Don't be surprised if your mates makes themselves scarce once your baby arrives, particularly the ones without any of their own.
A birthday (or two) before my first child arrived, I was front-and-centre at my birthday party, which involved at least 50 people and a scotch and soda for every year I’d survived on the planet.
Much fun was had.
Anyway – my point being that before becoming a dad, I had more friends than I could shake a pregnancy stick at.
These days, a quick look at my phone reveals that I’ve got about a half-dozen people on speed dial – and a whole big bunch of childless friends who are still in my contacts list, but who I never, ever see. Or hear from. Ever.
And that’s (mostly) because I’ve got kids.
Don’t get me wrong – my little guys are 9000 different kinds of awesome… but for me, just like it happens to many, many dads, having kids drove a wedge between me and my mates.
It’s at this point that you will scoff lightly, think to yourself “that’ll never happen to me – my mates will stick with me through thick and thin…” – but as far as the lads are concerned, you having a baby is the same as the last time you asked them to help you move house – except it’s 150 times worse, and it never stops.
And – just like when you asked all your mates to help you move, you’ll very quickly find out who your real mates are when you’ve had kids…. And there are a few reasons why that happens.
It’s a simple case of “Congratulations! See ya round!”
You coming for a drink?
One of the quickest lessons you’ll learn as a new dad is that virtually any form of spontaneity goes out the window. Completely and irreversibly.
Gone are the days when you can just grab your keys and be out the door in under seven seconds for a cheeky beer with the boys.
Firstly, you’ve got responsibilities. Babies need tons of looking after (as do new mums… mustn’t forget them…), which makes nipping out for a quick pint very much a thing of the past.
You could, of course, take the baby with you – there are loads of pubs that are ‘family friendly’, and when your little one is still very small, they’ll likely be happy to snooze in the pram while you catch up with the boys.
But simply getting out the door with a baby in tow means making sure your baby bag (or even better, your DAD bag…) is packed, you’ve got adequate food and other supplies, getting the kid into the car, unpacking it all at the far end, etc etc…
Honestly, by the time you’re halfway through the process of even getting ready to head out the door, it’s 8.00pm, the lads are already two or three pints ahead of you, and you’re weirdly invested in seeing how badly that smug piece of shit from Brisbane can bugger up a risotto on My Kitchen Rules…
So you end up staying home.
You’ll text your mates: “Baby’s being a dick. I’ll come for a beer next time. Chat soon”
And it’s back to sitting on the couch – feeding bub and scoffing at how clearly rigged My Kitchen Rules is this season.
I think my phone’s busted…
Before too long, the phone calls dry up. The invites to the pub stop. As do the calls to come to the footy, go fishing, or whatever it is that you and the boys used to do together.
The reason behind that is fairly simple: The more you say you can’t catch up with them because you need to be at home with the baby, the less they’ll start to call you. They’ll start to assume you’re always too busy – and so the phone never rings.
Plus, your priorities will have shifted (well… they should have, at least) – so the things you used to enjoy doing together with your buddies start to take a back seat to being a good dad.
If your priorities have shifted a long, long way, you should be prepared for the moment when at least one of your mates complains to you that “all you ever talk about is that f*%king baby, dude… seriously, I liked you better when all you did was bitch about your missus”.
It’s not them… it’s you
Along similar lines to the previous point is that your relationships could change because you and your wife want to ‘leave your old life behind’ – those wild and crazy nights out really aren’t compatible with being a parent.
I know that, to a certain extent, I turned away from a few of my childless friends, simply because I knew that if I was to go out to see them, we’d end up drinking ourselves into oblivion – and if you’ve ever endured the unmitigated hell that is changing a filthy nappy while your guts are doing horrible, slow-motion hangover backflips, you’ll know what that’s a bad idea.
Also, people are (for the most part) quite social animals – and we tend to migrate towards spending time with people who are similar to ourselves. New parents will, quite naturally, seek out the company of other parents, so that the conversations and lifestyles of your friends are more compatible.
And so you end up hanging out with other people who have kids. Which kinda sucks when you’re the first among your circle of friends to start breeding.
I don’t like it… but what can I do?
The bad news is, there’s not a whole lot you can do, in terms of trying to get your mates to stick around if they don’t want to.
The good news is that, pretty soon, you’ll get used to the way things are – and you’ll understand why they’re the way they are.
You’re a dad, now. And while you definitely miss the pints and the pubs and the footy and all the rest of it, there’s something vastly more important that you should be focussing on.
(hint: it’s the baby).
The short-term shock of having your social circle shrink when you become a dad is just like the way your old fella shrivels after a few seconds in a cold swimming pool.
It’s sudden, it’s embarrassing – but it’s temporary.
It’s still tough to go through – and the sense of isolation that it brings can be difficult – but at the end of the day, being a dad brings its own set of rewards.
Plus, once your mates start breeding as well, you’ve got that automatic status of “tribal elder” – and as more of them breed, they’ll return to the fold of friendship, slowly but surely.
Lastly, the best advice I got on this topic was to make sure you make the effort to keep in touch. It serves two purposes.
Firstly, there’s the obvious – spending time with your mates is important and no one likes to lose friends.
Secondly, there’s the vital point that you can, and really, really should, make and take time for yourself. Yep, you’re a dad – and being a dad is a full time gig. But the occasional night off to drink beer and watch the footy is okay to ask for, and not too much to expect.