It sucks growing apart from a friend. One minute you can talk about anything late into the night; the next you can’t even have the shortest of exchanges without lapsing into awkward silences. We’ve all been there. Sadly, I’ve found this often happens when one friend becomes a parent and the other doesn’t. Things don’t always have to be this way though. Lately my relationships with my non-parent friends have grown richer and deeper all because I’ve started to look at them a little differently.
Staying close to your non-parent friends once you become a parent can be hard, no doubt. When I first became a dad I was annoyed that my friends invited me out late on Friday nights and didn’t seem too sympathetic when I said I couldn’t go because of the baby. They also chatted about subjects – like the opening of a new club or how they’ve stepped up their workouts – that struck me as incredibly frivolous. This was annoying.
But guess what? I was pretty annoying too. I’m embarrassed to admit that I said stuff like, “You have SOOOO much free time. You don’t understand how hard it is to be a parent!” Even worse, I sometimes discussed how Maddie gave my life meaning, and unwittingly implied that they were leading less meaningful lives in the process. Not cool. Also not cool? Talking endlessly about how adorable every little thing Maddie did was. Yep, I did that too. (Though, in fairness to Maddie, everything she did was adorable!)
Now that I’m older and have been a parent a bit longer I understand that having a kid didn’t turn me into some wise, old sage, and that my friends without kids weren’t as frivolous as I thought they were. They’re more than capable of discussing mature things, and have no problem hanging out with me during the daytime too. But the biggest thing I’ve learned is that I need to celebrate our differences. Instead of complaining that a friend wants to go to a ten p.m. concert at a club, I go happily when I can. Sure, I may be tired the next day, but going to a concert in a sweaty club and chatting about things other than Elmo are important for my mental health. My friends link me to my younger self and allow me to be more than just “dad” every once in a while.
I’ve also seen my new life enrich the lives of my friends without kids. They’ve bonded with Annabel, and dote on her in a special way that my friends with kids of their own don’t. They have truly special relationships with my little girl, and enjoy exploring their maternal and paternal side when with her. It’s beautiful to see.
Friendships may change, but that’s not always a bad thing. It took me a little time to see things this way, but now that I do I am so thankful these friends are still in my life and allow me to share in their lives. And I think they feel the same way about me.