By Christine Knight
Pre-baby, I didn't think much about there being a great baby divide between women. As my friends slowly started to have children, I realized that I didn't see them as much as before, but I didn't worry too much about our friendships changing until I was the only childless one present at a friend's child's birthday party one year. While everyone talked baby this and baby that around me, I felt completely left out of the conversation. I cared about their kids, but I had nothing to contribute.
Now that I do have a child of my own, I still remember that moment vividly, and try extra hard with my childless friends to keep our relationships strong. My old friendships are very important to me regardless of the different paths our lives might have taken. If you'd like to keep your friendships strong with your friends who don't have kids (and you should!), here's some advice to follow.
1. Don't compare busyness.
When you have a kid, it feels like you had so much free time in your life pre-baby! It didn't feel like it at the time, though, did it? So, when your friend complains about how busy she's been, under no circumstances reply or insinuate that her busyness level is nowhere near yours. Our busyness level is all relative to our own experiences. And please, no "Wait till you have kids!" comments either.
2. Thank them for well meant advice.
Sure, they're not living through the experience of having a child themselves, but by relating stories of their relationships with nieces or cousins, they're trying to relate to you. Thank them for their thoughtfulness and appreciate that your friend really cares about you.
3. Invite them to your kid's parties.
People without children still care about your child, just as much as those with kids of their own. Not inviting them to your little one's birthday party when you invite all of your friends with kids will make them feel left out. Plus, your friends without kids are actually in a great position to act as de facto aunts and uncles to your children -- and give them extra attention both now and later in life.
4. Love their dogs.
Yes, dogs are not the same thing as children. We are all aware of this. If your dog-loving friends are going out of their way to talk about your kid and give them attention, do the same for their dog if it's a big part of your friend's lives.
5. Listen, listen, then listen some more.
Your problems probably vastly differ now (you're dealing with toilet training woes, while your friend is having dating disasters), but that doesn't make either of your troubles less important than the other. If your friend is patient enough to listen about little Jane's latest word or how Milo finally sat up by himself, then ask about their life, too. And take a real interest in the details.
6. Ask them to join you.
One of the big joys of having kids is being able to relive your own childhood, and visit fun places that appeal to the child within all of us. Often childless friends will really enjoy joining you on outings like this and getting the chance to set their own inner child free again.
7. Let them be tired, too.
They might not be up every night with a baby, but that doesn't mean that they aren't tired from their own lives and stresses. We're all tired, and it's not a competition to see who is the most tired.
8. See them after hours.
Yes, after you put the kids to bed you're absolutely exhausted. Me too. The last thing I ever want to do is then go out to dinner or drinks. But do it anyway. Once you're out, you'll get a second wind and the chance to be an adult again. Your friend will appreciate being able to talk to you with your full attention on them, and you'll be able to enjoy a conversation that's not constantly being interrupted with whining, yelling and poo incidents.
9. Find communication that works for you.
I find it impossible to talk on the phone. During the day, I'm either working or with my child, neither of which makes phone chats possible. At night, after I've put my little one to bed and cooked and eaten dinner, all I want to do is sit on the couch and watch TV. I definitely don't feel like a phone chat. Basically ever. So, what I do to keep in touch with people is email, text or social media. I regularly send texts that just say things like "Thinking of you! How are you this week?," or comment on a friend's Instagram or Facebook photo, often with a question to initiate a conversation. It's an easy way to get a regular dialogue going without committing to phone calls, or face-to-face meet ups if I'm not able to find the time.
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This piece was originally published by Christine Knight on Mommy Nearest. Christine is a writer, editor and marketing strategist. Her blog, Adventure, Baby!, is a guide to navigating the world and parenthood. Follow her travel, food and parenting mishaps over Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram.