Although it can be all too easy to identify only as “mom” after having a child, it’s equally important to make time for the pre-pregancy you. Check out these helpful tips for sustaining a healthy social life with your single friends and fellow moms post-baby.
At 33, good friends Jill Seiman and Dion Duyck, both of Manhattan, are leading very different lives.
Although Jill still works part-time, she is the mother of a 1-year-old boy. We all know that means changing diapers, going to mommy-and-me classes, planning birthday parties, and spending time giving baths and getting the baby ready for bed. Meanwhile her friend Dion is still single and enjoying her freedom. In fact she is moving to London to get a master’s degree from the London School of Economics.
Despite being in different stages of their lives, their friendship still means the world to them. They met six years ago while they were both working for a commercial real estate firm.
“Because of the history of our friendship we still have so much in common,” Seiman says. “Just because you’re in a different stage of your life—well, being a mother is just one aspect of who I am. I am still a colleague, a friend, a daughter, and a wife.”
Duyck wholeheartedly agrees. “It’s like we’re sisters from another mother,” Duyck says. “Maybe our friendship isn’t as impromptu as it used to be—it now takes three or four days advance notice to go out to dinner—but Jill’s having a baby hasn’t changed things a tremendous amount. She’s still Jill.”
Spend time with friends without feeling guilty.
“It’s important to maintain that balance and keep in touch with who you were before you had that child,” advises Debbie Mandel, of Lawrence, author of Addicted to Stress; a Woman’s 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life.
“Women have multiple selves,” she says. “Single friends let you leave your comfort zone and explore things beyond your routine. They offer stimulating conversation beyond diapers and carpooling.”
Although some new moms may feel guilty leaving the baby with a sitter or even with Dad, a night off may actually help you be a better mom.
“It can do astounding things for a new mom,” Mandel says. “You wake up the next morning armed and ready to deal with the business and challenges that come with having little kids in the house. You come with a fresh eye and refreshed energy.”
When dealing with single friends, be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking the grass is always greener. “My mother friends think it’s nice to be able to pick up and go to Paris,” Duyck says, “while I think it must be nice to come home and have someone to have dinner with.”
It’s important not to fall into that trap, says Manhattanite Diane Spear, LCSW, who is a mother of a 12-year-old daughter. “Your single friends have real issues, as do you.”
Be honest and open with friends to give and recieve support.
“If you are having trouble with a friend, talk it out,” recommends Susan Shapiro, also of Manhattan, author of Toxic Friends, which is about how to navigate the complexity of female friendships. “Female friends offer support. You must trust each other enough to share feelings.”
“New moms tend to close themselves off,” says Deborah Roth Ledley, a therapist who wrote the book Becoming a Calm Mom: How to Manage Stress and Enjoy the First Year of Motherhood. “It’s important to maintain friendships and hobbies and have a full life.”
Three steps for maintaining friendships
- Carve out time.
It’s important to say, “Twice a month I’m going to go out with my friend.”
- Be mindful of your audience.
You can’t spend all your time with your single friend talking about poop and breast-feeding. Be sure to ask your single friend about work and dating. This is beneficial to the new mom too, because it gives her a break from the rigors of her day-to-day.
- Bridge the gap.
Find something that interests your friend but can also involve your family. If you have a baby, go for brunch in a place that is kid-friendly. If you have older kids, see if your friend would join you on a trip to the zoo.
The importance of maintaining friendships as a mother.
In Spear’s case she found common ground with her child-free friend Nancy Newhouse, also an LCSW. “She is a lovely person and saw my daughter as a person in her own right,” Spear recalls.
For Newhouse, who met Spear while they were both in school, Spear’s daughter was just icing on the cake. “Watching Diane change and grow as a mother gave me higher regard for her as a colleague,” she says.
“You and your friend have a shared history,” says Irene S. Levine, professor of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine, author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Break-up with Your Best Friend, and writer of TheFriendshipBlog.com. “Friends enhance your physical health and emotional well being. Research shows that good friendships lower blood pressure, reduce your risk of depression, decrease anxiety, and increase longevity.”
Of course, single friends are not the only friends you should have.
“My mommy friends give me someone to compare notes with and get empathy and advice from,” Seiman says. “They know exactly what you’re talking about. I love being able to call my mommy friends and get their take on things.”
But single friends do bring something different to the table.
“I believe in having friends in all areas of life,” says Cara Birnbaum, a freelance writer from Jersey City and mom to a 2-and-a-half-year-old girl. “I got to know the other moms in my neighborhood, but in some ways I craved being the old me. I let my subscription to the New Yorker lapse. My single friends will talk about what they read in the magazine. It reminds me that even if I’m not sleeping well, I do have a brain. I think when moms stick with other moms you can easily become obsessed. [Old friends] help me get out of that bubble.”
It’s important to remember your child won’t always be little. “As your child grows older and increasingly independent you’ll have more time for yourself,” Levine says. “Make sure you’re not bereft of friends.”