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

Guest post by SaraBeth
You may just get congratulations cards like this. (Photo courtesy of BEpaperie.)
You may just get congratulations cards like this. (Photo courtesy of BEpaperie.)

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 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.

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 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, 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

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 paternal 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, 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.” 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.

(This post originally published on Offbeat Families.)

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

  1. I wasn’t the first of my friends to have a baby, but I do have one thing to the “bad touch”… When people rubbed my belly without asking, I’d reach over and start rubbing theirs… I think it really showed them how inappropriate and creepy it was haha

    • No one ever tried touching my tummy. I either look too young to be having a baby and touching teen bellies is taboo (I look like a teenager even though I’m in my late 20’s), or I give off a bristly vibe when people get in my space. 🙂

      • At 33 weeks, aside from my husband (who is allowed to touch my tummy and does so very respectfully), I’ve only had one tummy-toucher: several weeks ago at an appointment, my obstetrician more or less tackled my belly when he came into the room. He’s a nice guy, and he is my doctor, so I mean, he has permission (sort of) to be handling me right now, but all the same, I’m still a little upset about this experience.

        I think, if I got over shock quickly enough, anyway, I would probably flip out on complete strangers touching my tummy, though. Hopefully, I’m giving off the “don’t touch me” vibes, because I really don’t have the energy to deal with stress of people grabbing me right now (not that I ever probably would…).

        • I am 33 weeks also, and was totally prepared for all the unsolicited advice and touch. To date, I have had one person I knew somewhat touch my belly very briefly, and I had to tell a family member to cut it out because the belly touching was getting to be too much for me. I also have not gotten that much advice, and none from strangers. I guess my kinda aloof nature and extremely grumpy face is finally doing something for me.

  2. Great article. I am on the opposite end, where I am almost the last one to have kids (if we ever do). After 20 years of birth control pills, I had some large liver tumors from all that estrogen. So after 2 years, two liver surgeries and a hernia (from surgery) that needs to be fixed, EVERYONE is trying to figure out when I’m having a baby! I would like to recover from surgeries thank you very much. This is parents, friends, even my surgeon who would rather I get pregnant and have a kid before fixing my hernia! Also being on this end, it can get weird with kids’ birthday parties and such, where all your friends are standing around talking about their kids and husbands while you twiddle your thumbs searching for something in common, that’s not going to make you sound like a lush, or lazy or selfish, or haha look how free my time is and yours isn’t! Longwinded, but it’s strange wherever you fall in the timeline with your friends!

  3. I am the first if my friends to have a baby, but my husband’s friends are all procreating. I used to gate driving the 4 hours to awkwardly hang out with people whose values are oppositional to mine. Now it is nice to have people on the same plane as us. I still prefer to go drink pbr and smoke cloves with my friends while they talk about their grad school and promiscuity.
    I only had one stranger touch my belly. I slapped her hand and said “we don’t touch people’s bodies without their permission” in my best preschool teacher voice. It worked well.

  4. Our friendship circle has recently started the wedding circuit, and the talks are slowly starting to head towards babies. Everyone comparing notes about when they plan to start making tiny humans. I have a child from a previous relationship to any of these friendships, and it sometimes seems that I’m set a world apart. They look at parenthood as a wondrous new experience to be had, and I sit feeling slightly disconnected, having gone through the sleepless nights they coo over. I can remember the stomach touching and constant birth jokes and being the only one with a child meaning my social life crashed and burned. It’s hard not to point out the reality of parenthood to those who have not yet experienced it – I wasn’t welcoming to them when I was that person and can completely understand that they are excited. We are considering whether or not to go for child number two after our wedding and the factors I’m weighing in are very different to that of a first time parent. Part of me can’t wait for our friends to have children – I have more knowledge and experience and it would be nice to vent about things with people who truly understand.

  5. I’m sort of in limbo – half of my friends had kids in their 20’s and the other half either don’t want any or waiting for the last ring of the biological clock (I am among the latter). I’m lucky that I have friends with experience, but I’ll also have friends my age to do the play dates with. I’m really lucky to be in this position.

    Besides, the friends with experience have kids old enough to babysit mine. 😉

  6. In my circle of friends I’m one of the later ones to have babies, and I’m 27. They started early though, and some are older than me. I was one of the last remaining few. I think I have one or two friends left that are still holding strong. Then in my family somehow we all had similar thoughts and a bunch of babies are popping out in the span of 6 months. It’s nice to be in the middle though. You can talk to your friends about to have babies, and then you get some interesting advice from friends that already have theirs. I have one friend that got pregnant a couple weeks ahead of me, we were baby buddies and still are watching our babies grow together and comparing techniques and remedies, that’s alot of fun.

  7. I need to hang out in your circles! At 28, I’m “late in the game” among my friends. My husband and I have been married for just over a year and we only know one other couple who has been married as “long” as we have who isn’t pregnant/already has kids. I have one friend my age with 5 kids already!! Kids are fine and all, but I’ve been a nanny too long to want my own anytime soon– I know how much work they are!

    • Yeah, there’s a funny expectation that once your married babies should be arriving a year later. We just had our first and our 3 year anniversary is next month. So, take your time if you even decide to have any. Everyone expecting you to have them only thinks about the fun part of childhood. Their brains seem to block out their time in the trenches. 😛

      • Glad it’s not just me! Our friends think we’re totally weird for not already getting pregnant. Everyone goes “but you LOVE kids! And you guys have been married for a while!” Uh… yeah, I do love kids, and that’s why I work with them. And I don’t really consider “a while” to be a year… first I want to finish grad school, and then after I graduate we’re going to sell our house and travel around the world for a year or so, and THEN we’ll talk about having a family. Maybe.

  8. I’m in a similar boat. We have a small group of friends, and while we’ll be the first to become parents, it’s also a real possibility that we’ll be the only ones of our group who do. Which is the complete opposite of my family, where all of my generation (some older some younger) save one have at least two children.

  9. Similar boat here as well! While we had friends who had children, we were the first in the immediate friend group to have a baby. Some of the note as close friends have become closer, and other friends from the immediate group drifted away. We also have some friends who are in the immediate friend group who are firmly in the ‘no babies in our uteri’ camp who have become the greatest aunties & uncles to our kidlet.
    Our munchkin is now a toddler, and we have 3 friends who are all on mat leave together right now, which makes me a little jealous, since I had to do mat leave by myself. At the same time, that forced me to go out & meet new people so I think that might be a wash since I met some awesome new people.

  10. I’ve recently got married and the questions have already started about the baby growing. None of my closer friendships have children but they are aunties and uncles and all absolutely adore it! So I’m confident we’ll still have things to talk about. My husband is due to be an uncle very soon and I’m using that as a trial run to gauge how quickly I want to breed. That would mean we’re the first… And it’s good to know what we’re letting ourselves in for… But hey, change is good! That other article about accepting aging comes to mind. (Although I will still be celebrating my 30th drunk in a soft play area on an adult night :-P) Which actually brings up another point, I’m desperate to have an excuse to take part in all the childish attractions! Playgrounds and pick’n’mix FTW!

    • With regards to the last part: that’s the perk of being an auntie! If you feel weird just going and playing on the playground (which you can totally do, by the way, if you want–after we moved this summer, my husband and I definitely went swinging on the swings a couple of times at our neighborhood playground), take your niece(s)/nephew(s)/friend’s kid(s).

      Assuming you’re reasonably responsible, the parents will enjoy a little quiet time and you can play AND bond with the kids at the same time, without feeling like you “shouldn’t” be enjoying whatever the activity is. Plus, if you ever plan to have kids of your own, any bit of interaction is a great step toward gaining some childcare experience. Sort of like dipping your toe into the parenting pool? (Or at least, that’s what I’m telling myself about the time I have spent with my nephews…)

      • Thanks! It does feel weird do the childish attractions, when you get the funny looks. It happens a lot at the big places like the Science Museum, zoos, Cadbury World, etc. We still have fun though 😛

        I can’t wait to bond with my husband’s niece when she’s born! We’ll blatantly be the cool aunt n uncle, hehe. We’ve never had a close younger relative before so it’ll be a learning experience for both of us. I’m hoping he’ll start getting broody to provide his niece with a cousin or two.

        A friend at work was saying how she reckons that once one of us gets pregnant, everyone will start doing it. Not sure if it’s because we’re all of “that age” or whether we all subconsciously want our kids to be friends.

  11. I am currently pregnant for the first time, and am 35 weeks along. However, since I’ve been obese most of my life and started losing weight when I got pregnant I look pretty much the same. I haven’t had the strangers touching my belly because I just don’t look pregnant. But I have had some pretty weird looks and eye rolls when I mention that I am.

  12. “You will become public domain” <—-

    The impact of this is insane. And, unfortunately, it's turned me into an attention whore. We joke all the time about how having twins (ONE A REDHEAD OH MY GOD) is like being Kim Kardashian. And I've started to like it TOO MUCH. Now the joke is "DID YOU NOT SEE MY BABIES?! Come back here and congratulate all of us on being adorable."

  13. I am at the opposite end– I am in my 40’s and all my friends are done having kids, and I am pregnant with a bonus baby. Luckily, they are all really cool about it, even if there is a little teasing. It’s my younger (mid-30’s) boyfriend’s first, though, and he’s first among his friends– they are just starting to get married, for the most part. He hasn’t even told them yet.

  14. Oh no, I can up this. Before I had anyone touch ny belly. I had someone. Someones actually… Grab my boobs. Now I get it, they are big, I’m busty. At 150 I had a K, pregnancy did not help. My fiances grandmothers, at different points. The rude pointing I got… And also really dumb suggestions. I mean, I appreciate that they mean well, but my fiance’s best friend trying to be funny and hand my 10 month old a knife… Less appreciated

  15. We were the first of our friends to wed and then have a child. All was fine to begin with and my friends are now having kids but I’m finding that I distance myself from them more and more. Our daughter is now 17 years old! I’m so done with the baby and toddler stages that I find myself declining invitations to their events. Since those stages are what’s going on in their lives currently that’s all they want to talk about, understandably. I don’t want to talk about poop, vomit, runny noses, and play dates anymore. I’ve moved on and not interested in stepping back that far. It’s tough to not spend as much time with them but our lives are different. I’m certainly not complaining, I still spend some time with them and I am grateful for the times that I do!

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