Having Friends With Children

friends-and-childrenIn the beginning of freshman year in high school, Michelle Skowronek walked into the girl’s bathroom to find a sassy Patty Cobleigh. Patty leaned over and pulled gum off of the seat of Michelle’s tights and they’ve been best friends ever since.

Michelle and Patty have been through a lot together. Michelle was Patty’s maid of honor and “basically planned [her] whole wedding,” said Patty. They have spent most of their summers together on the Jersey Shore in a house they dubbed, “Love Shack” and after eleven years, they are still going strong.

The only difference now, Patty has a 17-month-old son named Jimmy and another baby on the way. Michelle got married to her long-time love this year and Jimmy was the ring bearer. Michelle said their actual relationship has not changed since Patty had children. What has changed is how they spend their time together.

“She’s still available for me to call if I have a problem,” she said. “Before, we loved to go out and get drinks and be young 20-somethings. As we have gotten older, we’ve bought houses and gotten married so budgets are usually tighter.”

Of course, things have changed, but Patty said they still talk about the same things just in a different context.

“We’ve always talked about our crazy families, but now are families are bigger,” she said. “I have a baby, we both have husbands and in-laws. It just adds more characters to the mix.”

As the one who does not have children, Michelle understands there are certain aspects of their friendship that had to change and there is a certain level of sensitivity that a person without children needs to have in this relationship.

“Don’t expect people with small children to be on time,” she said. “Don’t get angry if they are late to a date. Also, offer to help carry in the diaper bag or grab the high chair while you are out. If you have ever seen a mother getting through the airport by herself with a small child, you have seen how difficult every task becomes.”
Patty agrees that sensitivity is important and also wants friends without children to understand how lonely this new life stage can feel for some Moms.

“The most important thing to do when one of your friends has a baby, is to reach out,” she said. “She might not reply right away because she’s taking care of a newborn, but reach out anyway. Offer to help with things if you can.”

Patty’s husband, Tyler, has been friends with Chatty Sakhalkar since he was freshman at Temple University. Tyler said one of the highlights of his friendship with Chatty has to do with their different perspectives on life, but also their common interests such as running and Temple basketball.

“I think we find each other interesting because we come from such different backgrounds, and we can have the same experience and see it in completely different ways,” he said.

However, what has maintained their relationship is flexibility, understanding and most importantly, being involved in the child’s life.

“If you think that you can maintain your friendship after a baby without any changes, then you are naïve,” Tyler said. “You need to understand that the baby is going to be the most important thing in the new parents’ lives. The way for a friendship to survive and thrive is for the friend to show that they value the friendship and the child.”
Chatty agrees with Tyler and has tried to adjust as their relationship sees fit.

“Both parties, but particularly the friend, need to understand that priorities are different,” he said. “Being a parent is a major responsibility and expectations need to be altered accordingly.”

Chatty said all relationships change and grow over time, and the way we enjoy those friendships changes, which is part of life.
“Don’t expect today to be exactly the same as yesterday,” he said. “What you do today will bring a different kind of happiness than yesterday as long as you are with your friends.”

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Melanie Breault

Melanie Breault is a freelance writer and graduate student in New York City. She is obtaining her master's degree in Urban Affairs from Hunter College focusing on women's economic development and living in Brooklyn with her Shepherd mix, Clarkson.