When you have kids, your friends get lost. Church can help.
Can I admit something? Being a parent can be lonely work, especially when you’re the first in your peer group to have children.
It’s cute, you know, when you have the first kiddo, and you decline the night out with your buddies because, well, you’ve got this pea-pod wrapped up in cute clothes with tiny fingers and toes and a button nose and she needs rocked to sleep. You make the excuse, you decline the invitation, because there’s a funny sort of thrill in turning down the night out with friends—it draws attention to this beautiful thing in your life. You get a pat on the back for doing that.
But then the pea-pod grows into a watermelon, and it starts walking, and maybe another one sprouts along, and before you know it, your buddies have stopped calling because a) you turned them down too many times, or b) they’ve seen the crazy look in your eyes these days—the I-haven’t-slept-and-I’m-ready-to-crack kind of look that most people of normal disposition tend to avoid.
So it is you find yourself on your own in mid-life, alone in a flock of children scattered around a playground, pecking like chickens in a yard, the Moms and Dads alone like silos in a field.
That’s when it becomes startlingly clear that friendship—like relationships, and marriage, and parenting—requires hard work. Lots of hard work. When we had our first kid, it didn’t occur to me that life would change so quickly, that friendships would fade so fast—the powerful supplanting of parenthood.
But life has its funny way of pushing us parents back together again. Birthday parties become the new hangouts, as do groups pushing strollers around the mall in laps.
Church is a great place for parents to catch-up, too: fellowship lunches, Vacation Bible School, small group meetings, and even lemonade after Sunday service all offer their own oasis of shared community time for parents.
It’s a good reminder, too, to include new parents as much as you can. My wife and I used to joke that new parents went into “Baby Hiding,” as if it were a version of the witness protection program. New parents simply disappeared for months at a time—and that’s a good time to reach out, offer a meal, or stop by for a visit, all while remembering that life with a new child is chaotic, frustrating, and messy.
Take solace in the fact that you’re not alone as a new parent. Everybody goes through it. And if you’re well aware of this truth having experienced it yourself, and you see a new parent trying desperately to keep her flock together after church, walk over, smile, and ask if you can help. You might just make a new friend. —James D. Hogan
This article originally appeared in the August 2014 edition of Trinity Topics.