Friends can survive one’s parenthood

  • Sun Apr 18th, 2010 3:14pm
  • Life

By Heidi Stevens Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — Krista Rogers still remembers the day, six years ago, when her friend, Felicia, told her she was going to have a baby — and she wouldn’t let it change their friendship.

“I remember sitting on the floor of her living room and in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but think, one: impossible, and two: it was just fear of change and her raging hormones speaking,” Rogers, 38, said.

Kids can do a number on friendships — eating up the time previously reserved for lengthy phone calls, girls’ night out, basketball with the guys. When a circle of friends starts having kids around the same time, the pals tend to give each other a pass. But when one friend has kids and the other doesn’t, the dynamics get trickier.

“I realize all relationships are work, but friends with kids are on a whole other level,” said Rogers, an executive at a Manhattan real estate firm. “Both people in the relationship have got to want to work at it equally. I am sad to say most of my friendships have faded when kids have entered the picture.”

The time differential is the most obvious challenge. The child-rearing friend and the child-free friend are likely both busy, but often at opposite times of the day: 8 p.m. for one friend means winding down homework and gearing up for bedtime, while the other friend may just be heading out for dinner.

For parents, weekends are a time to reconnect with their kids after a week of school and work. For nonparents, weekends are for hanging with pals.

Previously inseparable friends often start to feel like they live on different planets. Your buddy wants to fill you in on his latest dating conquests, and you’re lucky to schedule “date night” once every few months.

The key is owning up to those feelings, say experts. Admit — early and often — that the friendship has changed, possibly forever, but that doesn’t mean it has to end.

“No relationship is perfect and neither are friendships,” said Irene Levine, author of “Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend.”

“Kids are always a challenge that upsets the balance, but if you talk about it you can often work it out.”

Levine says to focus on the things you still have in common. “The more ties people have, the closer they remain usually,” Levine said. “If the friendship was tenuous to start with, the baby could be the Achilles heel that kills it.”

“Girlfriends remind us who we are before we had kids,” said Dawn Bertuca, co-owner of Girlfriend, a website that encourages women to cultivate their friendships. “You’re trying to have adult time, trying to maintain the person you’ve always been. Children add another dimension, but you should still try to relate to your friends in pretty much the same way.”

For guys, who tend to relate less through phone calls and e-mails, face time with friends becomes even more important.

Bertuca says standing dates with kid-free friends— whether it’s a weekly class or a weekly TV show — are ideal. “You have to put it on the calendar and make it a priority,” she said. “It has to be scheduled.”