Friendships will change when you become a parent. We share tips for staying in touch with old friends, making new ones and having a happy social life.
Many parents-to-be worry that having a baby will mean they’ll never go out again.
While spending time with friends may not be as spontaneous or frequent as before – and it’s likely that you’ll have less time, energy and money – it is still possible to maintain a social life. Honestly.
It may take a bit more planning, but it can be a great time to strengthen relationships with old friends and build new friendships too.
Hitting the town… with a bump!
Many women don’t feel like going out early on in pregnancy because of tiredness and sickness, but usually have a renewed energy in the second trimester. This can be a good time to see friends and make the most of your time before a newborn arrives.
You might still enjoy the atmosphere and music in bars, just with an earlier night at the end. You don’t need to stare enviously at your mate’s Pinot Noir, with the soft drinks market becoming increasingly sophisticated with alcohol-free wine and spirits to supplement the orange juice and soda.
Some women say they notice a distance with friends when they’re pregnant and no longer feel part of their social circle – especially if they’re the first to have a baby.
Try talking to your friends, as they might be assuming you don’t want to go out or don’t have time because you’re pregnant and busy with baby stuff. Tell them that you still want to hang out and spend time together.
Don’t be shy about bringing the subject up. A text or email reminding them of fun times you’ve had together and that you’re still the same person can also help.
Some mums-to-be get a tentative date in the diary for a big meet-up several months after baby is born – so they and their friends have something to look forward to while navigating the new dynamics a little one brings.
One mum said:
"Me and my friend made sure we had one last fun day together before each of our babies were born, including a nice lunch and a massage. We knew we might not be seeing each other as regularly once newborn babies were in the picture and this was a bonding tradition for us."
As your due date approaches, you may be happier being at home, particularly if you’re feeling uncomfortable and anxious about labour beginning. If you feel up to it, invite friends round as it can make the waiting more bearable if you have company.
Balancing friends with a newborn
When your baby arrives, it can be an emotional and overwhelming time. And, with sleep deprivation and new parent worries, your social life may be the last thing on your mind.
Good friends will be understanding and supportive. Let them know when you’re ready for visitors – and remember they won’t care what you look like or how messy your house is.
Many new parents feel pressure to show they’re coping well, but it’s best to be honest about how you’re getting on.
It’s easy to assume that friends who don’t have children won’t understand, but you may be surprised at how much support they can give you. And being open with them will help them realise how life has changed for you.
Do take up any offers of help – whether it’s making you a cup of tea, cooking meals or taking baby for a walk.
It’s important to strike a balance. Keeping social can be good for the brain, body and soul. But remember that you are bound to want to spend pretty much all your time with your little one. Because they’re amazing. It’s completely natural, so don’t feel guilty or pressured if you’d rather pass on some of the social engagements.
Your first night out
Once life has settled down, a few hours away from your little one may do you the power of good.
One mum says she found the first few months with her baby very hard but an evening with her friends made such a difference to her wellbeing.
"My two friends were so accommodating – they met me close to my house and were happy to listen to my grumbles. It was brilliant talking about what they’d been up to and hearing about 'normal' day-to-day things outside of the narrow world of my baby and his nappies, feeding and sleeping habits. It helped me feel more like my old self and realise I could still have a life and time for me."
It can be daunting going out for the first time, but keep reminding yourself your baby is in good hands and, with a bit of luck, they won’t even notice you’re gone.
It gives dads a great opportunity for bonding time, and nearby relatives and friends will be falling over themselves to babysit your cute little bundle.
It can be a good idea to stay local, just in case. You can get as many updates as you want to put your mind at rest, but once you get chatting you might find you relax into things a bit more. And, you can always go home whenever you want.
Time for mum and dad
You may want to think about who you could ask to babysit so you and your partner can go out together, whether that’s family members, friends or neighbours.
You may also want to look into local babysitting services, or find out if your childminder or nursery staff are happy to do additional hours.
You may want to swap babysitting favours with other parents. Rosamund Humphrey, mum to Hugo and Cosima and member of Cambridge NCT branch, says: ‘Set up a local babysitting circle and don’t be afraid to use it!’
Inviting people over for dinner or drinks can be another great way to socialise – you’ll feel relaxed in your own home, there’s no disruption to your little one and it can be much cheaper than a night out.
Aisling Cooper, mum to Mia and Robin and Branch Co-ordinator for Belfast NCT branch, says:
"I lost out on a lot of contact with friends when I became a mum. We now hold a games night at home once a month in order to get our group together. It means we get to see everyone, they appreciate the effort we put in and we can catch up and actually hear each other unlike in bars or clubs!"
Remember, there are also lots of ways you can combine meet ups with your friends and your baby. You could try meeting in the park for a walk, having a coffee or activities like swimming or even going to a soft play centre that has a café.
Working on your relationships
Some women, unfortunately, notice an increasing distance with friends during pregnancy or parenthood.
And some mums say they have ended up feeling lonely and isolated.
Try and see things from your friends’ perspective – they may feel like you’re focused on your baby or that you have more important things to worry about.
They may also feel like they don’t want to bother you or that you’re not as interested in their life any more. An open and honest conversation may be helpful for both of you.
New baby... new friends
Pregnancy and parenthood can be a great opportunity to make new friends.
You may find you have lots in common with other mums-to-be or new parents – and they can be an invaluable source of support at a challenging time in both of your lives.
NCT antenatal classes are a great place to meet other parents whose babies will be due at a similar time.
Look out for parent and baby groups in your local area, including NCT Bumps & Babies, Baby Cafés, church groups or community centre sessions.
You’re likely to meet other parents in the same boat at activities like baby cinema, baby yoga, baby massage and baby signing too.
Mush is another great way of meeting local parents. It’s a free app where you can find local mums with children the same age, see who’s around to play, send messages and find out what’s happening for parents around your area.
You might find you see familiar mum faces at places like the park, the doctors, or your local children’s centre, so don’t feel afraid to strike up a conversation. Having a bump or a baby to talk about is a perfect ice breaker.
And, if the thought of making the first move feels daunting, don’t forget the other mum is likely to be as nervous as you and probably just as knackered. A friendly smile might be all it takes to start chatting… and you may just end up with a great new friend.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
You might find attending one of our NCT New Baby courses helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.