“I can’t, it’s past her bedtime”.
“I’d love to, but I’m on baby duty”.
“Okay, but I’ve got to be home by eleven”.
These are just three of the reasons I’ve given for missing student nights out. Some would call them excuses, but for me – and many current and former student parents – they’ll be familiar apologies, muttered sheepishly as friends eagerly discuss outfits and pre-drinks plans.
Before having SB, I’d gladly go out drinking until the early hours. Rolling in at 4am, grabbing a couple of hours’ sleep and turning up to lectures at 9am with a raging hangover was pretty normal. Obviously it stopped when I was pregnant – and after SB was born, it just didn’t interest me that much.
It was a few different things, really – not just wanting to be at home with SB. After morning sickness, I had no desire to throw up ever again (and me + jaegerbombs = a morning hugging the toilet the next day). In first year, at 10pm I would’ve been just getting ready to go out, listening to music with drinks flowing. By third year, 10pm would see me crashed out on the sofa in my pyjamas eating junk food, not wanting to move – my energy levels took a major dip after having SB, probably because of the sleep deprivation and sheer tiredness.
Plus, let’s be honest – there’s a definite stigma associated with mums going for a night out any time before their kids are 35. No-one bats an eyelid at dads going out, but if a mum makes plans of an evening, people react like she’s dropped her kid off in the lion enclosure at the local zoo so she can go and snort cocaine in a back alley, rather than what’s actually happening – leaving her child in the father’s capable hands to go and have a few drinks.
On the occasions when I did go out, unless I felt brave enough to book a hotel for the night I’d have to leave early, not wanting to get back too late and disturb Daf and SB. It would have been very easy for my friends to get sick of this and stop inviting me, but they never did. That’s why I’ve written this blog post, to implore you to please, please, please invite student parents too!
The early days of parenting can be a bewildering, isolated time. What they don’t tell you is that it doesn’t go away once your child is no longer a rosy-cheeked, cooing newborn. Baby & toddler groups are a daunting prospect, and almost impossible to fit in around your studies. Finding “mum friends” is hard – parents need their pre-kid friends to stop them from feeling totally cut off.
The same goes for older student parents. Don’t just assume that they’ll have friends from the school gates. They may not be able to make every night out and join you in a 3am drunken McDonalds run, but they’ll appreciate the invite. Plus, you never know – that mature student you’ve written off as “just a mum” might surprise you, and end up drinking you under the table and singing embarrassing karaoke with you until sunrise.
Okay, the no-shows can be frustrating, and you may feel like asking is pointless because it’ll be another “no”. The truth is, even if they have to say no, it will be important to them that you asked. Trying to maintain some semblance of a student life as a parent was a massive help for me in terms of dealing with postnatal depression, and balancing out the two halves of my life.
If your friend becomes a student parent, it’s worth remembering that they are still your friend. They may have different priorities, and they’ll sometimes come out with twee rubbish like “You’ll never know love until you have children”, but you’re allowed to call them out on it and tell them not to be so daft.
Good friends will show understanding on both sides. Student parents should remember that talking about their kids all the time is a recipe for pissing everybody off – but other students need to remember that being away from their child is a massive deal to the student parent, so shutting them down every time they talk about babies is going to make them feel very isolated.
Student parenthood doesn’t have to mean the end of friendships. With a little give and take, you can maintain the great friendships you already had, with the added bonus of a little person to cuddle and spend time with too!