Sunday, June 27, 2010

On friendship. After baby.

When you are pregnant, your social life changes a very little bit. You don’t drink, need more sleep and require a new, less flattering wardrobe. For the 39 weeks of my pregnancy, I was able to go on with my social life, more or less uninterrupted. Always an insomniac, I found that even adding more sleep to my days I was able to stay out late with friends. Missing out on taking in a few drinks was a drag, but I still made it to concerts and parties, and focused on the fun I could have at those events. Wardrobe-wise, well, I made the best of the situation. My main concern through the nine months was for the time to come.. once baby arrived, how would my social life change?

Very very few of my friends have babies. Like, only one or two. My closest girlfriends, the ones I could be sure to see most weeks, have none and aren’t planning on it any time soon. As my due date approached, I would ask at least once or twice “We’ll still hang out like this when the baby comes, right?”. A little desperate sounding, to be sure, but I was seriously worried about becoming completely isolated, at home with a baby. Or worse, becoming on of those people who is only friends with other mothers. Maybe even the type who joins a mother’s group to meet people. 

I had no concerns on my end. I was confident that baby would go wherever I went, and I would go anywhere I felt like. After all, I was planning on wearing my baby, and breastfeeding my baby and so we would be portable, bonded and always within reach of a meal. My concern was for my friends, would they want to hang out with me plus one? Would they find the addition of an occasionally crying, but generally sweet infant to be a hassle?

In the weeks after Ollie arrived, we were bombarded with visitors. And I loved it. I expected to be too tired to see anyone, but the crazy new-mommy-hormones that labor released caused me to be just bursting with pride and energy, and eager to show off my sweet little baby.

As weeks turned into months, the endless string of obligatory social calls began to grate on my nerves. People I had no interest in spending time with pre-baby felt entitled to a visit during the most sleep-deprived, hectic and wonderful time of my life. I started to get a little cranky, and just as my crankiness peaked, the visitors dropped off. Thank god.

Four months into the mothering experience, my life has leveled out quite a bit. We have a daytime routine (although not a sleep routine), I’m dressed in (usually) coordinated outfits each day, and Oliver isn’t clamoring to eat every hour the way he used to. Theoretically this is the perfect time to re-up my social calendar.

But things have changed. For one thing, Chris works days, and so do many of my friends. With Ollie attached to me (or more specifically, my breasts), anywhere I go, he goes too. For Chris and Ollie to get their bonding time in, I need to be close by, and it needs to be in the evening, or weekend hours. Family time takes precedence over friend time.

OK, so friends can hang out at our place, right? Sure, that works. Except it means that all conversations have to be for my ears and my husband’s. Plus, having a drink with a girlfriend on the deck isn’t quite the same with husband and baby watching it happen, know what I mean?

After bedtime then. Yes, good idea. Most nights Ollie goes down by 7, leaving me free til around 11 to do what I want. But sometimes he doesn’t, and those times often seem to coordinate with days I have planned activities with my friends. So often in fact, that one of my girlfriends now refers to me as “the ditcher”.

Basically I am left feeling like a boring and not so great friend. I’m working on getting better. If Oliver would take a bottle (which he used to), that would help. If we were getting more sleep around here, that would also motivate me to be more social. But in the meantime, the best I can do, I guess is ask for patience from my friends, and invite them over for drinks with me and the baby. Honestly, he’s the big draw around here anyway.

*** To this, I should add that on the flip side, I have gotten much closer with some friends who I didn’t know as well. My neighbor, at home working on her PhD is a rock – helper, coffee buddy, .. she brings dinner parties to our house! My brother and his girlfriend, new to the neighbourhood, are always up for coffee visits, or to watch Ollie while he sleeps so I can get out. We even made one set of parent friends – they’re new, but tonight we’re going to attempt dinner at their place, putting Ollie down to sleep there and then strolling him home when the evening comes to an end. So the picture isn’t bleak, it is just different. ***

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