“My life was upside down, she was already in the lights”

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You two swore to be friends forever, but then kids come along and suddenly you don’t know what you liked about her, or vice versa.

Forty weeks and two days pregnant, Irene (30) got in the car back home at half past one in the morning after a visit to her best friend Amanda (29). If the mountain didn’t come to Mohammed, then the other way around.

Irene: “I had barely gone five hundred meters before I was stopped: a breathalyzer test. The police officer asked if I had been drinking. Grinning, I pointed to my belly, so bulging that there was hardly any space left between me and the steering wheel: “What do you think?” The officer didn’t share my humor: ‘Madam, we’ve been through crazier.’”

Sixty miles away

She herself found it anything but funny that, as the first pregnant woman in her group of friends, she was the one who, after months of radio silence, got into the car to a city sixty kilometers away, while she should have been lying on one ear for a long time. The freshly obtained Bob keychain did not change that.

“Yes, I showed pleasing behaviour, but of course being pregnant didn’t mean that I immediately had to act like a princess in my friendship with my best friend, I thought. Or actually I had no idea how that worked, being friends and becoming a mother. It soon became painfully clear to me that our friendship would change.”

Crazy ideas

Amanda and Irene had been friends since college. “She was always the artistic one of the two of us, the one with the crazy ideas and who went off the beaten track. We skinny dipped in the puddle of the local park in our college town in the middle of the night and hitchhiked across Scotland together – all her ideas that I meekly followed.

I preferred safety, especially after we graduated. For the standard picture, with a man, two children, two cars in the driveway of a Vinex home. Amanda didn’t understand my marital existence. She herself had no desire to have children or need a partner. From best man at my wedding, where she missed my bachelor party because she had an illustrious launch of an exhibition that I consider incomprehensible, our friendship faded to just cards with birthdays. She usually forgot about my children’s.

“Our friendship faded to just cards with birthdays”

We haven’t been in contact for three years now, not even through social media since she stopped. Oddly enough, I don’t even miss Amanda. In my street, several women became mothers for the first time at the same time as me. That led to new friendships. One closer than the other, but we are all in the same phase of life. That also connects.”

Read also – Girlfriends through pregnancy: ‘She turned out to be going through exactly the same as me’ >

Grow apart

It happens regularly that friends grow apart after the arrival of children, says psychologist Sandra van Scheijndel. Especially if one gets them and the other doesn’t. On average, a Dutch person has 3.5 friends with whom he/she shares joys and sorrows and who they see regularly, in addition we have four to seven ‘ordinary’ friends with whom we play sports, share a hobby or work. Fifteen percent of the Dutch have no friends at all.

But friendships change happens to everyone. Sometimes temporary. Because one of the two is madly in love, making a career, living in another country or focusing on the family. And sometimes forever. Because boundaries are crossed, the friendship costs more energy than it produces for various reasons and people sometimes just grow apart – because of motherhood, for example.

24/7 job

Sandra: “Motherhood is a job that swallows you up 24/7. Some mothers love that and don’t understand a friend who says: ‘It’s nice to have a baby like that, but I won’t start it.’ That can feel like a rejection. Other women, on the other hand, enjoy not feeling like a mother every now and then and are open to outings with friends and chatting about ‘other things’.

So it has a lot to do with expectations. As a ‘childless’ I have sometimes joked: you lose your girlfriend when she becomes a mother, until the youngest goes to school. A friend of mine also said, “I’m not inviting you to my three-year-old son’s birthday, mind you.” You are welcome of course, but if you don’t have children of your own, there is really nothing to do. We’ll have a glass of wine together sometime.’”


Clinging on to a friendship when lives are drifting apart doesn’t always work, but it can be nice to have multiple types of friends, says Sandra. And that doesn’t even just have to do with whether or not you have children. “I once had a girlfriend with whom I could have very nice conversations and laugh a lot. But once we went shopping together, I thought: never again! At least not with her. It does not matter. There, too, those expectations come into play again, which can also play a role in love relationships: you want to be able to share everything with the other person.

But that is ultimately impossible. You are always two different people with different perceptions and preferences, no matter how much recognition there is between you.” According to Sandra, even the best friends can have children at the same time and still see the friendship slip through their fingers.

Different vision

Like with Sheryl (34) and her best friend Samantha (35), to the outside world Siamese twins. Where one went, the other went; even outwardly they resembled each other. They shared a love for interior styling, beauty and parties, and almost got pregnant at the same time three years ago. But once the first offspring were born, they turned out to be more different than they thought.

Sheryl: “I was like go with the flow, of feeding on demand, of listening to what your baby says. Samantha wanted her normal life back as soon as possible. No breastfeeding and life upside down, but tight rhythms and a clear division of tasks with her partner. While she was in the lights again after three months, I lay with my son on my chest in the conjugal bed for regular days and cluster feedings.”

“Not chic, but at a certain point I didn’t even pick up the phone when she called”

After a year, the women had lost all connection. “We still agreed, preferably without children. But because we were so different in parenting, there turned out to be little more to discuss. Where Samantha was getting ready for the next rough party, just like before, I preferred to crawl with the chickens on a roost. Together with my child and my husband, who also liked it all. Not chic, but at a certain point I didn’t even pick up the phone when Samantha called.”

Read also – Friendship broken: ‘I always went beyond my own boundaries’ >

Parenting styles

Sandra recognizes stories like this one. “Just as friends sometimes choose a partner you don’t understand, a friend who becomes a mother can also turn into someone you hardly recognize anymore. That can be painful. How well did you really know her? You had always said: we will continue to do fun things together, but suddenly she has turned into a homebody. Or the other way around: that one friend just hangs on in her old life while the rest of the mothers move along with each other in their new lives.”

“Some friends walk with you all your life, others just for a while”

Different parenting styles can also cause friction, she says. “One goes for convenience, the other wants everything to be ecologically responsible. Or one turns into a perfectionist control freak and the other into Ma Flodder. Of course that clashes.” It says nothing about the value of friendship, says Sandra. “There are people who walk with you all your life and there are people who only fit you for a period of time. We often think that your childhood friendships “should” last a lifetime. Or that you don’t make real friends after your thirties. All nonsense, if you ask me.”

New friendship

In fact, Karin (35) had been working with her colleague Romayna (31) in elderly care for ten years when they found out they were pregnant with their first sons at the same time four years ago. Where they first only had their love for the profession in common, they grew together in their role as mothers. They shared misfortunes and joys, and a friendship developed despite their divergent lives; their toddlers playing between them.

Karin: “Initially I didn’t understand the big parties Romayna gave for her newborn baby or the hundred guests when her son turned one. Anyway, I thought motherhood was very different from her. Where I preferred to look for the silence with my family, safe between four walls, at her home it was daily sweet arrival of family members who all interfered with the upbringing. I preferred to give my son as little stimulation as possible and limit his toy collection to one basket, while Romayna’s son was showered with expensive gifts. Completely opposite worlds.

“There was a completely different bond at the bedside of her sick son”

Until Romayna’s relationship ended and her son ended up in hospital with the RS virus. The moment she texted me from the hospital, completely alone while the night shift had already started, I decided: I’m driving to you now. As we sat by her son’s bedside for days, a bond like we had never known before was formed, and we have never left each other. Our sons are growing up like cousins. And at her regular family gatherings, where I do not understand half of the partly Cape Verdean traditions, I have become a loved and laughed part of the furniture.”

Share with each other

And that’s exactly what friendship is all about, says Sandra: that you can share things with each other and understand each other to a certain extent. “That you look at things the same way and if you don’t, you can laugh about it or respect each other. But the fact that there is a common denominator, in this case motherhood, is often a condition.”

Children grow up, mothers gradually regain their autonomy and their brains function normally again. That sometimes means that lost friendships can also blossom again, says Sandra. “And for those who are still at the beginning of motherhood: try not to expect too much from each other as friends. Having a baby changes your whole life in ways you can’t foresee. Give each other space, accept that there will be differences and try not to see that as a threat to your friendship.”

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