Are 'best friends' no longer 'forever' anymore? Research says so - Becoming a mum definitely throws friendships under a spotlight and here's why according to an expert

 Lonely woman sat on her sofa.
Lonely woman sat on her sofa.

Parents report increasing levels of loneliness, and now research suggests even long-term friendships built on years of shared memories aren't lasting - our expert looks at why mother's friendships are particularly at risk.

Parental loneliness is soaring, catching mothers in its grasp when they're already at a particularly vulnerable stage in their lives. It's also suggested that adults who were lonely children could be hit harder by ongoing isolation into their older years. It's a sad fact that modern living has paved the way for a loneliness epidemic, affecting long-term health outcomes, and resulting in an upturn of depression and other mental health conditions.

Even though parenthood can be an isolating experience and there isn't time to make new friends, or it might feel too daunting, some mothers will rely on their oldest and dearest friends to keep them going through difficult times. Messages from your childhood best friend of university crew can be a light at the end of the parental isolation tunnel - or can it? According to Psychology Today, even long-term friendships are no longer going the distance and becoming shorter.

Clio Wood is a maternal health advocate, and author of Get Your Mojo Back, Sex, Pleasure and Intimacy After Birth. Clio spoke to us about why friendships in motherhood are put under particular pressure - at a time when what mums really need is more support. She told us "Becoming a mum changes your priorities, whether you like it or not.  Even if you can maintain time for your friendships (and I highly advise that you do) the nature of those friendships can change if your friends don't yet have kids or choose not to.

If your friends are also mums, you'll find that your headspace often is filled with baby/child issues and worries, so the carefree nature of your friendship interaction changes. This is ok, and certainly not insurmountable, but the change can make connecting difficult in the short term."

"If your friends are also mums, you'll find that your headspace often is filled with baby/child issues and worries, so the carefree nature of your friendship interaction changes."

Instead of the Best Friends Forever of times gone by, less tolerance for conflict has been cited as a reason for valued friendships being cut short. While peaks and troughs are to be expected in any friendship, modern life allows us to easily block someone who offends us, and brand their behaviour "toxic." Once this has been done, there's much less scope to fix the rift and the friendship is irreparably broken.

While the previous cycle of a friendship would always be connection, occasional breaks, and usually repair, social media fills us with messages that anyone who does or says something we don't like, should immediately be cut from our lives. And while there will definitely an occasional genuine for this, the general consensus is that most relationships can be repaired - conflict resolution can actually bring friends closer together.

Three ways to repair a friendship

  1. Let your friend know there's a problem. It often doesn't cross our minds that the person we are mad at, has no idea why we're mad with them. Instead of throwing the book at them for something they might not even be aware of, it's a good idea to discuss it with them before you make any big decisions about the future of the friendship.

  2. Tell your friend what you need. Remember, they have needs too and will be busy themselves. If you are angry, try and calm yourself before speaking with them, to avoid a full character assassination relating to what they've done to wrong you - they might not be aware of a problem. For example, if you're always meeting somewhere convenient to them, you could say "sometimes I like to try different places, so can we meet at the new place near me?" They might instantly agree, and your anger dissipates.

  3. Be kind. A bit of a social media cliche, but others will inevitably let us down. You will also let people down. Try not to apportion blame to your friends if you want to continue the friendship - an open mind and open discussion can go a long way to making sure you really do stay friends for the duration.

Clio has more advice for those struggling with lack of friendships during motherhood. She says "Honesty is definitely the way forward! Your mates are probably feeling the same and the relief of talking it through together might just solve the issue.

It might not be instant, but it's ok for friendships to ebb and flow. You can also pick up mates who are going through the same thing as you (from parent & baby classes or in the local family-friendly coffee shop) and these can fill the gap with baby-centric friendships while you're in the thick of parenting. And they might end up lasting longer than that too."

For more on how to embrace and survive motherhood, you might want to understand the process of matrescence and the impact this has. It's no wonder friendships suffer, they're just one element of mum guilt in a whole heap of things mums have to keep on top of.