“I love reading your blog because I feel like I can totally relate with kids around the same age as yours. With the second kid, I’ve found that relationships with friends are much more difficult to maintain. How do you balance full-time mommy hood with maintaining friendships as well?”
Ugh. Tell me about it, sister. Remember what life was like pre-kids with friends? I sometimes like to torture myself and daydream about what life was like back then – spontaneous hang-outs, talks that lasted hours upon hours upon hours with no requirements of when you had to be home, trips, seeing each other multiple times each week, being such an integral part of each other’s lives …
Yeah, things are a little different now.
Here’s the thing about life. You have 24 hours in every day, and you have certain things that are “musts” that fill up the 24 hours, and the rest of the time is free to use as you see fit. We have to sleep, eat, work, take care of babies, do the day-to-day stuff like laundry and cooking and cleaning and paying bills. Somehow on top of keeping children alive and doing all that other stuff you also need to nurture all the relationships in your life. It makes me exhausted just to think about.
Everywhere we look we are reminded not to neglect the relationships in our lives once we become parents. Well, that is a lovely, amazing idea but I haven’t found it particularly attainable. Here’s the cold hard truth – SOMETHING in your life is going to have to give. Something is going to have to take a back seat for a little bit.
For some, friendships are the things that cannot give, they are necessary and need to be prioritized. For some that might be time with their children while they are still young. For some it might be their career, for some their marriage. But it is impossible to make all those things a priority.
If I had my way, I would see my friends at least once a week. In reality, I see them MAYBE once a month, if I’m lucky. Add in illness and trying to coordinate schedules and babysitters, its amazing we see each other at all. For the first year after I have a baby, I am largely MIA. Thankfully I have understanding and persistent friends who don’t give up on me when I become an overwhelmed anxious hermit for an entire year following the birth of each child. They don’t take it personally, as they shouldn’t. I am just pretty worthless for about a year – I am trying to SURVIVE. Motherhood overwhelms me perhaps a little more than most, I feel I am slightly less equipped at being resilient and “bouncing back” after babies. It takes me a while. Right around the year mark I bounce back to life and feel like I can put energy and effort into friendships and life in general again, but before that point I am wiped out in pretty much all energy resources.
I think its important to prioritize the things that give you energy and life and happiness and be fierce in protecting those things. For me as an introvert, that means alone time. For many extroverts that’s going to mean time with friends socializing. I need that too, I just need alone time more.
This is a long-winded way of saying I am not the expert in making friendships the #1 in this overwhelming season of life.
Luckily I have friendships that are old enough to almost be of legal drinking age and one that even goes back nearly 30 years. I assume all of my close friends that I currently have will be friends for the rest of my life, they are that established and important to me. If your friendships can weather covering for each other peeing your pants in preschool, through hormones and the brutal nature of high school and junior high, through living together in college, through marriages and divorces and loss and success, I think it can also survive motherhood. But I think both sides need to be realistic about what is possible. Are we going to have spontaneous trips out of town and be able to stay out every weekend until the dawn? Probably not. Things are going to look different, and that’s okay.
I know I’m going to be useless to my friends for about a year after each baby. I try to reassure them I WILL BE BACK and I love them dearly and its nothing personal but that first year will be hard. I try to catch up via text as much as I possibly can as phone calls + babies + especially more than one child = nightmare. I try to schedule dates with friends when I can – a breakfast, brunch, coffee, lunch, drinks, dinner, yoga, walk, home date, basically anything that is going to work with both of our schedules. Sometimes there is lots of trying and little to no actual hanging out.
If your friends have kids of their own, playdates are always an option as well. They aren’t my number one choice, because when I am around my friends I crave their conversation, I want to have real talk and deep talk and pay attention to what they are saying. I usually leave playdates feeling about 8x more overwhelmed than I did before. They are hard for me and I am assuming most introverts – but I know many extroverts who LOVE playdates and that can be a really good way to get time in when there are kids involved. I also recently had lunch with a friend and both of our daughters who are just weeks apart in age and I can promise IT DOES GET BETTER. We actually got to chat and catch up a bit instead of constantly policing/chasing kids the entire time.
Sometimes this requires much advance scheduling, sometimes it involves spur of the moment stars aligning. It is work, even though its fun when it eventually works out – it is work to keep friendships alive after kids.
But oh my God – is there anything better than venting with a friend? Being able to escape your life for a while, to commiserate, to be validated, reassured, and encouraged? I derive great encouragement from knowing most of my friends are just as overwhelmed as me – that I’m not alone.
So the mythical “balance” that everyone tries to achieve isn’t met in a day, in my opinion. No day is going to be 100% “balanced”. I feel like balance may happen over many years, over decades in fact. So maybe friendships are different over the young baby years, maybe this is a valley in the peaks and valleys of priorities. Or maybe this is when you need your friends the most, and in that case I say, be fierce in protecting your time with them, be fierce in prioritizing it and making it happen. Maybe this season of life is full of frequent short check-ins, and less common all-night chat fests. But as our kids grow, I have faith that will change. We may never go back to what friendships were like before kids, but who knows – we might go somewhere even better.
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