The Importance of Maintaining Friendships as a Parent

Categories: General Parenting

It is news to absolutely no parent on earth that we can lose ourselves a little when we have kids. They run us ragged, especially when they’re our first babies or one of multiple little people in the house. It’s not their fault, it’s not on purpose, it’s just the way it is. They want a lot from us. There’s only a little of us. On that note, spare a thought for this woman, who recently had NINE at once – move over, Octomum.

When your days are spent attending to the many needs of a small child, you start to put your own needs aside. You learn how to bury them, be content with only partially meeting them or stop having needs altogether, even though you know that’s not ideal. It’s not just a time issue, but an energy one, too. The intensity of parenting dependent children who rely on us for survival in those early days means that sometimes there’s just not a lot left in the tank for the things we liked to do before we had kids. Sometimes, we can’t even remember what we liked to do before we had kids. Sleep? Needless to say, when we become parents, our friendships can sometimes go in the same direction as our boobs after extended periods of breastfeeding – south. But, as we will continue to shout from the rooftops for all eternity, parenting is not a job that we’re meant to do alone. We need our friends, not just for ourselves, but for our kids, too. Here’s why:

Our friends can support us on our shared journey

When you’re in the parenting trenches and it’s a ‘good’ day if you’ve showered and had a piece of cold toast all to your very own, it can be hard to give the office dramas and holiday deliberations of your non-parent kids your wholehearted attention. Your life probably feels very different to theirs, but this doesn’t mean you should ditch any friends who aren’t parents. It’s a big part of who you are but it’s not the ONLY part of you, and if you have a genuine connection with someone, it won’t matter who has kids and who doesn’t. 

Having said that, there’s something special about the friendships we form in the most momentous chapters of our lives with other people on a similar journey. This is particularly true for new mums, says ParentTV expert, Maggie Dent. ‘Mums, please do everything you can, wherever you are, to find other women who are doing the same things as you and who resonate with you on a heart and soul level as well as a mind level,’ Maggie says.

‘The journey of mothering was traditionally in a kinship model, where women all lived closely together. The further we separate from this organically powerful and sensible way of bringing up kids, the lonelier it gets. Parenting in those early childhood years is a crazy time and you’re really going to need support.’ 


Try a few different parent, play or mothers’ groups until you find the right one, says Maggie, and consider pram walks, Mama Bake or anything else that gets you out of the house and allows for chatting, venting, sharing, laughing, crying and eating cake. ‘It can improve your state of mind, your wellbeing and mental health, and you may make a friend who is still there for the wedding of your child years down the track,’ Maggie says. ‘If you’re still looking, don’t give up, and if you’ve found your sisterhood, then be in it with an open heart.’

Our friends make us more resilient, better role models and better at parenting

As we know, parenting is a pretty challenging endeavour and can have a huge impact on the substance of our days. Sometimes, our usual coping mechanisms are unavailable or unrealistic when we have parenting responsibilities, so we need to form new ones. Friends can help with this, says ParentTV expert Dr Tina Payne Bryson.

‘When we face challenges and adversity, the differences between those challenges making us fragile or resilient is actually whether or not we have enough support. Adversity without support can make us fragile and more vulnerable to trauma. But, when we have someone who shows up for us, it makes a huge difference and can make that adversity something we can get through without too much damage.’


ParentTV expert Sandi Phoenix extends on this idea, saying that understanding our own needs as parents can help us identify how to meet them in healthy ways. ‘This allows us to role model the task of getting our own needs met without impacting the needs of others. And, when your cup is full, you can pour into your children’s cups,’ Sandi says. When you are supported, you can support your kids better. FACT.

Our friends take the pressure off our children 

‘One of the best gifts we can give our children is to develop a life and set of friendships outside of our role as parents,’ says Dr Tina Payne Bryson. As well as all the ways in which our friends can support us, they can also carry some of the relational load that might otherwise land on our kids, Dr Payne suggests.

Everyone needs a support network, but it shouldn’t involve our kids. Of course we want our children to care for us, says Dr Payne Bryson, but we don’t want them to feel like they are responsible for our wellbeing and happiness. We need to get those needs met elsewhere.

‘As our children get older, we need to maintain those important friendships and things that are meaningful to us. This might be our work, hobbies, volunteering or another way you spend your time. These are things that free our children from the burden of having to care for us and worry about us.’


In the complex mix of familial relationships, dependent and co-dependent dynamics can occur in which boundaries are blurred, but children do not have shoulders strong enough to carry their parents, and we simply shouldn’t ask them to.

Our friends can mentor our kids and help protect them from harm

ParentTV expert Dr Arne Rubinstein is a huge advocate for mentorship and the benefits of mentors outside the family unit for our kids. Our friends can be ideal for this, as they probably already care about our kids and are invested in their wellbeing and progress in life. Additionally, they are likely to share similar values to us, so the influence they exert will be aligned with our beliefs.

‘A mentor is someone outside of the direct family who can support, encourage and be there for your child, especially throughout their teenage years. They can guide them, answer the questions your kids don’t feel comfortable asking you, and be available if a parent is not, for whatever reason.’ 


Whether it is in the capacity of a mentor or just a trusted adult in their world, our friends can also play an active role in protecting our children from harm. ParentTV expert Holly-ann Martin describes the importance of children forming a network of safe people so they can tell someone if they’ve been abused or assaulted.

‘Help your children find someone who’s going to listen to them, believe them, be available, and take action. Children aren’t always believed, so we need to teach them to keep telling more people if they’ve been abused. Studies of children who disclose that they’ve been sexually abused show they need to tell at least three people before they’re listened to.’


Accordingly, it’s important for your children to have three people they trust to tell who will actually hear them if they do disclose. 

The same rule applies to the world of technology and the internet, says ParentTV expert Jason Gibson. Gibson recommends forming a ‘parent tech squad’ of carefully selected people to help share the load of keeping your children safe online.

‘These are people who you can ask to follow our kids on social media. It’s important that your kids know that you’ve invited this person to do so because we don’t want them to feel spied upon.’


Instead, the idea is for this friend and tech squad member to be a source of support online, but also to flag it if they notice your kids getting inappropriate attention on one of their networks. ‘Parenting is a team sport,’ Jason says, ‘So surround yourself with people who care about you and your children and want to help them thrive.’ 

Well said!