We all want people in our lives who just get it. The ones who get our weirdness, hobbies, and quirks. Our challenges and joys. They get us. They’re our people.
When you become a parent, the people who get it are usually other parents. I didn’t know this as a new parent, but I quickly realized it when my husband and I were at our friends’ one-bedroom apartment for dinner. I ended up awkwardly sitting on the floor in the hallway (the only private space I could find) trying to breastfeed my 6-week-old daughter.
That’s when it hit me: My friends without kids didn’t get it.
Sure, they tried. They said I could breastfeed on their couch, but it was spitting distance from everyone, and I wasn’t comfortable breastfeeding in front of others. The next time we visited, I bottle-fed my baby, and I swear their eyeballs almost jumped out of their sockets when I set the bottle of freshly pumped breast milk on their counter.
I have friends who don’t have kids, and they’re empathetic and kind. But I also have friends without kids who don’t get it. They have to be taught and explained why parents do things and need things. And frankly, I just don’t have the energy for that while I’m living life with a new body and a new baby.
It’s OK to say it: Parents need friends who are parents.
I need friends I can relate to on that deep, parenting level. You know, the kind who don’t just empathize with your needs, they truly GET IT? They get diapers and feedings and sleep schedules and sleep deprivation. They initiate the “Hey, I prepped a private room with a chair for you, in case you want to feed or change the baby.” They chase down your toddler so you can finish your cup of hot coffee. They invite you over for an early dinner because they know bedtime is non-negotiable. It’s because they’ve been there.
I still love and see my friends without kids. I genuinely enjoy their company and conversation. But they’re the people I want to get brunch with, not the people I want to do everyday life with.
It’s OK to make life easier.
We don’t have to add anything to life to make it harder. We also don’t have to make friendships any harder—being a good friend and having good friends is hard. Friendships take time, vulnerability, connection, and sacrifice.
It’s OK to want and have friends who are in a similar stage of life as you. It’s OK to want easier.
One of my favorite friendship quotes is, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one!” (C.S. Lewis).
I love how that quote captures that joyful moment when you connect with another person over something you share, an experience, a hobby, a belief, etc. But I would add this, deep friendships aren’t born, they’re cultivated. And we achieve deep friendships when we understand one another’s needs without an explanation.
I don’t cry often, but when my friend wordlessly put a plate of pizza and salad in front of me, I almost cried. I was breastfeeding for 40 minutes in a different room when the pizza arrived. I was so busy getting the baby to latch between her howls of hunger that I hadn’t thought of my own hunger. But she had. Because she was a parent.
My friend thought of me, got it, and set aside a plate for me.
There’s something so special about your needs being fulfilled by someone who gets it. Not having to explain yourself or your family’s needs is like a breath of the freshest, crispest air. That’s friendship. That’s where you find community.
Good friends can extend your life.
In the book, Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcom Gladwell, he describes a town (Roseto, PA) where people live long, healthy lives. The residents are close friends and family who immigrated from a village in Italy. They don’t eat a healthy diet or work out regularly and most of them smoke. Yet they live long lives and have low rates of disease.
Scientists researched this town, looking for an explanation, and here’s what they found: “A unique sharing of experiences that defined the town’s social structure . . . a feeling of trust and security among Rosetans because the people of the town always had someone they knew and who knew them to turn to for support.”
It makes sense, right? Our lives are deeply enriched when we have close friends who get us. Becoming a parent is easily the biggest thing that’s ever happened in my life (or most people’s lives).
I can’t imagine this stage of life without the support of my friends.
And, the Rosetans get it, too. “They concluded that the extraordinary health of this unique population could only be explained in terms of ‘extended family’ and ‘community.’”
Who in your life just gets it? The one who predicts how you’re feeling right after you tell her what’s going on in your life. The one who Venmos you for a coffee when she senses you’re having a rough day. The one who shows up for you and you show up for them.
Maybe it’s another parent friend, maybe it’s not. Whoever your people are who support you, love you, know you, and stick with you, thank them. Life is a tumultuous, joyous journey, and it’s infinitely better with our friends who get it.