Have our legs fallen off? No.
Have our desires to leave the house to partake in social activities dried up? No.
Do we smell? NO! (Baby sick doesn't count).
So why is it that some friends - and some of them are proper GOOD friends - seem to be avoiding mums like me like the plague? It always seems to start during pregnancy ("oh, she can't drink so don't invite her"- as if teetotallers can't have fun!) - but pregnancy is not a disability (well...hyperemesis gravidarum comes pretty close but otherwise...)
Gone are the days when the phone would ring with a suggestion for a dinner date, and don't even mention dancing... even invitations to the theatre or cinemas are a thing of the past...
So let me set the record straight. If you have a friend (and I mean a real friend not an acquaintance) who has a child (or children), the polite (and loving) thing to do is to EXTEND THE INVITATION. Ask your friend out, include her in your plans even if she has to decline, because at the end of the day - by ignoring her you are effectively hammering some nails into the coffin that is going to hold the corpse of what was once your friendship.
Now - don't get me wrong. It is not an easy thing maintaining a relationship with someone who has kids when you don't have any yourself. I'm sure that the childless among us can think of more exciting ways to pass an evening than listening to tales of baby pooh in the tub, or wiping baby vomit from your mouth - and the ridiculous cost of (UK) childcare must seem like something you just can't relate to given that you could probably fly to Monaco and back several times and still not clock up one month's fees but please, hear me out.
homie - the one who used to drink you under the table or encourage you to dance barefoot without concern for who might be watching; the girl who would dance with you and stay out until the sun came creeping over the horizon. This is still the girl who drove you home when you were too drunk to drive/give a taxi driver coherent directions to your place.
This is still the girl who dropped everything when you called and said you wanted to bay at the moon or cry until your eyes bled because what's-his-name broke up with you; the girl who played 'knock down ginger' on the doors of your college dorm... This is the girl who ate your peanut butter cookies even though they weren't very nice at all and you could cut glass with your lemon chicken gravy!
You look at her and see boobs swollen with milk (or sagging from the suckling); baggy eyes from sleep deprivation and that mewling infant cradled on her hip - but she's still the girl who gave you her last dime so you could get that getting that you had to have or let you bunk in the spare room until you found your feet. Are you really going to do her like that? Really?
Lemme help you out here. Having a child/children doesn't mean that your girlfriend should automatically be sentenced to social death - it just means that you both need to be a little more creative and a little more flexible when it comes to meeting up or hanging out. Remember that those babies are going to grow, they won't always require so much time and attention and your friend (if she is indeed your friend) will be looking forward to seeing you once the fog of the newborn stupor has lifted.
Here's my list of dos and don'ts (feel free to add your own):
image copyright electronicvillage
It's a Newborn...
- If you visit her in hospital remember to bring HER something (not just the baby): if she's been in there for a while (or if she will be) bring her some snacks or some money for the TV thing, or a gossip magazine - even if she doesn't normally read them she will be grateful for something to help pass the time.
- Always wash your hands before touching that new baby; remember their immune systems are still developing and they might have difficulty fending off the bugs you dragged in (from the car/bus/train/other wards you passed through on the way!)
- If you visit her at home within the first 2-4 wks PLEASE don't expect a full blown cook up (unless she actually invited you for a meal). She's probably doing her darnedest to make sure she (and any pre-existing family members) are fed despite her being knackered and you adding another mouth to feed really isn't on. How about YOU bring HER a home made meal instead? AND - when she brings you your tea/juice and biscuits/cake... don't leave your crockery for her to wash up. She will feel like you really care if you wash up after yourself. Be careful though, if you wash the teapot as well, she'll probably faint with gratitude!
- Whatever you do - and no matter how old the baby is - don't say a word about how messy the house might be. If you won't help run the vacuum cleaner round the room just keep your mouth shut. Not everyone is Martha Stewart (or me), so expect a little chaos especially if you've dropped by unannounced or at short notice. lol.
- Sleep patterns may have been established and your friend is starting to feel a teensy weensy bit like her old self: don't stop calling her, don't forget her even though it might have been hard keeping in touch when you were never quite sure whether she was going to be awake when you called... even if it was the middle of the day.
- She may not physically be able to 'PARTAY' but she might welcome a coffee, or lunch date. Note: if she offers to meet you near YOUR work place during YOUR lunch hour and has to pay exhorbitant rates to park her car, the least you can do is pay for her meal. Even offering to pay (for the meal) or contributing to the oarking is a nice touch. She may not accept but she will think that you are incredibly thoughtful and will make a mental note to 'love you back' when she's back on her feet. Oh yeah - and choose a place with wide aisles between tables if she's bringing the baby with her - struggling to get a pushchair into a cafe is just too stressful for EVERYBODY including your fellow diners (whose toes are being crushed and elbows chafed!) Also note that if she is going to have to pay £8 in car parking or train fares, asking her to meet you in the back of a local supermarket (no matter how posh) to eat in for £2-3 is taking the pee. Don't do it. How would you feel if you spent a minimum of 2 hours getting ready, only for your partner to take you to McD's?
- In order to come out and play, your friend is expressing and storing her milk/preparing bottles; arranging childcare or dressing junior for an afternoon out, packing the changing bag (whether junior is coming with or going by 'Auntie'); she might even be foregoing her afternoon nap just so she can be with you - so the least you can do is block the time out so that your office can't slot a last minute meeting in there! I mean - stuff happens - but if you do need to cancel, give as much notice as possible (for reasons above).
- There's no hard and fast rule as to when your friend will feel ready to come out and play again, so the best advice I can give is for you to keep asking - I'm not suggesting you badger her with requests but be consistent (and maybe persistent too). If you ask her to come to the soca jam once a month, eventually she'll come (unless she hates soca - which would be weird if she liked it before...)
- When extending an invitation - give her plenty of notice (so she can arrange a sitter, pack Junior's bag etc); some mummy's can meet up at the drop of a hat, others need to plan and prepare. If you're not sure which type your friend is - just err on the side of caution and give loads of notice.
- If you don't mind children - suggest activities where she can bring him/her/them along e.g. picnic in park: kids can swing away, and you girlies can catch up while keeping an eye on them. If you don't like kids - do something else (like lunch/dinner).
- A phonecall/msg is better than no phonecall/msg - even if it's on Facebook. Truth.
Of course you may be saying - why is this all on me?What about her - doesn't she have a part to play in this too? Of course she does - but that's a different post. This one is for those of you who were unsure how to keep the friendship alive (assuming you want it to live) during the first few months (years?) of parenthood when you yourself don't have kids.
Just remember - she's not dead or disabled, just different.
image copyright Essence Magazine
Another tongue in cheek perspective brought to you by Bajan Lily.
ps Thank you to all my friends and family who already know the above and always make me feel just as loved and appreciated whether I am pregnant or not, and who make the effort to attend kiddy parties and plays and who've worked with me to keep our friendships alive. "ah luv wunna bad" xx