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’d like to share two different experiences if I may! Know that I am married, childless, and love kids (I think most folks do).

    One of my closest friends is about to give birth to her first baby. While I love her very much, I’m recognizing some challenges in our relationship. I am more than willing to discuss all-things-baby with her, but she does not care to discuss anything happening in my life. I understand that this is just one of those times in life when a person can get tunnel vision, and I am not taking this personally, just an observation. This person in particular has a tendency to be a little self-centered, and when the baby comes I expect to support her, but I am a little worried that any detriment to our friendship might be caused by her closing herself off to me, not the other way around.

    My other friend, whole different story! Our friendship grew right along with her baby!! We were friendly acquaintances who found more and more excuses to hang out. She now has four (4!) beautiful kids, and I treasure our relationship, and my relationship with her kids! I really admire the way she parents. Some reasons I think she rocks: she let me develop a bond with the babies (encouraged me to hold them, cuddle, play etc) but quickly took control if things got loud or smelly. (I didn’t think it was necessary but her attempts to shield the ‘horrors’ were appreciated.) We still did fun stuff; drove around, went on walks/bike rides, watched our tv shows, and added new fun activities like hotwheels smashing, sidewalk chalk, bug hunting etc. All the while we’d chat and she never made me feel like a babysitter, just a valued friend.

    Best of luck, and good for you for recognizing the importance of friendships, old and new!!

  2. We weren’t really the first of our friends to have kids, but I think were the first planned kids in the group. It took a while to figure out where we could go where all of our friends would want to hang (you mean that not everyone wants to go to the park? or to the play gym??), but it’s amazing how much more fun those “adult” cookouts are now that there’s a little person running around entertaining everyone. And as a first time parent, it’s really a trial by fire to make sure you have the food, diapers, entertainment available to not really spoil the time for those friends who aren’t too comfortable with the less appealing parts of parenting. But! You always get the best camping spots with friends, and best guest rooms at friends’ houses, too.

  3. I am 21 and my partner/fiance is 20, I just had my first baby a few weeks ago and while many of my friends are quite a bit older than me, no one is anywhere near having a baby. I’m also the youngest of my siblings and the first person in my generation [on either side] to have a baby. My partner is, as well. Talk about first-timers!!

    I found throughout my pregnancy that I was more apt to distance myself from friends than they were to distance me, while not everyone has been wildly thrilled about the pregnancy [it was a surprise] or the baby, not a single one of them took to resenting or ignoring me because of it at all. I was actually totally shocked by this! I was still invited and happily accepted at every social gathering and party/bar get together. I think my partner has had a much more difficult time transitioning with his friend group, but I believe that has more to do with his friends being in really bad places in life in general, such as addicted to drugs etc.

    I think if I hadn’t found the one mama friend I now have [we started talking online and have become good friends over the pregnancy], I would be tearing my hair out because I wouldn’t have anyone to vent to about things. My perfectly healthy, normal pregnancy suddenly turned dangerous at the last minute and my baby ended up in the NICU for almost two weeks after birth, we’re still dealing with residual health issues and trying to heal from that experience, and having one parent friend who coincidentally also went through a NICU experience has been an ABSOLUTE life-saver! If it weren’t for the option of being able to go to her and talk about whatever difficulty I’m having and how it’s affecting me emotionally, not only would I spend most of my nights alone in my house sobbing, I think I would start to bother my kidless friends with obsessive mommy-paranoia.

    In conclusion I guess I would say that you shouldn’t always expect that your friends will abandon you once you get pregnant, good friends will never do that, but be ready for the reality that they will not have any way of relating to your feelings or experiences as a parent, which will be hard for you and them to deal with. Keeping an eye out [or getting out there and making a real effort] for mum and dad friends WILL be super important, and should not be overlooked, either.

  4. I’m 31, and when I got pregnant (almost 9 years ago) we were the 1st,in all our friend and family.

    Even in my group of maternity-crap in hospital I was the only under 35…we were all 1st time moms…

    Now…only my hubby’s niece has two stepdaughters(3 and 4). Still the rest of family and friends are child-less. And we are all between 24 and 34. So every birthday we bring a kid. Every other party, yes we take our kid…I’m not lovin’ it but hope that soon(very soon) we are having some babies in the group.

  5. This is comforting to read. I don’t have kids, yet, but the “probably gonna try for kids” bullet is waaaaay closer to “now” on my timeline than on any of my buds’. Some are childfree, some intend to have kids much later. (I know that one cannot control life, this way, kids come and don’t come, sometimes, but theoretically. My bullet is years before the next pal’s.)

    I know they’re mostly reacting to pressure from family/friends to have kids, but sometimes the “BABIES, NO WAY” talk gets to me, ’cause … babies, all the way (for me). I’m going to try to trailblaze as bravely as I can, be good and considerate of my pals who aren’t used to having peers with kids, etc. It is nice to hear some of the advice offered here!

  6. I’m the first of my friends to be having a baby and I’ve found most my friends are so pumped to have a baby to hang out with and spoil. I guess I lucked out having very kid-loving friends. By the time ten other kids come around, the funds and time for spoiling each child will dwindle I’m sure. Score one for me!

    For those concerned about starting a family BECAUSE your friends are not having kids, I say don’t worry about it – do what’s right for you. I was amazed at how many other people I knew announced their pregnancy after mine. Granted, they weren’t close friends, but people I could become close with if I wanted “mommy” friends. Not that it’ll be the case for everyone, but as they say on Offbeat Mom “It Worked for Me!”

  7. I’m very early in my first pregnancy, but so far I’m actually having a different experience than most of what’s described here – we’re the first/one of the first in most of our groups of friends, but I’m surrounded by people who are SUPER CURIOUS about pregnancy. So when I tell people I’m pregnant I get a lot of “Wow!” followed by “How do you feel?” followed by waaaaaay too intimate questions about my oh-so-interesting “pregnancy symptoms”. Which is weird because these people did not care what was going on with my uterus/digestive system/breast size before.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m thrilled that people are excited for us and excited (in that super theoretical since I’m not even showing yet) about having a baby around. But my friends know very little about pregnancy and playing educator gets old quick. Trying to explain morning sickness to well meaning but clueless friends and housemates while I want to throw up – not the most fun! I’ve got to the point where I have this discussion a lot:

    “How do you feel?”
    “Y’know…pregnant.”
    “I don’t know what that’s like!”
    “I’m (n) weeks. Google it.”

    I imagine this will continue through the kid’s first few years, minimum. And I know I’ve been a bit guilty of it with other people in the past. Still, I’m hoping the novelty will wear off before too long.

    Anyone else run into this? How did you handle it without being a total bitch?

    • Yeah… I did quite a bit of redirecting. “Oh, I’m a little tired today. How’s your puppy doing?”

  8. A couple of my friends have babies now and they behave completely differently. I love hanging out with my one friend and her child (who I pretty much want to steal but resist the urge), but not so much with another friend who tends to be more negative and complain about who little she gets to do/how she looks now that she has a baby.

    I love the little ones, but I take issue with ladies being so open about how their kids ruined their lives *right in front of them.*

  9. When they’re babies…..it’s just hard. Now that mine and 2 and 4, it’s much easier to go over to someone’s house to visit, as the kids are old enough to go outside and play in the yard. They have a regular enough schedule that it’s very easy to have people over after 8 pm when they are sleeping and you wouldn’t even know we have kids (except for the toys strewn around, lol). And since they’re both very talkative, non-parent friends feel more at ease around them and treat them like little people, instead of fragile babies whose every need must be met immediately. Having a social life with a baby is really hard, but it does get easier =)

  10. Well. I definitely agree with you. Being the trailblazer is … Different . I was YOUNG . 18 when I was pregnant and soon to be solo. The best thing about this part of the journey is finding out who your true friends are. Yes obviously all of my Friends were at a different stage in their life and I definitely didn’t try together them on board for the ride with me. I stopped talking to almost all of my friends and made new ones. Even the ones who came to the baby showers slowly faded away. I actually just began talking to one that I never expected to fade with the others and she made the comment that her feelings got hurt when another friend got married because she stopped having so much time for her, but the realized they were at different stages of their life . This did stung. She didn’t even realize that she had done the same to me years ago and we has been friends since we were 8 . Even my new friends didn’t have babies they were just an older group that didnt mind having a baby at the cookout. Four years later… A few of the new friends are jumping on board but the way I look at it is … I have a beautiful four year old who is the light of my world… I have spent four years with my heart married and have a 15 month old baby boy .. They are just starting to realizing true happiness and love. I see it in their eyes when they talk about their baby on the way… It’s more than they can explain the joy they have coming into their lives.

  11. I LOOOOOOOVE babies, and so I get SO excited when my friends get pregnant. My ex and I tried to conceive for awhile before we found out we were infertile and (for other reasons) went our separate ways, but we were the first in our friend group to be actively trying. What’s been hard for me is that, once my friends did start having kids, I felt shut out, despite my direct messages “I love babies, I don’t care if they cry. I’ll come to you. I’ll help. Please let me stay in your life!” I felt like my mom friends often didn’t want me around because they didn’t think I had anything in common with them anymore. That changed a bit when I became a doula and I was the only one who would willingly listen to poop stories endlessly (and I WILL), but I wonder if sometimes parents feel awkward and isolated and can’t see the friends who DO want to stay close?

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