Friends are for life, not just prepartum
Friendships shift and change at different stages of life. We make childhood friends, then we start school and make new friends. Some friendships stick with us for years while others are discarded at the drop of a hat. Some friendships make it through the tough times and survive and they're the unchanging constant in the equation of a turbulent timeline. That is, at least, until you have a child...
I'm not the only one then.
See, pre-baby anything is very much based on freedom. You can go out at very short notice or grab that last-minute holiday deal - you have no slobbering, crying, shitting ball & chain that you love too much not to look after properly.
Unless you have a puppy, but don't tell me that's the same thing!
Friends will know you as socially reliable - you're one of the inner-circle. You will be there at "the event", whatever that may be, and you're great for that. You're not one of the flaky guys who will inevitably cancel at the last minute and give some sorry excuse.
That is, at least, until you have a child...
It starts at pregnancy
Kate and I noticed things change when we told people we were expecting. Friends would post social media statuses about where they were and what they were doing - we would be sat at home doing that sulk you do when you've been excluded. This is stuff we would usually be invited to - the only difference being that we were now expecting a baby. Ouch!
Granted, Kate couldn't drink, we were now like that irritating friend everyone's had at some point that suddenly went teetotal or vegan. Guys - we're still the same people - she just can't get drunk any more, we're still us!
Me at social gatherings now
The antenatal course hopes
Being the first couple in our group of friends to become pregnant, it was hard for friends to relate to us. After the initial "Oh my god!"s and the "what names have you shortlisted?" questions, it was almost like we suffered the first-date jitters. Silence would be filled with "huh, so yeah!" and "wow...".
This is why we were excited about the antenatal classes we had signed up for. We could meet like-minded couples who were expecting around the same time as us. I could bond with the blokes over bad jokes and anecdotes of pregnancy hormone rampages.
Oh how wrong we were!
We turned up to the first session and walked into a room full of classic stereotypes. I'll summarise - there was:
- The "been there before" mum. It'd been 12 years since her last pregnancy and she wanted "to recap". She often addressed the class and gave her experience. Much like you'll often hear Alan Sugar say "When I started off with nothing...", she would say "When I had my first...". This is what sighs were invented for...
- The young couple, forced to attend by parents. She was around 17 and he was in full chav uniform. He spent the entire session with one hand down the front of his North Face pants and the other scrolling through the TheLADBible on his phone.
- The hippy-mum-to-be. She was all for lighting candles and meditating her way through labour - I'd love to know how that worked out. I don't think it would have worked for us.
Nick was a wanker. I knew this within the first 4 seconds as he was sat in his expensive suit with one leg crossed over the other, both arms cradled round the back of the chair either side of him. I made a mental note to check what make of car he drove. If it was a BMW I was getting beers on the way home as a prize.
Nick would snigger and confidently apologise every time the word "vagina" or "breast" was mentioned (which was a lot), and at the Q&A he asked whether he was allowed a 4-pack of fosters into the delivery suit. No, Nick, you ridiculous bell-end. This is why we call you Nick the Prick! His wife, Nic (really!), rolled her eyes as if he was a petulant child, which only seemed to encourage him.
After the class he swaggered to his car like a penguin imitating NWA. It was a BMW - nailed it! He'd also took up two parking spaces. I reckon he slept with his secretary before his child was 1o months old.
Life after birth
Here's me moaning about having no social life after becoming a parent, but when I do go out it's a constant effort to not constantly babble on about Evelyn and parenthood. I hear myself doing it, I bore myself half way through a sentence but always see it through to that anticlimatic end. It's awkward! The truth is, fatherhood really is that exciting to me, but I know from experience that few people could actually give a shit about the cute thing my kid did last week.
He's interested in my story, right? RIGHT?
I reconnected with an old university friend when Kathryn was pregnant (because a fortune cookie told me to, true story). Shortly after I did, he found out his wife was pregnant - perfect! I could witness this social fall from grace from a third-person perspective.
We have become very close since. I remember he called me at midnight once to discuss breastfeeding. I mean, we've spoke about breasts before, but this was a whole new level.
Let's be friends, fellow father!
There have been opportunities to make fellow dad-mates since becoming a dad myself. These usually come in the form of an awkward social situation disguised as a kid's party. The kids will run off and play and the adults will be left standing there with a dumb grin thinking "shit, socialise before it's awkward!".
I took the plunge and spoke to another dad at one of these parties. About Evelyn and his daughter. We did experiment with the topic of the housing market but that took us full circle to our own houses, decorating the kid's bedroom and then - you guessed it - our kids! Oh for f**k's sake!
My hunt for a social life continues...
All pictures used with permission.