Having kids can put a strain on your friendships if you don't talk it out.
When you have kids, friendships and spending time with your mates can be a lot like a footy season. You have good seasons and bad seasons.
The season after you have kids is a complicated one.
I’ve genuinely lost count of the amount of BBQs or general get-togethers I’ve missed out on or had to say no to over the past few years.
The irony in that is that because it’s now harder for me to spend time with my mates, those friendships actually mean a hell of a lot more than they used to.
I had a moment recently when my emotions and thoughts all came to head at once. I remember thinking that after having two kids my mates still didn’t get it.
I thought about what was happening and then realised it wasn’t entirely their fault. Two things needed to happen:
- I needed to let my mates know how I was feeling. I learnt this the hard way by bottling everything up until I felt pretty sh*tty and it hit me like a tonne of bricks. How were my mates meant to understand any of what I was going through or feeling if I didn’t at least talk to them about it?
- For my mates to genuinely understand what I am going through as a Dad they probably need to go through it themselves first.
What’s happening to our friendships?
When we’re stressed, for many of us our friendships are the first thing that we put on hold.
We’re often faced with having to choose between spending time with our kids, our partners, our families and our mates, and quite often it’s the latter that we miss out on.
Being a Dad can be bloody hard, and we’ll find ourselves asking: ‘What’s happening to our friendships?’
There was a study done in the US recently by CHILD surveying 1000 parents about all things parenthood – including friendships.
They found that after having kids:
• 38 per cent of dads had fewer friendships
• Their satisfaction with existing friendships dropped from 67 per cent to 57 per cent
• Only 13 per cent trusted their friends enough to talk about what it was like being a new dad
• Only 8 per cent felt they could talk with their friends about the emotions linked to fatherhood
Holy sh*t right?
I am guilty of this, but my god men have a problem with talking about their feelings.
To me, these stats suggest that when we become dads our interests and priorities shift at a different pace to our mates.
So if we’re to make it through this period with our friendships intact, we need to start talking.
What I wish I said to my mates earlier
You should never have to feel guilty about being a Dad. Ever.
But what our mates say can impact us … more than they think. I had big issues with this, and it made me question some of my friendships.
Before opening up to my mates I would often cop some sort of spray or ‘banter’ around not turning up again.
I don’t have an issue with self-confidence, and I’d often let most it go through to the keeper.
But sometimes this ‘banter’ can hurt, sometimes it can go too far, and sometimes it can have more of an impact on us than was intended.
Make sure you talk to your mates and let them know they play an important role in your journey of being a dad.
Playing the kids card is real
I don’t stop. Ever. Kids own my daily schedule.
Every day they need to eat, drink, wee, poo, and sleep, and they are totally dependent on us for each of these things.
If our plans change last minute that’s not a decision we’ve made by choice. If we miss out on catching up, it sucks for us too!
Our involvement with mates might only come at special occasions or holidays for the first few years because of our kids, and our friends need to be OK with that.
Playing the kids card is a real thing and it doesn’t mean we value our friendship less, it actually means that the time we spend with them is so much more valuable.
It’s not all ugly
Remember that your mates are exactly that, your mates.
Pick up the phone, call your closest mates and just talk. Whether it’s good or bad.
Be honest. I did this and one of these conversations brought me to tears. I don’t usually cry but the sheer fact of letting someone know what I was going through felt like a HUGE relief.
If you find yourself thinking that your mates just don’t get it, think about what you’ve shared with them. But also be wary that they may only understand your feelings once they go through it themselves.
By then, hopefully you can be the sounding board on the other end of that phone call to help them through it.
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