It's hard to keep on top of your social life when your most high-maintenance little friend of all is consuming your mind, body and bank balance. But Isabel Mohan says you should try to make time for your mates, or you might regret it...
This one goes out to Daniel and Jordan and Gemma and Sarah and Ann and Heather and Alex and Tom B and Olivia and Louise and Latoya and Muffy H and Big Bob and obviously halfway through that list I started making up names because I don’t have that many friends. Anymore.
Having a kid is awesome. People who say they love every minute of it are liars/loons, but, nearly 18 months in, I have loved at least 89% of the minutes. The other 11% of the time has involved the four month sleep regression, nipple blebs (whatever you do, don’t google that) and hand, foot and mouth disease (you can google that, it’s less gross than nipple blebs).
But for me, the absolute hardest bit has been the effect on my social life. As I like to repeatedly tell people, I used to be FUN! By which I mean I was basically Amy Schumer in Trainwreck (which I only know about because I saw it at baby cinema).
Then I got a boyfriend, made him marry me and got knocked-up pretty promptly. Perhaps surprisingly, at 34 I was the last of my main circle of gal pals to start procreating, which was great, as they gave me loads of advice and hand-me-downs, plus the biggest gift of all for any new mum: daytime availability. I made new mum friends locally too (crucial! Which is why we have mush) so, in those hazy newborn days, there was always someone else around to inhale Hob Nobs and pace the park with. Evenings were spent at home with my husband, taking it in turns to eat dinner, and weekends mostly involved seeing family and trying to make the house look less disgusting.
Having a night-time social life felt like an impossibility (and not something I could be bothered with anyway) but I really missed my other friends, the ones without kids, and I still miss them today because, now that I have a toddler and I’m working again, spare time is even more scarce.
I’ve now done what I should’ve done 18 months ago - come up with a list of ways to keep up with non-mum friends, so that you don’t get a reputation for being a flaky, lazy baby bore and so that, when you are ready to unleash the trainwreck again, you don’t have to do it alone.
1. Organise stuff
When you first have a baby, everyone turns up bearing babygros and cheap fizz, but then it stops and they get on with their enriching careers and vibrant social lives while you stay in and learn the difference between Pinky Ponk and Ninky Nonk. The onus is on you to organise stuff, or they’ll assume you don’t have time for them.
The issue here is lack of compatibility. They’re at work all day, you’re not. They go out in the evening, you can’t (because the baby won’t take a bottle) or don’t want to (so you pretend the baby won’t take a bottle). Stop moaning and just go and meet them near their work for lunch – seriously, it’s SO much easier with a portable little baby who’s not in a routine than it is when they’re older.
And if you really can’t be arsed, then for god’s sake, invite people over for dinner or a weekend lunch. You don’t need to wear make-up. With some friends you don’t even need to wear clothes.
2. Show an interest in other people’s lives
I used to whinge incessantly about how much my friends banged on about their tedious babies. But then it transpired that my baby was the most interesting baby to ever have been born, and I understood. But… your non-mum friends won’t understand. They love you and they mostly tolerate your baby but remember to ask them about that boss they hate/play they’re writing/bloke they’re shagging. Also, try and post things other than photos of your baby on Facebook (still working on this).
3. Don’t put pressure on yourself
The first couple of times I went out in the evening post-baby, when he was four or five months old, I didn’t enjoy it at all. The fact that one of the highlights was finding out my Uber driver had a baby who was born THE SAME WEEK as mine says it all - I was still in the new baby bubble and did not want to wear a wired bra or queue up for overpriced drinks in bars full of nubile 23 year olds, I just wanted to be at home talking about and/or staring at the world’s best baby. That's a lie... I actually just wanted to sleep.
This is OK. There is no huge rush; there will always be overpriced drinks. If you wait until you’re ready, you’ll be better company than when your boobs are crying and you’re checking your phone every three seconds. I first really enjoyed occasionally going out-out again when my baby was about nine months old. For some people, it’s nine days. For others, it’s nine years.
4. Don’t be flaky
You think you don’t have time to reply to that lovely email from your crazy old workmate, but you do, you’re just choosing to use your downtime to do other stuff: if you’re me, it’s playing Words With Friends (ironically, against my mum), buying wacky toddler leggings on Etsy and looking at houses on RightMove in places I’d never realistically move to.
Social media can make us feel connected to people we don’t often see, which is great. But we also use it as an excuse to not actually BE connected with people we like (“Seen Mel recently?”, “Yes, of course! I mean, on Facebook…”). When I get messages from friends, I’m usually in the middle of something (often, it’s toddler poo), so then I forget to reply. It’s time to start making lists of people you need to get in touch with - because keeping up with people you think are awesome is just as important as remembering to buy bathroom cleaner.
5. Make time for the other love of your life too
It takes a while to feel confident leaving your precious firstborn in the care of another for an evening, so for months or even years you might feel like you’ve vaguely got your social life back, but actually it’s only 50% of it, because you and your partner take it in turns to go out.
This means, all of “his” friends (who you love too. Well, most of them) only get to see him, because he gets custody of those invitations, while you just end up on girls nights. With other mums. Talking about your babies.
Plus, you might book a babysitter/grandmother several months in advance for a wedding or other big do, but you really miss those spontaneous trips to the pub after work with your beloved. Try and plan childcare for a couple of more low-key nights too. Or just buy a house next door to a pub and get a really good baby monitor (OBVIOUSLY THIS IS A JOKE. Nobody can afford to move house when they’ve just had a baby).