One of the surest ways to make new friends is by having a baby. The pregnant belly is like a beacon for new buddies. You’ll end up with 25 new Facebook friends from your prenatal yoga class alone, and later find yourself at a park, shouting all the gory details of your labor and delivery to the complete stranger pushing her infant two swings over. You’ll instantly bond with the folks in your mommy-and-me swim class, and think nothing of asking for advice on nagging, post-partum hemorrhoids from parents you’ve known for five minutes. (Maybe that’s just me.) In any case, making mom friends is easy. It doesn’t matter what you don’t have in common—the most important thing in the world to you is the same. And you can talk about it endlessly. Keeping non-mom friends, on the other hand, is hard.
Whether they just aren’t ready for kids, have chosen to remain childless or are having trouble conceiving, your non-mom friends can’t fully relate to your new role. While becoming a parent may rock the foundation of your old relationships, however, it shouldn’t end them. Old friends help you remember the person you were before baby—the cool girl who had skills beyond being able to breastfeed while typing an e-mail and eating a sandwich. That’s just as important to your sanity as finding the perfect playgroup Here’s how to hang onto your mates without tots:
Curb your enthusiasm sometimes
Avoid talking incessantly about your pregnancy. Set the stage for chatting about things that don’t involve the kid, if only so your amigos stick around long enough to hold your screaming, colicky newborn for you while you pee. At the very least, wait for your non-mom friend to ask you about the little bundle before you go babbling on about baby the moment you see her.
Try hard to care about her drama
Fido’s sick? Latest boyfriend’s a loser? Coworkers being catty? Whatever has your old friend in a tizzy, listen to her, be sympathetic and pretend that it’s equally as important as the color of your kid’s poop that morning. She’s had to listen to you drone on about morning sickness, cracked nipples and lack of sleep. Let her vent too. Make it a point to call her at least once a week and only mention the baby five to 10 times during that call.
Leave baby at home
The minute you get that little one to take a bottle, hand him off, wipe the spit-up off your shoulders and run—do not walk—out the door. Even if you haven’t slept in 48 hours and look like death, meet your kid-less girlfriends somewhere away from the house. They will appreciate your effort and you will get a dose of reality outside your baby bubble. Make it a habit to do this at least once or twice a month. Eventually, when you’re getting more than two hours of sleep at a stretch, you’ll actually enjoy it, and your old friendships will be stronger for it.
Don’t compartmentalize too much
They still might prefer hitting happy hour with you to tagging along to a StrollerFit class, but don’t go too far the other way and completely bifurcate your baby from your old friends. If they care about you, your friends will have at least a polite interest in your child, could be insulted by the exclusion from your parenting life and may even become the best pseudo-Aunties your little one will ever have.
You may never find balance after baby, but make an effort with old friends and you might tip the scales in favor of main-taining a much-needed sense of self.
Katherine is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a really good drinking buddy to both moms and non-moms.