Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Losing friends after having a baby

(Did I change... or do people just look at me differently now? Venice, 2013)

I love women supporting women and I really value my girlfriends. But...where did they all go? All of my friends who don't have children are slowly dropping off one by one. Is it something I said?

They say life changes when you have a baby...but what they don't tell you is that your friendships can also change. Especially your friendships with fellow women friends, who don't have children yet.

I feel like my friends who don't have kids view me as:
a) A completely idealized version of my life - "big happy family", "everything's so perfect"
OR
b) Don't understand what it is that I do all day - look down upon me with no respect/consideration - "having so much time on my hands" (LOL at that!!)

All of my friends in the U.S. have children already - I'm practically one of the last ones. But of all my old friends from Canada, I'm the first one to get married and have a baby (Only one of my school friends' has a baby here) and I've noticed...especially when I got pregnant...so much jealousy from other women. I even got jealousy from a 66 year old woman! What the hell...why can't people be genuinely happy for me? Why is it so hard for other women to repress feelings of competition, jealousy and envy? Especially with their biological clock...I swear to god, that damn biological clock is the main source of competition amongst women!

So, what's the actual psychology behind women's jealousy/envy? I consulted one of my close friends who said, "Women are jealous of other women when they do not feel nor believe that the universe is an abundant resource where there is more than enough for everyone. There is also a "lack" within themselves they need to fulfill and they believe external measures "heal" that lack, and so they compare themselves to those they believe are successful. And when they see themselves lacking, they become "haters". Plus women are also conditioned to believe specific attributes make them "successful" such as beauty, money, intelligence, career, motherhood, marriage, etc. Until they realize that everyone is different and "success" is subjective, there is always that bit of envy. I believe everyone wants the same things: to be loved, to be accepted, and to be happy. When someone doesn't feel that way about themselves, then there is envy." Ain't that the truth!!! SUCCESS IS SUBJECTIVE, PEOPLE!!!

(It's been a long road for us too...Texas, 2007 - pretending to be hitchhikers on our cross-country road trip)

Look, yes I'm lucky to be married and have a baby. But it's been a long road for me and I freakin' deserve it!!! I've been with husband-ji for over 7 years - we've been through thick and thin together - medical emergencies, being in college together, searching for jobs, moving to 3 cities as well as across borders, death of loved ones, fighting and making up, all the cultural differences, family melodramas...you name it and we've been through it. We were engaged for 5 years before we finally got married. It hasn't been easy for us..it still isn't easy for us. And after so many years, it was time for a baby. That was our destiny. I didn't realize it was such a big deal to be married and have a baby...I mean, it's not like I have some presidential career going (but to some it may appear like that!)

The grass is always greener on the other side. People can't see what you've gone through...they only see us looking like a perfect, happy, complete family. We work on things every day, we prioritize each other and our family. And having a daughter is the best thing we ever did...and it's redefined my idea of "hard work". Being a parent is the most demanding, but rewarding job.

At my baby shower, there were several women who attended who gave me weird looks. Both from elder women and younger women. One was a school friend who said, "I can't believe you're married and are going to have a baby already...I'm not even close yet" and I felt weird about that. Why is she comparing us? It's not a competition, we are all on our own journey...

But to many women, just because I have a husband and a child, it's like I've beat them to the finish line. What's that all about? Even the ones who I'd never thought would be jealous...slowly got eaten up with envy. It has been both disappointing and hurtful to say the least. When I meet up with these friends, everywhere we go, someone is always asking "Who's baby is that?" and Maya gets so much attention. I can see the pain in their faces - "It could have been me..." but I chose to go against my instinct and brush it off. I felt bad. I guess that always happens with childhood friends, people are always comparing, "Who got the job first", or "Who got engaged first", "Who's the wealthiest" and so on...but I really can't stand it. And now, after 9 months of pregnancy & Maya being 14 months old, many of my childless friends have disappeared - now I only have my mom friends left, thank god for them...

Friendships are hard. They ebb and flow. You connect, you disconnect... Maybe they are feeling disconnected from me too, after all...my life has become pretty much all about the baby. Wherever I go, my baby goes too...as I am the primary caregiver to my daughter during the day. But I wish I could go out with my childless friends in the evenings, for movies, and things like that, as I can always get husband-ji to watch the baby after he gets home. I really do make an effort to not talk about "baby stuff" while I'm with these friends, as I do crave the adult conversation. But my mother's instinct is telling me...that it's really nothing I'm doing, it's just some kinda weird feeling from their side. Maybe it's just the mere presence of the baby in my life. And of course, that's how my life is now, and I can't trade it in, nor would I want to...

Look, everybody is busy here. And every person thinks that they are the busiest ones of all. But as parents - we ARE busier than the average person because we have a responsibility to take care of a miniature person who can hardly do anything themselves. But, we MAKE time for people because it is important to us. I contact my friends, but the only ones who are reciprocating the effort are my fellow mom friends - some of which who are even working! So, it's hard for me to be sympathetic...if a fellow mom is making an effort (who is working, has children, has a husband, family & friends - endless responsibilities), then why can't these single friends, who are 100% on their own schedule? I don't want to lose these friends...but what can I do if my efforts are not being reciprocated?

I decided to search online to see if anyone else was having this problem, and boy, is it common! Just Google search "losing friends after having a baby" and so many women are dealing with the same thing. On one site, a woman said, "Once you have kids it shows who your true friends are." On another site, it says, "The basis of friendships is a mutual support and communication", but what if you've done all you can and it's not returned? Is it really me who has changed so much, or is it the people around me who look at me differently now? Or both??? There's not much I can do...I just have to focus my energy into the friends that are making an effort for me too. Maybe the Universe is telling me I should just be friends with my mom friends right now...? Other mothers don't get mad over trivial things, they understand if you cancel, they make an effort to plan around nap times, they know that being a mother doesn't even compare to "working", they value the connection with another woman because it can be isolating being with your baby all day. You don't know any of this until you become a mother. Working is easier than taking care of a child.

(Img via)

Maybe this is just supposed to happen this way, so I can make room for better people in my life...? Who knows...it has really been a struggle. Even though they are all disappearing, I'm going to remain open, and stay true to my happy-go-lucky self. After all, it's their loss... I know I'm a good friend...

But you know what, though? The glass is half full too... for every friend I've lost I've made an even better friend. So even though this post is titled "Losing friends", it might as well be called "Gaining better friends"...

--------

What about you dear readers? Have you noticed feelings of competition with your friends after you got married & had a baby? Did any of my parent readers lose friends after having a baby? Any tips?

SHARE:

17 comments

  1. When it comes to children, feelings of jealousy is somewhat unique to single women especially those who hear the "clock" ticking. It does not affect men (whether single or not) the same way. Most men have the "good for you, bro" attitude about it and genuinely feel happy for him/her about it.

    As for losing friends - it has happened to us, pretty much by the same playbook you described. Sad, but what can you do about it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is true...there is not much I can do when I'm continually reaching out & the efforts not being reciprocated. It made me realize just to let it go...I don't want to lose these friends so hopefully they will come around...but I'm not going to wait on it!
      It's weird how friendships change when you have children - or I guess with any HUGE life change like that.
      It's refreshing that guys don't get jealous in the same way...guys are so much easier that way.
      Sometimes friendships end with miscommunication etc, however my feeling about the particular friendships that I'm referring to, my instinct tells me it is a female jealousy since I know they all want kids soon and are hearing the 'clock'...it's upsetting...but I can't put in effort if it is not reciprocated.

      Delete
  2. this article resonated with me so much! i dont have children yet but i was the first of my friends to get married, and not just that, i also moved to the other side of the world after my wedding. i did felt also there was a lot of jealousy, and some just generally stopped making an effort to reciprocate the interest i had to keep our friendship. most important it showed who my real frriends are. i am lucky i still have a very close relationship to my real best friend with whom ive been friends my whole life, and altough she is still single and on a total different phase of her life we still manage to stay very very close. i still also really dont understand why some women feel so much jealousy about other women. i have never felt that to be honest because i truly believe no one is better than anyone else. but now i have become more picky about making new friends and hang out with people that bring good things to my life. i am also married to an indian and i find it almost impossible to be friends with any indian girl because the jelousy and judgement towards me is just too much. i try but i just dont get it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Aida, thanks for commenting! That is interesting that you said it happened when you got married - that also happened to one of my best friends too, and even though we were in different phases we always kept in touch, and now we both have children and are closer than ever in a deeper way.
      I didn't notice it so much when I got married, but when I started dating Madhavan, many of my girlfriends at the time got really jealous and I ended up having to get new friends. One girl whom I was close friends with was always boasting about her boyfriend and when I started to date Madhavan, she got jealous because she wasn't the only one with a great boyfriend! It was absurd!!! Then she started spreading all these rumors about my husband to make him look bad so that she could go back to being the only one with the "good boyfriend"! So crazy and immature. Glad I got rid of her!
      Sometimes women can behave in a very strange manner. Among so many women, there is this weird sense of competition, and I can't stand it. Especially among groups of women. I don't believe in comparing. I really believe in sisterhood and women supporting each other. I just wish all women would be like that!

      Delete
  3. I do not know about losing friends after a baby, but I do know is about losing friends. Most of my friends were opportunistic. They stay with you if they benefit from it and the moment they sense that something wrong is going to happen with you they run away. It was very hard when ever such things happen. I gave up on friends completely and only rely on my family. D's friends are different though he do not have many. They always stick with each other in thick and thin. We know we can rely on them for anything and they can on us.
    What I am trying to say is the friends that show you their back for as simple reason as having a kid or are envious, are not worth having around. I hope I did not play a devils advocate here.
    -R

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It sucks. Sometimes you know who your real friends are when good things happen to you...because it shows who is jealous! And when bad things happen to you...because they run away!
      It is good in the long run to know these things...although it hurts at first.
      Who knows what will happen with my friends..? Life goes on..

      Delete
  4. Hi Alexandra - first off I want to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog; founded it through Sharell's blog. Love all your posts / stories. I have been thinking about replying to this post since you posted it but could not find the right words to put together so here it goes. I just want to start by telling you that I am latina and never wanted children (gasp) and my husband is Indian and never wanted it children either (double,triple gasp). This is a big no-no in both our cultures but we really never wanted them but are always sooo happy when someone we know gives us their "good news". We go out and celebrate so the perspective that I am going to give you is honest and not based on jealousy of the new mother and baby or the good o'l biological clock ticking...

    The truth is, at least how I see it, is that relationships change with time. There are new priorities, responsibilities, obligations, etc. We go from being single to married so we party less, from renting to buying so we spend less and from having no children to juggle all that and more when they come so I think that sometimes is difficult to mesh different people with different priorities.

    We love children; they are just not for us. We did find that we were able to maintain pretty much the same relationship with some of our old friends / family after they had children but with others it was just impossible. The ones we stayed in touch with we both worked together to maintain our friendship alive. The other ones were not as willing to work with us. They just wanted us to mold to their new life because they thought that we should be more flexible because we did not have any children so we could make all the consessions and be happy about it. Trust me, we did a lot of compromising but it was never enough.

    Example, we went on vacation with my sister, her husband and their 13 month old baby. I will mention that she is also 7 months pregnant. They brought his mother so she would watch the baby as they wanted this trip to be spent as a break for them to do adult things with us and hang out. Not all the time but some days you know. Anyway, everyday eveything was scheduled around the baby's feeding and nap schedule. By the third day my husband told me "we will never do this again". We were baffled as grandma was there so we could not understand why they were microomanaging her and the baby so much. There was no negotiating with them and trust me we accomodated a lot. They would say things to us like "is just so difficult but you will never know because you guys don't want any kids so how could you possibly understand". Needless to say, we felt insulted. They are family so we will continue our relationship but there are just things that we probably can no longer do together.

    Cannot wait for my new nephew / niece to arrive and I adore my sister but other than that not much in common anymore. All she talks about is baby stuff and while I listen and give her my full attention sometimes is just too much.

    Sorry for the long post and hope I convey my feelings in a respectull way :)

    Millie B

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Millie, thanks so much for coming over and reading! Excellent reply.
      Your comment was very valuable to me. It really made me look at things in a different perspective. I totally agree with you about how friendships change with time - they really do. Becoming a parent, my life has changed so much - not just my schedule but my outlook too - sometimes it feels as if my life is not entirely my own anymore, especially being in the trenches with a toddler.
      The only reason why I mentioned jealousy is due to these particular friends comments, and they are also pressuring their BFs to get married/have a baby, and always comparing, so that is why I felt it may be jealousy.
      I don't want to lose my friends since I've become a mother, as hanging out with them really reminds me of who I was before I was overwhelmed with motherhood, and many give me a fresh perspective on life events, and I love hanging out with them. I wonder if they are unable to relate to me too, as sometimes I am unable to relate to them. It is totally true what you said "it is difficult to mesh different people with different priorities."
      Definitely having children is not for everyone, and when kids are added to the mix (like on your vacation) they totally take over!
      My daughter is pretty easy to handle, but only if I do things in a timely way - sleeping, eating, play etc - it's a set routine that I have to plan my life around!
      I'm really happy for you that you & your husband have stayed true to yourself in your wishes of not having children, I can just imagine the pressure from the elders on both sides! Good for you for sticking to your guns :) I really admire that.
      And being an auntie is a really special relationship. I am really close to my aunties, and when I need advice, I always go to them :)

      Delete
    2. Hi Alexandra - thanks for your lovely words. I also believe that some of your friends'comments / bitternes have to do with jealousy. For some reason a lot of women are incapable of truly been happy for another woman's happiness. I never really felt that jealousy and never been that way because most of my friends were / are men (just friends, like brother and sister) but the women friends that I had 20-30 years ago (they both have children) are still in my life and we are as close to each other as ever; they are a very important part of my life. Things will get better. When you have real friends it never takes too much effort to stay connected if any effort at all.

      And our elders got the message from the very beginning but I most confess that even after us being together for 10 years and married for 9 MIL is stills throws out there the "when am I going to get good news from you guys" speech to which we both reply never!!! Indian mother in laws never give up :) Hang in there lady!!!

      Millie B

      Delete
    3. Hi Millie, yes I agree, it is so hard to comprehend jealousy because I never think that way or like to compare! It is true what you said "When you have real friends it never takes too much effort to stay connected if any effort at all." - so so true :)

      Delete
  5. I've had to deal with that before, almost exactly the same as you mentioned. Friends do grow apart as you grow up and move on from the kinds of activities that fulfilled you in your college days. Going out to bars and fun revolving around drinking becomes less fun for some and remains a high priority for other. In those cases we have moved on to adult friends, who have similar interests and ideas about life that we do. We truly enjoy hanging out on an afternoon having pizza and watching our toddlers play, more than going to a bar.

    For single (or childless) people to begrudge us for changing, growing and finding our way on our journey of life is ridiculous. You have your life- go out and live it how you see fit. People change for all different reasons. Being a parent is one huge event in life and it would be odd if you didn't shift your priorities. Having a baby is overwhelming, intense physically and emotionally and downright exhausting. Watching that child grow is amazing and constantly creates new challenges. I am amazed at how people without children (or who can't fully remember just how all encompassing it is) can have so many needs and expectations and then proceed to say that people with children are selfish. My number one responsibility in life is to my child and I believe that is the right way to care for a small human being you have brought into the world. If you are a self sufficient adult, chosing not to have children, own that, and do the things that are going to make life fulfilling to you. Don't look at your friends who have children and blame them for dedicating themselves to this societally necessary and important task. Aprreciate it, fit into their lives where you can and do what makes you happy. True friends will not judge your choice to put your children first, they will respect it. Perhaps this is the reason that so many parents gravitate to be friends with other parents- we are not being judged for our lack of energy, time and early sleeping schedule. It's accepted as what you do to be the strongest, most active, best parent you can. And that is both a noble and worthwhile pursuit in life. Each of us needs purpose in life- so seek it where you like.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellent reply. I totally agree, to each his own. I am also naturally gravitating towards other parents for that exact reason. It's funny how things like that happen...it's the biggest life change.

      Delete
  6. I'm a first time dad and my twin girls are 9 months old. All of my friends don't have kids yet and are single and bar-hopping. Needless to say, they have all dropped off the face of the Earth, after we had the twins. At times, I find parenthood to be very isolating. Nobody comes to visit us, and when I do meet up with these friends, I can't connect with them at all. I just wish they were more considerate, I feel like I'm the only one who grew up, yet I'm left behind. And the sad part is...once my friends do get around to having kids, they will know lots of other parents. So they will never know how isolating it is being the first one. I'm glad I made a group of dad friends though. But it is really hard. It is like a loss of my old friends. I know it is for the better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can totally relate. It is very isolating in so many ways! I'm in the same boat!

      Delete
  7. They are jealous because they want what you got. Some women can get quite vile and nasty in certain age group especially in their very late 30s trying to conceive but cant for fertility issues. Very sad indeed but no need for that stinking attitudes for their personal issues.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree....One of my friends did not realize she wanted a baby until she saw me with my child...it was hard for her...
      But it's like, Why can't they just say that then lash out in a nasty way, you know?

      Delete
  8. Thanks for taking the time to share your life with others. I know I am commenting on this article around a year late, but it struck a chord in me and I wanted to share some different perspective that can help perhaps others reading this.

    A lot of times when things change in our lives, whether good or bad, it forces those around us to reflect on their own lives. When people around you see you getting pregnant or having a child and they see the change that causes in our own life, it inevitable makes them reflect on their own life. It is natural for people, including you and me, to gauge how successful or happy we are based upon what we observe around us.

    For example, studies have shown that the increasing participation in social media like Facebook, etc. causes people to suffer from depression, dejection, and feelings of decreased self worth. When people are constantly exposed to everyone else's accomplishments, milestones, announcements, marriages, child births, job promotions, it causes people to reflect on the value of their own life. This doesn't mean that anyone who is not thrilled for us is not a true friend or is jealous or envious.

    It helps to take a more compassionate approach to those around us. People aren't necessarily unhappy for your new childbirth or new milestone. Sometimes your life can simply cause them to deal with unhappy issues they have and to confront things about themselves that make them feel insecure, uncomfortable, or even sad.

    I have a friend who is currently having problems getting pregnant. As a result, she has isolated herself from a lot of friends who are now starting to have kids. It's a constant reminder to her of the difficulty she is having. This doesn't mean that she is just a "vile or nasty" person or that she can't be happy for others. But you have to recognize that other people experience things differently.

    Instead of assuming that people are just jealous and not good friends, I would encourage you and everyone (including myself) to try to treat others with compassion. Try to realize that things are not always black and white.

    ReplyDelete

Respectful comments only, please! (That means you, anonymous.)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
© Madh Mama. All rights reserved.
BLOGGER TEMPLATE DESIGNED BY pipdig