As I reflect on my first year as a parent, I keep coming back to one theme: Friends. In the last year friends have played a big part in my life – some making my life easier, others making it harder, some not playing a part at all. If nothing else, parenthood makes you realise how valuable some of your friendships are as well as, I’m afraid, those you can do without.
The new friend
I have been fortunate to make some great friends in the past year, mostly through my mothers’ group. Meeting a wonderful group of women who live in my area has saved me from feeling isolated in my first year of parenthood. Without them, I think I would have struggled. Also, you can never underestimate how valuable it is to have friends who are going through the exact same thing at the same time as you – it’s true, you very quickly forget what it’s like, which is the perfect segue to …
Related: Is your mothers’ group evil?
The blasé friend
About half of my friends are done with having kids. And, it’s true, some people quickly forget what it is like being a first-time mum, drowning in self-doubt while holding your baby protectively to you. They forget how we start out wanting to do everything by the book. They forget that we might not want to do things the way they did them. They forget how much having a routine can save your sanity. Some great phrases I heard in the last year include:
- When missy just needed her Mum: “I don’t care if she’s grumpy and tired, give her to me, I want a cuddle.”
- When I fed missy fruit and yoghurt: “Gee, at that age my kid was eating McDonald’s.”
- When missy was refusing the bottle: “If she’s hungry enough, she’ll eat.” She didn’t.
- When missy was tired: “Really? She’s having another sleep? [sigh]” Yes, that’s right, did you forget that babies sleep about 16 hours a day?
While I’m sure these friends will be invaluable when you’re feeling a little more settled in, small doses are best while you’re still figuring out your groove. Parenting is hard enough without filling yourself with self-doubt.
The childless friend
Aha! You thought this was going to be the section where I dissed my childless friends, saying there was no way they could understand what I was going through, didn’t you? Wrong! I can’t tell you enough how important this friend-type has been to me! The childless friend is someone you can go out with and not talk about your baby. Sure, you can spend a couple of minutes giving them a quick update (they’re not monsters, they do care!), but then you can talk about other things, work, politics, life. We all need a bit of escapism. And another great thing about the childless friend? They don’t give you endless streams of parenting advice!
The absent friend
Sadly, parenthood also means that some friends go the wayside. I’m told they come back – and I genuinely hope that’s the case. The thing that has surprised me is it’s often not who you think – having children really has a way of showing you how strong your support networks are. Don’t spend too much time getting caught up in sadness that you haven’t seen some of your friends – remember, you’ve just had a baby, the onus shouldn’t be on you to arrange each and every catch up. Embrace the friends who are there for you now.
The best friend
This is the friend that goes out of their way to be there for you while you’re grappling with this new parenthood thing. This is the friend that appreciates that sometimes things are really difficult for you at the moment, and doesn’t get cross at you for being a bit of a turd – in fact, sometimes they do all they can to lighten your load. This is the friend that, when the year is over, you just want to hold onto really tight and say: “Thank you.”