Making Friendships Work When You’re a Mom
“I have to get off the phone, I am just a lost cause today. I’m so sorry!”
These are the exact words I said to my friend today as I tried to carry on an adult conversation while momming. I have two kids, and they were each on one side of me. One was reading school books aloud, the other was “reading” by repeatedly asking “Whatsat, Mommy?” as he pointed to the pictures in the book he was holding. There I was trying to answer the toddler, assist the kindergartner and find out more about my friend’s new job. I was failing at all three simultaneously.
Maintaining friendships when you have kids is a pretty big challenge. Seven years ago, I would spend hours on the phone with the same friend I hurriedly hung up on this afternoon. Now, as a 24-7 Mom, lasting 15 minutes on a call is an absolute miracle. So how do I stay connected with all of the awesome people who not only like me, but love me (and my kids!) and want to know what’s going on in our lives? What do I do when one of my friends is going through a breakup or job hunt, and needs a supportive ear? I make a conscious effort to scoot friendships up my ladder of priorities. And you can too!
There’s basically no such thing as balance when you’ve got a newborn, but after that initial phase of being at the beck and call of a babe’s sleeping (or not sleeping) schedule, you can work to find family-friend balance. Set weekly or monthly coffee dates or dinners with your local besties. For friends who are further away, maybe designating a time for phone calls or video chats will work. Kids are experts at ruining even the best-laid plans, like skipping naps on the one Saturday you planned to dash out for tea with friends. So have a backup date in mind, too. Whatever you do, don’t cheat yourself out of much needed social time. Behind every great Mama is a team of supportive friends!
Be Straight Up
Warn your comrades who don’t have kids that your conversations may not be as fluid as they once were. They should expect a bit of crying or fighting or sweet baby giggles in the background, and be okay with that. The goal is to keep your connection alive … not necessarily the same. True friends will recognize that this stage in your life includes the chaos of children and will be willing to have a few choppy conversations for the sake of keeping in touch. It also doesn’t hurt to be apologetic when calls get cut short or trips to the mall end in toddler tears. Good friends will be cool with your parenting drama, but they still deserve a bit of praise for taking it in stride.
Play Dates and Mom Dates
If you absolutely can’t fit in time away from the kids, work toward strengthening your friendships with moms you like. Some of my favorite mornings are spent at play dates. My boys get the benefit of non-stop fun with their buddies, and I get to chat, snack and relax with my good friends. We all know we’ll be interrupted by diaper changes or a fight over the orange playdough, so there’s no pressure to act like our carefree pre-motherhood selves.
Let It Go
This is totally uncomfortable to talk about, but let’s be real. All of your friends don’t have to stick around. If you’re having trouble making time for everyone in your inner circle, it might be time to prioritize a little bit. You might not have quite as much in common with some your friends as you thought you did. Because of this, inevitably some friends will ghost you after you have kids. You’ll emerge one day from your sleep-deprived fog and realize you haven’t heard from Kelly since, like, right after Ava was born. While it’s a pretty crappy feeling, maybe Kelly had the right idea. It’s not easy to maintain friendships while adulting, period. It gets even harder when you are in completely different phases of life. Your former BFF who doesn’t have kids may not want to meet for your weekly lunch at restaurants that have a play place. Just like you may not want to find and pay for a sitter to go to a concert that ends at 1 a.m., because your baby will wake you up at 5 a.m. Priorities change, and friends change. It can be painful, but that’s life.
When all else fails, harness the powers of the internet and use your smart phone to keep up with your besties. I write meaningful captions on Instagram posts to keep my friends informed, and I love reading their posts. For those who have kids but live far away, I get to see how much their little ones have grown and keep up with their daily lives. A private Facebook group can be a great way to discuss parenting challenges and questions, too. Social media definitely shouldn’t be the only way you connect with your crew, but it can certainly help!
Like I said, some friendships will never be the same. You’ll lose touch with people you once thought would be your best friends forever, but you’ll grow closer to others. After all, we all get by with a little help from our friends!