Navigating Friendship Through Big Life Changes

Podcast Description

When big life transitions happen our friendships change and our closest people want to anticipate our needs. 

But after these transitions, we might be new versions of ourselves, with new boundaries, new interests. The things that mattered before don’t anymore. 

Today’s episode is with my friend Sarah, who is expecting her first baby in March. While many of the things we talk about relate to the fact that she’s pregnant, the overall arc is about how the big life changes affect our friendships and support systems.

Every time my friends who do not have kids announce they’re pregnant, I’m simultaneously freaking thrilled and mournful, knowing things will be different now. We won’t be quite as free to pick up and do what we want all the time.

This conversation can apply to any big life transition: a move, an engagement, an illness, an accident, a career switch, or becoming an empty nester.

How do we navigate through these enormous changes? Sarah and I discuss a bunch of tactics, from using communication to bridge the gap, to letting go of the quantity of time and increasing the quality of time.

In this episode you’ll hear about:

  • Fear, grief, and ego in among friends and family as we go through major life transitions and turn into new versions of ourselves
  • The value in simple friends, who are not wrapped up in who we used to be
  • Reaching out to friends for different needs vs. in order of their “hierarchy” of closeness
  • Reconnections, and how these can facilitate completely new relationships 
  • How, when we get married, we sign up to evolve together – but we don’t necessarily sign up for that with friendship
  • The ways communication can bridge the gap between friends during life changes
  • How sometimes, when the quantity is taken out of relationships, the quality can become more meaningful
  • The vulnerability of letting people in, and the benefit of doing so before the “big moments”

Reflection Question:

When you go through major life transitions, who is the person you reach out to first? Is there a hierarchy, or do you reach out to different people for different things?

Notable Quotes from Sarah

“I’m not the same person as when I met my husband, he’s not the same person. We’ve been through job changes and COVID and a marriage and getting pregnant. We’re not the same people, but you sign up knowing that things are going to evolve when you get married. And I don’t think we think about that with friendship in the same way.” 

“There’s actually somebody who I was best friends with from preschool through high school – we fell off for a couple years, not poorly, just, life happens. And she just had a baby. And so we’ve reconnected and have a whole different relationship in a really cool way. So I think it can obviously go either way. But I think the reason that the ones that have reconnected and kind of turned into their own new relationships is because we were both open to it being a new relationship. We didn’t come into it being focused on picking up where we left off.” 

Resources & Links

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Until next time…

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Episode Transcript

Podcast Intro  00:02

Alrighty, gang. Here’s to nights that turn into mornings and friends that turn in family. Cheers!

Podcast Intro   00:18

Hello, Hello, and welcome to the Friendship IRL podcast. I’m your host, Alex Alexander. My friends… They would tell you; I like to ask the hard questions. You know who I am in the group? I’m the person that’s saying, “Okay, I’m going to ask this question, but don’t feel like you have to answer it.” And now, I can be that friend for you, too. 

Alex Alexander [Narration]  0:50  

Today’s episode was a conversation I had the day before we recorded this episode. It’s the example of exactly why I want to start this podcast because this is the kind of conversation I was having with friends. In the middle of a conversation, they’d (friends) get upset. We hadn’t been recording it! And that’s what’s happening today.

Oh, I’m so excited! Now, before we hit play, and you start listening to this episode, my friend Sarah is pregnant, Do NOT stop listening. 

The things we talk about — although many of them relate to the fact that she is pregnant. It’s all just about big life transitions and how they affect our friendships and our support system.  That can apply to all sorts of things; that could mean you going back to school, that could mean a new illness, an accident that leaves you with medical concerns. It could mean getting your PhD thesis. Entering a new romantic partnership. Moving across the country. Career change. Becoming an empty nester. 

This applies to so many areas of life. So, if you are not someone who is in the phase of life, where you currently are about to welcome a new baby home — DO NOT let that scare you. When it comes to this episode. Just listen and consider the big life changes you have had recently, or you see coming up in your life and how these topics apply.

And if you don’t see —  Send me a voice memo. Send me a DM. Send me an email, because I bet you I can figure out how these apply. With that, let’s go to today’s episode!

Alex Alexander  2:52  

I was thinking more about it this morning — like our phone call yesterday – and what a good call it was! I mean, our calls are always good.

Hence why we can stay on the phone for like three hours 

Sarah B.  3:04  

and talk about 500 different things that somehow all make sense in one phone call.

Alex Alexander  3:11  

We just got to catch up on everything! There’s a lot of stuff. I literally felt like we were just like bullet point at the end yesterday. I was thinking to myself, and we could have talked for two more hours. There was so much to catch up on! 

And luckily we’re doing this today. Add a little time to it.

Yeah! Well, we’re going to recover a portion of something, because when we were chatting yesterday, all of a sudden Sarah was like, “Shoot, I should have hit record on my phone and that would have been a podcast episode!” Which… is how this whole thing started.

P.S. Sarah is the friend that actually convinced me to start the podcast. Hear more about in Episode 1.

Sarah B.  3:44  

…And that happens every time we talk, I think. 

Alex Alexander  3:46  

I mean, I was on the phone the other night. Not on the phone. My friend Lizzie was over and we were sitting on the couch talking about something and I had this moment where I was like, “Shoot, this will be perfect for the podcast!” I mean, that’s okay. We’ll just record something about it later. I can talk about the same things on repeat. I can have the same conversation we’re about to have on the podcast now tomorrow. So it’s fine. 

The point of today’s convo is we were talking about how you are pregnant baby due in March! 

Sarah B.  4:22  

18 weeks, one day… but no one’s counting.

Alex Alexander  4:26  

You know down to the day! It’s in my calendar, now. We’re talking about how that’s a big life transition! You are becoming a new version of yourself, and how hard that is for the people that are closest to you. You have new boundaries. You have new interests. Things that mattered before don’t matter anymore. What draws your interests. What matters to you. Everything’s different. 

Sarah B.  4:53  

Yeah, it’s a big shift. And I think, I mean, there’s been a lot of big shift — I moved across the country. I got married. I got pregnant. They all change the dynamic of how, I think, you relate to the people that are closest to you. 

Alex Alexander  5:11  

Yeah. The thing I launched into yesterday is that, I think, the thing that’s most interesting, right — is we want these close relationships. We want our closest friends. We want to be really close with our family, with our partners. Soon with your kiddo!!

Oh, my gosh, yeah, your eyes got so big.

So crazy. 

But the people we’re closest to are the ones that have the hardest time when we change, and I feel like you are feeling that right now. 

Sarah B.  5:45  

Yeah, I think the people you’re closest to are obviously very comfortable with you and who you are when they’re close to you. When that changes, you change, but obviously, it changes for them as well. 

And it’s funny because the people that I assumed I would be going to for like, what to buy for baby advice are not the people that I talk to every day, and that I’m, I guess you would say, technically say “closest to,” but when it comes to baby stuff —  I am closest to them. 

So it definitely, changes the dynamic, and I think if you’re like just focused on those people and how to fix it, it can be really scary and really sad to not feel like you can go to those same people for every little thing in this new phase of your life. 

Alex Alexander  6:34  

Yeah, whether it’s a best friend, a partner, a family member, whoever those people are, you know, they may not be the right ones to be talking about what items to buy for the nursery — so you can buy the fewest number of items. Because we all know that’s what you want, Sarah. You want the things that do the most, but buy the fewest. 

Sarah B.  6:54  

No stuff. I’m having a minimalist baby. She just doesn’t yet 

Alex Alexander  6:57  

It’s all hard. So to me, it sounds like you’re kind of splitting out who the ‘right person to go to.” The anxiety of being a new mom. You might go to one person and talk about what items to buy for the nursery you’re going to a different person. Hearing from people who have already been parents, you’re going to different people. You’re kind of diversifying the support instead of putting it all on one person. 

Sarah B.  7:30  

Yeah. It’s funny because there’s actually an internal debate within my family because I have a big family that lives within five minutes of us, which is great for babies. 

Alex Alexander  7:41  

Loves them. Hi, guys, love you so much. 

Sarah B.  7:43  

Hi, everyone! 

I would assume it’s going to be great for babysitters and it totally will, but they got snippy with each other about who’s first up for babysitting. It was a little, like, competition. 

I said out loud – I panicked when that happened – And I was like, “I’m so uncomfortable. I want you all to like be there for different things that I need.” Sometimes it’s going to be mom. Sometimes it’s going to be this aunt or that aunt, and like there’s different situations that I want to call different people. 

I literally had to have that conversation with them because they’re bickering kind of jokingly but kind of like, they also want to be the one that I call when I need a babysitter. 

I panicked, and it’s the opposite of what you would think makes you panic, because they’re all wanting to help and they’re all wanting to babysit. You’re like, “Sweet, I can always have support!” 

You’re just realized that like there’s different people in different moments and you want them all they’re in different capacities.

Alex Alexander  8:38  

And how beautiful -You have all that! That’s great. We just want to acknowledge it’s great, but it also is a lot of work; to communicate that, think about that, decide who to call. 

Is today, the time you call somebody who will come in and take over? Or is today the day where you call somebody who will kind of come over and be on the outskirts, like, fold laundry or empty or dishwasher. What kind of person is the person today? 

Sarah B.  9:10  

Yeah, and I think even whether it’s just within family or family and friends — there’s an aunt I’m going to call when I need a good meal because she’s going to deliver it, and it’s going to be fantastic. 

There’s an answer, I’m going to call when I need a shower, and she’s going to sit and stare at a baby because she’s obsessed with a newborn. And, you know, I’m probably going to call my mom when I want her to do absolutely everything, and I don’t want to feel bad about asking. 

That can be different for everyone. That could be a best friend instead of your mom. but I don’t think if you and I hadn’t started talking about different needs and different like skill sets for different people…

I don’t think I would have even recognized that panic moment because I would have been like, “Okay, well yeah, you call mom first and if mom’s not available, you call this aunt because she’s my godmother.” There was a hiearchy before, and now, I don’t want the hierarchy. I want everyone and I want them for like what their best at. 

Alex Alexander  10:03  

Yes!! Because everybody has different strengths.

Sarah B.  10:08  

Yes, 

Alex Alexander  10:09  

Everybody has different strengths and they all help, especially in like the big transition moments like having a new baby at home. It all cumulatively adds up. 

Sarah B.  10:19  

Definitely. I think, in another life and by another life — I mean, five years ago, before you and I started talking about all this — I think I would have solely been like, “Okay, who for my family is going to do this, this and this. And there’s going to be a time where I call you to come down because I need a week.” 

Alex Alexander  10:37  

Oh, I’m ready! My bags are packed.

Alex Alexander [Narration]  10:41  

We are obviously talking about all this in the context of a new baby. But if you do not have a new baby; if you’re an empty nester. If you do not plan on having children. If you or anybody else — this still applies. 

The way that we’re talking about finding support after this big life moment of bringing a new baby home; this is the same way that I find support in my everyday life. I don’t look at that hierarchy of “they are my closest friend,” “they are my sister,” “they are my romantic partner,” “they are my oldest friend,” — whatever the hierarchy is in your mind — so they “should” do these things for me. 

Instead, I think I need someone to vent to right now. Who is the right person to vent to. So let’s say I need to vent about how hard it is to launch this podcast. Many in my friend group are not entrepreneurs. They all work corporate jobs. So they might not be the right people to vent to about the frustrations of launching your own venture. But my business entrepreneur friend I meet with every week is probably the right person to go to. And I think so often, if we took a second to think about who the right person is, we might be getting better overall support.

Alex Alexander  12:12  

But, like, that’s the interesting thing right about being “the friend.”

You know, maybe, if you and I were sisters, I would have already picked the weeks I’m coming, nut because we’re friends, there’s this interesting kind of boundary where – I mean, I’m coming down at some point. —  But I’m gonna be like, “Okay, when do you want to slot me in?” “Do you want me to get an Airbnb?” “Do you want me to call your mom to stay at her house?” “Do you want me stay at your house?” “Do you want to decide when I get there?” “What do you want me to do when I get there?” You can change your mind. I come in totally neutral, ready for whatever you want. Instead of feeling like I already have predetermined my role. 

Sarah B.  12:57  

Which I think is a strength, and I don’t know if this is just with family with everyone, or if it’s my family. Because this might just be a big Southern family thing. 

Alex Alexander  13:06  

That’s why I started the podcast! We’ll get more people to talk about it, and then we’ll know if it’s a ‘your family’ thing or an ‘every family’ thing. We’ll find out. 

Sarah B.  13:12  

True, we’ll find out, but I think my family would come in hot was like, “I’m gonna do this for you.” Whether I needed it or not, and the intention is 100% to help, I think. BUT sometimes it’s just not what you need, and I think one of the perks and strengths of having friends that are asking those questions is that they’re asked.

You can be like, “You know what, now that you’re asking, I really need a date night and I need three meals in my freezer” or whatever that looks like. And it’s easier, I think, to ask for what you need in like those moments, and I don’t have a baby yet, but I’m assuming it’s a moment of overwhelm at some point once they’re here. But I think it’s easier to ask for what you need when someone’s asking what you need, and sometimes the people closest to you assume they know what you need.

Alex Alexander [Narration]  14:03  

When I talk to people about friendship, people want: “close friends,” “true friends,” “real friends,” “best friends,” “the friends I can do any thing with.”

I never hear anybody tell me, “You know, I just want a simple friend.” “I just want somebody I can maybe call to read a book with…” 

People want big friendships. There’s nothing wrong with that!… But the interesting thing about these life changes and the big friendships. We want big friendships because these people know us really well. However, I think that there is some, maybe like, ego wrapped up in knowing someone really well.

When big life changes happen, our closest people want to anticipate our needs, but we might be kind of a ‘new version’ of ourselves. And our needs are different in this moment, and then when you tell them, “Oh, I don’t like chocolate chip cookies anymore.” (It’s just like a silly example.)

They’re like, “What do you mean, you don’t like chocolate chip cookies anymore? But you’ve always liked chocolate chip cookies.” 

If you had a simpler friend, they would say, “Oh, okay,” because they’re not as wrapped up in it. It’s not some sign that they don’t know who you are, because… they don’t know who you are. 

They accept that. 

They’re just trying to figure out who you are. Now they know you don’t like chocolate chip cookies, but they haven’t known that you like chocolate chip cookies for your entire life. So, if you walked in two weeks from now, and told them you no longer like chocolate chip cookies, their length of time that you’ve liked chocolate chip cookies is two weeks? 

“Okay, what kind of cookie do you like now?” So, all of this to say, there is value in those simpler friendships, just like there is value in the ‘real friends,’ ‘true friends,’ ‘close friends,’ ‘best friends,’ whatever you want to call them. 

All these people can show up for you in their own ways.

Sarah B.  16:31  

Which might be right, but it might be a little overwhelming.

Alex Alexander  16:35  

Yeah, knowing what you need is so interesting — This is kind of we talked about yesterday– I am not a mom, but I have heard from plenty of moms. Right? That they become like a different version of themselves after they have a baby. I mean, it’s a pretty extreme transition. 

But I think we all have different times (in our lives) where we’ve become a different version of our selves. Whether that’s like a quick transition or a slow transition. You know, going from being your 20-something to your more adult version, your high school self. Those are all different versions. 

Let’s use a high school friend as an example. Actually, this is great, because you just move back! 

So friends that knew you in high school, you moved away. Now you’ve moved back to your hometown, and when they (you and your HS friend) get together. They might have been your best friend, but because you’ve grown and changed, and you’re a different version of yourself now — What they knew about you may no longer be true. 

Or it might be in the past, it might be like, “Oh, well, she loves running every day. She’s such a runner. She loves running. She can’t go day without a run.” 

And you’re like, “Well, I moved home, and I haven’t run in four years.”

So that was you, but that is not you anymore, and when you don’t have the information to, like, update what you know about these people that are your ‘closest people.’ You know, somebody might come into your home, after this baby and be like, “Well, I thought I’d come over and hold the babies so you can go running. I think I don’t do that anymore. I used to run I don’t run anymore.” 

And that can be so hard to navigate, in general, let alone navigate in such a transition moment as trying to figure out how to be a new parent with the baby on the outside. 

Sarah B.  18:34  

Yeah. I mean, I think, I moved home for backstory after being away for years and years, but was born and raised in New Orleans, and now I’m back. 

There are people that I see, and I’ll probably see them once a year and we’ll catch up and they used to be (my) best friends, but we’re not on that same wavelength or in that same place anymore. There’s actually somebody who I was best friends with from preschool through high school. We fell off for a couple years, not poorly, just life happens, and she just had a baby. So we’ve reconnected in like a whole different relationship and a really cool way. 

So I think it can obviously go either way, but I think the reason that the ones that have reconnected and kind of turned into their own new relationships is because we were both open to it being like a new relationship. We didn’t come into it being focused on like picking up where we left off. Even though there’s some of that and there’s reminiscing — We got to know each other again, like, who we were now that it had been however many years. 

Alex Alexander  19:38  

That’s like a whole new friendship with, almost some cheat information from before, you know? But because you’re, kind of, coming into it committed to a new friendship, new versions — instead of just assuming you like all the same things you’re coming in saying, “I really remember you loved ‘this kind of food’ when we were friends back in the day. Do you still like that?” 

You’re kind of using it as a starting point to gain info, and I think it’s, honestly, kind of an underutilized way to make new friends. If it does feel right to reconnect with someone. Reconnect, but you have a little step ahead because you have some backstory, and some of that might remain true. Or it gives the opportunity for them to say, “Oh, no, I don’t like that food anymore, but I love this food.”

Sarah B.  20:34  

Yeah, and it’s interesting to think about with family. and obviously, everyone’s situation is different, but I don’t think people ever, I can’t say ever, I’ve never done that with family. 

I’ve never not seen someone for a little while and ‘re-gotten to know them.’ You are kind of along for the ride. So you do get stuck a little bit. I’m a little bit of a different person with my family than I am with friends, especially newer friends like I get to be Sarah-now with new friends. With my family, I do revert a little bit to who I was when I was younger in some ways, and so it’s interesting how it evolves.

Alex Alexander  21:14  

But normally, that probably isn’t that big of a deal. And there’s some comfort to that, right? It’s like, “Oh, I’m being me from the past.” That’s kind of fun to like, step into that role. Sometimes I also think this happens with past friends, but we’re gonna stick to family. 

The interesting thing, though, is, that’s all fun, and enjoyable, and comforting, and okay. 

But then in a moment where you have this new baby, and say you’re setting new boundaries, I’m just using that as an example. 

In the past, you maybe wouldn’t have cared and now you care. So when you say, “Oh, no, this is like full mom Sarah now. We don’t do that anymore. I’m not doing that.” I think it’s so hard for the people closest to us sometimes, because their egos in it a little bit. They’re saying, “Well, wait, I know you better than almost anyone. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know you don’t like that anymore.” It kind of makes them question — “Oh, but I should have known that.” 

So, Sometimes I think the people closest to us, we need to kind of take a step back for a second and say, “Okay, they’re just stepping into a new version of themselves. How beautiful it is that they’re being honest with me about that, that they’re setting that boundary. I am uncomfortable, because I didn’t know this about them, and I thought I knew everything. The best thing I can do right now is try and adjust to this new version.” 

 But I think it hits the ego sometimes a little bit.

Sarah B.  23:00  

I think it hits the ego, and I think it’s a little fear-based. I think it’s for many people thinking, “Oh, wow, she’s in a new life phase and I don’t feel like I know her as well as I thought I did. Am I going to be part of this?” 

I think people get a little fearful that if they can’t show that they’re still that close to you, like, “what’s their role? And how do they fit in?” They care about you, and they want to be part of this phase, but how do they do that? So I think, for me, too, like understanding that it’s fear based and making an effort to communicate that we can get-to-know each other in this new phase, even though we know each other well, in a past phase. If it’s important to you to kind of bridge that gap — I think understanding that fear is kind of crucial and doing that.

Alex Alexander  23:51  

I totally agree. I mean, it’s fear, but it’s also I think, a little grief. 

It’s sad a little bit when somebody you love is now a new version. Because you liked that version. They were great. You love them. And now you’re saying it’s gonna be different. 

You don’t know how beautiful that’s going to be, because you haven’t experienced this new version. I think the fear is there, for sure. Being scared of this new version — Will it be as fun? Will it be as beautiful? Will be as enjoyable? Will you love it as much?

It takes a little while to find the things to love. 

But simultaneously, it’s a little sad, that that is over, and you get to hold space for both. That’s okay. But if you don’t allow those to happen, you’re trying to force — your friend, your loved one, your family member, your partner, your whoever —  to be this past version of themselves at a certain point, they’re gonna break and say, “No, I am the new version. I’m moving on.” 

Sarah B.  24:55  

Well, and that’s interesting because I think we do that with our significant others. I’m not the same person as when I met my husband. He’s not the same person. We’ve been through job changes and COVID and a marriage and pregnant. We’re not the same person, but you sign up knowing that things are going to evolve when you get married. 

I don’t think we think about that with friendship in the same way. 

Alex Alexander  25:21  

I would agree. 100% would agree. Whether or not you’re listening to this, and you have children. People around you have kids. 

I think about this all the time as ‘a person that currently does not have kids’ —  every time my friends announced they’re pregnant, I am simultaneously freaking thrilled to have this new little human to love so much, and to watch my friends get to be parents. 

Then on the flip side, there’s a moment of mourning. “Okay, we’re not going to be quite as free to just pick up and do what we want all the time. We’re gonna, you know, have to navigate like babysitter schedules.” So there’s that grief. There’s also the excitement. I don’t really know what it’s gonna be like until we’re in it. Then having friends that already have kids they are these moments where I’m sitting on the floor with them and their babies playing, drinking coffee in our sweatpants that are just so freaking beautiful. I will remember the rest of my life. You don’t know that in the moment.

Sarah B.  26:30  

Yeah, and I think that goes for the person having the baby too. I don’t think we really talked about that, but my husband and I have talked about that. We will be like, “We go to this one brewery that you have to be 21. So we go all the time now, because we can’t take our baby. But we can take our baby to these other breweries.” 

You were one of the first people I told I was pregnant. 

Alex Alexander  26:54  

I know…

Sarah B.  26:56  

I didn’t go to somebody that already had a child. That didn’t matter, because we still connected on it, but that doesn’t mean that I’m also not thinking about how things are going to change. Maybe it’s that, if we actually had that conversation together, and it wasn’t just the excitement — which there’s so much excitement — but if we could talk about that other stuff, too. Not just you and I, but just, in general. 

Because I think it would maybe bridge that gap, a little bit, to where you would be able to be like, “Oh, yeah, I’ve been thinking about that. But I wasn’t gonna bring that up in the midst of your great news! 

And I would be like, “Oh, yeah. I’m thinking about that, even though it’s kind of taboo to say that when you’re telling people you’re pregnant.” 

So communicating about it I feel like is probably 90% of that transition.

Alex Alexander  27:46  

I agree. I think that you are not the first ones to have a baby in our group of friends. So, you have seen how other people have adapted. You’ve seen that we go and do this with other friends with kids. So, that probably removes a little bit of the anxiety about what this looks like. 

But I also think that our friend group actually talked about what it would be like when there were kids. 

So moments where we were sitting around, you know, we could have gone out on a Saturday night, but instead we were all just sitting around at somebody’s house. We would talk about, “Oh, someday, we could do this with a kid asleep upstairs in a pack-and-play or in their crib.” We would bring that up. I also think that’s helpful for people. 

If having kids in your friend group, or if you’re the childless person, talk about what you would be happy to do so that there’s less anxiety about what this shift looks like. It may not look like what you think it’s going to look like, but at least putting out some options, I think, makes your friends realize that you’re willing to navigate this together. 

Sarah B.  29:01  

I think that we talked about a lot ‘the person was children’ saying what they need, but I do think that goes both ways. I think if a year down the line, you and Michael come in town and you’re like “We would love one night with just you too. Do you have a babysitter? Can we help you find a babysitter?”  Communicating those needs both ways.

I think a lot of time, the needs just kind of shift to the person that’s had the baby. Where they’re both important, and obviously a little harder to coordinate potentially on one end, but I still think it’s important. To your point when you’re talking about it ahead of time that can go both ways. 

Alex Alexander  29:41  

There’s this other thing, with our other friends, we’ve talked about —  I’ll have to have them on the podcast at some point — but, I think a lot about the weight of an action after a big life transition. We’re talking about kids but this could also be: caring for a sick person or a sick partner. Big financial stressors. Whatever. — Something big is going on in your friend’s life. We’re using the new parents example. 

These friends texted us and said, “Hey, we have a babysitter, we’d love to see you.” To me, the weight of that action when their time is so limited right now is so meaningful. I think a lot about, it’s not the quantity of actions, but sometimes it’s just that when something is so limited, appreciating that we received their time. That we got to spend that time together. They couldn’t used that all sorts of ways, but they wanted to spend time with us.

In another season of life, sure, maybe that wouldn’t be quite as meaningful because we’d be able to see each other more often. However, in this season of life, that’s a big deal. 

Alex Alexander [Narration]  31:01  

Today’s convo is so good. I’m trying really hard not to jump in too much, but I want to cover two things really fast one. 

If you listen to my previous episodes, this is an example of what I was talking about new peaks within a friendship. 

So before kids, there was a peak. The new peak, now, is getting a phone call, or text message saying, “Hey, we have a babysitter tonight. We rarely have a babysitter. We’d love to see you.” 

That’s a new peak. That probably would not have previously been a peak. Eventually, when these friend’s kids are older — there can be a new version of a peak when there’s more freedom again. 

But just looking for those really meaningful moments within the season you’re in. 

The other thing I wanted to just note is — I love, love that Sara is saying that the ‘friend without the new life circumstances’ should voice what they need, like asking to go out to dinner. 

I think that’s great, but I just want to note that not everyone, has a big, loving family (that lives) five minutes around them and that’s not always feasible. 

However, if your friends asked you that, and that’s not feasible for you, “What do they actually need?” Don’t just shut it down. 

Don’t just say, “Oh, we can’t do that,” maybe consider exploring. 

Do they need uninterrupted conversation? Could you have that after bedtime? Do they need, some sort of, fun adventure with you? You guys used to be people that went out and did things. Can you find a window to do that? Can you find a way to do that… and take your kids? 

What is it they’re really asking for? 

And it might just be they want to recreate an old memory, an old situation. You used to go out to dinner all the time. They want to do that again. 

But, what, if you can find it, is the deeper need or purpose? Because you might find, that you are able to fulfill that when you were just going to cut yourself off. Your initial thought was to say, “No, we can’t do that.” But, maybe, if you ask more questions you can find what you need. 

Alex Alexander  33:28  

That’s a big deal. Taking that in and appreciating it.

Sarah B.  33:32  

Yeah  —  and, like you said in a lot of examples, you and I absolutely see each other less now that we live across the country from each other, but the effort is there. 

Whether it’s a phone call. Whether it’s a visit. It does mean more. I told my parents this when I moved away from home – the quality got better. The quality of our time together was so much more appreciated on both ends, and we were so present. I’m not sitting here saying it’s not great now, because it totally sounds like that, but I do think when the quantity is taken out of it, the quality is really meaningful. You flew home to have dinner with that person, or you, like you said, got a babysitter to spend two hours with a couple and that’s a big effort. 

Alex Alexander  34:18  

When you were younger — in high school, and in college — There’s a lot of time in friendships. We compare that amount of time to now. There’s just not as much time so we have to appreciate what there is. I also think… you know, so often people say to me, “I want friends I can do anything with.” Which, I think, is kind of that ‘high school/ college nostalgia.’ 

If you think back the things that you did were so mundane and boring. 

You drove each other to pick up your car from an oil change. 

Sarah B.  34:56  

You went to Target 

Alex Alexander  34:57  

Yeah! You did your returns together — and especially when these big life transitions happen– move, being sick, caring for somebody that is sick — those are the moments where you can do the mundane. 

When we come visit friends that have kids, people are always like, “What do you do?”

“We just fold into their life. We go to the park. We lay around on the floor, play with trucks. We read books. Sure, we might, you know, go to a museum or get a babysitter and do a date night, but we just fold into the mundane. 

That is all the stuff I loved (in my friendships) the most when I was younger, and now I just try and replicate it, even if it’s in smaller doses.

Sarah B.  35:40  

That’s interesting, because when you’re in college, the mundane is kind of programmed to be the same, right? 

You’re going to class. You’re running the same errands. You’re stocking a dorm room. The things you’re doing line up, and so maybe when you’re in different life phases as an adult. For example, you’re visiting someone that has children, and you don’t have children right now, they might not line up to be what your mundane is. You can still fold into that other person’s mundane, which I think some people feel like it’s an interference, or like, maybe they don’t fit into it in some way…

Alex Alexander  36:17  

Especially people with kids, right? 

People with kids are floundering a little bit. A lot of people don’t have the amount of support they need, but to let somebody in to help you is very vulnerable. If you’ve never let anybody in, that’s going to be so hard to do when you’re at your most vulnerable. 

So, I almost think doing some of the mundane with people, before you have kids, is so great, because I think it would make it easier.

I’ve been in your house. We’ve laid around. I’ve vacuum your floor. Wiped your counters. I think that it’s probably easier to let me in now than it would be if I had never done that for you before —  after you have the baby. 

Sarah B.  36:58  

Totally, I think I’m very vulnerable. I’ll tell anyone my whole life story if you want to sit down and listen to it. 

But when someone comes over – I like a giant cheese board. I like soup on the stove. I like things to be a certain way. — and so that’s going to be a transition for me to have people come over and it’s just a disaster, and there’s no food in the fridge. 

I know that’s going to be a huge transition for me. Whereas, some things like you said, like having you over and vacuuming and wiping the counters I’m used to and I’m comfortable with it. I think everyone has those things that they need done to feel good about people walking into their life.

Alex Alexander  37:40  

Yeah, but kind of ‘starting to let people in’ BEFORE the big moments, whatever those are. 

I mean, having a baby, but also it could be somebody who just started a new business. Somebody who’s finishing their PhD thesis. Somebody who had a fire in their house. There’s a million situations where suddenly you really need help from the people around you, and if you have never let anybody in in any small way. You’ve never run errands and gone to target — As an adult, you stopped doing that at a certain point. 

Suddenly, you need help. You might be in the car, going to target and feel so uncomfortable. 

Sarah B.  38:25  

Yeah, I think that comes back to what you were saying about you being able to say “What do you need?” Because it opens the door for someone to be like, “Hmm, what do I really need to feel supported?” That might not be like, “Oh, yeah! Come over, and I’ll have the perfect cheese board and dinner ready for us and we can sit around and you can hold the baby for me.” It might be like, “Hey, can you go to Target for me and get yogurt and paper towels because I’m barely keeping food in my fridge and I’m exhausted.” So, I think even as somebody that’s pretty vulnerable, that feels off to me. It’s something I would have to get used to.

Alex Alexander  39:05  

This is an idea that I gave a friend who was a new mom a few years ago. I have not personally tried it out. So, somebody try it out and tell me. 

But I really think this would be helpful. Sometimes I feel like when you’re in those really “you need help” moments and everybody’s asking you, “How can I help?” 

One thing people say, right, is that the other person should just “Do something.” “Just pick something and do it.” Sometimes I think that works — Sure — but what I told this other mom friend was “Make a list and just send it out.” 

Make a list of every single thing you think you could use help with this month. Taking your car to get an oil change. Somebody’s taking your dog to the groomer. Doing your Amazon returns because you’ve ordered a million things because you don’t know what product you need, but those were all wrong. Picking up your groceries. Whatever they are. Coming over and vacuuming. If you’re a new parent, maybe, coming over and watching the baby while you take a shower or whatever they are. Just send it out. 

Then people can pick what they want to do. Maybe, somebody who doesn’t really know much about babies will take your car and get the oil changed. That’s helpful!  

Then you aren’t trying to negotiate back and forth with people, or thinking about what they would be good at doing. You’re just like, “Here you go pick something off the list.” 

So somebody try that, and tell me. I think that’s maybe another good route, and then people can share it amongst themselves.

Sarah B.  40:42  

It’s funny, because when you said that — and I’m totally going to do that and I’ll let you know how it goes —  but as you’re saying that, I don’t know if it’s a people pleaser in me, but something is coming up with a disclaimer. When I send it out saying, “You totally don’t have to do anything, but…” and trying to make it sound less needy. Whereas, I’m sure everyone wants to know what they can do to help, and it’s just communicating what’s actually helpful. 

Alex Alexander  41:11  

I mean, whether you send it out upfront, or you just have it saved on your phone, and every time somebody says, “What do you need?” you just respond with this list. Like, here you go. 

What might happen is, let’s say you do this, and your aunt asked what you need. You just send this list. Suddenly, people have been telling your aunt —  because they don’t want to bother you — they would love to help. 

Sure, maybe they’re not going to cook you two meals a week, every week, like your aunt might, but instead of your aunt cooking your two meals… and taking your car… and coming over to clean your house. And… and… and… and… All these people that are mentioning in addition to your aunt. They would love to do something for you, but don’t know what to do. She suddenly can say, “You know, when I go over to drop the food off, I can grab the keys. You can take the car to get the oil change. Would you like to do that?” They’ll just do it, and suddenly, you wouldn’t have all these worries. You might could just spend some time with your baby.

Sarah B.  42:25  

It’s funny because one of the things we’ve done in our household is put that list on the fridge, because, you know, Mike will be going into work at 10am. His schedule shifts day to day, and he might have an hour and I’m already working. He wants to know what he can do, but he’s not going to bother me with it because I’m on a conference call. 

So we’ve done that in our household. And it’s just something that I think, to your point, we don’t think of getting that support from people outside of it (our immediate circle), and it’s just as helpful.

 Maybe I just need to take a picture of the list on my fridge and send it to everyone I know, and we’ll see what happens.

Alex Alexander  43:06  

Even if 50% of that list got done that still 50% you two wouldn’t have to worry about right after the baby came. 

Sarah B.  43:14  

Yeah. 

Alex Alexander  43:15  

Just to be clear, for anybody listening, Mike does a lot. Mike keeps his own list. Sarah and I have had extensive conversations about this. He’s just trying to go above-and-beyond and take things off your list since you’re pregnant right now. Just want to clarify that.

Sarah B.  43:32  

He does. He does a really great job, and I think I am also a total control freak. That if he does something and it was on my mental list for next week, I’m like, “…but we should have done this this week.” So, it’s a way for us to get on the same page. It’s not that he’s sitting around eating macaroons on the couch. 

Alex Alexander  43:48  

I just wanted to clarify, for anybody listening to this, he’s just picking up some extra things, but a lot of that is going to fall on him after the baby comes. If there was a way to just disperse that since you do have such a great support system around you. 

I want to say those little tasks… A friend of mine, who will surely be listening to this show. She’ll know who she is. Her sister, and her wife had a new little one recently. They’re going to be in-and-out of the hospital quite a bit. So, this is my friend’s sister. I know her sister, but it’s not like we’re the closest of friends. I sent her gift off her registry, and in the note I just wrote, “Hey! I only live about five minutes away if there’s ever, you know, you ever need someone to watch your dog. Grab a package off your porch. Please just shoot me a text.” 

There is so much support that can come from people that you won’t even consider in your closest circle. Like those aren’t big burdens to me. That’s a five minute drive to throw a package in my car that I would drop off on their porch when they’re home. We love dogs. We love them. Not a big deal for us to watch their very well-behaved, sweet dog for one night. 

Although, a lot of people are just looking at their very closest circle, sometimes the small actions by people in your broader community can add up, especially in the big life transition moments.

Sarah B.  45:29  

I think even now, like I was saying before, my baby registered at this point is 90% recommendations from somebody that I, honestly, hadn’t talked to in a year. We connected over this. Now it’s a fabulous support system. So, it’s not always the people that are closest to you. They may be struggling with the transition you’re going through and how they fit into that role. That doesn’t mean that there’s not a million other people around that can fill those needs; whether it be temporarily, whether it be for the long term, and really cool friendships might come of it. 

Alex Alexander  46:08  

It feels good, for her, to help you. It feels great, for you, to connect with her about this exciting new part of your life. You will forever appreciate that. That’s forever valuable. You’ll always remember that. Now, big life changes are coming that you two can connect about. So, you very well might continue talking, but even if you didn’t, this was still like beautiful and great. Even if it was just that’s what it was. 

Sarah B.  46:37  

I think we learned that in the pandemic. How absolutely fabulous was it to go get a coffee, and say, “Have a great day!” to a barista. You hadn’t talked to anyone in like a week. So, you know, those became so important. We saw how good that made us feel. But just because we’re like hanging out with the people were ‘closest to,’ again, doesn’t mean that those are any less important.

Alex Alexander  47:05  

They all add up — in whatever we need in this moment. I mean, that’s… I think, what’s getting us through. 

Now, we could keep talking for another hour, because that’s our M.O. I think we should probably wrap here. This probably is not the last time we’ll be on here, but I love this so much, because this is exactly what I wanted this podcast to be! I mean, everybody is truly listening in on a conversation we would be having on the phone. 

Sarah B.  47:35  

We had it yesterday. 

Alex Alexander  47:38  

You know, this is the real stuff that I’m talking about with our friends. And then our friends are talking about with each other and with other people. And now we’re just recording it for everyone to hear and share and take whatever piece feels right for them.

Sarah B.  47:56  

Yeah, and they’re seeing different perspectives, and they will continue to, but a lot of people might listen to you and think, “Oh, well, I’m really close to my family. So that’s awesome what she’s doing, but that doesn’t apply to me. “

And I’m really close to my family and 90% of what you say applies to me. So I think it’s awesome to give those other perspectives.

Alex Alexander  48:15  

I will never forget telling you about wanting to talk about the community and friendship stuff. 

We were sitting on a picnic blanket, you had just started dating Mike. So, to clarify, Sarah’s husband, I have known him since like sophomore year of college. He was roommates with Michael. Mike + Michael, interchangeably. We’re not going to get into that.

I remember telling you that I wanted to talk about this stuff, and being kind of nervous because I knew how close you were with your family. Being like, well, this isn’t going to apply to her. She doesn’t need this. At a certain point, you said to me, “You know… I am really close with my family, but that puts a lot of pressure on them and everything you’re telling me is that instead of putting all this pressure, I could go to some other people alleviate some of the pressure. I could just really enjoy the best each of my family members has to give.” 

I just remember sitting there thinking, “Okay, if this connects with her, and she has such a great strong family. This really can apply to a greater audience than what I originally thought. So, you are part of the reason that I’m doing this, because you helped me realize that everybody can take small pieces from this.” 

Sarah B.  49:41  

Everyone can and that’s probably a whole nother podcast episode of “Not putting all your eggs in one basket, even if it’s your family,” but I think it resonated with me so quickly that no one doesn’t have relationships in their life. Every single person has some relationship and so there’s nobody If this doesn’t apply so

Alex Alexander  50:03  

With that, love ya. 

Sarah B.  50:06  

Love you! Thanks for having me.

Alex Alexander  50:09  

Thank you for listening to this episode of Friendship IRL. I am so honored to have these conversations with you. But don’t let the chat die here. Send me a voice message. I created a special website just to chat with you.  

You can find it at alexalex.chat. 

You can also find me on Instagram my handle is @itsAlexAlexander. Or go ahead and leave a review wherever you prefer to listen to podcasts!  

Now if you want to take this conversation a step further. Send this episode to a friend! Tell them you found it interesting. And use what we just talked about as a conversation starter the next time you and your friend hang out.  

No need for a teary goodbye. I’ll be back with a new episode next week!

Hi. I'm Alex.

I'm a speaker, thought leader, and soon-to-be author focusing on community and friendship.

TL;DR The friendship paradigm is broken. I'm breaking it down, so we can build a better version.

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