The help desk: Motherhood has completely changed my best friend - can I ever get her back?


Q. I met my best friend in our first term at university. We've gone travelling together, moved to London together and I was best woman at her wedding. We're in our thirties now and I thought we'd be friends for life. But having a baby earlier this year has completely changed her. I know motherhood is very demanding and I completely understood that things would be very different for her. But her fixation on her son, his routines, his 'personality' and so on borders on the obsessive.

She is (or was) a successful lawyer and I never could have imagined that a woman like her could become such a control-freak parent. She's become the sort of woman we used to privately laugh at before. I desperately miss the smart, funny and kind friend she was. I can't talk to her about it, especially as she has implied my life is incomplete until I have a baby. Can I ever get her back or must I accept that our friendship is over?

A. Becoming obsessed is pretty much necessary when you have a baby to look after, because otherwise no one on Earth could be bothered to do it and the human race would be in danger of fizzling out through lack of interest.

Having said that, from the outside, the almost demeaning level of worship for what might seem to you a rather unprepossessing human can appear to have shades of Titania under the influence of love-in-idleness. I'm not really surprised that your high-powered lawyer friend has turned into a baby bore, because in my experience it's usually the over-achievers who sign up to the OCD school of parenthood. It seems to be the only way they can retain a feeling of control and make sense of all the upheaval. So maybe your friend hasn't changed as much as you think.

The loss of a close friend can be heart-breaking. But do remember that this is her potential loss as well. Even through her baby fog, she can almost certainly sense your contempt and derision. No doubt you were all ears during the previous milestones in her life. (In fact, if I know anything about female friendships, I would wager you could probably give a reasonably accurate account of the consummation of her relationship with her husband.)

Now her dearest friend is someone whose eyes glaze over when she discusses her favourite subject and who puts quotation marks around her son's "personality", and she perhaps feels the need to justify it all to herself and to you by making it look more like a science.

So can you get your friend back? You certainly won't do so by waiting for her to snap out of it, though these are tough months for her and she will acclimatise. Accept that she has gone through something huge. Take an interest in her son – babies are great when you get to know them – and offer practical help. Try to get the lifestyle schism out in the open and you will perhaps be able to get her to meet you halfway in forging a new way to be friends. Above all, show respect for her new preoccupations, and you can demand more respect for yours in return.

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