parent opinion

'As women, we're fed a friendship myth about life after babies. For many of us, it's a complete lie.'

I’ve noticed a little trend floating around on social media and in parenting circles and I vehemently disagree with it, so I am here to tell you why you should too.

It seems to be popular for parents to peddle a myth that once you decide to settle down and have a family, this automatically means saying goodbye to all the other great things in your life, like holidays, grown-up telly and sleep. But, one of the saddest opinions I keep hearing is that once becoming a parent, you must relinquish all friends who have yet to hit this milestone too. And don’t even think about the ones who have decided nappies and nap times aren’t for them at all, and have chosen to remain child free by choice.

Apparently, choosing to expand your family means slimming down your squad and I’m not here for that one bit.

Team Mamamia share their funniest fails as sleep-deprived mums. Post continues below.

Video by MMC

I was the first in my friendship group to have a baby and I can honestly say it hasn’t affected our relationships at all. In fact, I often say that being the only parent around child-free pals is brilliant.

They are the ultimate friends with benefits. Unlike with other parents, they have no ‘cherubs’ of their own to bathe and wrestle into a pair of pyjamas, and are usually willing to throw you a favour every once in a while so you can wear lipstick (and a bra) and leave the house after dark. Ooh, think of where you could go! A club; the pub; the cinema? Sure, sex is great but when was the last time you got to eat a whole treat size bag of Caramello Koalas without hiding under the stairs and stuffing the empty packet in your sock drawer? Plus, offspring-free adults are also far more likely to be available for a last minute wine and whine sesh and sometimes, after a day of potty training and Thomas the Tank Engine, this can be a lifeline.

I was nervous to be the first to upset the social apple cart by having a baby, but my friends have been an amazing support since day one. Fears that I would be left holding the baby while they had beach days and boozy Sunday lunches were unfounded. When we do meet up with the family, I hardly see the kids all day. They enjoy cuddles from their aunties and uncles while I nurse a large Sauvignon.

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Incredibly, despite identifying as a mother, I’ve found that I can still uphold adult conversations and be interested in the lives/loves/work/ interests of grown up people who I didn’t give birth to. Believe it or not, I can still drink wine, eat in restaurants, go to the theatre and shake it in a club. Although, I did once have my bag checked, only for the bouncer to pull out my breast pump and eye it with half revolted curiosity. Still, when you’ve had a team of people stick their heads, hands, arms, elbows and other undisclosed equipment between your legs, these things aren’t quite as mortifying as they once might have been. May I just add, that my mate had her bag checked and then had to explain why she was carrying a giant bag of curly kale to a nightclub, so we all have our crosses to bear.

childless women new mum
"Believe it or not, I can still drink wine, eat in restaurants, go to the theatre and shake it in a club." Image: Supplied.

I know I’m lucky my kids have another parent – I’m in no doubt that single parents may not have as much time for socialising. My partner is hands-on, more than capable of feeding and watering the young and putting them to bed. This allows me to get dressed and out of the door at a normal time to meet my friends after work. Having support is a big part of it, but I wish everyone would stop blaming parenthood on their friends being crap. Maybe they just weren’t that into you to begin with? Or, maybe, you’re not bringing your fair share to the table.

The way I see it, the onus is on the parent to make the effort. You were the one who altered the dynamic, after all. In spite of your friends, it’s healthy to retain a little of ‘you, the person’ alongside ‘you, the mum (or dad)’. Doing this has a huge benefit to your day-to-day happiness and mental health, and can reinforce the bond with your partner. It’s easy to fall in line with the message that your child-free pals just don’t ‘get’ your life now, but if you were good friends before babies, the ties that bind should still be tight. Before deeming them unaccepting of your new existence, step back and look at how you could be are weakening the friendship. If you only want to hang out at Chipmunks and talk about 50 shades of baby poo, you probably can’t blame them for wanting to take a wide berth.

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childless women new mum
"Plus, offspring-free adults are also far more likely to be available for a last minute wine and whine sesh and sometimes, after a day of potty training and Thomas the Tank Engine, this can be a lifeline." Image: Supplied.

Most days I smell of stale milk and have Play-Doh in my hair, but I shower up, drag myself out (often when I’d rather be asleep on my sofa dribbling on a cushion) because my friends are my family, my rock and my life. I value them as highly as all the other things that are important to me (home/career/always having wine in the rack). Without them, I would lose me. The me before kids. The me I still love getting to be once in a while. You won't be able to make every Friday night catch up or go wild like the old days, but when you do dust off your heels, it will give you a real high.

The narrative about a divide between those with kids and child-free friends only exists if you let it. It’s not about parenthood, it’s about people. You can have a family and a life; everything else is just an excuse.

Helen Wright is a lifestyle and travel writer and you can follow her family travel tips at passportstamps.uk and on Twitter @helenwrites and Instagram also @helenwrites

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