Thursday, 20 May 2010

Pregnant not Disabled: Handling Your Homie as a Mummy

Since having my third child, I've felt compelled to write this post, because more and more often - when it comes to certain circles, I am feeling like a bit of a social pariah and I can see it happening to other mums too.

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.

Sure, (some of your friend's) priorities may have changed but underneath that house dress is your 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.

Older Babies

  • 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


Unknown said...

I agree! I want to party too :P It seems like I am one of the only ones with 2 I get left out... :(

Bajan Lily said...

Man, I so know the feeling!

Gigglz said...

You're so funny! But you're absolutely right. Even my with one child have lost invitations from the friends with no kids. Doesn't matter I have my own fun :-) but it would be nice not to lose a friendship over something so beautiful!

Bajan Lily said...

@Gigglz - I totally agree! I don't want to be forced to choose/lose valued friendships just because I am a mother..

comments from Facebook readers added below..

Lynne said...

Hmmmm, I understand your points... but it would definitely take a whole new note to explain the perspective of the other side. Not that we don't love you, things have just changed. We used to have so much fun drinking each other under the table...what do we do now?

It used to be the two of us and now I have to share.. :( . It's gonna take time, give US time to adjust.

your niece said...

Yess Aunt Lynne, fair point...! Things do change in a big way and Mums arent too fun, to be completely honest. If i was a mum i wouldnt really want to be out drinking and stuff anyway, when i become a Mum i will grow up. But im not becoming a Mum yet because i still want my friends...its just how it turns out...xx

lawyer with kids said...

Great post. I think back to my pre-child self and wince at how oblivious I was. I think had someone spelled what could be done to ease the transition, it would have been much easier to be a friend to a friend with a child.

It's especially hard when you're the first one of the group to have kids. I understand it's our choice to have kids but it shouldn't be a choice between having friends and having kids.

Bajan Lily said...

like LWK says, I just don't think it should have to be a choice between having children.. and having friends.

lawyer WITHOUT kids said...

Hey I saw this and wanted to respond to this. But personally speaking (clears throat) there are only so many unresponsive invites and general indications of lack of interest in singleton stuff that one can take. An invite from me is not just a politeness thing, it means I actually want you to come! So I do tailor my invites based on the recipient. I have learnt that ladies with babies do not generally have the time, inclination or extra cash etc to go out on the town and to blow some cash drinking in Vegas/Barcelona etc. so it is easier to suggest child friendly things like grabbing a pizza etc. So, contrary to what some may think it is actually consideration for the babyladies that spurs the non invites!

On the stress of "same" ness. Uh uh. Big NOT.Its not the same. And its called growing up- and that's a lovely thing. I personally would not expect my babied friend to come to my workplace to have lunch with me, I will do everything in my power to make it convenient for her. But at the same time, there will be a difference in the things I suggest because I am trying to think of what I would enjoy in that same situation. :0

Bajan Lily said...

Girl, if I had a babysitter I'd go to Barcelona with you any day!

And I can only speak for myself - but I don't see a big fat dividing line between singleton stuff and 'peoplewithkid' stuff - surely you were friends because of certain common interests and I find it hard to believe that the advent of a baby suddenly destroyed all commonalities...

Also from what you've said - you're one of those who IS actually making the effort to suggest things that the financially challenged or time constrained friend with kid might be able to participate in - so if they're not returning the effort then I cant blame you for stepping back - it IS a two way street after all (just not addressed in this post).

Max said...

This is really useful, all I can say I will use this and try to be a better friend to my babied up friends, all in the name of karma of course ;) its like being nice to old ppl, one day it will be me!

Mum to be said...

this is absolutely great and I believe the sentiments of all mom-to-bes and shouldn't have "feel" like you're losing friends or being avoided by friends in the social light....

Anonymous said...

' being nice to old people'. Max, I love that comment, I really really do! Har har har!

Anyway, can you please write one about newly acquired husbands? Because I'm totally bewildered on what to do there ;p

Anonymous said...

Great post! At 5 months pregnant, I'm still managing to keep my social life well in tact. Will inform the friends not to let a thing change once I reach the other side! :-)

Anonymous said...

Wow...great post. I am ashamed to say that I've done several of the don'ts on list.

However, it does clarify sthg. One of my best girlfriends totally stopped calling/inviting out another friend when she got pregnant, and I was so confused. But now i realize she prob just didn't know how to adjust to new dynamics.

Kimberly said...

Thanks for posting this. A bunch of my friends are having children and I'm just unsure about how to handle the new dynamics. I feel like I'm being cruel when I continue to invite them and they have to say no because of family commitments. I'm glad to know that I may be being kind in some way. I'll keep asking and see what happens. THANKS for guiding we, the clueless.

Bajan Lily said...

@ the last Anon: the 'new dynamic' definitely takes some getting used to and it requires work on both sides but it's not impossible! There is hope!

@Queen Lioness: You're very welcome and I hope your friends aren't the type of mums who really lose interest in anything they did before, I hope they appreciate your continuing effort to include them! Good luck! (ps, I don't think you're clueless at all.. just maybe you guys needed a lil guidance. Reading the comments has also given me some insight into what you guys are thinking and feeling as well! :) )

Anonymous said...

You are my only friend who is married and has children. I don't know what that says about my friends.??!..joking... Anyway.... I didn't think that "Roll it Gal" competitions where appropriate any longer but we can certainly do lunch or picnics or something.

L said...

my friend here who recently had a baby i think feels a bit left out/shunned by friends. i'm happy to go with her to have a lunch or coffee or even to hold to hold the baby while she gets her nails done, or just over there when baby is awake, sleeping or whatever. i love her child, he's gorgeous and being a good friend is part of enjoying her as a mother now... i can really see how a mother will feel like a pariah if friends treat her differently. no need for it. you're still human innit!!

Mrs Mac's Corner... said...

Late to the partylol I've only just come across this and whilst with my first child it didnt't apply, it has done with my second. Girl, this could extend to many topics. Lots of my friends have drifted over the years, some dont understand the work i do and why it takes up half my personal life and one that effects me more recently is, loosing close friendships just because you get married! Not to say I would be out every weekend but even a meal, movie or sumit! MrMac is always saying take a break from us, go out with some friends, only to contact them to hear about the party they went to or the resturaunt they ate at. It is sad, and shouldn't be, but everyone is different i guess


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