Your child-free friends just don’t get it
I was only 16 when I gave birth to my son. I was also the first of my friends to start a family. While my friends were focused on finishing up high school and enjoying the last couple of years of complete freedom before adult responsibilities, I was changing diapers and planning my life as a Solo Mom.
This had a profound effect on my friendships. We still cared about and tried to support one another, but our lives had become completely dissimilar. They’d call me up to tell me about a guy they met at a party the night before, or a new pair of shoes they saw while out shopping for themselves, and I wouldn’t know how to respond. I didn’t have the time or money to go to parties, date, or shop for anything other than replacements for the baby socks that got lost in the dryer.
I forgot what it felt like to live that kind of life. I’d tell them about my baby smiling for the first time or how I stopped caring about having spit-up on my clothes because the laundromat was proving to be too expensive, and they’d pause before offering up basic, oftentimes cliché, statements of support. Before I became a mom, our conversations were lively and fascinating. Now, they were dry and felt scripted. We just couldn’t relate to one another the same way anymore.
I felt alone, probably because I was. Not in the absolute sense—I still had people around—but I was pushed down this path of motherhood all alone.
My therapist at the time suggested I might need some friends who were also parents, or, more specifically, “mom friends,” and she recommended I attend a group for teen parents. She thought I needed someone to talk to about the sleepless nights and diaper explosions, someone who would really understand what it was like not only being a Solo Mom but also becoming one at a young age.
But I hated the idea. I barely had time to take care of myself or nurture the relationships with people I loved; how was I going to find the time and energy to meet new people and get to know them? I was worried that new friends would inevitably replace my old ones when I couldn’t find time for everyone.
Aside from being worried that I wouldn’t be able to fit new friends into my busy life practically, I wasn’t ready to embrace motherhood. And in my mind, that’s exactly what making mom friends would be. In terms of joining “team mom” life, it was on par with wearing high-waisted mom jeans and getting a mom haircut. I wanted to hold on to the life I had before the baby a little longer.
So I focused on maintaining my friendships with my child-free friends and steered clear of any event, group, or forum where moms were likely to gather. I thought that if I gave it time, my friends would understand how to support me in my new role better. I thought they could be everything mom friends were and more.
But it didn’t exactly turn out that way. No matter how many times I called my child-free friends when I needed to vent about another sleepless night or tantrum-filled day, they just continued to reply with the same predictable supportive phrases.
“You just need a break,” they’d tell me and invite me out for coffee. I’d find a babysitter and meet them at the local coffee shop with mom guilt occupying my thoughts. My body was there with them, but most of the time my mind was on my baby. But they never understood this; they’d just tell me to enjoy my break.
But that all changed when my friends started to have kids of their own. This happened around the same time I gave birth to my third child. Suddenly they understood what it was like to sleep in shifts and why my house was never completely clean. They finally experienced mom guilt and instead of just telling me I needed a break, they’d talk to me about how hard it is to get one.
I finally understood why my therapist recommended I make mom friends. We need friends who are experiencing the same things we are, who can relate to us. It’s why we make new friends when we start college or a new career. It should be the same for when we start motherhood.
Now I seek out connections with other moms in my community and online. And when I need to complain about my day, I have at least a dozen other moms I can reach out to. It’s much better than doing it completely alone. I’ve embraced motherhood—except for the mom jeans and haircut!
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