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How to remain close to childless friends

keep the friendship alive

In the midst of expanding bellies, parenting classes, trips to the hospital, reorganized priorities and detailed discussions about formula, those closest to you who don't have children may begin to feel left out. Even your best friends may feel like you're now divided into separate worlds: those with children and those without. Given your now-different lifestyles and the presence of Baby - who takes up quite a bit of space and time - is there room for these old friendships?

keep the friendship alive

"While it's certainly true that life changes radically when you have a child, there's absolutely zero need for these precious friendships to come to an end," says Rachel Greene Baldino, a therapist and author of The New Age Guide to Loving Simply: Eliminating Drama From Your Intimate Relationships (New Age Dimensions, 2005). "We all need and benefit from having a wide variety of friendships in our lives."

Marlynn Schotland and her husband enjoy both a close-knit group of friends and a 10-month-old son. "Within our group of friends we have one childless couple who definitely don't ever plan on having children, and I have one friend who, in her own words, 'hates kids,' especially babies," Schotland says. "We remain close to these friends, I believe, out of a mutual respect for each of our chosen lifestyles."

Making the Effort

While relationships between those with children and those without are definitely possible, they may take a different approach and even a new set of game rules. So Schotland has devised a list of "Do's" and "Don'ts" from her own personal experience:
  • Do make a habit of spending time with your childless friends. "It is harder, because you don't have similar child-related functions to attend together, but you have to schedule it in just like all other important appointments," Schotland says. "If the friendship is valuable to you, then you must do your part to make it work, even if it's a challenge."
  • Do focus on activities you have in common that don't involve children. This is important for many new parents, as it helps them keep in touch with their pre-children identities. When children are part of the equation, have a plan (visiting friend's home) for keeping little ones out of trouble in your friend's home.
  • Do make plans that are flexible, or make alternate plans just in case you have to cancel the first due to a child-related issue. Schotland says she's had to reschedule plans because her son didn't nap when she thought he was going to, or because things didn't work out with a sitter. "I try to be upfront with my friends and let them know that I may be late, or we try to arrange a flexible timeline for our plans. I think having them expect the unexpected helps take some possible strain off the friendships."
  • Do let your friends know in a polite way if they've said something that's offended you. While you need to be respectful of the fact they've chosen not to have children, they also need to be respectful of your choice to have children. As Schotland says, friendships are two-way streets, or else they wind up in dead ends.
  • Don't talk all baby, all the time. "Yes, being a new mom and dad consumes every moment of your existence, and yes, you could truly talk about it every waking hour and still have more to talk about, but remember that you chose to pursue this lifestyle and your friends didn't," Schotland advises. "Try to be respectful of that, especially for friends that may be childless because they can't have children. "
  • Don't be apologetic about having children.

"The key for me as a new mom is to continue to realize the value that I hold in each of these friendships and to maximize the time we spend together," says Schotland. "I wouldn't, for instance, invite my dear friend who hates babies to my son's first birthday party, but I would go out for drinks with her after work. I appreciate our relationship for what it is, and neither of us tries to instill our beliefs or lifestyles upon the other."

for more parenting tips on SHeKnows:

New mom survival guide
How moms can get some help
5 Ways to improve your parenting today

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