As a new-ish mom, I appreciate my mom friends. They taught me about cloth diapering and baby-led weaning, commiserated about wacky sleep patterns, and talked endlessly about everything baby. But after complete submersion in baby land, time with my non-mom friends is refreshing and necessary.
Being a great non-mom friend to a new parent might seem daunting. Parenthood is like a parallel dimension. You, the non-mom friend, can see your friend inside their bubble, but the laws of physics have changed for them. They love differently, their gag reflex has probably disappeared, and the couch exerts an inescapable gravitational pull. How best to penetrate that world?
The single best, most appreciated thing I did with my non-mom friends after I was up and around was go for walks. With a friend, the dog could come and not get tangled up in the stroller wheels. I walked farther with a friend than by myself. And best of all, we would talk about non-baby things. After hazy weeks and months of hours alone with a non-verbal bundle of joy, the opportunity to speak in complete sentences about unrelated topics–boy problems! dinner! island gossip!–was priceless. With my non-mom friends I got exercise, the baby got fresh air, and my friends and I got to chit chat like we did in the pre-baby days.
Another important element of being a great non-mom friend is being understanding of the schedule. It took a few months, but Penrose finally got on a sleep schedule, and adhering to it is vitally important to everyone’s wellbeing. We still go out to dinner, but at 5 p.m. Usually, we stay home. I want to have dinner with my non-mom friends whenever I can, especially here in the never-ending island winter with no restaurants, but we’re not at a point where we have much flexibility. So my non-mom friends who are willing to meet at 5 or 6 p.m., or who bring food over to our house instead of us coming over to theirs, and who are willing to wait it out alone during our elaborate bedtime ritual so I can get some post-baby-bedtime grown-up hanging out are priceless.
As much as it’s nice to get a break from talking about parenting non-stop, I come right back to it after a few minutes. It’s at the forefront of my mind all the time. I’m navigating new terrain every day and sometimes I just need to off-load my thoughts, even if the person I’m talking to hasn’t been through the same thing. And being understanding of that is an important characteristic of the awesome non-mom friend. I know they probably don’t care about color, quality, and quantity of baby poop, or what I’m imagining her random sounds mean. All the awesome non-mom friend needs to do is smile, nod, and say “Aw,” or “Ew,” at appropriate moments and I feel heard and validated, even if the topic of conversation is insignificant or gross.
Of course, it’s a two-way street. One of my awesome non-mom friends was afraid at first to “bug me” about hanging out. New parents, it’s OK to ask your non-mom friends if they want to get together. Be honest and tell them how nice it would be to talk about something other than poop for a few minutes. Within your friends’ comfort level, recruit them to lend a hand and be honest about your needs–can they hold the baby for a few minutes so you can eat without dropping food on its head? Can they hold the dog’s leash while you push the stroller? Be brave and push your boundaries a little–it can be scary to go out to a restaurant, or shopping, or really anywhere with a baby, but you’re with your people and they will support you.
The change from non-mom to mom is daunting for everyone, including friends. Believe me, awesome non-mom friends, we new parents want to share our joy, struggles, and the new addition itself with you, just as we shared our joy and struggles before. Thanks for being there!