I became a mother before the majority of my friends; at 25, I had our precious baby girl. At the same time, all of my really close friends were nowhere near having (planned) children. While the average age for a woman to have a baby is 26 in the United States (up from 21 in the 1970s), most people I know are prolonging this further, with plans of getting pregnant more into their 30s.
I heard that our relationships would change a lot, and they have in some ways, but not negatively. My closest friends are my support system, my tribe. Though we might not talk every day or go out frequently anymore, there is a newer, different relationship budding there and I love it.
Here are five reasons I love spending time with my friends who haven't yet had kids.
1. I don't always have to be hyper-responsive. I spend my days with my almost-seven-month-old. This requires constant up-and-down, squatting and lifting, carrying and rocking, etc. Don't get me wrong; there is nothing else I'd rather be doing, but it does get tiring. When I'm with my friends, I don't have to carry them anywhere, or babywear and clean at the same time, or nurse them to sleep. They don't require quite that much attention. And that's nice sometimes.
2. I get dressed and enjoy it. I spend most time at home in a nursing bra and yoga pants. This is for two reasons: it's comfortable and it makes breastfeeding easier. But when I get to put on a pair of jeans, a cute top, and some makeup to go to someone's place or out for dinner, I get to feel a tad bit more civilized, like a real, live member of the world.
3. They don't mind when I talk about baby things and are actually genuinely interested. I've heard that a lot of times, when a woman has a baby and her friends don't yet have kids, they may begin to feel isolated from her. Maybe it's because she talks about her baby and they can't relate. Maybe it's because she's spending a lot more time at home and a lot less time out and about. Maybe it's because her priorities have shifted from white wine to wet wipes. But, really, I could never imagine that someone who is truly your friend would be upset with you for the changes in your life. As a mother, you just went through probably the most painful yet amazing moment of your life, followed by weeks or months of being in the house, nurturing and caring for a small human. If your friends are really good friends, they will understand or at least make an effort to do so. My friends have never made me feel bad for talking about or showing pictures of my baby. My friends have never given me crap for having to decline/cancel/change plans since having a baby. As far as I know, they have always done their best to get on my level, asking me what birth was like/about pumping and breastfeeding/opinions on baby clothes for their nieces and nephews/etc. They not only tolerate my baby musings, but they also get involved. Of course, this is a two-way street. I think during the first month or two, a new mom has a pass to be pretty MIA. But after that, making an attempt to stay in touch, even if it's just texting or gchat, is desirable.
4. They remind me of who I am outside of being a mother. While being a mom is arguably the biggest, greatest part of who I am now, I was someone before this. When I am with my friends, they remind me of how it feels to laugh that boisterous girl-talk laugh. They remind me of trashy TV and sophisicated conversations about politics and feminism. They remind me of laying in bed and watching movies. They remind me of dinners at fancy restaurants and nights out dancing. They remind me of that amazing best-friend love: a unique, perfect kind of love that you can have only with them. When I remember who I am outside of this totally new version of myself, it gives me permission to relax a little bit, to have a little compassion for myself too. Because, after all, I'm still just 20-something with similar dreams and plans.
5. They make me a better mom. When I see my friends, it's rejuvenating. I know that sounds tacky, like it's straight out of a face cleanser commercial, but it's true. I believe, as a mother (and especially a new mom), it's imperative to take time for yourself. And as much as I believe that and say that now, it's someting I still really struggle with. Being a mother, whether you stay at home or work, can sometimes be challenging and overwhelming. There's no way to ever find as much free time as you used to have, but finding a little bit of me-time should not be optional or make you feel guilty; it's mandatory for your health and happiness. When I'm with my friends, even for a couple hours, it's like a weird energy boost. I go home from my time with them, feeling healthier mentally and emotionally, and more capable of being a present, happy parent.
Life feels like it's moving forward, for all of us. Big, positive changes seem to be coming everyone's way, all the time. Having my daughter and maintaining my close friendships just shows me that, even through new stages of life, these are the people I am meant to continue growing with, the relationships that will last through the changes of the seasons.