Mind the growing parent-friend gap

The post below is written by Vinay Menon his perception on the issues of mind the growing parent friend gap.

Having children doesn’t have to mean losing friends. But that’s what happens if you’re not careful.

At first, nobody is aware of this looming social shift. You, the new parent, are so consumed with the baby’s needs — feeding, sleeping, bathing, changing, cuddling, burping — there is no time for your own needs, let alone the needs of your friends.

It’s unfortunate. But with a bottle in one hand and a diaper in the other, you have tumbled into a black hole and vanished from the real world — poof!

Meanwhile, back in the real world, your friends missed the departure.

Yes, they know a new baby has arrived. Yes, they are happy for you. But, no, they don’t fully understand the extent to which this new baby is an invisible lifestyle wedge between you and them.

After my twins were born, I had several conversations along these lines:

Friend: “Congratulations! That’s great!”

Me: “Thanks. Yeah, it’s been kind of crazy around here with . . . ”

Friend: “ . . . I can only imagine. So listen, what are you guys doing Saturday night?”

Me: “Well, I suspect we’ll be here with the babies. Do you want to come over?”

Friend: “I definitely want to meet the girls. Definitely. But on Saturday, a bunch of us are going to this new place on Queen. You should come out for dinner, or at least drinks. It’ll be fun!”

This week, the Vanier Institute of the Family released a new report. Among the findings, two revelations gave me shivers. For the first time, there are more single Canadian adults than those who are married. For the first time, married couples without children outnumber married couples with children.

In short: We are now the minority. Our nuclear families, traditional and increasingly anachronistic, exist inside a mushroom cloud of cultural change.

So the question becomes: How do we avoid becoming radioactive? How do we hang on to our friends who are single or married without children? What can we, the minority, do to avoid drifting away from majority?

Four years after fatherhood, with the benefit of mistakes and hindsight, I offer some humble advice to new parents. Here now, Five Ways To Keep Your Friends After Parenthood:

1. Limit the amount of time spent talking about the little one.

This will sound cynical and harsh. But here goes: Your childless friends have no real interest in your child. None. For the next few months, select your talking points wisely.

2. Avoid emotional distance caused by false envy.

Along with profound joy, a baby also brings confusion and frustration. When a friend talks about the date he had with a leggy publicist or jokes about sleeping in on Sunday, it’s easy to think, “I can’t relate to this person any more.” You can and you must.

3. Take a genuine interest in your friends’ lives.

You’re not sleeping. You’re not wearing clean clothes. It’s hard to care about your friend’s new promotion or the spontaneous trip to New York she took last weekend. This is a critical window in your friendship: Don’t let it snap shut because you were too frazzled to hold it open.

4. Don’t encourage friends to “join the club”

Having a baby is not dissimilar to entering a cult. It’s new, it’s exciting and it’s hard to be deprogrammed. But friends have good reasons for not wanting to join. Questions such as, “When are you having a baby?” will only alienate them.

5. Remember this is not a zero-sum game.

Your new baby is Priority No. 1. Any friend who does not get this is not a friend worth keeping. But you can be a great parent and a great friend at the same time. The key is perspective, balance and time management.

So enjoy this exhilarating black hole plunge. Just remember: re-entry will occur sooner than you think. And when you’re back in the real world, dazed and bleary-eyed, you will be looking around for your friends.


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