When I had my first daughter, one of the biggest adjustments I had to make was figuring out how to deal with the loss of freely making plans with my friends. I had kids a bit before my friends did, and I missed being able to easily agree to last-minute dinners or nights out. My friends always made a point to include me and give me as much notice as possible, but it was still hard because even with a lot of prep, plans still don’t always work out when you’re a brand-new mom tending to an unpredictable infant.
However, some friends started having their kids when my daughter was still little, and I found a lot of comfort in getting to navigate new parenthood together. Even though we were all then experiencing the adjustment as a group, the plan-making was still difficult. A group of fresh moms and young kids isn’t easy to coordinate.
Now, it’s been almost eight years since my first daughter was born. We brought a new baby to the mix in August, but even with that addition, I’m at a totally different parenting stage when it comes to maintaining my friendships than I was several years ago. I think it’s due to the extra years of mom experience under my belt and what that brings with it:
You get used to the routine
New parenthood is a total shock to the system and upends everything you previously knew. But eventually, you find your groove. Adding subsequent children is always hard but less of a shock than it was the first time because you’ve adjusted to the chaos. Once you’re in a routine, it’s easier to fit activities into the little pockets of time, like a workday lunch, morning yoga class, or a quick drink with friends after the kids are in bed.
You also become a master of efficiency. When I first had a newborn, by the time I reached the end of the evening, I would think, “there’s no way I could possibly fit anything else into this day.” But now, as I’ve figured out shortcuts and ways to make things easier, I am able to fit more in than just getting through the workday and household tasks.
It’s easier to bring your older kids along to activities
Bringing a toddler to a movie theater is almost never fun for anyone. However, bringing an elementary school kid can actually be pretty enjoyable because they appreciate the experience. Lately, a close friend and I have had some fun weekends taking our girls to lunch and a play. They enjoy the time with their moms, and I get some friend time as well. It’s also easier to bring older kids along to group family-friendly activities, like summer festivals or barbecues. The kids can play, and the adults can socialize.
Youth activities can become social
I’ve found that having your kids grow out of the baby stage doesn’t necessarily mean you have your time back—it just gets shifted. You’re now spending time at youth sports or other activities. It can make for some hectic weeknights, but by the time your kids hit this age, you’re in the routine of parenting and the schedule becomes something you’re used to. At these activities, you can find some fun adults to socialize with while you’re sitting in your lawn chair during a softball game or watching dance rehearsals. It makes the everyday activities more fun when you know there’s a mom friend to chat with while you’re there.
It’s easier to make time for yourself with older kids
When my oldest daughter was little, she could really be a handful. My husband and I always let each other have solo time for hobbies and friends, but it could be pretty tiring being left to parent an active toddler alone on a Sunday. However, once they get older, that part of leaving kids with your partner fades a lot.
Leaving a reasonably self-sufficient 7-year-old at home while you go out for the night is much easier on the other parent than leaving behind a newborn or toddler. It’s been easier for my husband and me to schedule our own activities, knowing the burden at home has really decreased for the other parent. It’s more relaxing to spend time doing something you enjoy when you don’t have to think about the chaos that’s going on at home for your counterpart.
This is just my personal experience of how maintaining my friendships has gotten easier over the last few years. I have some things working in my favor—a supportive spouse at home and an age gap between our kids (meaning one is older and more independent), so it’s easier to handle the baby.
There are certainly many things that make having this experience more difficult, like not having friends with similar-aged kids, having a lot of children, being a single parent, or having a job with non-traditional hours. However, for those out there in the throes of new parenthood, wondering when you’ll feel like yourself again, I want to assure you that you will and that it can get easier to do more things for yourself as time goes on.