When motherhood steals your support network

**DISCLAIMER – I appreciate that this is a taboo subject. However, in no way is this post an attack on either children OR mothers!**

I feel so betrayed. We’ve been friends for eight years and supported each other through everything. We’re more than friends, we’re family.

I’m sat opposite a young woman in pain, a new friend of mine, let’s call her Kelly. She’s close to tears and inbetween bites of pasta, (we’re having lunch at Zizi’s and I’ll be dammed if I let my carbonara go cold), I encourage her to tell me what’s going on.
Kelly looks warily from left to right, clearly ashamed of what she’s about to divulge, and then tells me about a big change in her life. Her best friend had a baby eighteen months ago and the dynamics of their friendship have shifted dramatically.

I was so happy for her, and I couldn’t wait to become an aunty! I knew that the first six or nine months would be all about the baby, but I didn’t expect…. well her personality to change the way that it has.

I chew vigorously and nod, knowing full well that shoving that much linguine in my gob was a mistake. A spoken response is out of the question for atleast two minutes.

I thought that once Lilly (her daughter) turned one, then things would get easier. Maybe we’d be able to talk on the phone like we used to or go for dinner now and again. But if anything it’s got worse, it’s like I don’t exist anymore. I miss her, but I’m so angry with her.

I ask Kelly what she would say to her friend if she could, without fear of judgment or reprimand.

I hate that we can’t hang out anymore. I hate that I need to book you months in advance to do even the simplest of social activities. I hate that all you talk about is Lilly or the marathon that you’re doing in April. It’s tedious. How is it that you can make time for training, but not for me? I hate that you have no idea what’s going on in my life because you never ask, or when you do ask I can see that you’re barely listening to the response. You came with me to the doctors after I hurt myself. I was diagnosed with OCD and you squeezed my hand. It’s something that I continue to battle. Why don’t you ask how I’m feeling?
I hate that you constantly complain about being tired and busy, yet roll your eyes at me when I talk about my hectic schedule. Why do you always insist that I can’t be tired because I don’t have children!
You expect so much from me and yet, you treat my feelings with indifference.
I’m clearly not a priority to you anymore, FINE, but don’t then expect me to take an interest in your life. You did this to us and you’ve never once apologised, or thanked me for being so patient, or even acknowledged that things have changed. I hate who you’ve become.

Kelly then burst into tears.

By this point, I’d finished my food and could comfort her as she cried. Tissues were exchanged and more wine was ordered.

Do you think I’m an awful person? She asked. Do you know what I’m talking about though?

I’m a woman in her thirties and lots of my friends have kids, so yeah, of course, I know what she’s talking about! I don’t think Kelly is a bad person, nor do I believe that she truly hates her friend. Losing a connection to someone you love, in whatever capacity, is always painful.

Parenthood changes people. Your BFF can’t go out drinking after work anymore, because there’s a mini person back home who needs feeding. Keeping him/her alive is now their priority. This sudden change is bound to feel alien.

However, it is possible to adapt and build a friendship that’s even stronger.

Dealing with change in a friendship

  • First of all, if you want to continue having this friend in your life then; YOU HAVE TO ACCEPT THAT THINGS HAVE CHANGED! Don’t waste time and energy hoping that things will go back to ‘the way they were.’ Harsh, but true.
  • .
  • Mourn. Yep, cry all you like. It’s perfectly normal to feel sad when thinking about a time when you were really happy. Of course, you miss your friend, it’s natural. Even though they might not show it, they’ll miss you too.
  • .
  • Anger is a waste of precious energy. It’s all consuming and in many cases, useless. Allow yourself to feel really angry for ten minutes and then direct that anger into proactive action. For example, try and schedule some time with said friend waaaay in advance. Explain that as (the event) is a month away from now, you hope they can organise childcare. Be as precise re date and activity as possible. You have a right to be assertive, but not abusive.
  • .
  • Remember, we’re all self-centered to a point. As much as you might believe yourself to be the perfect friend (which I totally am btw), you’re most likely not. At some point, you WILL have said something insensitive and not realised. So try not to take your friends comments about parenthood to heart. I’m sure they don’t appreciate it when some nob says something like; this is your third? Wow, you must feel so trapped. When do you have time for fun stuff? I genuinely heard a young person say that to a heavily pregnant woman at a networking event!
  • .
  • Be honest. Ask your friend to schedule in a phone call. Make sure that it’s a time that suits her routine. (It can be frustrating, but a person with kids = you have to work around them. This also applies to people who have football season tickets, but don’t even get me started on that rant)! Explain how much you miss them and that you worry about drifting apart. Tell them that while you’re happy to work around their family, it would be great if they could make some time for you also. This isn’t an unreasonable request, especially if you’re long term friends. Plan what you’re going to say in advance, be patient and don’t be demanding. (E.g. – asking to meet up every week isn’t realistic). If they don’t react well, then give them space for a few days.
  • .
  • Meet new people. Be proactive and make new friends. I know, this sounds impossible, but you’d be surprised. I realised in my early twenties that I couldn’t expect one or two people to fulfill me. (I think this is true for most people). Don’t place so much pressure on a single friendship. Take up a new hobby, arrange to meet up with people who you know from social media (safely please), or check out the website meetup and discover local groups in your area. Trust me, it’ll feel good to reclaim some control and experience new things.
  • .
  • Be patient, be kind. From what I’ve observed, being a parent is reeeeeally f**king hard. It’s not as if they can have time off. So take a breath and try to think of things from their point of view. Patience is the foundation of love and not exclusive to motherhood. E.g. In the past, you may have unknowingly spent less time with a friend during a romantic relationship… or disappeared when you were ill…. or pissed off to London for seven years! (Guilty).

Change is scary, particularly when it’s close to home, but it can be managed. Remember what you love about about your friend and trust that in time, she’ll come back to you.

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1 Comment

  1. April 4, 2019 / 1:31 am

    This broke my heart and reminded me of all the good friends that I have lost, or relationships have changed – first when I had kids, then when they had kids etc. Friendship is work. But for the most part, it can be super rewarding and it should have more pros than cons.

    I like what you said about “anger is a waste of precious energy” – i need to remind myself of this regularly 🙂

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