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Parenthood: where did all my friends go?

A strange thing happens when you announce that you and your partner are going to be having a baby, the people you least expected to care are actually really happy for you.

For example when myself and Autumn's mum first met, it was at Uni many years ago, we then reunited at a mutual friends wedding years later. Announcing our baby news to said friend in the pub over a beer was an unexpectedly happy moment, he was so happy he actually welled up, to set the scene our friend had just finished his shift on site as a brickie, is covered in tattoos and loves heavy metal, and his emotional reaction was really unexpected the point is you can't always predict how your friends will react to this new person in our life.

What is equally unexpected, and isn't talked about enough, is what feels like the great friend exodus. It usually goes like this, your friends are really happy for you when you announce your news, you may get regular check-ins from close friends on how you're handling pregnancy/a pregnant partner, then as the due date approaches there will be lots of fussing around mum, friends will be organising baby showers, gifts will be bought, blokes will be talking about wetting the baby's head in the pub.

After baby shower hysteria subsides there's the period between shower and christening, this is sort of like the period between boxing day and new years day where no one knows what they are supposed to do....this is also godparent season! You may get a few friends dropping round gifts and extra little pamper treats for your partner but on the whole no one knows whether to be there for you, or leave you alone with your baby, I can only tell you from my point of view but this was the time period where I wanted to be left alone, I guess to bond with my daughter and partner and to figure everything out,

I didn't voice it but I had this very weird almost primal feeling where I didn't want anyone else touching her, or picking her up, I didn't want other people's hands on her other than me or her mum and her brother, I didn't want millions of people coming around passing her around like a joint at a party!

That said there's nothing better than the feeling of knowing you have the support if you need it, so my advice to friends of people who have just had a baby is use this time to send a message or a card and let the person know you're there to help if they need it.

Not everyone has a christening, not everyone is Christian, a lot of people, who get christened are even that religious. I suffer with OCD and it is a mental health issue I have suffered with from being young (not the OCD where people say they have OCD but they're actually just a bit anal and like things to be tidy) it presents itself in many ways from intrusive thoughts to counting compulsions and placing special significance on certain numbers.

More info on OCD can be found here.

It's taken me a long time to realise that the way I react or behave sometimes in certain situations can be down to my OCD, and lack of sleep etc can heighten OCD symptoms, you can often be irrationally obsessive and anxious over an idea, and the need to find a solution or answer often becomes overwhelming, it can help motivate you in your ambitions but also inhibit you and slow you down at the same time.

Unfortunately the focus and obsessiveness is never concerning easily solvable stuff like how to fix a shelf, it just so happens that this month my obsession was organised religion and whether it was a good thing or a bad thing which fell right in line with my daughters christening, this lead me to having a debate with the vicar during her visit to our house to judge our suitability as members of our churwhichch, ( I thought was a bit judgey and not really the attitude I wanted Autumn growing up with and only added to my objections)....long story short, Autmum's mum wanted a full blown christening, I wanted a blessing, the christening went ahead and I gave the vicar a book on Buddhism as a thank you gift.

But anyway the point is the christening was a success and we were surrounded by all our close friends and family, but for most new parents this is where things change on the friend front.

Before parenthood you might have been meeting up with close friends every weekend in the pub, or for lunch, you might have been going around to each other's houses or just calling a few times a week, there could have been loads of you or just a few.

Babies change that! You may get a few visits in the early days but then they dry up, even visits from your close friends get less frequent, I'll be honest, and I'm not going to sugar coat it, being a parent can be very lonely especially if you become a single parent after "the exodus", in a way it's one of the many positive things that happen when you become a parent even if it doesn't feel like it at the time.

As not only does it show you who your real friends are but it also forces you to enjoy your own company I thought a lot about why this happens and I think there are a few reasons.

Firstly some friends want to give you space with your new baby, which is fine but everybody needs time with friends regardless of how much you love your child, adult time is just as important, and definitely needed parenting is not easy. For some your lifestyle doesn't suit them anymore, they want to be at a kitchen party chatting bollocks at 4am whilst you're doing night feeds, you used to provide something that made them feel good and you can't provide that anymore, whether it be entertainment or companionship.

Although it seemed like a loss that they've stopped calling you, you should thank your baby for removing them from your life as I guarantee you, if you look more clearly you will realise those people took a lot more than they gave through your friendship, remember:

Where you lose some friends you often gain some, especially women through baby groups and mum's in the playground, this can often leave men feeling even more isolated, but you're often forced together with the new "mum friends" partners like some sort of cringey twist on the film I love you man

Anyway for anyone who is wondering where their friends went as the title of this blog suggests Aristotle has worked it out for us, according to him there are 3 types of friends and these are as follows:

1) Friendships of utility

These are friends who are mutually beneficial to each other at the time, as mentioned before a lot of mum's have "other mum friends" it's not a coincidence these pop up when you become a parent, you are beneficial to each other, you're both going through the same experience, and handy to have around if you need help with school pick ups or just advice when it comes to parenting, if you're lucky some of these friends will develop to become "friendships of the good" ( see further down the page)

2) Friendships of pleasure

*Note not friends with benefits

Remember that guy we were talking about 2 mins ago chatting bollocks in someone's kitchen at 4am, yeah he's a friend of pleasure, but it can be anyone, perhaps you used to go shopping every weekend with her , holidays to ibiza, gym sessions every night or the football every Saturday. These are usually the flakey ones because as soon as you stop being able to supply them with the pleasure you were giving them you serve no purpose and they will soon be out with their new best mate, it can make you feel rubbish but believe me parenthood just helped you dodge a bullet.

3) Friendships of the good.

These friendships are the holy grail of friendships, they often take a long time to develop but they're based on mutual respect, shared goals and morals and you know when shit hits the fan, they're going to have your back and you're going to have theirs, they're the type you class as family and are extremely rare so hang onto them.

So there you go that is the lads to dads view on friendships after you become parents I hope we've helped you get your head around a situation that can be really rubbish for some especially during lockdown and we hope you enjoy our latest episode which you can find on spotify and apple podcast.

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