How to be a parent and keep your friends

Kids are awesome. Our childless friends, though, may not always feel the same. Here’s how to make sure your child-heavy priorities don’t result in strained friendships.

Tempting though it may be, you may not want to document all aspects of your child’s life. Photo by Tom & Katrien via Flickr

Kids are awesome, but becoming a parent involves some adjustments to our priorities, schedules and thresholds for nausea.

In the beginning, those changes can feel a lot like brainwashing: The baby books tell you everything you know is wrong, the magazines tell you everything you own is deadly and the sleep deprivation leaves you with an IQ somewhere between Snooki’s and your toaster’s.

It’s not surprising that our childless friends are left a little confused about how to relate to us beyond insisting that our skin is glowing around our bloodshot eyes and our kids are the cutest they’ve ever seen. Friendships you’ve had forever can start to feel a little awkward, but if you’re worrying that McDonald’s Playland is your new social life, don’t panic. Things do change, but here are a few simple things to remember to ensure your friends don’t stop calling you.

1. Don’t go insane. Kids are really freaking needy, especially the cute little squirmy ones. But despite to how you may feel, you are not just a spit rag or a milk bar. It takes time to figure out how to steal little moments for your own sanity, but DO IT. Stay in touch with the outside world. Make sure you see daylight. Allow your babysitter to be the angel of mercy that she is. It’s not about priorities — it’s about perspective.

If you wake up one day and realize you know all of the Teletubbies’ names (even that creepy vacuum thing) but recognize none of the people your friends are talking about, something has gone terriblyy wrong.

2. Back off the camera. Clearly, you have the cutest, most intelligent child that has ever graced the face of the earth. Crazy! So do I! But through some unfortunate genetic defect, our friends just don’t see it. And no matter how many pictures of your child you upload to Facebook, they never will. Even when you pin a clever sign on your kid’s shirt to indicate their exact age, activity or most recent accomplishment. You may be remarkably proud of all 572 pictures of your little genius rolling (rolling!) on a blanket you just uploaded, but let’s scale that back just a bit, okay?

3. Sometimes, just shut up. The world changes when you have a kid. Well, your world changes. Unless you’ve given birth to the Last Airbender, the rest of the world pretty much stays the same.

You know how annoying it is when one of your friends gets a new boyfriend and all she ever talks about is how awesome he is, what he likes or doesn’t like and what he thinks about everything until you want to (lovingly) hit her in the face with a frying pan to make her stop? As hard as this is to believe, the same rule applies to your talk about your kids. Trust me.

4. Don’t try to reinvent yourself. We all want to be kick-ass parents. And sometimes the idea of raising someone who will end up just like us is more terrifying than the commercial success of the Power Rangers.

It’s one thing to try to kill a few bad habits you’d rather not pass on to your kid — like compulsive gambling or chain smoking — but keep in mind that your friends like you for who you already are. I’m all for self-improvement, but don’t forget that you had a personality before you had a kid. Losing it is not the price of admission; parenthood is not joining the Borg. Be yourself, and that’s exactly what you’ll teach your kids to be.

5. Remember that people can still see you. This is not about makeup or high heels or any other feminist landmine. To each her own. Just a quick reminder that hygiene is our friend, and while we may care less about the opinions of the outside world, it can still see us. That vomit on your shirt is not a badge of courage, even if it really feels like one.

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