But when it comes to spending time with their single pals, the issue becomes far more complicated. "Most of my friends are single and not family-oriented," says Farrell. "And while they've never asked me not to bring my daughter when we go out together, I assume they would rather not hang out with a crying 2-year-old." Farrell says that since she had her daughter, she spends a lot more time with her sisters, who also have children. "It's much easier for me to make plans with them, such as going to the park. And their kids are older and will entertain my daughter while we're there."
Regardless of the difficulties of staying close to friends who have no kids, experts say it can be done. "There will be friendship casualties when you have kids, but true friends will stick with you," says Iris Krasnow, the Maryland-based author of Surrendering to Marriage and Surrendering to Motherhood. "They may feel abandoned at first, but they'll understand your priorities have shifted."
What Your Children Learn From Your Friendships
Despite the challenges to creating and maintaining friendships, our respondents felt strongly about modeling positive ones for their children. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of women and 64% of men say that seeing their parents with friends teaches kids how to interact socially.
"My kids love that I have friends that I've known for many years," says Krasnow, who has four sons. "I've known my friend Debbie since I was in fifth grade, and the other day one of my sons asked me if he and his pals would be friends for that long."
A parent's friends can even act as extended family members to a child, notes Goodman. "In this era of smaller families, kids need to have a group of trusted adults who love and care for them."
And making the time to be with our friends has positive effects for the family as a whole, says Dr. Lerner. "Children benefit from not being the constant focus of their parents' attention," she says. "They need to know that their mom and dad have other important relationships that require time, energy, and commitment. And they need to know that their parents have fun."