You’ve giggle, bawled and partied together, but what happens to your friendships when babies and mortgages get thrown into the mix? Clementine Bastow finds out…

Description: BFF: Can you stay friends when you want different things? (Part 1)

It’s a known fact that, throughout the universe, there’s a simple phrase that can be employed to gauge the distance between any group of friends’s realities: “Let’s just split the bill evenly.” Drop that sentence at the dinner table in any group of female friends around the age of 30 and you’re likely to get a whole rainbow of reactions.

Jill, who has worked her way up at the law firm she joined after her gradutating, is first to dive into her wallet. Rachel, a primary school teacher, who’s just taken on a mortgage, is a little slower to fish out a $20 note. Karen, who is currently “clean eating” with her husband and only ordereds a miso, frowns. And Claire, a part-time copy-writer with a one-year-old child, had only really intended to spend $15 and isn’t sure how to bring it up.

Of course, it isn’t solely money that sets us apart from our friends, but what happens when you look around the table and wonder, if we had to stop talking about the “good old days”, or what happened on True Blood that week, would we still actually have anything in common?

When long-held friendships begin to drift apart it can be painful. Realising that friends you once shared everything with are having distinctly different experiences to you is a shock. We start to give ourselves the third degree: how did they make it happen? Am I doing something wrong? Can we still be friends if our lives might as well be happening in different universes?


“When I approached 30, I felt very strongly that I was moving into a different stage of my life,” says Elizabeth, 31, who moved from Brisbane to Sydney last year for love, and to pursue career opportunities. “I started noticing that my younger friends were caught up in ticking of boxes of their to-do lists that I had either been there and done, or had no interest in doing.”

Or put a baby in the mix and the differences between friends’ worlds can become starkly apparent.

“Many of my friends aren’t any where near having kids yet,” says Tina, 32, whose daughter is nearly one. “Becoming a parent doesn’t mean you completely lose touch with your previous life. I need to live vicariously through my single friends and hear about their fabulous social lives!” she laughs.

When we form friendship groups in our teenage years or 20s, it tends to be because we’re all on the same page; whether at school or university, we bond over shared dreams and circumstances. Maybe we’re all going to grow up and start businesses, or win Oscars, or write books, sticking together as one of those “power” groups of old friends that reporters write glowing, awed feature articles about. Consequently, it can be difficult to accept when members of the friendship group start to move away from those seemingly shared goals.

“I really value my career,” says Sarah, 31, who has carved herself a niche in the marketing world. “When I get together with my old friends, I feel like they see me as this workaholic maniac. They’ve chosen to focus more on things like family and relationships, and see their jobs as a means to an end. Sometimes, I wish they’d see I’m passionate about my job and let me share that enthusiasm with them.”

Hence, it’s not unsual to find yourself drifting away from friendships formed years previously, and towards newer friends with whom you have more in common. I noticed quite a few of my friends were heading in the direction of having babies, and I think I’ve become a lot closer to them since becoming a mum,” says Tina. “We are going through this huge new life stage at the same time, so we can better understand what we’re all going through. It helps that we have similar schedules, too; not a lot of opportunity to go out at night, but plenty of time to catch up during weekdays.”

As we’ve navigated our 20s and beyond, my oldest friends and I have subtly ended up in different places; there have been marriages, babies, career successes and home owner-ships. Some of us have naged to tick off all of those milestones, while some have taken much more of a pick’and’mix approach – I know I have.

When I was 24, I went to see a fortune teller, Tara. She had a stall at a local market – think saris and mystical looking scarves pinned up inside a rent-a-tent – and for $25, offered to tell my fortune. I crossed her palm with plastic and she set about reading my palm and then my tarot spread.

What began as a bit of fun led quickly to my sitting transfixed as Tara, who apparently knew everything about me, from my two abandoned university courses to my brother’s love of the drums, gave it to me straight: things are a bit all over the shop right now, but just wait until you’re 30. That’s when everything – work, life, relationship and babies – is going to happen.

Given the uncanny accuracy of the rest of the reading. I had no reason to doubt the veracity of her soothsaying, and so swanned out of the rent-a-tent safe in the knowledge that everything was all going to work out.

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