This week I heard from a Mum who was feeling sad and lonely because she is the first in her group of female friends to have children and now her second child has arrived her core group of friends are no longer contacting her. Sadly this is a difficult situation but not an unusual one.
When I was married I wanted children but my now ex and I could not conceive. Many of my friends had children during this period of my life and, whilst it was difficult for me to be near babies because of my own sadness, my husband pointed out another reason why parents and non parents drift apart. He used to say to me ” Why do parents have to talk about their kids all the time?”
Well even though I wasn’t a parent that was an easy question to answer. “Because their kids are now the centre of their world and take up most of their time, because our friends are so full of love for their children that they want to share their joy with us because they believe quite rightly that we care about them” I tried to explain to him that when you are in the bubble of being a parent it is easy to forget what life was like before your children.
The truth is when you have children your life changes whilst the lives of your friends without children carries on as before. Whether your friends have chosen not to have children at the same time as you, or they are quietly going through struggles with infertility, you have made a personal choice that changes your availability and the focus of your attention. Sometimes this means that friendships that you thought were an integral part of your life will start to drift. It’s no-one’s fault. It’s not personal. Your friends still like you but they now have a different lifestyle and different priorities to you. This isn’t something that happens exclusively when you have children, it can also happen when you get divorced or move to a different location for example.
So what can you do when you are a parent of young children and are feeling lonely? Well I think there are 3 steps to moving forwards here.
1. Acceptance– The first thing to do is accept that life changes and sometimes we make decisions that take us in a different direction to our friends. Constantly asking yourself why your friends are not contacting you now is a form of self torture. And remember you may find that once your children are older or when some of your now childless friends have children of their own you may become closer again.
2. It isn’t personal – I know it feels very personal when it happens but when your friends take a step back like this, at a time when you feel you need them more than ever, it isn’t because they suddenly have decided that they don’t like you. They still care about you and like your personality. Their distance is not about you as a person it is because they cannot relate to your new experiences of being a parent. They can empathise but they cannot know how you are feeling because they have not been there. And lets be honest, having children is not a small part of your life, it changes your priorities, it changes the way you make every choice and every decision. And it definitely stops your ability to be spontaneous.
3. Make New Friends – I know this seems impossible when you are getting to grips with life as a parent but what you need to do to solve your feelings of loneliness is to get out into the world and meet other parents. There are so many classes and group meetings that you can go to with your baby or young children where you will find other parents who are happy to let children be the main topic of conversation. Also these parents will understand how you are feeling and be happy to listen to you. Only the other day as I finished my yoga class in our village hall the Mums and babies were arriving for the next class. Have a look on the internet, find out what is going on in your area for parents with young children, decide which class or meeting you would like to attend. And then go and enjoy yourself and you will make some new friends.
It is very easy, once you have children to forget what life was like before you had your children. When my ex and I divorced he then married a younger lady. If you’ve read my book To Light The Way you will know I am now very good friends with this lady but at the time of my divorce it was very hard to watch my ex have a son with her. It was even harder when this man, who used to moan about parents who talked about their children all the time, suddenly turned into such a parent!
When you make a big change in your life, like having children, remember this could come with a change in some of your friendships but when some friends leave your life or step back there will always be other people in the world who would love to step forwards and become a new friend.As the saying goes friends come into our lives for a reason, a season or for life. Be grateful for their friendship however long they may be a part of your life.