Ah, making friends.
Over the past few years, I've accepted the fact that I'm terrible at making friends. I think I'm approachable and friendly — so it could be worse — but I'm the typical introvert with social discomfort that ranges from awkwardness to anxiety. I'm not one to open up easily or get real touchy-huggy, but I'm The Good Listener. The Observer and Analyzer. So I might bring something to the table, but it's certainly not of the table-dancing variety. (Not anymore, at least.) And to top it off (and to be completely honest) sometimes too many friends leads to too many obligations and unnecessary stresses — and I just don't have the mental capacity for that crap. (I've had enough mean-girl experience in the past to tolerate it from full-grown adult women. Nuh-uh. I'm out.)
But friends are important, you guys. It's important to find "your people" — people who support you, "get" you, inspire you. People who bring you up rather than weigh you down. Unfortunately that requires a fair amount of editing — and there's no better indicator of a good friend than a major life change. Who sticks by you? Who suddenly avoids your calls?
And yet finding friends is one of the biggest complaints among young moms — only second to lacking confidence. (And don't the two often go hand-in-hand?) It's easy to assume it's a "young mom" thing — having diverged into a wildly different lifestyle, uncharted territory, without any friends who can point you in the right direction with a sympathetic pat. It's tough — friends eventually stop texting because they know you won't be able to come out this weekend. Your "catch up" phone calls become sparse, your conversations feel one-sided, until one day you hang out and it feels like you've been implanted into a familiar yet foreign life. Not to mention new friendships require effort and nurturing, and you're running on about 3 hours of sleep, there's a human attached to your nipple, and your most well-researched conversation topic has to do with poop.
Then when you're actually in a room with similarly sleep-deprived people who can converse fluently in Fecal Matter, they might be 10 or 15 years older. And 70% of them aren't people you'd ever voluntarily hang out with. Like, ever. Add in the insecurity about feeling judged about your age and looks? Ugh, forget it. What's new on Netflix?
But it's not just young moms — it's all moms. It's all adults.
I've come to understand a few things about new-mom friendships:
1. A lot of pre-baby friendships drift apart in the 20-something years, regardless of having kids.
For our entire lives, friendships were dictated by circumstance and convenience. Here were the 20 kids in your elementary class, the 10 kids in your neighborhood, the 300 kids in your graduating class. But the 20-something decade is when we have our biggest growth — we mature, we make life-altering decisions, we change. We move for jobs or love. We scatter and forge new tribes.
Having a baby at a young age certainly drives a wedge between "you" and "them" — for sure — but you're not the only one struggling with this issue. We're all reevaluating the people in our lives and trying to invite new people in, based on personality and similar interests rather than a coincidental class schedule. We're all moving in different directions.
And it's hard, man.
Especially on those of us who maybe uprooted our lives across the country, or who stay at home with the kids, or who work on the Internet and engage in virtual relationships without any real social interaction (ahem). Working in an office makes it a little easier to bond with like-minded people, but the isolation of motherhood + the lack of mom friends can be pretty lonely.
But really, that's true for a lot of young adults — baby or not.
It's hard to let go of friendships, to accept that people have changed. That you've changed. But that's growing up.
Amy on Facebook said: "Keeping friends is going to be very difficult. Once you have a baby, your friends without kids won't understand your life anymore. Making friends is a bit easier. Seasoned mommies love giving advice and sharing stories. Ask for an opinion or help.
Karen on Facebook said: "Keeping friends: Don't bale on plans. When we made plans they were written in blood and only a medical emergency superseded the pre-arranged plans. We made plans every 2 months and have kept this going for over 4 years and we relish every minute we are together."
@c_pichardo tweeted: "I've found the friends that genuinely love my daughter are the keepers."
2. Motherhood can level the playing field — sometimes.
It's easy to hole yourself up like a hermit during those early baby/toddler years, but then all of a sudden you're hosting 10 sets of preschool parents at a birthday party, most of whom you don't know beyond the obligatory "hello" at school drop-off. Your kid is making friends and asking for play dates, which means you sit in the living room with a stranger, one eye on the clock, wondering how much time needs to pass before you can bow out.
The thought of this used to send me into a full-on panic, except I've been surprised one too many times. Surprised by how lovely other moms can be, how much commonality we can find — despite our generational or lifestyle differences.
It's opened me up to people I never knew I wanted to meet. I've met some of my favorite people through Noah — some are my age, some are closer to my Mom's age — but friendships can come from the most unexpected places. Please don't limit yourself or judge older parents the way that you feel judged. We're all just looking for people to connect with — and we're all totally uncomfortable doing it.
Anney on Facbook suggest connecting with moms by talking about "mummy/baby health"
...Like, saaaay, poop. MomChalant says, "Talk about poop. Every mom has a million poop stories to share."
And TeenMomNYC suggests virtual communities (like this one! right here!)
3. Friendship takes effort. And sometimes we're the A-holes.
We're the ones who went ahead and made a tiny human who takes all of our time and shifts all of our priorities. We're the ones canceling plans (his nap!) and talking about sleep training and parenting philosophies. We're just as guilty for not putting in effort — for not calling or answering texts. And just as much as we feel justified in flaking out, it's a bummer on the other end of the line.We feel like they don't want to hang with us anymore, and they feel like we don't want to hang with them anymore. They see their friends starting families and settling down, and — as happy as they might be for us — it might make them feel sad or uncomfortable. Or even annoyed as hell. #MYFRIENDSAREMARRIED exists for a reason.
Christina on Facebook said, "Be proactive. If you want to hang out with someone don't wait around for them to call you. Make the plans you want to have."
Christine Coppa tweeted in: "theme night dinners with friends. My friends and I do white wine tues. and Joe Tejas night! The kids love it too — not the wine."
I know that making and maintaining friendships can be the worst, and it's something I definitely could work on. But until then, I have you guys. I have your comments and messages and emails. I have the incredible women who I (virtually) chat with on a weekly/monthly basis, and who — if I'm lucky — I get to see at conferences and blogging parties once in a blue moon. I have friends — not just co-workers or acquaintances, but friends — who I've never actually met. It's wild — but a friend is a friend.
So thank you for being mine.
What are some of your best tips for making friends as a grown up?