Women & Friendships Beyond Marriage & Parenthood

Friendship in Your 20s

Ladies, remember the friendships you had in high school and (if you didn’t marry young) into your early 20s? Remember how you could drop everything on short notice and meet your friends at the mall, restaurant, bar, etc.? Did you notice a change in your friendships after you or they married? As you get older, have you noticed continued changes as each of your friends married and even became parents – especially if each of those life events happened at different times?

Friend with Kids

These changes are difficult for many women on both sides of the coin. Women with children feel they are being avoided by their kid-free friends and often miss the freedom to drop everything and go do something with friends. Women with no kids don’t understand the stress and demands of being a parent and feel they aren’t important to their friends with kids anymore. Talking on the phone when there are kids awake and demanding your attention or fighting with each other is a major challenge. It’s a big reason I stopped calling people. What was once a 15 minute phone call turned out one of two ways: 1) a 5 minute phone call with an empty promise to call you back in 10 minutes, or 2) a 45 minute phone call full of “hold ons” while you sit and listen to your friend discipline or otherwise tend to their children’s various needs.

Forming new friendships with women who have matching priorities is just as difficult because everyone has commitments and time constraints. Phone calls when both women have the above scenario happening in the background are now pointless. Finding time to meet without the kids is next to impossible, and if possible may be at a nearby location for 30 minutes at best. Play dates are your best bet, but enjoy them while you can because sooner or later, one of you will be pregnant again. If the planets align just right, maybe you’ll be pregnant at the same time and the crisis will be avoided. This is rare (not trying to be a buzz kill – just keeping it real).

Picture this … You have multiple children and a friend with multiple children about the same ages as yours. You are done having children, and your friend has another baby several years after her last. Baby comes along, and you “ooo” and “aww” over the baby for a few months. Then the baby child becomes more demanding of your friend’s time. Perhaps you manage to keep your friendship alive until the baby child is old enough to start school. Then the child becomes involved in activities. Game over.

I’m not even going to venture into what happens to a friendship when your kid and your friend’s kid start dating. Girlfriends fantasize about this in high school. Stop it! It may turn out alright, but it may not – especially if your parenting styles differ in any way. That’s all I have to say about that. :)

This also applies to siblings with children. As much as you want to keep the family bond strong, having children makes that very tricky. Hopefully, there are no hard feelings and nothing taken personally. Trying to schedule family get-togethers around the kids’ activities and other personal or kid-related commitments is hard.

As you get older, your priorities, values, and opinions change. Sometimes it’s best to have friends who are really more like acquaintances – those you see in social gatherings from time to time. Fellowship time at church is a good example of this. You get to socialize and gab about light topics for a while and then focus on your marital and parental commitments the rest of the week.

I have one local friend who I am comfortable sharing a fair amount with, but there are still topics we don’t discuss (politics being one of them). :) I have two lifetime friends 850 miles away that, to this day, I could share anything with. I miss them just as much today as I did 13 years ago after moving away, and I think of them daily. They are truly lifetime friends who mean the world to me! They get me!

So hold on to any close friends you had before marriage and children, but understand that lifestyle changes will have an affect on your friendships. If they love you as much as you love them, your friendship will stand the test of time! Also, know that newer friendships you form along the road of life may last or they may be temporary. That’s OK. As long as you have some type of social outlet from time to time, that’s enough to get your gab on. ;) Juicy gossip is usually not such a good idea anyway, but that’s for another post!

Back-to-School Facebook Repost Request

I’m not one to repost things or to ask people to repost things, but I saw this on Facebook today and thought I’d share it in a different way:

Special request to all you kids returning to school in the next few days: If you see someone who is struggling to make friends or being bullied because he/ she doesn’t have many friends or because they are shy or not as pretty or not dressed in the most “in” clothes –PLEASE step up. Say hi or at least smile at them in the hallway. You never know what that person might be facing outside of school. Your kindness might just make a BIG difference in someone’s life! PLEASE REPOST THIS.

I certainly agree with this thought and am so glad that I have kids that would never treat others this way and that don’t pick their friends based on what clothes they wear or however else they look on the outside. That doesn’t mean they’re never on the other end of this scenario. When they are, it really hurts. Especially when it’s received for no apparent reason and completely unexpected.

Once upon a time, there were two girls who were great friends (at least it appeared that way to me). They were able to share a lot with each other. One of them received some pretty heavy news and decided to keep it to herself, possibly fearing judgment. The news involved the need for surgery that would have life-long implications. She finally revealed all of this to her dear friend, and that friend was there with her the day of surgery. She was amazing at offering support and keeping spirits up!

Cut to several months later (probably along with the normal life changes that teenagers go through) and there came along what resembled a break-up. A new best friend came along. I get it – I really do. Interests change and when that’s not mutual, we find someone else with common interests to spend time with. When that happens, people usually don’t sever ties completely creating awkward silences when group situations bring them together in the same place. It’s kind of sad, and it does fit with the quoted repost request above. Step up (and I know that one half of the former duo has tried) and say “Hi!” A little casual conversation won’t kill, either.

That’s really all I have to say about this – and for the longest time, I chose not to say anything at all. However, this is my blog and my thoughts so there it is … out there.

Best Friends

How do you define a “best friend”? Frankly, I don’t like the term. There are those we are closer to at some point in our lives, and those aren’t always the same people we’re closer to at other points in our lives. This isn’t necessarily because of a falling out; but merely a change in interests perhaps. What two people had in common a year ago or more may not be the same now. That doesn’t mean the friendship dies. The people just drift apart a bit and (maybe) become closer to others. Rinse & repeat.

Lifestyle changes have altered many a friendship in my life. That’s fine. We don’t all need to see eye-to-eye on every aspect of life. Tax bracket, marital status, parenting styles, similarity in age of kids – all these things have come into play in my friendships. Sad, but true in some cases, but it’s a fact of life. There are friends I miss and think of often (hi Missy & Cara!), and there are others that I suppose will remain “friends” without the “best”. I prefer to roll that way actually.

I have one best friend in my life … ’til death do us part. He’s the one person I can be completely myself with and I don’t have to worry if he agrees with me or not. He still loves me just the way I am, in spite of (and maybe because of) my oddities. I can dump my feelings on him, and it doesn’t even matter if he has anything to offer in the way of a response. In fact, usually I think it’s better that way. I’m not all about the commiserating and lengthy conversations. A great babbling conversation with a girlfriend feels good every now and then, but I could survive without them. I have my blog and my family for that!

I’m so grateful for all the friends and acquaintances I have in my life. They’re all “the best”. I prefer not to have one “best friend” though. That’s all!