When I was pregnant, I could sense the change. Not my growing belly, though that was plain to see. There was also a palpable shift in my relationships with my closest friends, particularly those who didn't have kids. I could see an invisible wedge slowly take up residence between us, and it only got more apparent after the baby came. There were hug-filled visits, there were beautifully wrapped gifts, there were offers to help and cook and clean, and then, all of a sudden, there were periods of silence that felt truly deafening.
Becoming a mum was one of the greatest things to happen to me, but it certainly wasn't without some casualties. Not surprisingly, long-distance friendships were the first to take a hit — save for the occasional comment on a Facebook post, it was just impossible to keep up. But when I started to see that even my best friends weren't quite the same around me, I realised that there was a lot of misinformation and half-truths about what it's like to be a mum and the friend of one. Here, a few things I hope my child-free besties know about me now.
- I'm terrible at email. If I don't reply to your email in a timely fashion (read: three weeks, minimum), please don't be resentful. It's not that I'm not interested or not thinking about it. It's just that having one free hand, never mind two, to type a response is a rarity. Another tip: the longer the message, the longer it'll take me to respond. If you want a quick response, I'm oddly much better at texting.
- You shouldn't assume I don't know what's going on in the world. I may be a few episodes behind on a show we both love (please stop with the spoilers), and I probably won't read that 5,000-word Slate article you told me about for another few days, but I do still try to keep up with news, pop culture, and politics. So what if most of that is through Facebook and Instagram.
- I can still be spontaneous. It's rare, but it's possible. When I see that you went to the modern art museum last weekend, I admit I get a tinge of jealousy — not just because I've been wanting to see that new exhibit ever since I read about it online but also because I happened to be bored out of my mind last weekend and would love to have joined you. It's true that most of the time, I can't stop what I'm doing to meet up, but don't give up on me completely.
- I didn't invite you because I didn't think you'd want to come. Just like I can feel snubbed for not getting a heads up about an after-work happy hour that we both know I wouldn't be able to attend, I need to remember that you might "just want to be asked" too. The next time I have a bagel brunch with mums from play group, I'll be sure to include you. But if I forget (which is sadly a distinct possibility), know it's not because I don't want you there.
- I don't want you to talk about the things you think I want you to talk about. You probably assume that whenever we chat, the conversation has to revolve around my little bundle of joy. On the contrary, I talk about my baby enough with my husband, my parents, my nanny, and my mum friends. When I've got you on the line, I honestly want to talk about anything else.
- You really aren't that tired. I know it's not appropriate for me to assume I know how overworked and stressed you are, but complaining about how little time you have is not something I can tolerate. Just as I won't complain to a mum of twins about being exhausted, please save your frustrations for someone who can better relate.
- I don't always want to drink, even though I had to abstain for nine months. I'm sure you think that because I had to give up booze during my entire pregnancy, I'd be craving cocktails. If I say I want a glass of wine, great, but if I stick with water, please don't give me that look. Especially if that look is you wondering if I'm trying to get pregnant again.
- I won't replace you if you won't replace me. Every time I hear you talk about another person, particularly if it's a name I don't recognise, I'll internally freak out that I'm being phased out. I understand that becoming a mum means that there are some voids in our friendship that you'll need filled elsewhere, but please don't fill so many that you don't need me anymore.