A Sydney-based journalist is making headlines after penning a controversial article titled “I can’t be your friend, now you’re a mother.”
In the eyebrow-raising article, 34-year-old Nadia Bokody, global editor of the women’s site, SHESAID, describes the unavoidable rift that occurs between her and her female friends after they become mothers.
“Over the years I’ve watched friends who’ve made being sociable look like a religion take the journey down the parenting path never to be seen again,” Bokody writes. Not for lack of trying, but because ultimately, their priorities changed once there was a little human relying on them for every second of its life and the ability to simply drop everything and meet up for cocktails was, quite laughably, impossible.”
Bokody says that from her experience, once her friends became mothers, she felt excluded from the conversation. She writes, “On the odd occasion we did catch up, always on their terms… the conversation inevitably became dominated with talk of motherhood or they fawned over their child so relentlessly that I wondered why I’d been invited. ”
While Bokody maintains that she has the “utmost respect” for friends who become parents, she says that she felt “a deep and profound sense of loss” when one of her friends announced she was expecting.
Here’s the thing: Bokody has a point. Female friendships will inevitably change whenever women feel pressure to conform to stereotypical, heteronormative roles of girlfriend, wife or mother.
I won’t disagree that motherhood is a game-changer. In my friend group, I’m one of the few who doesn’t have children and the only one who isn’t sure if she wants to have children at all.
While Bokody sees motherhood as causing a death to her friendships, I believe that when my friends become mothers, we need each other more than ever.
There seems to be the long-standing tradition of women giving up their connections to other women, in favour of the family unit that is both necessary and a physiological response to motherhood. However, what Bokody’s argument fails to recognize is that with motherhood, there often comes intense feelings of isolation and inadequacy both imparted by women on themselves, but also by other people in their sphere.
Betty Friedan famously identified this isolation as “the problem that has no name” in the Feminine Mystique, and pushed for women to be seen not in the silos of labels like wife and mother, but as multi-faceted beings longing for connection and fulfillment in ways outside of their experience as caretaker.
Mothers not only put pressure on themselves to be completely selfless and feel fulfilled in their new role, but they feel pressure from their partners, their family and even their friends to conform to what a mother “should be.”
For Bokody tapping out of her friendships, although under the guise as a progressive female who wants to swap stories about sex lives over cocktails like an episode of “Sex and the City,” she has become part of the problem who believes that once women become mothers, they stop being women.
There have been times where my friends have called me crying because they don’t feel like their old selves, when they’re exhausted, lonely and worried their bodies will never look the same as they did before they gave birth. It’s my duty as a friend to be the non-judgmental sounding board when they need someone to talk to, and sometimes I’m the friend that will come over and fold their laundry while they go and take a shower.
There are ways that I support my friends, and ways that I can support my friends who are mothers. No friendship has ever been contingent on whether or not we have children — it has always been about showing up for one another when it counts.
Part of supporting women and empowering each other is to not discount our value, whether that be what we look like, what we do for a living, or whether or not we choose to have children.
Relationships, just like parenting are a lot of work.
Sometimes to make a friendship last, you have to take a good hard look in the mirror at what kind of friend you are and the friend you want to be.
Bokody may not be able to be your friend now that you’re a mother, but there are plenty of women who will; myself included.