As we get older, our friendships tend to shift and change. Relocations, time dedicated to partners, and busy careers all mean that scheduling so much as a coffee date can become a tricky task—but there are few life events more all-consuming than becoming a parent. While you and your bestie might once have been each other’s #1, you may find yourself a long way down the list once kids come into the equation.
Although this phase of your friend’s life will be incredibly different, it certainly doesn’t have to spell the end of your friendship. These are some ways that you can ensure that your friendship continues to thrive around childcare, playdates, and breast pumps.
1. Respect that their life has changed
It goes without saying that having a child is a monumental life event. It is one of the biggest responsibilities that many of us will ever undertake, and your friend’s time, energy, and capacity to socialize will understandably become limited.
Although no longer being a top priority in your friend’s life can be a bitter pill to swallow, it is important that you respect the significant transition that they are going through. If you’re sleep-deprived and knee-deep in dirty diapers, the last thing that you need is someone whining that you’re impossible to pin down nowadays. Instead, give your friend the space that they need to adjust to becoming a parent and be sympathetic towards their constraints.
2. Plan in advance
For most parents, spontaneity is a thing of the past. The need to arrange babysitters and work around busy schedules might mean that last-minute dinner invites need to be reserved for your childless pals. But just because your friend can’t commit to a catch-up until next Christmas doesn’t mean that they don’t want to see you. Make sure that get-togethers are planned well in advance so that your friend can relax in the knowledge that they are well-prepared to enjoy your company by the time that your date rolls around.
3. Be prepared to be flexible
Because your friend will likely have little space for flexibility, you may find that you need to be more adaptable to their needs. This could mean letting them take their pick of dates and times or being willing to rearrange plans last minute if their childcare arrangements fall through.
You may also find yourself becoming more flexible when it comes to which activities you do together. If your friend is too stretched to afford childcare and too exhausted to change out of their pajamas, then you could suggest a night in once the baby is in bed. Pay attention to your friend’s needs and try to find something that fits you both.
4. Offer to babysit
One of the best things about having friends with kids is the opportunity to get to know and love their children. Even if the thought of babies makes you squirm, you might find yourself surprised by how quickly you come to adore your bestie’s bundle of joy.
When a date night or chance to let your hair down feels like a distant dream, there will be nothing that your friend will appreciate more than an offer of your babysitting services. It will signal that you are there for them and give them a break. And you never know—you might have fun too!
5. Embrace activities that involve children
Sure, you might not have previously thought that a kid’s birthday party was the best way to spend a Sunday, but while cocktails might once have been your go-to, it’s time to consider what child-friendly activities might better suit your friend. Can you arrange a day or a picnic in the park? And can your friend involve you with the plans that they have lined up to keep their kids entertained?
Embracing activities that involve children can be fun, as can signaling to your friend that you want to be part of their kids’ lives. It also gives you a chance to spend time with your bestie without them having to struggle to get a sitter or worry about whether they can bring their baby along. Your friend will appreciate your willingness to join in their new life and all the Chuck E. Cheeses it involves.
6. Process and enjoy this new stage of your life
It can be scary when your friends start to have kids. It signals a new stage of adulthood, and this can be challenging if having children is something that feels far off for you, isn’t possible for you, or simply isn’t part of your life plan.
If you find that the topic of children is a sensitive or challenging issue, be open about this. Tell your friend how happy and excited you are for them but explain that you may need space and time to adapt.
Although this situation can throw up a host of complex emotions, it can also be deeply rewarding. The dynamics of your friendship can change in positive ways, and you may find yourself even closer to your friend.