There’s no need for friendships to suffer when you become a parent; rather parenthood could well be the making of a whole new social life, as Jen Vuk writes.
When I became a parent nine years ago there was one thing I hadn’t really thought much about—new friendships.
But that’s what parenthood can bring you, and in spades. Of course, not all friendships are created equally, but those that not only endure but prosper as you raise your children can be the most wonderful gifts you can be given.
Like they say, it takes a village to raise a child, and when you have other parents as part of the tag team, this not only takes the pressure off you, it also expands your child or children’s view of family.
There have been times when other parents have provided meals, a taxi service, babysitting and even given me my precious time back (a special friend came over fortnightly, fed my children and put them to bed).
Really, you can never have too many parent-friends, so here’s my advice to those new to parenting:
Sign up for mothers’ group
When I was pregnant with my first child, I admit that I was resistant to the idea of going to a mothers’ group. My sister-in-law quickly put me in my place, telling me that I could always leave if I didn’t like it, but that I needed to give it a go.
As she reminded me, even making one good friend was a bonus. (The outcome? I made two great friendships and many good ones.)
Be mindful of different parenting
You’ll find no two parents who parent the same (and this is true within intimate relationships, let alone friendships), so it’s a good idea to remain mindful of differing parenting styles.
You might not agree with your friend’s style of parenting or it might run counter to your own, but try to be respectful (unless you suspect abuse. If that’s the case, then report it immediately). Of course, if you can’t agree to disagree then it might be time to end the friendship.
What also works for me is that in my house it’s my rules, and at my friend’s house it’s their rules. As long as you have friends who you trust to parent well (if differently) then there shouldn’t be an issue.
Try to reciprocate, but don’t be a slave to it
One of the hardest things for working parents is they don’t always have time to reciprocate in terms of looking after other kids. But I have found ways around it, such as having my friend’s kids over to our house on the weekends for a sleepover. This doesn’t just give other parents a break; it also means my kids have ready-made play dates.
Nurture the friendships
If you just can’t look after a friend’s child then look at
other ways to show your appreciation, such as take your friend out for coffee, buy him or her a card or flowers or a massage voucher.
And remember to always say thank you. Sometimes the greatest thing we can do is to just acknowledge these little acts of kindness.