When Friend Becomes Parent: A Single Person’s Unfiltered Guide to Keeping the Friendship Alive
All images: RICE file photo by Cheryl Tang.

Being a parent is a crash course in humility, selflessness, and learning to embrace the deep, existential questioning of your marriage vows. 

Remember when you stood at the altar, lovingly looked into your spouse-to-be’s eyes, while replaying all the challenges you overcame and congratulating yourselves for ‘coming this far’, before resolutely proclaiming, “For better or worse”? 

Being woken up at 3 AM by a shrieking baby is “worse”. 

No matter how grounded and stable your relationship may be, having a child will fundamentally alter it. Every decision you make from the moment you decide to proceed with the pregnancy has ripple effects you might not even realise, starting with the seemingly inevitable cull of all your single friends—a warning they should plaster on all posters and pamphlets at the gynaecologist, tbh.

But this article is not for you, parents and parents-to-be.

This is for your Single Friends who will try desperately to save their friendships with you, only to watch them slowly but surely slip away, much like the hours of sleep you will have for the next few years. What Single Friends aren’t told before you get pregnant, however, is that if they want to keep you in their lives, they must bend to the will of a human being who’s not even theirs. 

Several lost friendships later, I—a Single Friend—feel fairly qualified to dispense brutally honest advice for fellow Single Friends who want to keep their few remaining friends who have kids. 

Of course, if you don’t, then the article ends here. 

#1: Thinking of what to get their kid? Don’t bother. Get their parents something instead.  

Literally everyone will be fawning over the new human and spoiling them with enough attention to last an influencer’s lifetime. The kid doesn’t need another jumper, picture book, or noisy ass rattle that they won’t know how to appreciate.

Do you know who will be able to appreciate gifts though? Their parents. These poor sods will only get two hours of sleep every night for the next few years, if at all. So give them a full year’s subscription to a house-cleaning service, a weekend stay at a five-star hotel, or a six-month spa and facial package. Heck, even paying for a simple dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant beats giving the kid socks that they’ll outgrow in a month. 

As a Single Friend, the smartest thing you can do with your much more disposable income is not to waste it on a 100-day-old ingrate. 

TL;DR: want to keep your friends? Spend your money on them.

#2: Your friend with a kid is now your kid. Treat them like one.

Congratulations, you didn’t give birth, but you have now become a parent. 

No, your friend hasn’t become a snot-nosed human who cries for reasons inconceivable, and whose incontinence renders them incapable of caring for themselves—but they may as well have. After all, the last thing any new parent has time for is basic self-care. 

As a Single Friend, know that your friend truly doesn’t give a shit that you are “always there for them,” if they don’t know how they can specifically count on you. Save them the hassle of asking for help—especially since they might not even be aware when they need it—by offering to do specific tasks for them: picking up their kid’s diapers from NTUC on your way to their house, helping them with a grocery run, meeting them for a 30-minute walk around their block while their child sleeps, or hanging out at the hawker centre nearby for a quick dinner. There’s no such thing as “meeting in the middle” when your friend is a new parent—you have to meet them all the way at their end.

As one mom blog states, “A lot of parenting is training in selflessness, and being friends with a parent can be training in selflessness too.”  

So it goes. 

#3: Complain about your single-person problems. But don’t overdo it.

When in doubt about how to respond to their complaint that their kid has kept them up for the 45th night in a row, remember that misery loves company. 

There’s nothing more reassuring than knowing the people you believe have got their life together truly don’t, that everyone is fighting their own battles, and that the grass is just as brown on the other side. So if you cannot give your friend anything else (seriously?!), at least give them the precious gift of knowing their Single Friend is miserable too.

Save all your woes about underperforming colleagues, unfortunate dating escapades, and pesky family members asking about your marital status for your friend’s ears. Preferably accompanied with a bottle of wine. In their home. Next to their sleeping kid.

Be warned though. This only works if your friend doesn’t genuinely loathe parenthood. Otherwise, no matter how ‘difficult’ your problems, you might only end up stoking absurd and misplaced envy for the banality of office politics. 

#4: Make other friends. No, seriously.

There are numerous advantages to building your own tribe of fellow Single People, not least because they won’t reject your suggestion to spontaneously do brunch in the next hour, or rush off 20 minutes into your catch-up to pick their kid up from childcare. 

Let’s face it, none of us has an endless reservoir of empathy, especially for those with vastly different lifestyles. With fellow Single People, you won’t have to pretend to understand how it feels to wipe off puke on your clothes, because unlike many things in life, the perpetual fear and overwhelming love involved in keeping another human alive is not something you can fake. 

By looking for other people who share common interests and lifestyles that don’t involve diaper-changing and pre-school-obsessing, at least for the next three years, you’re not abandoning, betraying, or taking a break from your friendship. You’re engaging in healthy, normal, Single Person behaviour, which entails living a separate life from your friends who have tiny humans depending on them for food and shelter 24/7. 

All this so that when you do get together with your friends, you get to be fully present with them and vice versa, knowing both your friendship needs have already been met by other people who actually understand what you’re going through.

#5: Don’t want kids? Even more reason to stay friends. 

Single Friends who don’t want kids are usually painted as selfish monsters who only bitch about kids’ birthday parties, instamom culture, and parents who can’t control their misbehaving kids on the MRT. 

To be fair, the narrative is not entirely wrong. But instead of stewing in bitterness that you’re losing your friends to their identity as a parent, let this new reality reinforce your unwavering perspective towards reproduction (or procreation). Hang out with your friends with kids—preferably with their kids in tow—and allow their offspring to remind you how fervently you don’t want any. Rejoice when their kids burst into tears every hour on the dot, and watch with glee as their parents wonder whether their kid is hungry, sleepy, or just being a pain. 

Allow every cry, sob, or bawl to seep into your memory. Never forget the fleeting look of relief on your friend’s face as their kid finally falls asleep. 

Then the next time you’re blindsided by a rude auntie who feels the need to question why you’re not married or a parent at 30, recall these instances with your friends’ kids. 

Smile and say, “I’d rather not have any children than risk having one grow up to be like you.” 

#6: Practise radical honesty. Nope, this doesn’t mean telling your friend that their kid sucks. Even if they do.

Many people mistake honesty for cruelty or unkindness, but true honesty adds value to the relationship. Telling your friend that they’ve ‘lost themselves’ since having a child, as though being a parent automatically makes them ‘less’ than who they were, is just not very nice. It is more meaningful to tell them that you would like the friendship to remain, and by suggesting ways that you can work around this new dynamic. It gets the message across with tact and sensitivity—two qualities required to maintain the friendship in the first place. 

Radical honesty also means openly acknowledging and admitting to the true reason you might not feel comfortable hanging out with them as much for the foreseeable future. For instance, if you want a child yet have difficulty conceiving, or if you feel jealous of your friend’s seemingly happy marriage while you painfully try to date, let them know. 

Being honest relieves the friendship of the burden to pretend that everything can be the same as it was before the kid. It could also act as a filter of sorts: if you are unable to be this honest, or if your friend doesn’t receive your vulnerability with the same sensitivity you’ve given them, then this friendship was ultimately meant to die.

Losing your long-time friendships to tiny humans? We empathise: community@ricemedia.co.

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