Meet friends who meet you where you are in life. Let go of ones that don’t. (Katie Morton, “5 Ways To Find Your ‘New’ Self After Having Kids“)
When I got pregnant with my first child, it was a source of tremendous pain for me to witness the gradual dissolution of several close friendships. It’s not that I didn’t care about those people anymore, or vice versa, but there was such a huge shift created by my change in lifestyle that many of the things we’d shared no longer united us or brought us together on a regular basis. Friendships require time as a basic commitment, and if there really was no way for us to spend time together without feeling awkward and uncomfortable, it was tough to keep the friendship going.
That’s why the first year after A.’s birth was challenging, because I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. My university friends were still partying and dating when they weren’t spending long hours in the library. The women with babies were older, married, and most had had careers, so there wasn’t much in common there either. I continued to attend classes quietly before returning home to nurse my newborn. My life became constricted to three-hour windows. At least I lived with two cousins, who are more like sisters, and my boyfriend was also very supportive, but I missed having fun, young, energetic friends I could call whenever I felt the urge to go out.
Then I moved to this small town and had a revelation. As silly as it sounds, I discovered that moms are still people, with individual interests and personalities and fascinating lives (well, perhaps slightly more fascinating before kids!). For so many years, I’ve objectified mothers as a superhuman species who have the answer to everything, know how to do everything, can fix every problem. I’m guessing this is normal for kids to feel until they grow up and have kids of their own, but it wasn’t until I started socializing with mothers on a regular basis that I began to view them as potential friends who, as the quote suggests, “meet me where I’m at in life.”
I no longer assume, “Oh, they’re ten years older than me, so why would they want to hang out?” Instead I think, “Wow, I wonder what she’s done in life, where she’s been, who she is.” I’ve happily discovered that many of the moms I call friends now are actually far more interesting than any of my university friends were because, well, they’re grown ups. They’re mature, educated, well-traveled, opinionated, experienced, funny, and patient. And because they’re established in families, significantly less conversation time is spent analyzing relationships, boyfriends, and nights out on the town. Basically, they’ve moved beyond that, and it’s refreshing because, like it or not, I’ve moved beyond that, too.
I still feel guilty at times for not feeling or maintaining a connection with past friends who once meant a great deal to me but, as our paths in life diverge, it’s harder to find common ground. It makes me really sad, because I have so many wonderful memories from certain relationships that now feel stilted and awkward when we do reconnect, but maybe that’s part of growing up. People enter our lives at different points for different reasons and serve a purpose for a time, but then we evolve and the friendship usually can’t last forever. The quote gives permission to let go, to know when a friendship has run its course.
I hope I don’t sound too pessimistic here; I’m not saying that every friendship is doomed to die eventually, because that’s not true. I have a number of dear friends who’ve known me since I was a child. I’m just needing to acknowledge that disconnects do exist, and are common when circumstances take two people in different directions. When it comes to mom friends, though, I feel like I’ve discovered some fabulous secret; now that I’ve realized the humanity and individuality of mothers, I’ve opened up a limitless source for meeting and making new friends. That’s very exciting.