What to expect when you’re the first of your friends to have kids

Guest post by SaraBeth
Yeeeeep… you might be the only one with your kid at that awesome backyard show. But it’s rad! Photo by Lewis Gilbert Newman.

Throughout my pregnancy I’d sit with my friends, often at a bar, sipping Orange Juice and Seven-Up and suspiciously eyeing my other female friends who weren’t drinking. I hopefully watched drinking patterns to see whether or not I could “score” a maternity leave buddy for at least part of my year as a stay-at-home mom. Although I have many close friends who often act as designated driver no one was pregnant while I was, and at this point no one will have more than a few weeks of overlap time at home with me unless they are very cleverly hiding five months of pregnancy. I have a handful of mom friends who are at home right now, but they all live outside of the city and on average are a fifty-three minute drive away.

When I was a kid I thought that I would be married and have kids before I was 30, because that was old, right? I never imagined that in my circle of close Toronto friends that at 33 years old I would be the first one to have kids. I recently tried to articulate this double edged sword and found that my list of pros and cons for being the first one in your social circle with kids is the same list.

You are a trailblazer

You are the first one. This means no unsolicited parenting advice from friends, no older kids teaching your kids things that you don’t want them to learn and no ridiculous, competitive rivalries with friends’ children. This also means that you are the first ones, and let’s face it you’re rookies: you don’t know what you’re doing and no one can give you advice because they don’t know either.

Those annoying kids are YOUR annoying kids

There are adults everywhere which means that you have a lot of extra hands to help you out when you’re managing kids. You have to recognize that not everyone is going to love the idea of hanging out with your kids. As lovely as they are, your kids and their colic ridden screams can be annoying to you — imagine how it sounds to an outsider with no parental bond to your child. Many people will be helpful and understanding, other people just aren’t interested in hanging out with your kids and that’s okay… although it does mean that you’ll probably see less of them. That’s a choice that you’ll both make and sometimes it will suck, but that’s okay, too.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Getting away from my kids makes me like them and appreciate them more. When you’re out solo you can connect with your partner and friends as adults away from parenthood. We try to avoid talking about the kids while out without them, unless we’re asked. It’s good to get out and to be reminded that you like your kids, but also that you exist in a world outside of parenthood. It’s also a wonderful, albeit sometimes expensive, way to show your partner and friends that they are important even though you now have many other competing priorities.

You will become public domain

I didn’t realize the impact of this one until I became pregnant and someone started picking on me because I was pregnant. This hurt, particularly because it happened the first day I went public about my pregnancy, but it also prepared me for the bad touch (people touching my belly without asking), comments in a coffee house line up while I got my small coffee, dirty looks for being a pregnant woman in a bar, or people pointing out to others how giant I had gotten in my pregnancy. The public nature of being a parent doesn’t stop when your kids are born, it just expands, and is now directed at you AND your child(ren). For as many people who tell you that it’s too cold to have your children outside there are five who congratulate you, tell you how lovely your child is, pick up a stray sock for you and remind you how great having kids is.

People will look at you differently (and in turn you’ll look at yourself differently)

Maybe it’s the fact that I have baby spit up on my shoulder or in my hair at least 40% of the time or maybe it’s that I’m a mom now and have become somewhat androgynous, but compliments nowadays are more along the lines of, “I don’t know how you do it” and not, “You look great/hot/ or I like your shirt.” I spend a lot less time on my appearance than I used to because I don’t have time to try on a million different outfits, especially when only three things I own are clean and two of them are actually my husband’s and I usually end up doing my make-up on the road — literally. When my nagging teenage inner monologue tells me that people just won’t see me that way any more I can’t say it doesn’t sting a little bit, but the other day someone told me that they admire the way that Chris and I “do” parenthood and that made me happier than any other random compliment about my shirt.

Maybe I’m growing up… or maybe I’m just accepting that most of that baby vomit in my hair will eventually brush out.

Comments on What to expect when you’re the first of your friends to have kids

  1. I, too, am the first of my friends to have a kid. The major difference is that I’m in my mid 20s so not only could it be years and years before my friends start having kids but I anticipate it will be hard for me to even find mom friends my age. So far I see very few advantages to being the trailblazer but I hope that changes in the future.

    • You know what the biggest advantage is? In years when you’re watching your late-breeding friends have their babies, you’ll already have a kid who’s sleeping through the night and able to feed themselves! 🙂

      • My mum had me in her early 20s, and when some of her friends had children in their late 30s, her kids had drivers licenses!

      • I totally get that, and that is why we chose to start having children sooner rather than later. The only problem I am having is relating to other mothers. I went to a mom’s group meeting and was the youngest by far at 24. Maybe you could give some advice on relating to other mothers?

    • Definitely this! At this point, we have a kid who will eat regular meals, use the toilet, sleep all night, and can hold real, long (sometimes long-winded) conversations with adults… and some of my friends are just now pregnant. It’s rad.

    • I am 23 and 30 weeks pregnant with my first baby, the first baby in my extended family, my partners extended family, and the first of all of my friends. At first all my friend tiptoed around me on eggshells, but after spending nearly the whole time going to music festivals and art shows like I always would, my mate (the musician who is ‘never having kids’) said to me, ‘wow, you have changed my whole concept of pregnancy, I was expecting tears and complaining and to not see you for years, but here you are, your usual self, just sober’.Of course there are atill the few that say things like ‘all you ever talk about is babies’ or ‘I just can’t relate to you anymore’. The majority of my friends are super supportive and excited about the prospect of having a baby around. This kid already has about 10 ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’. Its going to be great!!

      • not to be a debbie downer, but I think a lot of this has to do with how your body experiences this particular pregnancy. some women have awesome pregnancies and easily keep up with their lives, and that rocks! and then some women are like me and are so waylaid by hyperemesis and migraines that they can’t leave the house for six months. it kinda sucks for people to assume “you’re just being lame and complainy”.

        kinda the same when you have the kid – i know two couples who had babies at the same time. one kid is the most chillax baby ever, will sleep anywhere, and they just bring him to house parties and such. the other kid is high needs and does best with a strict schedule and avoiding overstimulation. it’s not that one set of parents is “cooler” than the other – they’re both doing the best they can for their kids individual personalities and needs.

        i guess it’s the kind of thing you never really understand until you go through it yourself.

        • Exactly! My mom knows a woman who didn’t have any morning sickness with her first two pregnancies. This woman was convinced that all women who experience morning sickness were just getting it because they expected to, like it was all their imagination. She was really obnoxious about it too. Then she got pregnant with her third (and final) child, and had the worst morning sickness of all time. Honestly, she deserved that. But anyway, the point is that it truly depends on your experience.

    • Jennifer,

      Absolutely! I’m right there with you. I’m about 15 weeks pregnant and I’m only 23. Hopefully we young moms can stick together and encourage each other through sources like this.

  2. I’d say the biggest con for us being the trailblazers among our friends was that a lot of those friends disappeared after our son was born. Some just didn’t get that we couldn’t come out much at night anymore. One got mad at me for “ignoring” her when I was barely surviving newborn sleep deprivation. And we found that we didn’t have as much in common anymore with a few others. It was sad and painful at times but part of life I guess.

  3. I feel the same way. My daughter is a year and a half now and I still don’t have any friends with kids. In fact I don’t know that I can even call any of them friends anymore. The fact of the matter is they almost always hang out at 9pm or later, when everything at my house is winding down. I didn’t realize before how difficult it is to keep your childless friends once you have a baby. And how difficult it is to make friends with people who have kids.

  4. Heh, I’m not just the trailblazer, I’m the only one on my path. Somehow a lot of the friends I made in my 20’s have chosen a child free lifestyle. Which is fine, I support and encourage them in their choices. I have no desire to push my life choices on anyone else. I admit it’s a bit lonely at times. I’m looking forward to the preschool years, and hopefully meeting more young families.

  5. we’re the first of our friends to be having kids (well, except friends who live in other states/countries) and although our friends are mostly super-excited about the idea of a baby, it seemed prudent to make some parent-friends, too. And I’m so glad I did! I think that if your current circle isn’t in the same place you are, it’s a good incentive to get out there and meet new people who are closer to your place on the journey. You still get to keep the old friends, just now you have someone to swap horror stories (and babysitting time!) with!

    • I think that if your current circle isn’t in the same place you are, it’s a good incentive to get out there and meet new people who are closer to your place on the journey.

      THIS!!

  6. Its more isolating than we realized it would be. But at a year and a half its getting better, and I’m working on finding ways to find and connect with other parents. I guess we haven’t “sold” parenting enough, we’re still the solo parents in our group.

    • Nicole, please don’t try to ‘sell’ parenting to your friends. We lost a good friend after she made a lifestyle choice and tried to ‘encouarage’ us to follow her. Your friends will make their decisions based on their own life paths.

  7. I was nodding in agreement through almost the entire post! Being the first parent in your group of friends definitely has pros and cons. But I just look at it as another shift in my life, like becoming a teenager, moving away from home for the first time, starting a real job, etc.

  8. Thank you so much for this post. I’m 29, my husband is 30 and we’re both the first people out of all our friends to have a baby. It’s pretty daunting to suddenly have this HUGE change in our lives and sometimes it feels like our friends won’t understand the things we’re going through. But they’re all pretty awesome people, and they’re all excited for us.

    You know, I’m going to take the opportunity to soak up as much of the attention as I can! After a few other people have kids it’ll seem like old news so right now I’ll gladly accept any offers of attention, help (and gifts!) that come my way!

  9. Once again after reading this site I want to yell “I’M NOT ALONE!” Not only did i have a baby at 21, my husband has twin boys who are 7. So althought I have one or two “mommy friends” none of them get the issues with school aged kids. I feel like I have No One to relate to. Its very lonely.

    Not only do I not have “mommy friends” we don’t have couple-friends. Almost no one else i know is married. Or I really like the wife, but my hubby isn’t fond of the guy… we cant seem to make it happen…

  10. This is a very nice article.
    When I got pregnant before any of my friends I found it meant that those friendships were pretty much over. I was treated like a leper by most of them, as if my pregnancy was a contagious disease. I remember running into a couple of old friends at a concert and having them ask me if I was okay over and over. I finally responded “I had a baby, not cancer.” becoming the first of my friends to have a baby meant, unfortunately, finding almost an entirely new group of friends. I don’t know if it was the pregnancy it’s self that was the issue, or the circumstances under which it happened (I was single and it was unplanned, I was 23 years old), but I suspect it was a mixture of the two.

    • This happens to a lot of women. Not just with having kids. When I got engaged a few friends dropped me like a hot potato the first month after finding out. I wasn’t gushing wedding plans and being annoyingly wedding-obsessed; they just couldn’t stand to be left in the dust while my life moved forward.
      Friends that stick around are the good ones.

    • I found that this happened after I had my son. A lot of friends (some even already had children!) just couldn’t take my postpartum baggage and dropped me. But! Our best friends stayed by us, and it just made our friendship stronger. Big life events really show you who the important ones are in your life.

  11. We’re not going to be the first but we’re shuffling into line along with the first several friends of ours to have kids.
    All of our friends’ ages are between 18 and 55 so some have kids–our age–, some have none and some have a baby now. I don’t know how they’ll all react to our kids but I know most of them will stick around.
    I’m actually looking forward to not being looked at ‘that way’ anymore. I hate extra attention and can’t wait to be seen differently.

    • I think that the last thing you said varies — it’s totally cool if, like the author says, you “spend a lot less time on my appearance than I used to because I don’t have time to try on a million different outfits, especially when only three things I own are clean and two of them are actually my husband’s and I usually end up doing my make-up on the road — literally. ”

      Not every parent is like that, and it’s also totally valid to spend plenty of time on your appearance and try on a million outfits as a parent. I would caution anyone who thinks becoming parent necessarily changes that, because in many cases it doesn’t and shouldn’t. I, for one, spend plenty of time figuring out what I’m going to wear because I enjoy it. 😉

      • This made me laugh, because all though I don’t spend as much time on what to wear as I used to before kids going out solo can seem like a big deal – like playing dress up all over again. Since kids I get my nails done before events all the time because a manicure or pedicure is such a relaxing treat and is a wonderful short break from the kids.

        • Totally! I get my hair regularly trimmed every 3 months (which I never did PRE-kid, you guys) just because.. it’s nice and relaxing. Also, I discovered your hair holds up SO MUCH BETTER when you do this! Go figure. 😉

      • Yes, I actually get extra compliments sometimes because people can’t believe I had a baby (I *rushed* back to almost my pre-baby weight). Obviously, I have my shluby days, but if I’m going out I try to put in a little extra effort to look good and appreciate that I’m getting to leave the house.

  12. My hubby and I are thinking of having kids soon (next yearish) we’re both 27 and I’m honestly kinda terrifed. I always thought at least a couple of my friends and I would have kids around the same time, but I don’t know that any of them will have kids. Life is strange, good luck too all you trail blazers

  13. Hey all! The discussion so far is pretty swell, but let’s try to keep comments in the same tone as the piece itself — constructive and more “here’s how I made this work for me,” and not so much “friends suck.”

    🙂

  14. Does anyone who has had luck as a trailblazer have advice for making it work? How to easy friends into you having a kid around? Salons people not to smoke, be loud without the getting mad? Is there anywhere you can’t wear a baby?

    • My advice is to be open to making new friends if you need too. I spent too much time pining over the friends who freaked out and left, that did nothing but made me miserable. Eventually I got on Meetup.com and joined a few moms groups I thought I would fit well in. I also joined a bunch of single mom support groups. I ended up making just a few very good friends, and my son did too! But you might want to be kind of particular looking through groups. I found myself falling into the trap of assuming anyone with kids thae same age as mine would naturally be my friends, but just because they have kids my son’s age doesn’t mean we have anything in common. Don’t join every moms group indiscriminately, pick and choose the ones you think represent you best.

    • I think to a certain degree you have to accept that things aren’t going to be exactly the same as they were. Probably the biggest thing is, as Stephanie said, being ready to leave an event if you have to. Your friends will probably not stop smoking or drinking, and you may have to make an extra effort to plan times to get together that are baby-friendly rather than doing the same old things.

  15. One of my friends is pregnant, but she lives in another state, so it isn’t really the same dynamic to our friendship. None of my nearby friends have kids and so the wait continues…

  16. From a post on Offbeat Bride:

    It doesn’t have to be a tragedy when people find themselves heading on paths that diverge. Send postcards back and forth — how are things going down that path I didn’t take with you? These communiques can be dispatches from a you who might have been. We don’t have to agree all the time.

    Your life and the lives of your friends will shift in unpredictable ways. It’s natural, it’s awesome, and it means everything’s proceeding along exactly as it should.

    That’s called personal development, and it’s not something to be afraid of — it’s something to expect, embrace, and enjoy.

    • I also wanted to point out as Ariel said in this post: http://offbeatmama.com/2010/08/finding-mom-friends — there’s no reason that parents & non-parents can’t be friends. Since becoming a parent I’ve retained my friendships with many non-parents, made new friendships with other parents, and also made new friendships with non-parents I didn’t know before I had a kid. It’s totally possible, but you have to put yourself out there, and as Ariel said, embrace the new phase and development in your life.

  17. My friends are/were awesome. Sure we lost a few along the way, but for the most part everybody loves my son, and when he doesn’t show up with us they are disappointed. Mainly what we did differently after he was born was NOTHING. Well, almost nothing. We went home a little earlier (some of the time.) Most of the time I would put him to sleep in the pram we brought along and have a good time until we felt like leaving. Kids are resilient and can adjust to almost anything given the chance to do so. Our friends are rowdy and love to have a good time. Its one of the things my son loves about them, and a trait I hope he carries through out his life.

    • Totally this. I can’t even count number of times Jasper has fallen asleep on a friend’s couch or in their bed, and happily slept there until it was time to go.

    • Every Friday night my daughter and her cousin fall asleep in a back bedroom while a raucous group of 5-15 people drink, listen to music, converse (debate loudly). The only thing that has changed with having the kids there is that one of the parents needs to be sober enough to get the kids a drink or put them back to bed if they wake up.

  18. One thing I have learned, which is one of the hardest things to do because it makes you so vulnerable, is to be honest with your friends about how you’re feeling. I’ve told our friends when I’m feeling lonely and when babysitting money’s a little tight and we plan a game night. People get wrapped up in their own lives whether they have kids or not. Real friendship is about making the effort and we’re lucky because most of our good friends have.

  19. I was a trailblazer, at 20, but I also have a tendency to attract females who are 3-5+ yrs the younger. It was difficult because while everyone was in college I was getting/keeping my daughter on her schedule. The definite pros were while everyone was partying I was able to not be worried about the frivolous things. Who is saying what, what’s the next party, ect. When my daughter got older I did become more open but my personality itself isnt outgoing so it really didnt phase me either way. The main con I had/have is now I have ppl who are having kids and the whine of them not being able to go on. To clarify, I was a single parent for 4 yrs and made it from sleeping in bathrooms to sleep on floors to going to college and having my own place. My friends never knew what it was/is like to struggle/stand on their own so they collapsed. I became the go-to person. And that can be a plus and a negative.

  20. My friends don’t have kids, either. But I have a 2-month-old, so I haven’t felt the lifestyle change yet! A baby that young can go to the bar at midnight and pretty much goes where you go. So… I just do stuf and bring him along! I’ve heard it gets harder to do this as they get older… we’ll figure something out.

  21. I was the first of my freinds to have a baby, and I was 33 as well.
    My issue is that I find it difficult to ask for help. Non-parents don’t necessarily know how to help, and I tend to feel like I might be asking too much. For example: I went to brunch with some lady freinds and I brought my son. I asked one freind to watch him so I could get some food. But when I came back she went back to eating. He was very active that day and didn’t want to sit still in a chair. (he was 11 months old) I just felt guilty asking someone to give up their eating time so I could eat my food.

  22. Most of my friends are childless and will continue to be indefinitely. I’ve been accused of encouraging them to breed, but so far that’s produced 2 other babies, max (and both 2 years younger than mine). I’ve been impressed at how they have embraced my daughter and my motherhood, even if it was awkward at first. I really made an effort to keep going to events (sometimes with kid) and show that I am mostly the same person I always was. I have been told many times how relieved they are that I’m not someone else now, and how my daughter has convinced them that all kids aren’t icky. These are backhanded compliments, and a little annoying, but I love them and I appreciate their willingness to change their view.
    At times I have really longed to have friends with kids same age as mine. But I’ve also learned that having a kid doesn’t give you enough in common to totally bond. And being in grad school makes it hard to do pretty much everything.
    I liked the point that was brought up: none of your friends having an opinion on baby stuff is both liberating and lonely. Yes.

  23. We were the first of our group by about 9 years to have kids. We already had 3 and were finally joined in breeding when we were having our fourth.
    We managed to keep most of our friends by not being dicks about being parents. Our kids came with us most places, but we never expected anyone to take care of them for us, or change their own routines to cater for us. Generally people are nice enough not to smoke around your kid (we were smokers too so just wandered to a different spot when lighting up).
    We didn’t expect anyone to change their language or their stories around the kids, nor keep their activities G rated. Anything the kids shouldn’t be around, well, we are the parents so it’s our responsibility to keep them away, not admonish those who are just having fun and had a different priority setup at the time.
    Your friends will help out in the ‘don’t kill the baby’ front and keep an eye out in case they wander near anything dangerous, and for us, that was all we asked for from them. We had offers to babysit, but think logically about this one – most of them just offer to be polite, they don’t really want to. You don’t have to take them up on it, and if you do, then don’t abuse the offer. Once in a blue moon babysitting from a friend is great, once a fortnight will kill a friendship.
    As someone else mentioned, be prepared to bail out if things get ugly. Sometimes a kid doesn’t want to be out. We handled this by having one of us leave with child/ren, and have the other stay and party. A lot of parents forget that they don’t have to be permanently attached to each other. Take turns to party. Worked great for us!
    Oh, and the big one – party at home!!! We had people come to us a lot. We trained the bubs to sleep through almost any noise, so we could party when we wanted. Just because your kid goes to sleep at 7.30, doesn’t mean the house needs to be quiet and settle too. I’d put baby to sleep and join the party downstairs with a baby monitor hooked on my belt hook so it didn’t get lost in the fray. Easy peasy!
    Good luck!

    • “We managed to keep most of our friends by not being dicks about being parents … we are the parents so it’s our responsibility to keep them away, not admonish those who are just having fun and had a different priority setup at the time.”

      YES YES YESSSS.

  24. A friend of ours from waybackwhen had a kid, and for the first year and a half or so I really didn’t enjoy hanging out with them / their kid. So we saw them pretty infrequently.

    Then something magical happened: their daughter grew from a screaming toddler into a lovely young girl, and now hanging out with them is no big deal and we see them pretty regularly.

    Now that I’m pregnant, I’m preparing for the fact that my childfree friends may not be that into hanging out with a baby, and that’s OK. As long as we don’t lose touch completely, there’s always room to pick things up again once my kid is a little older.

  25. My husband is older than me, and he was the last of his family and friends to have kids, while I was the first of mine. Each side of it had struggles: I felt like it was my job to be parenthood’s ambassador to all of my old friends and embarked on a long search for post-kid friends, and parenthood was filled with all kinds of fatalism and old-news to his family and friends. His family and friends, though, had a lot of sympathy and understanding, while my old friends kept me invited to adult centered events and conversations. I’ve tried to keep relationships with everyone because I know we all intersect at some point in our lives and it is worth it to me to maintain those intersections. Some day many of us will have no kids in our house whether we raised children or not.

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