Friday 9 December 2016

My friends have become 'baby zombies'

Her friends may be 'baby zombies', but this reader should be more supportive, says Paula Lambert

Published 05/02/2011 | 05:00

Q 've been really lucky to have a close group of female friends since college that lasted through all the ups and downs of our 20s.

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I've always put my career first. I'm ambitious and I wanted to get ahead, so I worked really hard to get there. This often came at the expense of relationships.

So while I was studying and working all hours, my friends were getting on with their lives, meeting fellas and getting married. Now, my three closest friends are mothers with young kids -- that has brought them closer but it has left me out in the cold.

I understand that priorities change when you become a parent, but it's as if these women have had personality transplants. When we get together all they talk about is their kids. Honestly, I can't remember the last time we had a chat about work, a book, our relationships -- anything!

When I try to steer the conversation away from the topic of children, it always pivots back. The last time we met up I got so annoyed that I excused myself early just to get away from it. Quite simply, I don't like children, so it's not as if I want to talk about them this much or be around them.

I've just started a new relationship with a guy I like and work is going well. I want to share all this with my good friends, but I just don't think they are there any more.

Is it really selfish of me to want a bit of their undivided attention? Is there a good way to bring this up without causing offence? Lisa

A: Lisa, I think we all have these kinds of feelings from the time we're born right through to the end. If, for example, a younger sibling arrives, then it might be the case that you don't feel as loved because another baby has come along. This feeling continues through primary school, when you find yourself landed in among all these new people, and through secondary school, where you feel you're going to love your friends forever, but of course that all changes as life goes on.

And it doesn't go away either. I lost my partner last year, and I noticed how people can back away from you in situations like that. Some people simply don't know how to react to things, so they keep away. What I'm saying is that this is another time in life when people feel excluded or alone.

What I feel I have to stress to you, Lisa, is that having a baby is such a huge thing that, unless you have one, you can't really understand what it's like. It's a time when a woman needs massive support from other people because nothing bigger is ever likely to happen to you. I feel this quite deeply because my own daughter has a one-year-old, and I can see with my daughter that the relationship has changed with some of her single friends.

She had to accept that they don't have children and that she's a mother now, while they're more interested in their careers or whatever else. And you're perfectly within your rights to choose having a career over a family. Isn't it great that women can make that choice today? But, Lisa, I have to say I think you're being very selfish. Having a baby is 24/7 and the accompanying sense of responsibility for your friends is immense.

Don't be a martyr, Lisa. It's all about moving on, and if they really are close friends then they'll always be that. You should be able to talk to them about this, because if you don't have that line of communication, what have you got?

However, you have to be careful about the way you bring this up. Your friends could throw a conniption if you phrase your thoughts insensitively. One thing you could do is invite your friends to your place for a meal, or even just a glass of wine, and market it as a ‘night off ' for them? Give them plenty of notice so they can organise a babysitter to look after the children.

Maybe you could jokingly suggest putting a moratorium on the baby talk and instead ask them about what else is going on in their lives. You never know, they might be grateful for the chance to talk about those other matters. It's not all about them asking you questions about your life. All the best with everything.

What the readers say

There's nothing worse than being emailed baby photos every five minutes from a new parent, so I can only imagine how dull it must be having three friends doing the 'who's the best mum' routine every time you see them.

Next time you meet up, let them get the baby talk out of the way for half an hour, then make a joke about not having any babies to talk about and suggest they listen to your new-man gossip instead.

Aoileann, Co Kerry

I can imagine that talking about parenting is pretty boring for someone without kids, but remember that this is a major event for your friends, and they're probably so stressed and excited by it all that they're relieved to have other friends going through it at the same time.

Work is probably quite irrelevant to them at the moment, which is maybe why they steer talk away from the subject. So why not suggest a girlie night out where all talk of babies, men and jobs are banned? Then, everyone can let their hair down and enjoy the evening.

Sheena, Roscommon

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