How to Stay Friends With Your Friends Who Have Kids
05.24.17
Photo by Edith Young.

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I’m pretty sure I’m a crap friend. This isn’t out of malice. It also wasn’t always the case. In fact, I remember performing such selfless friend tasks as dropping people off and picking them up at LAX (I was very proud of my secret, non-highway route; it’s an LA thing) and patiently enduring hour-plus, late-night phone conversations about that one guy™ in my friend’s life whose behavior I’d already dissected to death. I gave wedding speeches and bought gifts and went to parties and planned trips.

But now that I work full-time and have a child? Extracurricular activities have been flushed down the toilet. I’m so not there for late-night calls or spontaneous weeknight drinks. I don’t know how to make time for others anymore when I’m barely available for myself. There’s a yawning chasm between me and my childless friends at this point, and I won’t lie: It’s taken a toll on our relationships.

“It would be logical to say that I only hang out with the most important people,” says Amy*, whose kid is a little over a year old. (We’re in the exact same boat; I’d asked her how she manages to socialize.) “But actually, it’s just whoever asks, because I don’t have time to think of who I haven’t seen, not to be dramatic. I’m just much more passive now. Also: Anyone who didn’t come to meet the baby in the first year is dead to me.”

I personally haven’t declared any of my friends dead to me, but I do find myself struggling with the realities of my situation. As with any big life change, kids seem to bring up weird feelings of frustration, anger, jealousy and loss in both the childless friend and the child-having friend. When someone recently asked me for advice on how to stay close with their friend who’d become a mom, I realized didn’t have a quick answer. So, in search of guidance (for her and for me), I asked a bunch of moms how they would have responded. How have they kept their friendships alive? This is what they told me.


Rule No. 1: Plan further ahead than you ever have before

“Be okay with planning to hang way, way in the future,” says Meg, who just had her second kid. “Planning hangouts several weeks out when you don’t have kids might seem ridiculous, but when you have kids, it’s a game-changer. Even when I have the ability to do something spontaneous, I’m often too burned out to motivate.”

In my experience, this is one of the biggest sticking points of friendship post-children. Last-minute texts asking to hang are just…impossible. Stop flaunting your freedom and spontaneity in my face like that! Every after-hour or weekend social activity needs to be planned in advance, or else it’s probably not going to happen.

Rule No. 2: Consider their schedule

“Unless my husband is watching the kids, I try to plan my hangouts around nap time,” says Meg. “I’ll hike at 9 a.m. with my early-riser friends, my kid strapped to my back, or drink wine at 3 p.m. with my night-owl friends, at my house while my kid plays with sidewalk chalk. But I’m off the 1 p.m. brunch circuit for maybe eternity. You do not want to eat brunch with me and my kid who hasn’t napped. Brunch is bad enough as it is.”

When it comes to kids’ schedules, keep in mind that you’re trying to work around a.) daytime naps, which can make mid-morning activities tricky and b.) early bedtimes, which make evenings tricky. Often, it’s just easier to go to your friend, rather than have them meet you somewhere. “I have friends over to hang out AFTER my kids goes to bed,” says Michelle, a mother of two. “Most childless friends really only want to hang with your baby for a few minutes because let’s face it, they’re boring.”

Rule No. 3: But don’t assume your mom friend wants to bring, or talk about, her kid(s)

“Having time alone with non-mom friends makes it feel like nothing has changed,” says Yennie, whose kid is 10 months old. “I find time to see them privately (i.e. no kid or partner in tow), and absorb their relaxed attitude. It helps me to remember that even though I’m a mom, I’m also my own person who has a life outside of kids.”

I agree. While fellow moms are crucial for commiserating, tip-trading and baby-on-baby playdate action, childless friends are important because they (momentarily) pull you out of the grind.

“I used to go out almost every night,” says Meg. “Now I’m lucky if I get out five evenings in a month. That means, when I do go out, I want to go big. Lots of drinks, great food, something cultural, something hilarious, just something.”

Rule No. 4: Flexibility is key; multitasking, even better

“Getting your nails done is a great way to kill two birds with one stone. See your friend and get much-needed pampering at the same time. Bring wine,” says Michelle. Since I barely get to work out these days, I like to schedule friend time around a yoga class.

“I try to maintain the most-important relationships,” says Erin, mom of two. “It’s difficult, if not humanly impossible, to spend an hour on the phone ‘catching up.’ I try to do regular calls, even if they’re only five minutes.”

Rule No. 5: Be Patient

Your friend isn’t gone forever, but she might be under water for a bit — especially in the very beginning. Wait for her.

“I had kids in my early 20s, so I was the first of my friends to become a mom,” says Erin. “Some relationships fizzled. It became clear quite quickly that I wouldn’t be able to maintain each and every pre-child relationship to the same degree. My group of friends became much smaller, but much tighter. They’re unbelievably understanding. With that said, I’m always careful to invest in their lives as well. The friendship goes both ways.”

*Name has been changed.

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  • Gretchen

    I always appreciate articles that include moms on websites that are not mom-focused. So…thank you. I struggle with socializing with a child as well. I am a single parent who shares custody. In some ways it makes it easier to hang with non-mom friends but it also makes it hard to hang with other parents because I don’t always have my child with me. I crave having company to share parenting stories and experiences with because I don’t have a partner and it can be lonely. I always wish that more friends were open to spending time with my child and especially since I try to cram everything, like working out, working late, studying for school and going to the grocery store in when my child is away and don’t always have time for everything.
    I think that just about everyone can relate to this article in some way, either as a pal of a parent or a parent themselves.

  • sarah

    Cool to see this from this perspective! Most of my friends with kids are in other states, but for the few close-by I realize (as a single person without kids) my schedule’s the flexible one. I try to hang out in ways that won’t add extra stress. Last week that meant – when my friend said she was too swamped and stressed to hang out – driving over and deep cleaning her two boys’ room. Nothing says true love and friendship like pulling mini beds away from walls to vacuum up those dust tumbleweeds. Parenting is hard and real friendship looks like Lysol sometimes

    • Leslie Price

      This is the most incredible gift to give a friend!

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    • TinySoprano

      “friendship looks like Lysol sometimes”

      A thousand upvotes to this! As the friend of someone with a hyper 7 year old, sometimes it also looks like an hour of fighting invisible space badgers so Mummy can sit down and have a cup of tea without being harassed.

  • Lauren

    Get out of my mind, MR! I totally relate. Something that I struggle with is the feeling that my friendships with my friends that are moms are 100% on their terms. Logically, I understand that their free time is limited and they will spend it exactly as they please. That is definitely their prerogative. But it still stings a little bit to extend invites and have them be ignored or rejected. I guess always doing things on their turf/time is just the price of admission for those friendships.

    • Mary

      Thank you, yes. I get that you now have a baby, and I get that nothing will ever be as important as that, but also please don’t forget that it hurts my feelings a bit when something that used to be Our Thing evaporates.

      Honestly, what’s hurt the most is how the groupchat went silent. I SO GET IT! New baby, no sleep, I get it. I’m sympathetic! But it still makes me feel a little sad. I feel like I can’t be stupid and petty and silly now (which, realtalk, is what the groupchat is for) when every foray of, “omg but how stupid is this mean person/event/inanimate object” is greeted with the (delayed) response of, “I know! But also, look how cute my kid is!” To me, that says, “I’m a mom and those other things [that you care about, stupid or not] aren’t part of my cosmos anymore!”

      • Sarah

        thnks for this reply viewed from the other perspective, i feel ya.

  • Lil

    This was such an interesting read! As a young woman, I feel that motherhood is often seen as inevitable and something to plan our lives around. Reading about how moms are still individuals with their own lives is comforting.

    Can we have articles from the points of views of younger moms, older moms (40+), and single parents? Or maybe you guys already have this in the works?

  • Reedunn

    To add a different perspective, and with respect to individual situations, it’s also OK to be in shoes like mine where, as much as you love your friends, you don’t always want to see your friends on terms that are limited to their apartments and with their children. I do this often for friends as well, but sometimes I want to go out and do something out as opposed to sitting in someone’s apartment after kids have gone to bed. Just as they are allowed to make their own choices, it’s fair to ask everyone – moms included – to consider others’ experiences, too. It can be about staying close to friends who are moms AND staying friends with friends who may not be.

    • I think that’s why that was only one of the few options given in this article.

  • Adardame

    I had 2 friends who declared themselves baby averse after I had my first child and didn’t want to talk about anything related to babies. I tried really hard not to talk about babies and realized that meant not talking at all, because my entire life had been consumed by my new second job (parenting). It made a real rift, and I was hurt, but now that my kids are older and require less constant attention we get along fine again.

  • Nico

    Really appreciate this article Leslie! So much truth here and lots of honesty. Esp #5 about being patient. Lots of grace needed in those early years!

  • Leslie, you nailed this! Thank you!!

    • Leslie Price

      I’m so glad I did your idea proud.

  • teadae

    spammed everyone with this article this AM. so well written. sums up all my silent issues with my non-mom friends in such an appropriate and approachable manner. <3

    • Leslie Price

      Thank you!

  • ValiantlyVarnished

    The majority of my friends are now married with kids (one of my closest friends is currently pregnant with her first child). And not only now are they married but they all live in the suburbs (I live in the city) and it’s a bitch to get out to see them (I don’t own a car or drive because I don’t really need to in my every day life) and most of the time they can’t come to the city. So that leaves us with long stretches of time that we don’t see each other. As a result it’s only natural that we have grown apart. No more last minute brunches or dinners. At first I was okay with this as I feel it’s only natural and becoming a mother is big freaking deal and that SHOULD be your priority Especially in the first few years.. Lately however, I have been feeling the loneliness of this more than I had in the past. Sometimes I think I need to meet more people like myself (30’s, single, city dwellers) but those are hard to come by and making new friends is EXHAUSTING. I’m a loner by nature but it would be nice to have someone to call for the occasional last minute yoga class or brunch.

  • phillyspice

    You can also offer to babysit once in a while to give your parent friends a date night. You get to bond with their kids, practice your future parenting skills, and win eternal brownie points!

  • Hayley Clark

    Hello, can someone tell me where those sunglasses are from?