SW: What is the toughest challenge for pregnant women and new mothers when it comes to maintaining their friendships?
MP: Having a baby can be vastly wonderful, but it can be devastating to friendships. If you have a child and a lot of your friends don't, you'll feel like you don't have much in common anymore. On the other hand, it's hard for friends without kids to understand the hurricane of a new baby. They don't understand that you can't pick up and meet them for a drink, or take the baby to the mall on a Saturday. Your friendships will change when you have a baby, and I think it's really important to talk about that together. The women who have held on to their friendships were able to talk about the change and accept that their friendship would have a new shape.
The friend who did not have a child has to be more flexible, and understand that she'll have to give more than she gets for a while. As wonderful as a baby is, new mothers go into a crisis mode because it's so overwhelming. So, being a loving, giving friend is important. This new focus on the baby is not going to last forever -- the kid is going to go to school. One way to stay close is to be helpful: bring over dinner, offer to babysit. The kids shouldn't always be with you when you do something together, but once in a while it's a good idea.
On the flip side, the new mom has to be sensitive too. Even though the baby is the center of your life, realize that everyone is not interested in every minute detail of your baby's life. Stay interested in what's going on in your friend's life. Even though you may not be able to relate to her boyfriend troubles or work woes, you can still care about her feelings. So make sure the conversation is really balanced. And whenever possible, try to make an effort to head out to her turf. If the friend is having fertility problems, that can be really difficult, too. A new mom has to be sensitive to that, and not blather on about the joys of motherhood.
SW: Let's talk about how to make new friends after you have a baby. How do you find new mothers to be friends with?
MP: It's so important as a new mom to make friends with other new moms who are going through the same thing you're experiencing. Having a baby can be extremely isolating because you're just trying to get your baby fed, and figure out how to breastfeed, and how to give her a bath, and you're not thinking about your social life. Plus, a lot of women come from this incredibly rich social environment of working to being home alone with a crying baby. It's like a double-whammy. You're in the place where you live, but if you've been working you haven't invested a lot of energy into becoming friends with your neighbors -- you feel like a stranger in your own neighborhood. When you have a new baby you have a new job, which is making new friends.
Mommy & Me exercise classes are a great way to meet new moms. There's a national group that has local chapters, called Mothers & More, which can also be a great support. I've also been reading about these movie theaters that are having "Bring Your Baby Day" -- that would be a fun way to meet people. You could organize a Mom's Night Out once a month -- get together with your kids or without your kids and connect that way.