When girlfriends become mummies

“We were friends for about five years before we had babies -we worked together and at weekends we partied together. Later, we spent holidays together with our respective partners. Then we had children.  As we have journeyed through pregnancies and into parenthood, the differences between our styles of parenting are so glaringly obvious that it’s become uncomfortable, to put it mildly, “says Andrea, mother of a two year old and a newborn.

Children and friendships can be a volatile mix, whether your friends are also having babies or not. Katie, mum of a four year old says, “I felt as though my single girlfriends all abandoned me when I had my baby. They became stressed if she cried and I needed to interrupt a conversation to attend to her. I don’t think they could cope with my attention being focussed on my baby and they really didn’t understand that I had to plan around her to meet up.”

Katie is now comfortable with the reality that her parenting style has defined her friendships with other mothers as well as her former friends. She says, “I found the greatest differences for most of my friends with children were around feeding and sleeping – who was breastfeeding, who wasn’t and who believed in things like controlled crying and who didn’t. Later, when the children became toddlers who pushed and shoved each other, different discipline styles also came into play. Although we weren’t critical of each other, we skirted issues and tip toed around each other. This takes a lot of energy so while some friendships became closer, others gradually drifted apart as we found our groove as different kinds of mothers.”

Andrea has made wonderful friends within her local mums’ group- sharing children to give each other breaks or attend appointments and dropping off meals if somebody is having a tough time. She says, “this is a really nurturing experience for me as a mother.”  However, this isn’t the case for Andrea and her former work colleague. She says, “the right to make different “choices” aside, my partner and I decided that it is not worth making a big effort with friendships that are on different tracks entirely. Sometimes I felt that the only thing we have in common is that we both have children and live in the same city! It all came to a crunch in our minds when my friend’s partner got really angry with their daughter one evening. Their two year old was tired and ready for bed, but they were making her wait until it fitted with them to take her home. She got angry and started kicking and shouting, which was typical for a small tired toddler, but rather than compassion she was scolded and sent for ‘time out’ in a dark room alone. She was terrified!  Our toddler was also upset, seeing it happened in our house. We saw a lack of respect that night that made us wonder about the time and energy we put into friendships, and when to let go of ones that are heading off on a different tangent.”

If a friendship is really important to us, sometimes we can redesign that friendship and meet on terms that work for both of us. We can agree to disagree on issues that are sensitive and accept that each mother is trying to do her best for her children – her way – even though this isn’t necessarily the way we do things in our own families.  However, we also have a responsibility to protect our children. For instance, if you have a friend with a sedate baby who sits in her pram while you do lunch and your child is a climber, it is unfair to get cross with your little monkey. It may be better to meet in a park or catch up without children occasionally. Or, if maintaining a friendship feels too stressful, it may be time to examine what it really means to you.

As Andrea says, “it is better for us to use that time and energy to be happy with people who make us feel good and support our choices and for our friends to find people who support their choices too.”

Playing nicely

  • Meet on neutral territory – in a park or playground (not a restaurant with white table cloths!)
  • Listen and acknowledge each other  – you can agree to disagree (at least some times)
  • If you feel pressured to compromise your values or your parenting style, move on, treading gently, without blame.
breastfeedingbreastfeeding mombreastfeeding mumdiffering parenting stylesnew mothersPregnancy & Birthwhen friends become moms
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  • Anita

    Some of my friendships have definitely changed. One of my closert friends withdrew and stuck to herself as she was so concerned about keeping to routines when she had her baby and I felt like I didn’t fit in her life anymore even though I had a child of a similar age. Some of my best school friends are still besties but I have a couple of more close friends from my local Aust Breastfeeding Association group. They are especially important as I live further away from my old friends.

  • Kate

    This is a very interesting topic. I have quite a few long term friends. Friends that I went to school with, some even kinder.
    Being a mum is the most important job I will ever do, and I take it very seriously. We’re all about co-sleeping, discipline = teaching NOT punishment, no smacking etc. I do my best to be a positive and gentle parent.
    But some of my closest friends have the opposite approach. They are constantly growling at their children, smacking etc. They let their baby cry to sleep! They have their children in full time care, and miss their old life of social nights out, fashion, shopping etc. Now we have nothing in common. Plus they clearly disapprove of my methods, “I’m too soft” or “my boys are out of control.”
    My closests friends now are the ones I share the same parenting beliefs with. We can turn to each other for advice and I know we will stay friends into the future. Our children play well together, and we are all happy with our lives just the way they are!

    • Tes26

      “Full time day care” some people enjoy and need to work.

  • Sharon

    I find this issue is right at the heart of alot of my problems at the moment as I feel really isolated because I can’t spend time with my friends because they are on different ‘schedules’ to me with kids/work/life in general. I didn’t find anyone in my mother’s group to whom I want to go catch up with on a regular basis, or the one girl with whom we had resounding similarities, we both work different hours/days even if it’s only twice a wk. I no longer get invited out to things because I could never go, and didn’t always want to leave my child & husband just to be social……maybe I hampered my future efforts at socialising for pulling back when I felt my baby needed me as a priority. There is a great need to respect yourself too; we need to analyse each situation as what one will gain – and right now I need to re-gain my self confidence as an individual, because I’m a great mum,but a sad individual. And my child doesn’t benefit from me feeling lonely because those sort of feelings get passed on and she knows I’m not happy. So I encourage all mum’s to make a big effort to socialise when you can (within normal parameters of being a mum as your #1 priority!), because being on your own is not always healthy for you,your baby or your husband!

  • Lynn Varney

    I couldn’t agree more with the statement about letting it go. I have found that I have become closer to my friends who have a similar view on parenting to me and surprisingly have remained closer friends to those who have chosen not to have children or who don’t want to have children in the near future. For some reason they seem less judgemental!

    I have however let go of one very close friend and relative which is sad but will ultimately make life with my family easier and less stressful. When we were growing up we were different anyway but were like two peas in a pod. She would always do as her mother told her and was the opposite. Now we both have kids and I find that I am very attached to my daughter whereas she spends most of her time sending her daughter to the naughty corner even though she works full time or is out with friends. I could forgive her personality when we were bc but now I feel for her children AND her. I just can’t parent around her while she takes pot shots at my parenting style because she feels guilty about hers.

  • Jo L.

    Interesting topic.

    My biggest issue actually came with differences in parenting styles between my now ex and I – which is in part why we are separated.

    As for my friends – when I think of the closest to me .. about 3 – each one parents differently to me and while certain things don’t sit well with me (I’m pretty sure it goes both ways) – I respect them for doing their best with their kids.

  • Lisa Bridger

    So so true, my best friend criticises my parenting style where I bite my tongue and say nothing about hers, I gentle parent, co sleep, baby wear and still breastfeeding 3+
    years, she complete opposite. I’ve joined a group of mums that parent my way, it’s less stressful,

  • Sarah

    I had my first son at 20 and lost alot of friends because of how young I was, everyone was out partying and i had to grow up and be a mother, but I still had one friend who stuck by me until I had my second son and she had her daughter, at first everything was fine and we made time to see each other but between me being a mum of two plus trying to study I got really busy and just struggled to find time, I woke up one morning to a message saying that ‘ I was ignoring her ‘ I tried to explain but she didn’t want to hear it and I never heard from her again, now I’m pregnant with my third son and have no one whatsoever, my partner isn’t really a talker

  • Blare

    I feel some friends completley abandoned me when I became a mum- invites to events just suddenly stopped. It has been up to me contact them and arrange catch ups which can be very difficult with a little baby. I have made some friendships with mums in local playgroups but I do miss my friends from my pre-baby life.