Friendship as an adult is so hard. Friendship as a parent is even harder. You want friends, you need friends, but family has to be a priority. And family life is busy and full and leaves very little room for friendship. At least deep and committed friendships. This is something I’ve really been struggling with the last few months. And to be honest, the last ten years.
When you’re a kid, friendship is so easy and carefree. You find the people that make you happy and you spend as much time with them as possible. You laugh, you play, and you definitely never feel any guilt over the time spent together. You know time with friends will make you happy and you cling to that.
When you’re a teenager, you live for your friendships. Your friends are your allies against the world. You want to spend as much time with them as possible because they understand you. They crave the same kind of connection that you do and they’re willing to sacrifice whatever to keep that friendship alive.
As a young married couple, at least in our experience, you look for friends in the same situation as you. You hope to find couple friends that you can both connect with, You want to be with your spouse as much as possible, and it’s all the more fun when you find another couple that wants to join your circle. It’s still relatively easy and a priority to stay connected.
And then you have kids. Life changes in ways you never even thought possible. It’s probably the time in your life when you need adult friendships the most, but they’re thrown to the wayside. How can you possibly give up time with your precious baby? Family should always come first when a tiny person depends on you. Right?
This is when my dilemma hits. Because I know my family is important and I want to be with them. But I still desperately crave the deep connection with other women. I feel guilty for feeling that way because nobody else seems to feel it. So many of my friends are so enamored with their children and can’t bear the thought of even the occasional night away from them. And I get it…and I don’t. Can’t our friendship sometimes be the priority? Aren’t you lonely too?
Perhaps my problem is that I always expect too much out of friendships. My best friend Dianne and I have been friends for 27 years. From the time we were five and I moved into her neighborhood, we’ve had the greatest bond. Almost all of my childhood memories revolve around time we spent together. It’s certainly gotten harder as we’ve gotten older. Mostly because we haven’t lived in the same part of the country for the last eleven years. But we try to see each other at least once a year in person, and we talk every day. Emails back and forth every single day. It’s not the ideal form of friendship because I wish we could hang out in person. But we’re still so close. She knows about every single up and down in my life because we talk about it. Every day. Because I’ve known and continue to know that deeper level of friendship with my best friend, I want that with other people. And it’s an impossible standard.
Making friends has always been incredibly hard for me. In high school I had Dianne, and I had the people that I worked with. I got a job right at the start of freshman year, so all four years of high school were spent working. Which I don’t regret, because I made some very awesome friends in that time. But then came college and I was thrown into a world I wasn’t prepared for. I had a single dorm room, so I was never forced to spend time with any one person the way most college roommates are. Greg and Dianne were both a mile or two away at the UW campus, so I didn’t feel that huge need to search out other friends. I joined a few things and made some friends, but none those relationships stood the test of time.
After Greg and I got married and moved to Minnesota, it felt even harder. The only reason I made any friends at all was because I got a job and started to get closer to a few people. Greg met a few people at work and we started having game nights and get togethers. We had two couples we felt especially close to and life was feeling pretty good. And then I had Caden. And became a stay at home mom. And never saw anybody because my entire world revolved around him and his needs. It suddenly became impossible to make new friends.
In the years since I birthed that always hungry, never sleeping, heart consuming little person that needed me, I’ve had a different purpose in life. But that’s never changed the fact that I miss friendships with other women SO MUCH. When we moved back to WI, and Caden started speech therapy and then preschool, at least I had opportunity to start meeting people. But I’m very shy, reserved, and taking the initiative to get to know new people was incredibly difficult. I started to make bonds with other parents in Caden’s classes, spending time together over playdates and parties and school events. It was easier to see people for a few minutes a day, share a tidbit of information about life at that moment, and then go back to our mommy duties. I had friends. But it wasn’t enough.
Which I guess brings me to now. The stay at home mom without any kids at home. Want to know how hard it is to keep up with your friends when you no longer have a little one at home to make playdates for?? My days are spent trying to work. Their days are spent watching their kids and having playdates with other friends that still have kids at home during the day. All of our afternoons are packed with after school activities. Evenings are for family dinners and spending quality time together. Nights are spent with our husbands. There’s little to no room for each other in our daily lives. Not in the ways that it really counts.
I do have friends. And I appreciate them. But I miss them, if that makes sense. I’m not very happy with quick exchanges here and there. I want more and I don’t know how to get it. Sometimes I get sick of being the one that always takes initiative. That’s not intuitive to me. It’s not easy for me. But looking back over this last year, if I didn’t take the initiative I never would have done anything with my friends. NOBODY invites me to do things. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to hang out with me!! Or maybe it’s because everyone feels too busy and overwhelmed and just as lost as me at finding better ways to connect and fit our friendships into our lives. It’s a struggle that I don’t really know how to deal with anymore.
Lately I’ve been finding myself becoming more reserved than ever. I want to protect my heart. I’ve had too many friendships over the years fall to pieces over something that could have been worked out, but nobody made the effort. I always get so excited after I have a meaningful conversation with one of my friends. When we actually talk about something beyond the surface stuff. And then it’s weeks before another conversation happens and I simply feel deflated. It takes so much work for so little long term fulfilment.
I wish I had some sort of hopeful and encouraging way to end this post of rambling. One thing I’ve been reminding myself lately is that the friends I have right now do not necessarily need to be the friends I have for the rest of my life. I HOPE to still be friends with some of the wonderful ladies in my life. I hope that as our kids get older we’ll somehow find ways to stay in each other’s lives. But I want to be open to new friendships too. Maybe find the people that feel the same way as me. The women that deeply crave an emotional connection with someone outside of their family walls.
So with summer ahead of me, I’m going to add this as another little goal for myself. I want to try and be more open with the people I usually just say a passing hello to. I want to put out feelers for people that I could get to know a little more. And I want to try harder with the friends I already have, even though it leaves me feeling very uncertain to always be the initiator. TIME is the only way to make a friendship work. Sharing and honesty are important too. I hope I can come out of this summer feeling a lot better than how I’m going in.