Aussie men seem to hold mateship up above much else. But do we risk losing those bonds when father time arrives?
Will I lose my mates after fatherhood? It’s a question most men ask themselves at least once (or maybe 100 times).
Will we lose all those friendships we’ve held so dear (particularly over a beer at the pub) when we step over that threshold into dads-ville?
I was reminded again of this recently reading Kasey Edwards’ The hidden cost of motherhood.
She was detailing the number of friendships she had lost after having a child. Her mates had cut her off because she was no longer reliable and, worse still, she’d become painfully boring, unable to talk about anything but babies.
She went on to claim: “I haven’t ever seen an article about men lamenting the loss of male friendships after fatherhood. Many dads still maintain their social lives of sport and drinks after work after the bub arrives”.
I’ve been quite open in the past about my fantasy of being able to pop in a Tardis and return to the way that Aussie men used to live in the 1970s, particularly since I became a dad, but it seems Kasey has beaten me to it.
I almost emailed her to ask how she’d done it.
The fact is that the modern Dad is more likely to be trying to do it all — finish work and then race home for bath and bedtime like a Dr Who with kids.
Becoming a father — particularly if you’re the first one in your friend group to do so — change friendships at the very least.
Anyone who cannot see that is as deluded as David Warner and his mates when they concluded that TV cameras would never see them sandpapering the shine off our sporting reputation.
So, do men really lose their mates after fatherhood, or are they (like cricket’s disgraced trio), just on some sort of lengthy suspension that once served will see them back in the first 11?
The most likely thing, in my experience, is that men who abandon their louche lives to become parents will be pushed out to the extreme edges of their friendship group, but never really lost forever.
I remember in my early 20s, some 15 years before I had my first child, when one of my closest mates announced that his wife was pregnant, only to be met by stony silence.
We honestly wondered, behind his back, whether it was time to have him committed.
Perhaps wisely, he and his new wife chose to leave town (I think at least in part because of the new addition), and for the next decade or so we stayed in touch with them in a fashion that was at best limited and which I would have to now call, with the benefit of hindsight, cruel.
He was no longer a part of our child-free whirl, or our partying world, and so he was on the outer.
His decision to parent while young, which looks wise from where the rest of us are sitting now (with young kids in our 40s), very nearly cost him friends.
Fortunately, we never cut him off entirely, and rich must have been his schadenfreude when the rest of us found ourselves following in his baby steps many years later.
Today, I’m pretty sure he takes enormous joy in calling us up and asking if we’d like to fly off to Hong Kong for the rugby sevens, only to have us palm him off with parenting excuses.
When my own kids arrived, I was worried what the trade-off would be, how heavy the social cost.
And it was noticeable, because it takes a certain kind of selfish shit to abandon your partner during what is a truly difficult period of life, juggling a newborn with no sleep, to go to the pub.
I’ll admit, straight up, that I got to go out carousing a lot more often than my wife did. I also went back to work and to at least some semblance of normal society.
However, there are only so many times you can say ‘no’ to drinks after work, or footy on the weekend before people stop asking.
In my experience, it’s not so much total social death, as a state of suspended animation.
Most blokes, but not all, seem to accept that you’ll be back one day, with a bit of luck, and that this might be their lot eventually anyway.
This might just be because I, and my friends, were a bit older and wiser by the time I had kids.
There were a few old-school holdouts who dropped me like hot coals, perhaps fearing that I would become one of those people who can only speak about their kids.
This is something blokes get on to pretty quickly, however, and your childless mates will ridicule your whinging faster than you can say “you have no idea how tired I am”.
It’s the sort of thing you can only get away with when around other dads.
So, if you’ve asked yourself that question – once or 100 times – don’t worry too much about losing your mates. They’re a fairly understanding mob.
And they’ll probably be where you last saw them, so you can pick up exactly where you left off.