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I miss my old life. This may sound ungrateful, but I'm just being honest. I wouldn't want my old life back if it meant I had to be without my three beautiful children, but I do miss those care-free, self-indulgent days.

I can handle the lack of sleep and messy house that come with parenthood, but I lament how little I see some of my friends. Once you introduce babies into the picture, your social life changes beyond all recognition. Newborns are fine, as they sleep so much, and are wonderfully portable, but little creatures learning to walk and talk require a lot of attention and supervision.

You can kiss goodbye to Sunday brunch with the papers in your favourite restaurant. You can say adios to spontaneous weekends away with friends. You can forget hooking up with the girls for coffee and a browse on Saturday afternoon. (Of course, all these things can still be done, but who wants to deal with a dirty nappy mid-way through huevos rancheros and a Bloody Mary?) And you can also kiss goodbye to some relationships.

Many of my friends became parents around the same time as I did, which means we all took it in our stride together. Nights out became afternoons in, visiting each other's houses surrounded by bottles and baby paraphernalia. Get-togethers were planned around naptimes and mealtimes and no one minded because we all understood. Before I even noticed I was gravitating towards other parents because it meant I could socialise with my children and not feel any stress.

Other parents understand the need to constantly break off a conversation in mid- sentence to help out your toddler. They won't feel snubbed when you keep interrupting them to answer junior's incessant questions. They won't look upset when your beaker spills on their carpet or baby throws up on your shoulder.

Of course, it's unfair to stereotype, and not all childfree buddies are precious about themselves or their homes. Before parenthood, Brendan and I spent very few long weekends in Dublin. We were always off visiting people around the country, especially Connemara, where two special friends live.

Years later they, too, have three young children, similar in age to ours, and our visits west have become fewer. We can just about fit in one bedroom, but it's a big deal to expect people to host five of us for a weekend when they have their own little ones to manage. We try to rent a house close by in the summer so we get to hang out.

This makes me feel so sad, but it's just the reality of life. Our modest home can't host many comfortably, so houseguests are limited to one or two at a time. Nowadays we see less and less of the country-based friends we love. Phone calls have become less frequent, too, because the house is either too noisy or we're simply too tired to call once the kids are in bed.

As most of our friends are now parents we're collectively guilty of neglecting each other. The challenge is to keep these friendships nurtured through the busy years. We've the will, but little time.


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