Iíve felt it many times. That dread in the pit of your stomach when a friend announces sheís having a baby.
What will happen to our friendship? Will we still be friends? Will she still have time for me? What on earth will we talk about?
It can be scary, and sad, and depressing. And on top of all that, you feel GUILTY because you arenít just plain old happy for her.
As you navigate the waters ahead, keep the following things in mind:
1. First and foremost, understand that things WILL be different. Your friend is going to have some serious new responsibilities in her life that are going to take up her time, money, and energy. While spontaneous weekend trips to the beach might be a thing of the past (for now Ė kids do eventually grow up!), there are plenty of other things you can still do together. Meet for lunch, see a movie, go out for coffee. Your friend will surely enjoy the adult company!
2. She is going to be experiencing things you wonít be able to understand. But you can empathize with her. A pregnant friend might be feeling terrible toward the end of her pregnancy. Even though youíve never had a baby, you have felt under the weather before. Try to relate the best you can. Bring over a movie and something sheís been craving. She will most definitely appreciate it!
3. As much as you might want to, DO NOT offer parenting advice!! Even if you think you know what youíre talking about, I guarantee your comments will not be appreciated, even if you are relating advice from a co-worker or another friend. But you can offer some resources for her, if you are so inclined. As a historian, I do lots of research on a daily basis. When my sister was having trouble getting my nephew to sleep, I found a couple of books for her on Amazon that I thought might help. I also recognize that Iím not a parent, and what might seem so ďeasyĒ to me, probably isnít.
4. The people Iíve stayed friends with after parenthood are the ones whose lives have stayed well-rounded. Of course they want to talk about their kids. Thatís as natural for them as me wanting to talk about my cats or my job or my vacation plans. Thatís whatís important to them right now, and I respect that. But the ones who drone on and on exclusively about their kids are the ones I donít talk to much anymore. Just like I avoid the people who only want to brag about their promotion or talk incessantly about their animal rescue work or their health problems. Everything in moderation, people!
5. Donít start keeping track. If your friend doesnít return an email or a phone call right away, try to be understanding of her new schedule. And be sensitive to her new lifestyle. When my sister had my nephew last year, I told her that I was reluctant to call her in the evenings. She works all day, and I know she only has a few precious hours with her son before he has to go to bed. Plus he is NOT a good sleeper, and the last thing I wanted was to wake him up with the phone ringing. So I told her to call me when she had the chance. If too many days went by without hearing from her, Iíd send her an email to find out when sheíd be free to talk for awhile.
6. Babies are huge time-suckers. They will occupy almost every waking moment of your friendís time. They are dependent on her for every waking need. But this too shall pass. In a few years, your friendís kids will be older and she will start to loose the dark circles around her eyes. She might even start showering every day again! Be patient. Eventually she will have more time to go out and have some fun with you.
7. Offer to do something to help your frazzled friend. Bring over the ingredients to make dinner for her and her family, or offer to pick up a pizza or some take-out for them. She will really appreciate the help, and thatís what friends are for, right? (Plus the added bonus is you get to spend some time with her!)
8. Sometimes friends grow apart, for all kinds of reasons, and thereís nothing you can do about that. I only exchange Christmas cards now with people I used to talk to on a daily basis. Some have kids, and some donít. Lives can take many paths, and sometimes our relationships donít survive. But you will always have the memories you share with them. Different people come into our lives for different reasons at different times. Remember, no one can replace a friend youíve lost along the way, but donít close yourself off to making new friends who share common interests with you.