Does New Motherhood Mean Leaving Old Friends Behind?
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 6, November-December 2006, pp. 263-265
"Staying Home" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents who choose to stay at home with their children. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.
Between "moms' night out" and "girls'-only weekend," which seem to be common among my friends, I feel a lot of pressure to leave my children in order to keep my friends. I know I don't have to go, but I worry about distancing myself from other adults. What do other stay-at-home moms do to maintain friendships?
When I quit my job to stay home, I thought I would maintain the friendships I had with co-workers. But I had moved to a different area, and finding the time to get together was hard. After my husband and I had our first child, I felt even more estranged from my old friends. Our daily routines were so different. It was hard to find things to talk about. Over time, I realized that I hadn't been as close to them as I thought I had been, and those friendships faded away.
During that time, my primary friendships were with other women who were in similar phases of their lives, such as women from LLL meetings. I also reached out to a couple of friends from high school. We didn't see each other often, but our sense of shared history made it easy to reconnect when we did. We kept in touch through letters. Nowadays, I keep in touch with long-distance friends via email, instant messaging, or phone calls.
Your friendships are bound to change during this time in your life. Will you be able to attend at least a few gatherings with your friends? Maybe it will work better for a while to ask them to visit you in your home. Once your children are old enough to play there, you might find that playgrounds can be a good place for visits with friends who don't have children.
Keep in touch in whatever way is comfortable. Let your friends know that they are important to you, and that you do want to stay in touch. Your friendships will continue to change, but staying in touch with good friends is well worth the effort. There's nothing quite like the people who've known you for a long time.
Nancy Jo Bykowski
North Aurora IL USA
As a regular at pre-baby weekly "happy hours," I thought I would be all for "moms' night out." The first couple of months after I had my baby, I longed for adult interaction, but couldn't bring myself to leave her (and her constant nursing would not have allowed it anyway!).
Since I was working when I was pregnant, I joined an evening La Leche League Group. Once the stay-at-home mom loneliness hit me, though, I started visiting a morning Group in hopes of making some friends. There I learned about a playgroup of like-minded mothers. Now I get together with these women once a week and communicate frequently with them through an Internet message board. I truly look forward to the weekly playgroups, too.
We also meet at a restaurant once a month for a book club meeting. Since we are like-minded mothers, children are welcome, but I usually enjoy the hour-and-a-half with friends on my own. My husband and 15-month-old come with, but they play at a park across the street while I visit and enjoy a glass of wine. (Oh, and discuss that month's book, of course!) This arrangement has worked perfectly because I am nearby if my baby needs me. I have peace of mind that she is close by and happy, and I still get some time with my friends.
Austin TX USA
My husband and I have moved a lot since our first child was born five years ago, and in each new locale we've had to sort out with whom we can be friends. This was a practical matter: we did not attend social events without our young children because they were not ready to separate from us. The first thing I did upon moving into each new apartment was to call or email the local La Leche League Leader, and then I attended everything the Group offered: Series Meetings, Evaluation Meetings, and playgroups. Several friendships have blossomed from this rich soil.
Our last move landed us in a pleasant neighborhood in which several mothers practice variations on attachment parenting. This group of mothers, plus some others, has a weekly playgroup on Tuesday mornings. The playgroup is as much for the mothers to get together as it is for the children to play together. It used to be at lunchtime, but now we have the playgroups in the morning. The host is responsible for providing food, and the guests sometimes bring something to share, too. This tradition started from just three friends. Gradually, they invited more mothers and their children.
Some of the mothers attend mommy-and-me classes together. The children get music or gym time, and the mothers get to share time together and car rides to and from the class. One neighborhood mother is a fitness instructor. Now that my children are a little bigger, I attend her classes while my husband watches our little ones. Each class is only an hour, and I'm improving my health while I have fun with my friend.
Even on weekends we include our children in our socializing. I believe that they learn from watching us. One family threw a party for a sporting event last January with a potluck meal. Some children watched the game on television and others played and danced in another room. Sometimes this kind of socializing means our children have a late bedtime, but my husband and I need friendships as much as they need a regular bedtime.
My youngest is not yet ready to go to sleep at night without breastfeeding and cuddling with me, but he will be soon enough. Then, I will be really happy to have a "mom's night out."
Morristown NJ USA
On the rare occasion (usually related to my husband's occupation) when I had to leave my infant for a social function, I experienced both physical (engorged breasts) and emotional discomfort ("missing my baby syndrome").
Eventually, however, since friends tend to be those with whom we have a common bond, those opportunities for me to socialize without my babies became fewer, and I made opportunities to socialize with women who were in a situation similar to mine. I attended La Leche League meetings and met new friends, and we planned and attended gatherings at which we all felt comfortable with our babies in tow. At other times, particularly in casual gatherings, I just brought my current baby along even though I sometimes fielded negative comments from other participants. (My infants were always quiet, nursed discreetly, and usually just snuggled and slept inside the front pack attached to my body, so they were not disruptive to others.)
Throughout our lives, we all have many friends, from grade school to old age. Some friends remain within our social circle through all those years, and others are "situational" friends who happen to be in the same place at the same time. The major difference is that we keep the friends whose values mirror our own, or who accept us and our value system without attempting to change either one. What better friend to have than someone who not only tolerates, but welcomes our parenting beliefs!
Mary Gosselin Mahoney
Lynnfield MA USA
I found the first year of motherhood to be a very isolating experience. That changed for me when a woman I met at a La Leche League meeting invited me to a playgroup she was starting. This small group was made up of like-minded women, all at home with their babies, and they all jumped at the chance to have a weekly date! (All of us breastfed and, as our children grew, practiced gentle discipline.)
When they are small, children don't really play together, but we used them as an excuse to get together. Later, we joked that our playgroup was all about the food. Of course, we all knew that it was truly about friendship and social interaction—something everyone needs and many new mothers don't get enough of.
Every week we had something on our calendars to look forward to. Every week we were greeted by friends. Every week we got to have conversations with adults while our children watched other children or played with toys. The playgroup lasted for three years until most of the children started school, but the friendships remain. If you know two or three mothers, start a playgroup, too. Or ask around at your next La Leche League meeting if one already exists. You're sure to find a few interested mothers.
Woodstock Valley CT USA
I joined a neighborhood playgroup to meet more "parent" friends. It's been wonderful for my children (ages four, two-and-a-half, and four months), but also just as important to me to fulfill my social needs. I've met some of the most wonderful stay-at-home parents through this group. It seems that once you get to know a couple of people, your network of friends grows exponentially. What's great is that we're all at the same stage of life and there are so many commonalties. It's easy to quickly form strong friendships. If you don't know of a local playgroup, you can create one yourself.
Our playgroup has spun off a "mom's group" that meets once a month. I bring my nursing four-month-old to all dinners and gatherings and feel very comfortable.
Sometimes you might just have to choose between time spent with friends and time spent with your children. If you feel bad leaving them, don't. You can always catch up with friends when your children are older and may not need you as much.
Remember, you are an adult with legitimate needs. Getting out on your own to see friends every now and then might do wonders to rejuvenate you, and might ultimately help you be a happier, and therefore better, mother.
Madison WI USA
Changes in friendships are common when you become a mother. I was one of the first of my friends to have children, and when I did, many relationships changed. While I enjoyed spending time with old friends, I found that cultivating new friendships with mothers of small children helped me to become a better mother and to feel grounded in having "colleagues" in my new "profession." As my daughter and son brought changes to my relationships, I discovered some tricks of the mothering trade. Here are a few things that have worked well for me during this time of transition.
Buy a sling or soft cloth baby carrier. Having a nursing baby is like having a ticket for two to any event you wish to attend. "I haven't left her yet; she's nursing," became my theme. A baby in a sling is generally peaceful and quiet. With practice, you can learn to nurse discreetly while your baby is in the carrier. Breastfed babies are very portable since you don't have to carry formula and bottles along. Pave the way for other women in your circle of friends as you set a precedent by making babies welcome additions to "moms' night out."
Join a mothers' support group, such as La Leche League. Babies and children are welcome at all activities and events, of course! Come early to a meeting and plan to stay a few minutes after. Make homemade "business cards" (or get cards for the price of shipping and handling at www.vistaprint.com) with your name and phone number and distribute them freely before and after La Leche League meetings. Every week, call someone new and arrange a coffee break together or a play date for your children. Make networking part of your job as a mother.
Getting away for a weekend is a challenge, especially if friends are sharing hotel rooms. Bringing a baby along might seem like an invasion of privacy. I've found that attending for a shorter period of time keeps me connected, yet allows me to meet the needs of my family first. If they're staying close by, meet up with your girlfriends for dinner one evening during their weekend getaway.
I wish you much joy in your adventure as a mother. Balancing friends and family is a juggling act. You will figure it out.
Hobart IN USA