If you’re anything like me, you assured yourself during your pregnancy that nothing would change between you and your friends once the baby arrived. And you definitely wouldn’t be like those other parents you know who totally ditched their friends post-child in order to replace them with a new set of parent friends.
Flash forward to your new life as a parent and you might be finding that your pre-baby promise to yourself is easier said than done. Research tells us that maintaining your social circle is more critical than ever as a parent. Social isolation can lead to clinical depression in parents and “belonging to multiple social groups is a critical buffer.”* Simply stated: you need your closest friends in your life.
So how do you blend your new life as a parent with your pre-parent, childless friends—especially when getting child-free time can be a real challenge?
Here are a few tips for blending your “parent life” with your “pre-parent life.”
Reach out to your friends. While you may want your friends to do the reaching out, the fact is you very well may be the one who needs to get in touch. Your friends may be worried about bothering you, assume you’re busy, or just busy with their own life events. Be the first to reach out and get some friend time on the books.
Let them into your “new parent life.” Your child-free friends don’t need to be separate from this new stage of your life. Involve them! (And if it turns out they don’t want to be there for you, you’ll quickly find out—and I’d suggest rethinking the friendship). Invite them to go places with you and the little one, invite them over to birthday parties and events with other parents/kids, and ask them for help. You don’t want them to cut you out, so you shouldn’t cut them out either.
Keep going out to coffee/brunch/lunch/dinner/happy hour. Chances are, this was one of your primary socializing methods pre-baby. After all, they say food tastes better with friends! It may seem overwhelming to dine out with your little one and child-free friend(s), but it doesn’t have to be. If the very idea of dining out with your little one in tow makes you want to hide under the covers, check out my post, “Tips for Dining Out With Your (Child-Free) Friends.”
Join the “serial socializing” bandwagon. The easier you can make everything in your life, the better, and building a routine helps with that. For us, “serial socializing” has been a gamechanger. We host a monthly Brunch & Board Games open house on the 3rd Sunday of each month. We issued a standing, recurring invitation and everyone is invited. If they can make it that month, great. If not, no worries. It’s helped us stay connected with our social circle and is a day we look forward to each month.
Carve out child-free time. I also encourage you to carve out time—even if it’s only once a month—to spend child-free time with friends. My husband and I alternate covering for one another a couple of evenings per month to make sure each of us gets solo time with our friends.
Host at home. In addition to the solo time, we also have found inviting our child-free friends over to hang with us in the evenings (after our kids are in bed) to be a great way to spend time with our mutual friends. We’ve had several amazing game nights on weekdays that run from 7 p.m.-10 p.m. and are completely child-free!
I know it can sometimes feel like an insurmountable challenge to reconnect with friends in the craziness of life as a parent, but I promise it’s not —and even more importantly, I promise it’s worth it.