Can Friendships Survive Parenthood?

Child looks at how family life changes the quality of parents' friendships.

Introduction

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Image by Jayne Wexler

Once you become a parent, you need your friends more than ever. Just ask Vicki Iovine, author of the Girlfriends series: "In the most challenging times of our lives, it's essential to our well-being that we bring our Girlfriends along." And the need to share stories, laughs, and support isn't just a woman's thing -- dads need their pals too. But parenthood is time-consuming and preoccupying, and maintaining new and old friendships is challenging. Which is why Child conducted an online survey of nearly 1,000 moms and dads to see how parenthood has affected their friendships. See how you compare, and listen in on what experts have to say about the friendship factor.

The Time Crunch

While 69% of women felt satisfied with their friendships before having kids, only 54% felt that way afterward. For men, satisfaction with friendships dropped from 67% to 57%. The culprit? Time. Before they had children, men spent 16 hours a week with friends -- after kids, that number dropped to 6 hours. Before children, women spent 14 hours per week with friends, but only 5 hours after.

"When we're stressed, friendship is often the first thing we put on hold," says Boston-based author Ellen Goodman, coauthor of I Know Just What You Mean: The Power of Friendship in Women's Lives. This is especially true for women: 45% said they had fewer friends after their children were born, versus 38% of dads. The force behind this is often cultural, says Harriet Lerner, Ph. D., author of The Mother Dance: How Children Change Your Life. "ln our society, mothers are still the ones expected to make the sacrifices that children require," she says.

When Priorities Change

No longer sharing interests with pre-parenthood friends is a phenomenon many moms and dads experience and the number-two reason they felt dissatisfied. "My single friends lost interest in me once I had kids," says Steve Dawson, 41, a father of two in Vacaville, CA. "I became a family man. Now they seldom call. I think they assume I don't have time to meet up with them."

Janet Bolan, 41, of West Lafayette, IN, tells a similar story. "When I had my son, my friends who didn't have kids didn't come around as much," she recalls. "They just weren't interested in children." She eventually made more friends through a parenthood group.

Parents Are Talking

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