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How Not To Treat Your Friends After Your Baby Is Born: A Tale Of Baby-Blindness

Who needs friends when you have a baby? you do

Who needs friends when you have this? (You.)

We all aspire to seamlessly integrate our babies into our lives as functional human beings. We will simply continue to see our friends and go about our lives as normal, with the occasional diaper change and an adorable little companion by our side. Then the baby hits us like an anvil on the head, and it’s impossible to see straight. For some, this baby-blindness lasts just a few weeks. For others, until kindergarten. (There have been a few cases of it lasting until high school graduation, but those are rarities generally seen only in the pages of academic journals.)

This advice question from the Hairpin comes from a woman on the baby-free end of this social tug of war:

“My friend is/was really smart and sharp/sarcastic and funny. Then she had a baby (planned) a little over a year ago. Now, the only thing she has to talk about is the baby (understandable, but I just don’t care). I know this will get better/lessen, so I do still try to hang out with her and grin and bear it. But lately she’s been “making an effort” to hang out with everyone again.

Unfortunately…

…nine times out of 10, this involves breaking the plans at the last minute because she’s too tired/the baby’s schedule got weird/etc. Why does she keep making plans? Doesn’t she realize that when we make plans with her, we’re not making plans with other people? When she is with us, she dominates the conversation with the old “how hard it is to have a child” topic while refusing to accept any of the help we suggest, because we “don’t really know what it’s like.”

How does one handle this? I guess I just have to suck the baby talk up, but is there a way to tell a lady with a baby that you don’t want to make plans with her if she’s not going to show because you have better things that you could be scheduling instead?”

I love the Hairpin advice column. Simone Eastman really makes me miss the days when Ceridwen and I had our Parental Advisory column here at Babble. Here’s a little of what she had to say: “On its face, the problem seems fairly simple: New Mama has become totally myopic and isn’t being a good friend. But there’s so much more to this. Because what it sounds like to me is that New Mama might be the first new mama, or one of the first, in your social circle. And what that means is that all of you — you, New Mama, all of your friends — are experiencing and witnessing a pretty profound life transition that is probably confusing and frustrating! How do we grow to accommodate the ways our lives change?”

What follows is a really insightful list of hints for friends of new mamas about how to navigate this life change.  I always find reading stuff that’s targeted to the people who are on the receiving end of your behavior to be really helpful—in a totally different way than advice for people in your own situation. There’s nothing like putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes to help you understand how what you’re doing might be hard to deal with.

For many moms and Friends of Moms, this situation is a rite of passage. New Mom Narcissism is kind of an evolutionary necessity. If you weren’t spinning your world around this vulnerable new life, you’d be more likely to accidentally leave the baby on the banquette at the bar. You know, the one you and your friends used to meet at for drinks before you went and had a kid and ruined everything?

The singlemindedness—or baby blindness—of new motherhood is as hard for the childless to understand it as it is for new moms to prevent. They don’t get it, they can’t get it…and yet, you can’t really call them on it without sounding like a jerk. Which doesn’t mean you won’t, or even shouldn’t, try to explain it to them. Part of getting past this phase is understanding the inevitability of the disconnect between new parents and non parents. Once these different viewpoints can be accepted as a given, you can stop being annoyed by them and move on with your friendship. It’s a big if, but if you can acknowledge where you each are—and how your new situation might affect your friends’ feelings, the chances are a lot better that you’ll be able to cross the great divide once your baby gets older…and your view gets a little wider.

Read Sailing Through the Diaper Changes of One’s Life on The Hairpin.

photo: Robert W. Howington/flickr

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