Parenting: what my friends with no kids have taught me
I’ve banged on about how important it is to find your tribe when you become a parent. You need your mum-mates (horribly gendered phrase, but for me it’s been really true) to join you for cake or wine (or both) and to celebrate the tiny achievements, like getting out of the house on time, surviving your first post-baby hangover, or that tooth coming through AT LAST. They’ll laugh at your neuroses because they have them too – should I sterilise the dummy because it fell on the floor, even though the baby was earlier seen licking the pram tires? If they don’t eat vegetables, choosing instead to throw them at the cat, will they get scurvy? It’s so essential to know you aren’t alone. My mum-mates have helped me deal with PND, the first-day-back-at-work outfit, and the physical changes that are inevitable after a pregnancy and birth. You share the intimate intricacies of your birth with people you only met 6 weeks ago at an NCT course – they know more about you right now than the friend you’ve known since school.
And these new friends are very important, vital in fact. I couldn’t have done it without them. But for every article (mine included) singing about the new friends you’ll make, and the importance of this network, there should be another article praising your original friends, especially the ones who don’t have kids yet. They are the ones who pretend to have an interest in the contents of your baby’s bowl / nappy / playpen, because they love you and they know your kids are part of you. They dedicate themselves to falling in love with your kids too, even though the baby puke stains their new Whistles playsuit that you could neither fit into nor afford right now. They bring you ridiculous baby gifts, but also remember that you need looking after too, and in my case, they delivered booze, luxury shower gel (I had no time to moisturise but at least I smelled of Chanel) and Nandos. I had no chat that wasn’t baby related for such a long time, but my kid-free mates filled me in on gossip, news of wild nights out and snogging inappropriate colleagues. Rather than making me feel left out, it reminded me that there was life before babies, and gave me faith that there would be life after them too (although I think the days of snogging my colleagues are behind me).
But it came with its challenges. There was the odd stilted catch up where I was so blindsided by sleep deprivation that I couldn’t string a sentence together. I felt occasionally that news of a promotion or a new job was a reminder that my career had/has stalled, and that two maternity leaves in three years plus the mad dash from the office at 5pm on the dot had left me written off in the workplace. I turned down girly weekends because I work full time, and part of the deal I made with myself was that weekends are (mostly) family time, and that gives me massive FOMO. It’s hard to be on the same page as a friend getting a divorce when you are deep in babies, and they are panicking about never getting that chance. But for goodness sake, we still have empathy. And so do they. They’ve been your friends forever. Don’t write them off, because they are the link to your past, to dancing on tables, to Uni finals, to first loves and inappropriate crushes. Sure, you’ll dance on tables with your new mum mates (at some point). But your old friends have been with you since the beginning, and even though they might not understand the humongous change in your life (see also: wardrobe/ sleep pattern/ finances), they have loved you through it all. Be sure to love them back. Hard.