Prior to becoming a dad, I worried about the effect this new role would have on my relationships – the one with my wife and also with my friends.
It didn’t take too long to learn that worrying is as much a part of new parenthood as sleepless nights, dirty diapers and repeatedly singing dull lullabies to soothe the crying baby. Some of these worries are just the result of our own “mental mushrooming” – it’s easy to blow things out of proportion since everything is so new.
Then again, some fears are completely valid. Among them are the changes to one’s social life. As scary as it seemed in the beginning, becoming a dad isn’t the end of your life. It’s the start of a new one.
For the first month or two, my wife and I had almost no social life. And honestly, we didn’t miss it. I stayed home for four weeks with my new family. We focused on learning the job of parenting, consumed with our new reality and we took time to adjust to it.
After the first few months, we started reviving our social life and I’m glad that we did. We had our first date-night when my daughter was 2½ months old, then we went on a vacation and attended couple of weddings.
No social life: a recipe for disaster
I don’t believe having an active social life makes one an irresponsible parent. It’s actually the opposite. We have to take care of our own emotional needs. I truly believe that happy and rested couples are the best parents (although being rested may sound like a wishful thinking in the beginning — don’t worry, it gets better).
I know how crucial it is to take time for ourselves, for our partner and for our friends. When we relocated to Canada for five months during my child’s first year, we had no support group available – no friends or family members to lean on with our infant. And we struggled.
We figured: it’s only temporary arrangement, we’ll hang on. And we did. We survived, but we were far from thriving. Our own relationship suffered, we became impatient with each other and my wife developed some signs of postpartum depression.
I’ve also seen parents who are wrecks and desperately need a break, but “can’t” leave the baby with anyone else. I understand them and this is normal. It shows a healthy and strong attachment with the child. However, this approach is dangerous in the long run. It’s difficult to maintain your sanity if you don’t get any break from diapers and lullabies. Doesn’t matter whether you’re a mom or a dad – we all need time off.
One of the main benefits of going out socially is the positive mental and even physical impact it on a person. Re-connecting with the outside world helped my wife and I feel less isolated while we going through the difficult first months and first year of parenting.
Be ready for some changes
A new baby doesn’t mean you have to throw your social life out the window. On the other hand, it would be also naïve to think that you’ll pick up with your friends and outside-the-home activities exactly where you left off some months earlier. Here’s what you might expect:
- Forget late-night partying. You most likely won’t have time (or motivation or stamina) to hang out with friends until midnight or later like in your child-free days. Throughout the first year I’ve had only two of these nights and one was one of my best friend’s bachelor party.
- You’ll lose a friend or two. These will probably be some of your party-friends who are single or married couples who are childless because they just live a very different life from people with young children. Your time is limited and your priorities are different from theirs and what yours used to be.
- You’ll add new friends or be reacquainted with old ones. Having a baby opens the door to new friendships with other parents. While I haven’t made any new friends since become a dad, I have reached out to some old ones who are in the same parenting boat we are. Having a baby is life-changing experience and it’s important to have people around you who understand your joys and struggles, and who can help you through them.
- There goes spontaneity. Honestly, I believe this is the most difficult part to get used to when transitioning to parenthood. It’s harder to hit the streets on a moment’s notice, or even a few warning, when you have children — especially small one. You won’t be as able to say “yes” to last-minute trips to the cinema or meals out as you were before. But that’s not the end of the world.
In conclusion, having a baby is definitely a life-changing experience and it is important to have friends that support you. Even though it can take a while to figure out how to fit your baby and social life together, you can and it’s not the end of life as you know it while you figure out how to.
Remember that every baby and every family is different. Don’t compare your situation to others’. Being a (first-time) parent is already tough without the extra stress that comes from excessive comparison. Move at your own pace, and know that it’s possible to have an active social life even with the baby. Just need to adapt, prioritize your relationships and make it happen!
About the author
Tanel Jappinen is a husband to his high school girlfriend and a proud dad living in Estonia. He’s also passionate about becoming a better dad and better husband. His mission is to help other soon-to-be and new dads transition to fatherhood and navigate the pressures they face in modern world. He runs the Brand New Father website and hosts the Brand New Father Podcast. You can also connect with him on Facebook or on Twitter.