You kind of expect to lose a few friends when you have kids, especially if those friends don’t have any of their own. There are any number of articles about the subject which will tell you that the best thing to do is to go out and make new friends. That’s great, and for the parent looking after the child(ren) this is made easier by Mother’s Groups, Playgroups and the like.
But what isn’t really covered is what about the other parent? Here’s my experience as a working father so far:
Too Many Friends
When you first bring your baby home from the hospital, every man and his dog comes to see the new life you’ve created. You’ll feel so grateful that you have so many friends. This will last a few weeks as the outliers come for their visit. Then at about 5-6 weeks they stop coming.
The Gradual Decline
To be honest at this stage you don’t really miss them. You have your hands full with Baby, getting used to the routines, sleepless nights and probably just starting to get back into work depending on how much time you could take off.
You might still see your friends if you play a sport, or work with them. But you’ll probably only see them during these activities. Those friends you don’t see in this setting might occasionally text or email about how “we should catch up soon”. Don’t count on it.
You won’t be getting invited out at night, or if you are you can’t go because you’ll be with the kid, not yet confident enough to leave them with a grandparent for the night. It doesn’t take long for the invites to stop coming.
Meeting New People
It’s about this time that your partner starts meeting new people, through organised groups of new parents (usually mothers) in your area. They’ll start spending an afternoon together during the week while you’re at work. Once every so often you might have a BBQ on a weekend where the other fathers come along, but it’s not something that’s going to start a close friendship.
I sometimes stay at home for the day with our son, while my wife goes to work (as a casual relief teacher). This means that I sometimes, depending on the day, take my son to swimming. My wife will sometimes go for coffee with the other mums after swimming. I get the polite “Hi” and “Bye”, but generally nothing more. Not that I blame the mothers, it just the way it is.
Once the usual excuses don’t hold water because you now leave your baby with a babysitter to go out, you start thinking your old friends might come out of the woodwork. The thing is, they’re used to you not being around. They have other friends that are, so they’re not really missing anything.
This is the point that the self doubt starts kicking in. Is there a reason they’re not calling? Were they really that good a friend in the first place? Did I do something before kids that drove them away and gave them a good excuse?
It’s not something to dwell on though. It is what it is.
So what should you be doing? What am I doing?
I’m not all the way through this yet. My plan is to try and get to know the other fathers (the ones attached to all the other babies you know). We have a fantastic entertaining area out the back of our house which we are planning to put to good use this summer. Having regular Sunday Sessions, with kids playing, parents talking and enjoying a drink or two.
Some of us fathers might have something in common other than the age of our kids or the friendship of our wives. The kids are getting to the age where we as fathers can take them down to the park.
I’m also planning to do more networking in my professional life. You’d be surprised how much easier small-talk gets when you have kids. A lot of contemporaries have their own kids and experiences, and it gives you a chance to talk about something other than “work topics”.
Networking events do tend to take time away from family though, and my family will always be my first priority.
Ok, so this has turned into “one of those articles telling you to go out and make new friends”, but it’s true. It’s harder for a working parent, but the benefits are the same. So make an effort, because it sure as hell won’t happen on its own.
Have you been through this before? Do you have some great tips for meeting new and interesting people post-kids? I’d love to hear them in the comments!