7 Surprising Ways Friendships Change After Baby
The topic of female friendship–especially its ebb and flow–absolutely fascinates me. I'm not the only one. In 2013, editors Jessica Smock and Stephanie Spengler exploded onto the book scene with an anthology filled from cover to cover with poignant essays about friendship. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the golden were all delved into. Readers devoured each essay, but this duo kept finding themselves drawn into dialogue about a gutsier portion of the book–the one that covered friendship breakups.
Women feel about friendship exes in the same way they do about marriage exes: intensely. Smock wrote, “Stephanie and I found that we couldn't stop thinking about this aspect of friendship: Why is it so painful for a friendship to end, and why is it so hard for women to talk about? Again and again, other women–friends, readers, relatives, acquaintances–have told us stories of their own friendship breakups and dissolutions. In their stories, we heard their pain, their shame, their confusion, and their continued sense of deep loss.”
So they did the only thing two writers, women, and researchers could: They created a new anthology titled My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends. This time around, the essayists dove into the taboo topic of friendships lost.
There are many reasons for friendship breakups, shifts, and changes. Having children is just one of them that many of us can relate to. For the first time, seven of the contributors to My Other Ex are sharing how their own friendships have changed since having babies.
Kristin Shaw is a freelance writer, 2014 BlogHer Voice of the Year, and producer of the 2014 Listen to Your Mother show in Austin, where she is the mother of a mini Texan. You can find her on her blog, Two Cannoli.
About how her friendship changed after baby, she says, “I have a friend who has been like a sister to me since we were freshmen in college, and she is very special. Kristi does not have any children, and she and her husband do not plan to have any. I discovered to my great delight that she is a wonderful ‘aunt' to my son, and she has picked out beautiful and thoughtful gifts for him and welcomed him into her life and into our friendship. We have both evolved into our new lives, and I'm so thankful for her. In My Other Ex, I wrote about a friend I lost when I had my son; I'm so glad it wasn't like that with Kristi. She's proof that friendships can thrive through two decades (and more!) of changes.”
Lea Grover writes about 21st century feminist parenting and life in general at Becoming SuperMommy.
About how her friendship changed after baby, she says, “I was the first among my friends to have a baby, and as if having one wasn't alienating enough, we had twins. At first, not much changed. But as my kids became more mobile and more verbal, and as the schedules around bedtime and naptime became more rigid, one of my closest friends got tired of constantly having to work around our schedule. Eventually, we fell into a kind of rhythm. Every few months, she and her husband are ready to be actively engaged with the kids. They come dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus for Christmas and make birthday presents and invite the kids over to play in a toy circus tent. But then for a few months, they need to cool down and step back from our chaos. I miss her when they're in a cool-down, but I understand, and part of what helps our friendship survive is remembering how vastly different our lives really are.”
Vicky Willenberg is a published author featured in both HerStories Project anthologies and currently working as a Digital Marketing and Communications Manager. Most of the time, however, she's a SoCal mom raising two kids while still growing up herself. She writes at The Pursuit of Normal.
About how her friendship changed after baby, she says, “When people see the honest and deep relationship I have with my mother, they assume we were one of those mother-daughter types who had always been BFFs. Had they been around 25 years ago, however, they would know my relationship with my mother was anything but easy. For years, I struggled with the feeling that she just didn't understand me. Now that I myself am a mother, I understand that in reality, I never understood HER. It never occurred to me that my mother was more than a mom–that she was a woman, her own person. I had no way of knowing that as she navigated the tricky waters of raising two children (one an emotional, overly verbal female), she was still growing herself. While trying to teach me to be independent, responsible, and confident, she was grappling with how to be a good wife, a good mother, and a good friend–in addition to discovering and defining who she was as a woman. It wasn't until I began the arduous task of raising my own children while I was still a work in progress myself that I fully came to appreciate how difficult it is to be responsible for other human beings when you are still trying to figure out who you are. When asked what changed our relationship, my response is always the same: I became a mom. For the first time, my mother and I are equals–friends. And I finally understand who she is as someone other than my mother. At last, I fully grasped all she did to love me and raise me, and I felt such grace and gratitude. My mom became normal to me.”
Sue Fagalde Lick is the author of the book Childless by Marriage and blogs about the subject on her personal blog by the very same title.
About how her friendship changed after baby, she says, “When your friends have children and you don't, they are only available to you in the moments they can spare from mothering. Even then, their minds are focused on things to which you can't relate, things like kids' clothes, preschools, and soccer practice. They make new friends with the other moms. One day, you realize you haven't spoken to each other in ages and you're not really friends anymore. Moms and non-moms live in two different worlds. Even now, in the grandmother age, my new best friend disappears for weeks at a time, visiting her grandchildren and posting their pictures on Facebook. I stay home and post pictures of my dog, counting the days until she comes back.”
Estelle Erasmus is a former magazine editor who has been published on MarieClaire.com, Workingmother.com, and The Huffington Post. She is a contributor to several anthologies and blogs at Musings On Motherhood & Midlife.
About how her friendship changed after baby, she says, “I have two good friends from before I became a mother. One, who I write about in My Other Ex, is married and childless by choice. The other friend is single but was a foster mother to several children a few years ago and still is very close with one of the girls who was a troubled teen but is now a responsible adult. Contrary to most new moms' experiences, both of these childless friends loved spending time with me and my now 5-year-old daughter. They have both provided the respite I was desperate for, especially during those early days of motherhood. Best of all, having a child has deepened my relationship with both these women immeasurably and has provided my daughter with the loving ‘village' that raising a child requires.”
Victoria Fedden is a writer and a mom from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She can be found regularly on Facebook.
About how her friendship changed after baby, she says, “I thought my best friend and I would end up as old ladies drinking sweet tea and rocking on the porch together, laughing about how we used to make midnight Krispy Kreme runs in our pajamas. But after she got pregnant, everything changed. All she'd ever wanted was to get married and be a mom, and even though those things were still a long way off for me, I was thrilled when it finally happened for her. I knew our relationship would change, but I had no idea it would end. She still emailed. We talked on the phone, but we never saw each other, and after her second son, our communication became less and less. Finally, one day I called her, and she picked up, flustered. She was expecting the doctor instead of me. Both of her boys were sick. I apologized profusely. She told me I just didn't get it. That was the last time we spoke. I tried to reach out to her a few more times in the years since, but she has no interest in being friends again. She said I didn't understand how hard it was to be a mom. I said she didn't understand how hard it was to lose a friend.”
Shannan Younger is a freelance writer who is honored to have essays included in both HerStories anthologies and a blogger who writes about parenting at Mom Factually.
About how her friendship changed after baby, she says, “I had my daughter at age 25. I was straight out of graduate school and the first in most of my friend groups to become a mom. I was sad to not be living the life of an adventurous, unattached 20-something, but one friend in particular, Kristen, worked hard to let me know that she valued and supported my role as a mother. She transitioned seamlessly from dressing me for nights out at the bars in law school to reassuring me when my daughter was a late walker, and her unwavering encouragement made me feel that much closer to her. Now that she's a parent, Kristen and I share parenting stories, and it's a treat to see her daughters wearing some of my daughter's dresses on Facebook. It's just an added level of connection, for which I am very grateful.”
Don't miss these women's stunning essays in your next must-read book, My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friendships.
How did your friendships change after baby?