Last Saturday I met with some new friends for appetizers and drinks. We laughed, talked, lip glossed, ordered another round and laughed some more. It was so much fun and didn't feel like a lot of effort or hard work to meet up. We didn't take any pictures or Instagram our pretty mango margaritas. Sometimes when I'm having fun and wrapped up in giggling and conversation, it almost feels very inorganic to yell, "STOP! Let's take a picture, guys." So no pictures this time. Which, I think, was clearly indicative of too good of a time.
As I mentioned, these ladies are new friends, all moms with three or more children. I was thinking about several conversations I've participated in regarding the subject of female friendships, in particular, making and keeping friendships with other moms or as a mom with small children. Sometimes it all just seems so difficult and like more work!
After having two babies in two years I went into what I call a "social funk." I really didn't want anything to do with leaving the house. I would have grand ideas about going out with friends, getting out and socializing again. I would even make plans. But as the day approached, I slowly but surely started coming up with excuses as to why I couldn't possibly follow through with my plans. And I cancelled. This happened about 90% of the time. Why? Because I just didn't feel like it. I didn't have a better reason.
This is so totally different than before having my second and third child. We hosted parties, we attended just about everything we were invited to, we had plans every weekend, and we had a big group of friends that always showed up.
But it's so different after you have kids! The cliche is right. I remember talking about this subject with an older woman. I was complaining to her that it was really hard to maintain friendships at the time when I had a baby just over one year old and a toddler with a lot of special needs. She looked at me very knowingly and said, "That's just how it is at this stage. You'll come back together with your friends. You will."
I've been hearing her voice lately.
When I finally emerged from my social funk and started accepting invites again from the few people who were still inviting, I still felt as if I couldn't show up all the time. I started hanging with new moms -- moms of small children, moms who had children with special needs, online moms -- and my group of friends started to look a lot different than it did before.
At this point, if I'm being totally honest, there are two people I talk to on a daily basis. My husband and my best friend. I also have a handful of people I talk to at least once a week, usually by text or Facebook. And then I have friends that I see or talk to a few times a month through Facebook or text. We do things every once in awhile and I'm ever so grateful these friends still think to invite us to parties and get-togethers even when we keep saying no.
I used to feel really bad about that. And I would wonder when the day would come that these friends would just stop inviting all together. I wrestled with not being an available friend and not really showing up to a lot of things for old friends because this wasn't holding up my end of the bargain as a friend.
I finally just had to concede to a few truths. At this point in my life, I'm not going to be good at maintaining friendships. I can't be responsible for regular catch ups and get-togethers. I can't even be trusted to show up. I can do what I'm doing right now. I can text and Facebook friends like nobody's business. I can get together with four awesome women on a 48 hour notice if my husband is home or with the right babysitter that just so happens to be available. I can meet for coffee or Starbucks and Target like a boss. I can do Pilates classes together, go to the gym together, or a lunch every now and then. That's what I can do right now. Maybe it'll be different in the future. But right now? I'm just not a great friend.
I won't lie. I fall victim to friend envy. This is when I see pictures of women with a whole gaggle of girlfriends. All of them close and in each other's lives for the last twenty years. I think -- Wow! That would be so nice to have so many close friends like that. But then I react in the same way as when I see a newborn and I think it's cute. My very next thought is -- but that looks like a lot of work. I just can't maintain that, nor do I want to.
This realization about myself and being okay with it comes as a surprise to me. Having my first son at seventeen was a very lonely experience. There was no Facebook or online mommy group and there weren't a lot of 18-year-olds I knew of that were hosting playgroups for their babies. Now I look back and think that maybe that was all I could handle. Just a baby and myself. Barely.
Now, I'm embracing it. I'm giving my all to the close relationships I have now. I have really great online friendships that I consider very real. They're some of my closest, actually. And you know why? Because I can wait until the rest of my life is sleeping and send an email at midnight if I want to. That's the kind of friendship I can maintain right now. That's what I can do.
So if you find yourself with small children and you're having a hard time making friends or keeping friends, don't fret. I've been told it's a stage and that there will be a time for friendships and a social life again.
I'm cool with that.
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