Friendships after children – can singletons maintain them?

Women on the beach

Long before all my girlfriends starting popping out kids faster than an African nation without morally-sanctioned birth control, I proposed to them that we should institute an annual girls’ holiday.  Nothing fancy, mind you, just a weekend away.  Away from our partners, whatever children we may or may not have, and just spend some quality time talking girly stuff.  Cement our friendship.  A little Sex and the City, and lots of wine.  Our future husbands would probably be doing annual boys’ golfing holidays, so hey, why can’t we do it too?

Now I thought this idea would go off like a frog in a sock, especially since we were all addicted to Sex and the City back in the day.  How much arm-twisting does one need to spend time on a beach with some of your best girlfriends (oh, and did I mention wine?).

The idea was shut down completely by my girlfriends, pretty much without any discussion.  They had already envisioned that there would come a time when they would have children, and a girls’ weekend and children just simply did not compute.  I didn’t even feel like I was able to protest, since it was as futile as being a lone climate change voice at a Conservatives convention.

I was pretty disappointed.  Actually, disappointment didn’t even begin to describe how I felt; there was more bewilderment and hurt.  I was bewildered by their refusal to even consider leaving their children in their husbands’ capable hands for merely one night.  And I was hurt that they didn’t cherish our friendship enough to spend just one night out of 365 together.

Fast forward to today, and now that most of my girlfriends have children, I recently proposed the idea again.  I thought that with the realities of parenting understood, they’d be more amenable to it.  They’d be gagging for girl time, where they can speak like adults for a whole weekend rather than in kid-speak.  And the dads would relish the opportunity to eat sausage rolls on the couch, possibly in just their undies, and watch 8 hours straight of The Simpsons reruns with their children.

I heard crickets.  This time there weren’t even refusals.  I was roundly ignored.

As a single and childless woman, it’s not beyond my comprehension that, for my friends, their children come first above all else, even above their husbands. But in life we should nurture all of our relationships, whether they be with family, spouses, or close friends. All of these people fulfill different yet important needs in our lives and, like cars, they need to be serviced regularly. A two-hour lunch or dinner every couple of months, like a top up of petrol, keeps the relationship humming along but to ensure longevity it requires more quality input and attention.

Perhaps they would feel guilty leaving someone that is completely dependent on them, even if it is for just one night. But unless they are still breastfeeding or a single parent, mothers aren’t necessarily the sole caregiver for their babies and children. Do they forget they have a hopefully-just-as-capable husband that also shares the responsibility of caring for their children? They may even be lucky enough to have willing and enthusiastic parents or in-laws who would love nothing more than to spoil their grandchildren rotten with sweets and cuddles.

There’s a reason why Sex and the City was so addictive. It portrayed a fantasy of how we wanted to see ourselves, even just a little bit, if it weren’t for the fact our normal lives got in the way. All that carefree shopping, hot sex, and above all, deep and rock-solid female friendships that are fueled by frank and open discussion and, let’s face it, many Cosmopolitans.

The reality is that, once your friends have sprogs, their lives are overwhelmingly consumed by them that there is little room for friendships after factoring in their spouses and mothers’ groups. Those that do manage to maintain close friendships only do so through persistent and dedicated effort. One just hopes that the friendships are valuable enough for both sides to put the effort in.

This post has republished on Mamamia.

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17 thoughts on “Friendships after children – can singletons maintain them?

  1. Love this blog!! Soooo true! And am even struggling to keep up with married friends now. I mean seriously, we’re all busy but come on now!! 3 months booking in advance for a lunch date is a bit much!

  2. Ah Evsky, what to say? Appreciate your honesty (wouldn’t expect anything less) and hate to think that anything I have done has been hurtful to you. I would love to discuss over a cup of tea and a very large slice of cake…..actually, I would much prefer to discuss over that wine you speak of but I am so busy competing with those African nations that I can’t indulge at the moment 🙂

    To add to the discussion (and to play devil’s advocate as you know I love to do), here’s some food for thought. I think you’re right about why tv shows like SATC were so popular, and I think the same applies to Friends. Have you ever considered why these shows both came to an end soon after some of the characters started having babies? Was it because the friendships would have petered out eventually or was it because the changing nature (but still strong) friendships post children aren’t as glamorous and palatable to a tv audience? I think, and fervently hope, it’s the latter.

    Let’s have that cup of tea xx

    • A very interesting take on it Mrs T. I have to admit I don’t watch either show so can’t really comment, but I’m sure that while your post child life may not be “glamorous”, it’s still just as interesting 🙂 Wish I was there to have tea & cake with you girls x

  3. This does happen and it’s really sad however if I had the cash I would defo go away with the girls it’s so easy to loose who you are after having a baby and friends are so very important!

  4. I can not believe I came across you gals!

    Refreshingly honest and admirable post Rational Optimist. A topic close to my heart and one I still struggle with. When the effort (sadly) fades, you’re left with hope and ouch, even that still stings. Having said that, I’m fortunate to have had some friends who do make an exception, which I treasure enormously. Shall be reminding myself of this as I flip sides later in the year.

    Best Wishes with the blog!

    • Hi Stacey, thanks for comments!

      You’re lucky that you still have some great friends that make an effort – they obviously value your friendship. When you say you’re flipping sides, that means that you are expecting? If so, congratulations!

      • Sorry to say I’ve not visited for a looooong time! This post was prompted on another so I thought I could give you an update, now that I have a kid and have seen 😉

        Our little guy is 15 months. My first outing alone was when he was 6 days old, to the GP mind. The GP was horrified I’d left my newborn, I explained that he was home, bonding with his other mother. I still remember feeling excited for them. I think the parental relationship influences this post’s issue more than anything. Anything.

        I’ve spent two days away with my dear friend, helping her settle in with her new baby, as she did for me a year before. There have been a good handful of lunch and dinner dates with close friends. If I am neglecting quality time with another, I’d have to confess it’s my wife.

        And for me, the most crucial thing I’ve learnt about maintaining friendships is to remember what we had in common before the months of sleep deprivation and this new love of my life swept in. Keeping interests and interest alive makes the effort almost effortless. The mutual encouragement to see friends or take time out for ourselves has made us both content with our new world and identites. I love my wife dearly for that, especially when I suspect she wishes to be the one sat next to me in a concert. Unfortunately she has been away for almost a third of our son’s life due to work, so it is not as though we don’t have our challenges around how to spend our free time.

        Just a snapshot but that’s where it’s at for me.

        Happy New Year Ladies! I look forward to catching up on some reading before my next semester starts.

      • Hi Stacey, thanks for dropping back to let us know how you’ve been going! Congratulations on the birth of your son. Hopefully you’re not getting too many sleepless nights! I think it’s admirable that you still make a concerted effort with your friendships, and that you and your partner support each other. I’m sure you are both going through a challenging time in terms of a total lifestyle change – a total life change, really!

        I had a girls night recently with all the girls that were the inspiration for this post. All the kids were left at home and it was just us ladies sitting around and chatting over dinner and wine. It was so nice! It happens so rarely, but I think we all enjoy it when it does happen. It’s just a bit like herding cats trying to synchronise 5 personal diaries when they’re so jam-packed with school activities, mothers group activities, family activities, etc. but well worthwhile!

  5. After the lunch time conversation ventured into the realm of the realities of growing up, a friend mentioned this post in passing and I was immediately intrigued and ‘champing at the bit’ to read it – and I was not disappointed. At last, someone has said just come out and said it! Somebody called it out for what it is and said the ‘taboo’.
    I too find myself struggling to find my bearings in what appears a cut-throat race to grow up. Yesterday we were going to 21st birthday parties, pulling all-nighters after uni parties and blowing our cash on great accessories and trash-mags. Now weekends are filled with weddings, baby showers and christenings – how did we get here, and so fast? What happened to us? Weren’t we going to band together in the sisterhood and conquer the world together? When did the dream change to life of mundanity with a white picket fence in the burbs? Did I black out and lose a whole block of my life somewhere along the way? Did I misplace the memo?
    It’s a tough gig being THIS girl – the thorn in the side of the ‘Smug Married Mothers’ club. It’s tough being knocked down several rungs on the ‘to care about’ list of those who were once your biggest fan. It’s tough to smile and nod when hearing the ‘ins and outs’ of a day in the life of someone’s child when your brain is failing to relate and all you want to do is share the GREATEST BARGAIN EVER (!!!) in a pair of heels you scored on a sale rack. Tougher still is biting your tongue to save yourself from being the social pariah – turns out it’s generally frowned upon to express such views as these…surely if one subscribes to these notions they are an anti-marriage baby-hater!
    And this is the toughest bit of all. I’m NOT anti-marriage – I’m really happy you found the love of your life. I really hope everything works out for you both, honestly. I don’t even dislike children necessarily – I get that these little miracles are very exciting indeed. However just because I don’t have any, nor any immediate plans to have any does not mean I will be that 80 year old lady with 20 cats. This is where I am at in my life, so please don’t tell me my priorities aren’t right, my values are all wrong and that I’m superficial. I’m not out of line by preferring to discuss my recent travels in preference to a discussion about your child’s every bowel movement. I can’t help but cringe when the deluge of facebooks posts and pictures begin – how tough it must be for those who can’t have kids to withstand. This might be me, so please be aware.
    Bottom line is, I just miss you. You made the decision to get married and have kids, and I support that. I’m just sad that I’ve ended up collateral damage. I know you’re busy with this new phase of your life, and I knew at some point that things would change. But if there is some time to prioritise me that would be great – leave the kids with the man or woman or nanny or poppy or WHOEVER, and meet me for a catch up – I’ll bring the cake…

    • Wow Emily, you have completely expressed all my emotions in your raw and honest response. You’re completely right – when I was younger, I really did think with all my girlfriends that we would be a sisterhood and nothing could come between us! I guess that’s why it’s so sad and disappointing for me that it turns out that nappies and mothers groups do come between us. And you’ve hit the nail on the head in your closing paragraph too – I really do miss my girlfriends! I miss being able to talk openly, be myself, and talk about my hopes and dreams with those that I have a long, shared history.

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