17 November 2021

Does having children spell the end of your past friendships?

| Zoya Patel
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Baby Charli Crapp

Does having a baby have to be a dampener on your social life and old friendships? Photo: Lucy Cartwright.

The past few years have signalled the definitive end of my youth.

First, I turned 30, and then the final chapters were hastened along by COVID-19. These days, it’s unusual for me to stay awake past 10 pm, let alone go out into the world to socialise.

Combined with my own age-related lethargy and work-related mental exhaustion is the fact that barely any of the friendships that saw me through my 20s remain active. Some people have moved away, and others have drifted apart, but the single biggest driver of my friendship attrition rate is people having kids.

As soon as a baby arrives on the scene, the prospect of a social gathering is complicated by all of the related planning and tasks that relate to the child.

I totally get it: parents suddenly have to consider the routines of their child, their own lack of sleep, and the difficulties of finding a child-suitable venue/activity, all while managing the competing demands of their work, family and their own relationship.

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And not all child-free friendships are necessarily accommodating to those needs. I like to think I’m pretty flexible and try to anticipate the needs of my friends’ kids, but I know that often the intersections between things that I’d like to do with my free time, and things that make taking a baby into the world easy enough to accomplish, is slim at best.

Then, there’s the fact that once you have a child, your life is actually quite different from your child-free friends, and sometimes that means you have less in common. The things that interest my friends who are new parents are often quite closely related to their day-to-day life of caring for a small child, and as much as I’d love to hear about it and understand it, I indeed have little to contribute to those conversations; understandably, the same is the case for my own topics of conversation and how relatable they are for my friends, who probably have little interest in whatever workplace drama or random anecdotes I have to share.

Crying baby

Children aren’t always the perfect companion for a quiet coffee with friends. Photo: Region Media.

And then, of course, there’s the reality that many friendships from our youth were situational. There were the people we worked with in casual jobs, or former housemates, classmates, colleagues from our first jobs. As time passes, so do these friendships, and without the common factor bringing us together, there’s no real point in staying in touch. Kids add an element to this, effectively closing the door on some of those factors and opening the door to new friendships that emerge around childcare and parenting groups.

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I don’t think that having children makes my friends any less interesting or important to me, and I know they feel the same way. But the logistics of hanging out are hard to navigate, and on some level, I kind of just assume that we’ll reignite our friendship when I have a child, and we have a natural reason to connect.

If you have children, did you find it hard to maintain friendships after your child(ren) arrived on the scene? And for those who never plan to have kids, do you feel like your friends who are parents have stayed in your life, or did your friendship gradually fade away?

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