After having kids, shit changes. Anyone who argues this point is either a liar or is truly an asshole of a parent. But, I will concede that shit changes in varying degrees, due to the natural laws associated with Tiered Friendships.
Tier One: These are your closest friends. You communicate with them the most, they have known you for the longest, they know the details of your most intimate business. You do your best to keep in touch with them at all costs, before and after having children (sometimes partially because you don’t want them to turn on you and leak all of your dirty little secrets).
Tier Two: These are the members of your social group, who may or may not be friends due as much to proximity as due to heart-to-heart connection. These are the folks you may work with, play on a softball league with on Tuesdays, or on a bowling league with on Sundays, or DJ trivia with on Wednesdays.. (*Note that many of these events involve the potential for consuming adult beverages). You made an effort to stay in touch with them before kids, because you truly enjoy the activities involved, and their company, but these friendships tend to suffer dramatically after you have kids.
Tier Three: These are the ex-colleagues, or ex-roommates or ex-classmates that you really only know what is going on in their lives because you see what they are posting on Facebook. You didn’t make much of an effort to stay in touch before, and you don’t do much to stay in touch with them after. And you’re fine with that.
Below are some tips for keeping up with friends, as much as possible, within the confines of the chaos and exhaustion that ensue after becoming a parent.
1. Utilize social media. If you’re reading this blog post it means you’re likely a pro at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or similar sites. While this might seem obvious, making an effort to comment on your friend’s photos and posts, “like”, “favorite”, or “heart” some of their photos and remembering to send a private message every now and again shows that you are seeing and caring about what your pals are sharing. Bonus, you can do this in your PJ’s while hunkered down on the couch, any time of day or night.
Do not be an ass and make a comment that brings the conversation back to you and your kids STFU parents style. That is no way to keep friends. Make sure to comment on what is going on with THEM. On your end of the social media spectrum, you need to make sure to not ONLY post updates and photos of your children. Especially ones that are over the top ridiculous. It’s hard, I know, to not post that photo of that first poop in the toilet, but no matter how beautiful that fragrant lump of brown fecal matter may be to you (it smells so much less like shit and so much more like freedom and crisp twenties dollar bills in your pocket, to you, doesn’t it?), DON’T DO IT. Hold yourself back, for the sake of your friendships. Remember when you used to post snarky ecards, or photos of your dinner, or hilariously cute cat videos? Keep posting that kind of crap, just like the good ol’ days.
2. Fire Out Fast Facts to Your Friends. My friends and I have a system we call “Three Things”. One of us sends out a group email with “3 Things” in the subject and the body of the message contains a personal triad of information about what we are thinking about or things that are going on in our lives at that moment. They can be big things like, “I finally told my boss to shove it and found myself a new job!” Or strange things like, “I sprained my vagina” (that was one of my friend’s Three Things once, I swear to God), or silly things like, “I’m thinking I haven’t eaten cherry pie in a while, and I’m super excited to stuff my face with cherry pie as soon as I get out of work. Pie! Pie!”. Our group has done this long enough that one of us initiates the email chain at least once a month, sometimes more often. Everyone has the time for writing, and reading, three quick bullet points. No one cares about grammar. Sometimes these spiral into many more group emails, sometimes they don’t. But no matter what, it helps us know what is going on with our friends, which is the most important thing.
3. Go out to breakfast. Who doesn’t like french toast, pancakes, eggs and bacon? NO ONE, that’s who. At least, no one worth being friends with (seriously, if you don’t like bacon I have some serious suspicions about you as a person). For parents, this is typically a great time of day to connect. The kids are fresh and perky, there’s no stressors from the day built up yet in our shoulders, and there are unlimited refills of coffee! Glorious coffee! Your friend isn’t a morning person, you say? Invite them anyway, and don’t hold any grudges if they decline.
4. Let them know they have an open invite to any of your kid’s events. We often neglect to invite our pals because we care about them. We don’t want them to feel obligated to come to some crazy party that even WE think will be obnoxious and overwhelming, where we can’t really focus on them anyway. We don’t want them to feel like we’re asking them to buy our kid presents. BUT, not inviting them can make them feel excluded, forgotten, and unimportant, even if they didn’t really want to come to the eardrum-splitting, plague-filled bounce house anyway. Tell them you just need to know that they are interested in advance so you have an accurate head count and let them make the decision about whether the potential for losing the hearing in their left ear, or leaving the event with regurgitated hot dogs and neon frosted cupcakes all over their shoes is worth it, in their mind, to see you.
5. Line Up The Workout Buddies. So, as moms we always complain that we don’t have the time or energy to work out or see our friends, even though we know full well that both physical and mental health is supremely important. Solution? Meet up with friends at the gym, or outside for a jog. The conversation we can have the 5 minutes before and after our class starts, and the little moments of connection during a class may be all we need to help ensure you’re connecting, while toning our thighs so they look better in our mom jeans. Extra bonus: we might be able to snag a quick glass of wine right after yoga every now again, if the stars align. This one might be easier said than done, but for some of us, it can work.
6. Send notes. Short and sweet. Ridiculous. Funny. In the mail. Through the interwebs. Through Pinterest. Through tweets. Whatever. Just freaking say hi. You can do this. And, bonus, you can do this at 2.30 in the morning or whenever you’re up. Even if you haven’t contacted someone in 6 months, don’t be shy. A little note saying, “I’ve been thinking of you. How are things?” can go a long way.
7. Keep a friend contact chart. Okay, you’ll need to embrace your inner Type A personality for this one. If you’re feeling super brain-dead, keep a list of the top friends you want to make sure you don’t neglect, leave it on the fridge, and make a tally mark when you make contact. Sounds absolutely insane, I know, but c’mon, you know we parents are capable of forgetting EVERYTHING, sometimes even who our best friends are. Hell, I walked into the bathroom to give a urine sample at the doctor the other day and somehow FORGOT TO PEE IN THE DAMN CUP. Mommy-brain is real.
8. Acknowledge that you know you are spending less time with them and that you miss them. But just can’t make it work right now. Don’t completely drop off the face of the Earth. That’s just rude.
9. Ditch work early and head to happy hour sometime. Meeting up for one drink, for one hour can feel like a vacation. Does this even really need an explanation?
10. Every now and again, get that babysitter. There becomes a certain point for most parents where if you’ve literally NEVER had a night out, you’re making a conscious choice to seclude yourself. For every family, this cut-off point is different, depending on whether you have family available to watch the kids, or if you have a child with special needs. Since it can’t happen often, make it easier by bundling friends – have a night out every few months that includes a large group of people – a night out to dinner, or an overnight. My friends and I utilize my parent’s cottage (thanks, mom and dad!) and I make a huge effort to host two Girls Weekend events a year. Sometimes I only see those friends during those two nights throughout the entire year, but I relish them, and I think they do to. Even if they can’t all attend, they will appreciate the invitation and the fact that you made yourself available.
Good luck balancing work, home, family, marriage, children and personal alone time! It’s no easy feat.