If there is one thing us moms are great at, it’s being able to commiserate with one another. We’ve been through so many of the same things that it’s easy to nod, say “mmhmm,” and give some witty advice…or hand over the bottle of wine, whatever works.
I have a really strong reaction though, every time I see one particular idea floating around online in my social media circles. I’m going to prepare myself with an umbrella, a poncho, or whatever I can grab because I feel like many of you might start throwing your snack or coffee (save the wine!) in my general direction when I tell you what it is…are you ready?
I hate reading about how it’s ok to put friendships on hold because of motherhood.
Like really, really hate it. There was one particular post I saw a while back (and has since started popping up in my news feeds again) with more and more friends sharing. The author claims she sucks at being a friend right now. Welcoming a new baby that is solely dependent on you for survival is not only amazing but exhausting. Multiply that by a hundred if you’re breastfeeding. Boom, you just pushed an RV through a gate made for a Smart Car and all of a sudden you have a 5th appendage. Welcome to motherhood! So feeling like you’re a sucky friend? That part I can support. Learning to balance these things is hard, you guys, and I think most everyone understands that.
The part I can’t get behind? Telling your friends to hold on and wait for you to be their friend again.
I am a mother of two small children under the age of 3. It goes without saying that I understand busy and tired. I most definitely understand what I’m saying might appear to sound like “add one more thing to your list of things-to-do.” But I truly don’t believe this parenting gig gets any easier. Different, yes, but not easier. I asked my husband about this and he agrees that if anything, it’s going to get harder: the juggling of school schedules, activities they may participate in, all on top of work and responsibilities at home. The baby phase is hard and sometimes all-consuming but the school age years will be, too. The teenage years? I don’t even want to think about them. I also refuse to acknowledge that one day I’ll be dropping my babies off at college and driving away without them.
But who’s going to help get me through all those tough years? Besides my hubby and a good Malbec, it’s my friends. I don’t imagine they’ll be there to help though if I don’t stick around and continue to make the effort our friendship deserves. If I ask my friends to hold on now, when is it going to be a ‘good time’ to go back to being a good friend?
Friendship may look a little different now that I’m a mom but I would never want a friend to think they’ve been pushed aside because my life has taken the path of motherhood. Some friendships with other moms have become stronger…after all, it is often easier to connect to someone going through the same struggles. But I embrace my friendships with non-parent friends just as much. Whether parents or not, I work hard to reach out and connect with my friends so that they know they are still important to me. They were my friends before I had kids, so they certainly still are. These relationships outside my family are vital to my feeling whole, sane, and connected.
It’s easy to use kids as an excuse. It’s also easy for non-parent friends to assume you will. Try not to, on both counts. The moment you, as a friend, set the bar as “I have kids, sorry I can’t” many friends will just stop trying. Can you blame them? I can’t. Nobody wants to hear “no” over and over. Non-parent friends: please don’t assume every friend you have with kids is going to ignore you. If you think that’s the case, you’ll probably include them less and less and it’ll seem like they’re too busy for you. Nobody can be there if they weren’t included! As a parent, I want to be included just like I was before. I’m still me, after all.
Texts might take a few extra minutes (maybe hours) to respond to, but they don’t ever get ignored. Happy hour might need more than a 45-minute notice so I can make sure my kids are cared for (and have enough time to wash my hair), but I will absolutely do everything I can to make it. Bar hopping might not work well anymore but I will always invite you over to have some wine, mix up some margs, and chat all night long. Ladies nights are some of my favorites – just give me at least a day or two’s notice so I can plan to make sure my family is set up for success before leaving for the night.
So, in defense of friendships during motherhood: please don’t count me out.
You, my friends, are so important. You’re crucial. Taking the time for myself to cultivate relationships outside my family unit not only fulfills some of my needs but it shows my kids that I’m not just a mommy and a wife, but also someone with an identity outside of that. I have interests and people I enjoy spending my time with, and I learn to balance it. That is what life is all about! It’s not perfect, I’m not perfect, but I am your friend and I will continue to show you that.