Babies often create infectious excitement, but you can't expect all of your friends to ooh and ahh about your pregnancy in anticipation of the first time they can hold your newborn's little hand. Instead of agonizing over whether your coworker is looking at your expanding belly with resentment or wasting time wondering why your gal pal from spin class is suddenly distant, learn how to navigate these changing relationships before you give birth.
"Many expectant mothers are very excited about the new changes in their life, but they should realize that their priorities and interests may change," says Deborah B. Nelson, Ph.D and associate professor of public health and ob-gyn at Temple University. Those changes can put a strain on prior relationships, but with a little flexibility and some forward thinking, you can help your solid friendships stand the test of motherhood. Use the scenarios here to help you ease every buddy smoothly into your life with Baby.
It's 4:30 P.M. on a Friday and your bestie has just texted to see if you're up for grabbing a drink. The thought of nursing a club soda for the next couple of hours doesn't exactly thrill you, so you're inclined to say no. Should you?
Not so fast, say the experts. "The basis of true friendships is mutual support and communication, which is especially important to women," says psychologist Pamela J. Ginsberg of Doylestown, PA. "I would advise expectant mothers to continue to appreciate that their friend is not experiencing the same transition, and that there is a need to continue to support her where she is in her life." That said, she shouldn't expect you to strut your bump around the bar scene. Suggest an alternative -- a post-work latte or a shoe-shopping jaunt -- and start a new tradition for the both of you.
Even though you're registering for a Baby Bj?rn, that doesn't mean your longtime (child-free) married friend wants to try on carriers with you. Maybe your pal isn't exactly over the moon about the pending birth, or maybe she's scared that your foursome dinners will become a thing of the past. "Many of us make the erroneous assumption that our married but childless friends will be envious of our transition to parenthood," adds Ginsberg. "But that's not always the case."
"Depending on the reason a friend doesn't have children (personal choice or fertility issues), these factors may complicate a relationship," explains Nelson. It's okay to be honest about your concerns, even if they might be a little hard for your pal to swallow. "Open dialogue would be best, so you can share your challenges with each other," she adds. Acknowledge your friend's feelings and make a plan to keep up those get-togethers, even if it means they happen a little less often.
Your older sister says she can't wait to become an aunt, but you secretly wonder if she'll be up for sharing Sunday brunch with a nursing newborn. "If an older sibling wishes she were in her sister's position, this can be tricky," explains Ginsberg, noting that jealousy and rivalry can last well into adulthood.
Involving a sibling in your baby's life can make the transition smoother and impart a sense of responsibility. Whether it's having your sister help design the nursery, or setting aside time to chat during naptime, you can help nurture her new role as a favorite aunt.
This situation may require extra attention, given its precarious nature. "This can be a very stressful time [for the friend who is trying to conceive], so it may be difficult for her to be completely available to and excited for the expectant mother," says Nelson.
Keeping your pal's sensitivity in mind, tread lightly when breaking the news. "This takes a special level of understanding because there may be some covert, even overt resentment," notes Ginsberg. Don't forget to talk about other things going on in each other's lives, so all of your communication doesn't revolve around babymaking. "Be compassionate about how you continue to support your friend through this challenging time," she says.
Preparing your colleague for your maternity leave will help minimize any resentment she may be harboring. "Openly discuss any changes with your coworker, and do what you can to make the transition as easy as possible," says Ginsberg. For instance, show her where she can access any computer files, and give her full access to passwords, so she won't be scrambling at the last minute. "Be as helpful as you can, but be careful not to take on more responsibility than what is appropriate," she adds.
Yes, your friend will miss working up a sweat with you, but once it becomes medically necessary to drop the class, consider a new activity you can do together: a movie night, monthly dinner, or book club. "Instead of losing a gym buddy, you might gain an early-morning walking buddy, if that fits into your schedules," suggests Nelson. Spin class is off-limits during pregnancy, but perhaps you can take a swim class together.
Copyright © 2011 Meredith Corporation.