I used to have a lot of friends. Just a couple of years ago, I felt like I belonged in a pretty strong group of friends. We all had kids the same ages. We were all stay at home moms. We met often for playdates and park visits. When we didn’t have something extra planned, we still saw each other multiple times a day at school drop offs and pick ups. Our kids were in sports together, we met at each other’s houses for coffee, we had girls’ nights at a local bar. I felt part of something and so grateful to have those women in my life.
Fast forward a small handful of years and I feel like I’ve lost almost all of that. The couple of people I felt closest to started pairing off and I became the third wheel that was eventually left behind. A lot of my friends had another round of babies, which also made me feel excluded – not only because I wasn’t going to have any more, but because I didn’t want to. Some friends started full time jobs, some friends moved their kids to different schools. My kids both became full time students and I entered that weird and misunderstood arena of “work at home mom.” I don’t have kids around during the day to schedule play dates that benefit me more than anything. The richness of my friendship circle changed so drastically in such a short time that some days I have a really hard time dealing with it.
I still see many of those original friends every single day when I pick up my kids. But it’s different. It’s distant. It’s full of small talk and amiable hello’s that bring nothing to my desire for true and meaningful and real friendships. It’s awkward and lonely and so many days I’d prefer to stay at home in my hideout just to avoid another round of shallow nothingness.
I’m not sure if I’m the one to blame for what I’ve lost. Sometimes I wonder if my parenting style alone is something that’s kind of launched me away from the group. I love my kids. But I’m not a helicopter parent. I don’t rush to their side if they fall down. I don’t really care if they’re rolling around in the mud and destroying their clothes. I don’t try to monitor their relationships and watch everything they’re doing at all times. I’ve never been one to get down on the floor and play at their level. And I’m terrible at interacting with kids that aren’t my own. I like that my kids can get hurt and brush it off two seconds later, without needing to run to me for comfort. I like that they’re not super sensitive and having their feelings hurt a million times a day by what other people might say to them. But I think I’m in the minority. And perhaps I’m judged for it.
I’m also just really bad at being myself with people. Or maybe the problem is that I’m too much myself and that scares people off. I’ve written about it before, but I had a mishap with a friend a few years ago that really put me on edge about how much I share with people. Every conversation I have with her I feel like I’m being judged and looked down on. I’m terrified of being honest about anything, because my honesty isn’t always positive. And that’s a problem with her. I like to be honest about what I’m going through, what my life is really like. Which is why I love to write because writing makes honesty easy. But in person? People aren’t usually ready for that kind of vulnerability. Not in a casual after school conversation at least. And when that’s the only time I ever get to interact with people, it leaves me with nothing worthwhile to say.
I think I’m also just really bad at interacting in general! I’m home alone all day every day. I’ve lost the ability to have conversations with people. I’ve always been shy and I hate being the center of attention in a group. If I see two friends talking, there’s very little chance I’ll go and interrupt them. And when I see someone else alone, I’m even more scared to make the initial contact. I’m guessing having a child attached to me is what gave me the courage to find friends a few years ago in the first place. But without that buffer, I don’t know what to say. I’m a socially awkward mess. Which makes me retreat. Which comes off as stuck up or standoffish or uninterested. Which isn’t the case! I just don’t know how to be functional female friend anymore.
In the last year, hoping to move my closest friendships to a deeper level, I’ve really just focused on feeding those few people that I had the most connection with. Without realizing it, I kind of dropped the ability to hold on to the rest. But things have been good with the few. We don’t see each other as often as I’d like, but we do make an effort. Circumstances have recently changed which has made it even harder. They’ve made life changes which were right for them and their families. But selfishly, I hate how hard it’s been on me. So hard. Because now that I don’t see either of them on a daily basis – or even a weekly basis – I’m realizing how much I’ve lost in the last few years. How many people I used to be close to that now would really rather have nothing to do with me. And it’s a lonely place to be.
With all that behind me, I’m trying to figure out how to get my friends back. Maybe not even the friends of the past. I’m completely open to finding new friends, though it seems so hard when I’m sitting in a house by myself working day in and day out! I’m trying to reconfigure how to make friendships work when we all have families, we all have some type of job, we’re all incredibly busy. But I desperately, desperately don’t want to let the hope of true friendship go.
I feel like consistency is the key in all relationships. If you don’t SEE each other, how can you be close? If you’re not living life together, how can you be the best of friends? If you’re not vulnerable and open, what’s the point? I crave those relationships in my life. I know there are so many things I could do to make them happen. Or at least start them blooming. I could ask people over for coffee. I could plan a monthly girls’ night the way we used to do, open to anybody that needed it. I could schedule afternoon playdates. Dog park meetups for our kids AND dogs. I could ask someone if they’re interested in taking a walk with me once a week. The list of possibilities is endless. The problem is actually doing it. Taking that leap of faith even though it means risking rejection. I hate nothing more than rejection. It hurts me to my core, even if someone has a very logical reason for saying no. With every no, it stops me from asking the next ten times I think about it. It’s so easy to give up and hole away. I don’t want to be that annoying person that tries to tear people away from their families. I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want people feeling obligated to spend time with me because I ask so many times. And so, I don’t. But I wish I did.
I know there is hope for me. There is hope for everyone. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who is missing this in my life. But I can’t be. Right?? Even though my friendship numbers have greatly diminished over the years, they’re still important to me. And I want to treat them with as much importance as I used to. And I want to be open to making more friends. Maybe people I didn’t have a lot in common with a few years ago, but can align more closely with who I am today. And I don’t want to just sit around waiting for people to come to me because experience shows that doesn’t really happen. It’s time to open up, take a few risks, and make my friendships strong again.