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Ask a life coach: How can I navigate feeling left behind by my friend's pregnancy?

Life coach Hattie MacAndrews shares how we can reframe our evolving friendships for a more optimistic outlook

Ask a life coach
woman carrying two children
5 April 2024
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In her new column, life coach Hattie MacAndrews shares her advice on the problems plaguing her clients.

Here she tackles the tricky issue of feeling like you're being left behind when friends are getting married and starting families.

The issue: I feel left behind by my friends getting married and having babies

Group of female friends touching stomach of pregnant woman at baby shower. Close up.© Getty
When our friends become pregnant, it can create uncomfortable feelings

I’m 34 and at the stage in my life where all my friends are married and are now starting to have babies.

I feel ashamed writing this as I really am excited for them and want my friends to be happy, but I can’t help feeling jealous and as if I’m being left behind. I’m still single and am desperate to find a partner and start my own family, but every pregnancy announcement makes me feel further away from that. I hate that my friendships are shifting and I feel incredibly guilty for thinking like this, but it’s all-consuming.

Hattie's guidance

"Oh, how my heart goes out to you! I speak to women on a daily basis who feel the exact same way you do – so please know you are not alone. However, I would like to point out that those are two of my least favourite words – shame and guilt.

RELATED: How discovering guilt-free joy turned my life around 

"Both all-consuming and utterly fruitless. I truly believe that there is no place for either of those emotions in your thoughts, especially when it comes to such a delicate subject.

Caucasian woman leaning her head to pregnant belly of her friend, during her baby shower© Getty
It's easy to feel left out when our friends are having children

Know your feelings are valid

"You are allowed to feel how you feel, and your feelings are one hundred per cent valid. Don’t let anyone take that away from you. Let’s just try and dig a little bit deeper into why you’ve been feeling this way, and what we can do to help shift your perspective.

"You are most certainly not the only woman to be struggling with the seemingly constant stream of pregnancy announcements, and it’s not an easy place to be in when you’re not feeling confident about where you are in your own life. Other than turn your phone off and hide from the world, what can you do here?

READ: I did an at-home fertility test – here's what you need to know 

Are you really being left behind?

"I’d like to start with the sentiment of being left behind. Where do you think everyone else is going? This is an entirely constructed concept by society to make women feel like we’re not enough; we’re not doing or achieving enough and most importantly that we’re not living our life how we’re 'supposed' to be.

"When you stop and pause, what does that really mean? Many of my most fabulous and favourite women are entirely on their own path, not worried about what others are doing and not concerned by timelines.

"It goes without saying that women in their thirties have the additional pressure of a ticking biological clock, but obsessing over this is not the way forward. When I was a single woman in my early thirties, I wanted children and I steadfastly maintained the belief that it would happen for me when the time was right.

Woman carrying a baby wrapped in a blanket
Hattie is loving being the 'fun aunt'

"I had full confidence that I would get to where I wanted to be, and I cannot express how much easier this made my life. This mindset enabled me to dive deep and fully embrace changes in my friendships, weddings and the arrivals of countless new babies. This comparison culture we are all so engrossed in will eat you alive, so I implore you to cut yourself free from it."

READ: I wish I'd known how much my relationship would change after having a baby 

Communicate with your friends

"Once you have started the process of shifting your mindset and finding peace with your own pace, I would always encourage communicating how you’re feeling to those that matter most.

"What might a conversation look like in which you express your worries and concerns? If it’s a topic approached with love and compassion, it’s likely you will receive that in return.

Lesbian couple looking at mobile phone and smiling in living room at home.© Getty
Our friends might be wary about their lives changing too

"It’s very possible some of your friends are also experiencing some form of identity crisis as they prepare for such a monumental change in their sense of self and who they are as people. Let’s not forget that marriage and motherhood are not always easy roles, and both come with their own set of challenges.

"Please believe me when I say, having a ring on your finger or a babe in arms is not the answer to life’s problems. If you go into either of those situations ladled with negative thought patterns and a lack of confidence, that’s how you will remain.

"I think it’s easy for us to assume the grass is always greener, but this too will hold you back if you hold it true in your belief system."

 READ: Nobody told me motherhood would bring so much darkness and joy simultaneously 

Shifting friendships

"It’s natural for friendships to shift, change and evolve over time, and perhaps giving yourself some grace for this to happen will alleviate some of your worries.

"A change in friendships as you enter different stages of life will free up more time for you to focus on what’s important for you right now – whether that might be dating or taking some quality me-time. This cocktail of communication and grace will enable you to move through these changes without those feelings of bitterness and resentment.

woman carrying two children
When our friends have children, we see a different side to them

"Watching some of my own best friends become mothers has been some of the most beautiful and happiest moments of my life. I am truly thriving in my fun-aunty era – loving every moment spent with new additions to my life, without any lingering feelings of sadness for not having my own."

 INSPIRATION: Why are women expected to stop having fun in our thirties? 

Looking inwards

"So far we’ve analysed your perspective on timelines, encouraged you to communicate your feelings and given you permission to treat yourself with a little more kindness. Next let’s take a moment to look inwards, and through some self-reflection start to examine where the root of your fear and feelings are coming from.

"I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that hearing the word 'desperate' does not fill me with joy. In fact, it fills me with horror. Hoards of brilliantly smart, capable, beautiful women being labelled, or even worse, labelling themselves as desperate is a crime.

Hattie MacAndrews smiling on a sofa
Hattie MacAndrews shares her advice for feeling 'left behind'

"There is nothing desperate about wanting to find love and start a family. It’s a completely natural phase of life and women should be encouraged to admit this freely, without the shameful label of being called desperate. Please do not talk to yourself like this!

"The words we use, especially when describing ourselves, have an enormous impact on our feelings and behaviour. This is why it’s so important to use words that will enforce positive change and boost our confidence."

Adopt an abundant mindset

"From your message, I can safely assume that you are dating, or actively seeking a relationship. This process, which I know first-hand can be challenging and tricky, will be far more enjoyable for you if you are able to adopt an abundant mindset.

"Focusing on scarcity and feeling like 'all the good ones are being snapped up' feeds into the story of desperation. As we try to move you away from this, can you instead focus on what a wonderful partner you would make, and how lucky a man would be to end up with you? Wouldn’t this make dating so much more uplifting and empowering?

 READ: 5 life coach-approved ways to feel happier - without spending a penny  

"We all need to be reminded at times that there’s not a finite amount of happiness to go around. Can you use this as motivation to flip your mindset and focus on finding your own version of happiness?

"If I have done my job correctly, and you follow my advice accordingly, I can sleep easy knowing that you will find yourself in a much better headspace and with a brighter, lighter outlook.

"Remember that your life is too wonderful and precious to be consumed by what everyone else is doing. Please learn to be content and at peace with where you are. Please know that in a minute you’ll be married with a baby and look back at this precious time and wonder why you wasted so much time worrying that it might not happen. Carpe diem my friend!"

Discover more stellar advice from Hattie on Instagram.

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