I consider myself extremely lucky to have a core group of girlfriends I’ve known for a while now, we share a lot of our thoughts and lives with each other, and have supported each other through life’s ups and downs – which has preserved our sanity many times over. They’re the kinds of friends you could rely on to help you hide a body. I met those friends through other mutual friends, through work, and through old relationships. We’ve done life things at different times…moving countries, getting married, separating, having kids…and while we sometimes don’t see each other as often as we’d like to, we know we’re all there.
Last night, I went out with a different group of relatively new friends discovered in the last year or so, and the conversation ranged from hilarious to intense and back again, with much cheers-ing and clinking of glasses. Were it not for the fact that our kids are in the same year at the same school, we probably wouldn’t have met, and that table of belly laughs wouldn’t have been a thing (neither would the hangover I have right now, but it seems a fair price for a fun night out). It got me thinking about friendships and how they grow and change over time.
Blogger Nadia Bokody wrote earlier this year about how she ditches friends if they get pregnant because she knows the friendship will change no matter how well-meaning her friend is about not letting a baby get in the way. Nadia says, “…eventually her baby would override the activities we’d build our friendship on, like spontaneous nights out, going for weekends away together, meeting up to compare notes from our sex lives over wine after work, and sporadic long conversations on the phone about our respective relationship woes”. Sure the theme is somewhat confronting, but there’s also some merit in what Nadia has to say. Undeniably, a baby takes priority, because as a mother you are rather responsible for keeping that tiny person alive, fed, clean, and loved. When you’ve got a baby, meeting for drinks at 5.30 before dinner at 7 then Jaeger-bombs until 4am isn’t often an easy thing to do – spontaneously or otherwise. Because 5.30pm to 7pm is the most likely time for a baby-household to implode it’s hard to negotiate a leave-pass during that time, and staggering home at 4am is fun but then getting up at 5am to meet the demands of a small wriggly dictator really, really isn’t. Nights out or weekends away when babies grow a bit can still be murky territory, because the little buggers often have the audacity to get really sick in the face of the most painstakingly planned event, and sometimes hanging out with the kid/s you’re raising is higher up the list of priorities than a spontaneous big-girls-only outing.
But what grates me about the concept of consciously breaking up with friends who procreate is that it boils that woman down to being ‘just’ a mother. Being a mother isn’t just a ‘just’. It’s a pretty big deal when you’re in it. I get that when we’re in the trenches of baby life and wanting to share the highs and lows of it all that the conversation range might seem monotonous, but isn’t that what friends do? Listen to each other and share the pain and joy or what our friends are going through, whether it’s the sordid tale of an affair with a trainer at the gym, the uncertainty of a job redundancy, or the sheer delight in seeing a baby crawl for the first time? All three of those topics could get monotonous after a while (welllll maybe not the trainer one), but suck it up for the bigger picture. Babies don’t stay babies forever, and we’re still capable of being interested in things other than ‘just’ motherhood. Weekends away might be fewer and further between in the early years than Nadia would find ideal, but sex, wine, and the long conversations about relationships have stayed pretty consistent in topics covered with my mates – be they mothers or not (shock horror, not all my friends have kids).
On the flip side of losing some friendships on the path to parenthood, having kids has opened my world (and heart) up to new friendships I might not have otherwise found. Aside from the school mums who I’m ridiculously excited about hanging out with for the next 13 years, I’ve forged other friendships through kid-related life. I wouldn’t trade those friendships for the world. I met a particularly outrageously awesome lady who has become a good friend through a church-run music group for toddlers. Neither of us are churchy nor musical, but there we were, and now here we are (booking a weekend away where there will be wine, restaurants and talk of things other than kids, FYI Nadia).
Friendships drifting apart is one thing, but an actual notified casualty is quite another. Some of us have to take a bit of a social life sabbatical and be a friend-from-afar for a while after having a baby, but the good friendships endure or can be picked up again from where they left off. If they can’t, well, maybe that friendship had come to a natural end anyway. Don’t blame the baby.