whatever path you go. And you’ll probably end up becoming friends with some of them. And having some of your pre-kid friends fall away not only gives you more bandwidth to give time and energy to those new friendships, but it makes you realize that not all relationships are permanent, which will totally make you value people even more while you have them around.
6But you’re also exactly who you’ve always been.
All of this said, your BFFs will still show up with wine and takeout randomly on a Tuesday and insist on making you hear about their love/work drama, just like always, and you will love it, just like always. Not everything changes after kids (thank God).