Can We Be Friends? — Abby Off the Record

Can We Be Friends?

by Abby on September 21, 2011

FriendsI’m not proud of it, but I’ve written off potential friends for entirely superficial reasons. These include: anti-TV bumper stickers, wearing full makeup at the gym, dressing their toddler in all white, and wearing heels at the playground. We can’t be friends. It’ll never work. We’re too different.

As a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer starved for adult conversation, I should take all the friends I can get. But I’m exhausted. I barely have the time or energy to keep up with the ones I already have.

There’s no denying the fact that friendships change once you become a mom. My first clue that this was the case was when I took a writing class in my third trimester with my first baby. Another student and I hit it off right away. Although she was single, we had tons in common, and we even dressed alike in Converse and cargo pants. Of course, mine were maternity pants.

We tried to keep in touch after class, but then I had my baby. We met once for lunch, but I was so sleep-deprived and distracted I can’t remember a thing we talked about. I think we both knew it could never work. We were at 2 different life stages.

Of course, I do have friends who don’t have kids, but I don’t see much of them. It’s hard to meet for a spontaneous night out when you have to get a sitter, prepare bottles, and get up the next morning before dawn. So we settle for the occasional coffee now and then.

As my kids have gotten older, I have found that in some ways it’s easier to make new friends. If you find yourself at swim lessons or preschool pick-up week after week with the same people, you start to strike up conversations. My definition of friend has changed, too—I have connected with some great people online that I’ve known for years now and never met in person.

I’ve also realized that I’ve been wrong about people. That’s right, I admit it: I judged and I was wrong. One mom I wrote off for being a Pollyanna turned out to be a great person who’s actually not annoying at all. I am also friends with a TV-free mom—we even joke about it now. (If you want to know how she does it, the answer is: work full-time, sign your kid up for every activity you can think of, and listen to lots of audio books.)

And one day after I took my son to the park after a meeting I realized with horror that *I* was that mom at the playground wearing heels. I sure hope no one wrote me off for that. It was an anomaly—I swear, I’m normally just like you.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Ali September 21, 2011 at 6:20 am

What’s wrong with the colour white?

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Abby September 21, 2011 at 7:46 am

That just tells me that the mom, or her kid, don’t get dirty. And we are ALWAYS dirty. See? Nothing in common. ;)

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Ali September 21, 2011 at 8:12 am

Okay. I have a 6-week-old, so I have to know/learn these things.

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Abby September 21, 2011 at 9:43 am

so YOU can’t be friends w/ someone whose 6wo is already sleeping thru the night! ;)

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Lou Mello September 21, 2011 at 8:22 am

We all do what you have done relative to friends, life changes and we move on in different places with changing priorities. The thing that I value a lot is long term friendships with folks that we may only see once a year or so, but, we stay in touch and we care about each other. You may only have a few of these in your life and that’s OK, the rest of your day to day time is filled with close and not so close acquaintances that we call friends. Some of these people may be life long friends and some may just be passing thru to a different stage in their life.
I think as long as we treat each other well and try to live the Golden Rule, then we will have many types of friends and that’s a good thing.

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Kathleen Basi September 21, 2011 at 8:52 am

I must still be a real introvert, because I go places and want everyone to Leave Me Alone, including my kids, so that they can entertain themselves on play equipment and let me write! :)

Seriously, though, I haven’t ever felt a real lack of female companionship, probably b/c I’ve always been a “one close friend at a time” kind of girl, and all my energy is devoted to maintaining my best friendship with my husband. Oh yes, and writing. LOL

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Abby September 21, 2011 at 9:44 am

I have those “leave me alone” days, too. :)

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Jennifer September 21, 2011 at 9:18 am

I think that stage of life makes strange bedfellows. Er, that wasn’t very clear, was it? I mean, sometimes we make friends with people because we’re both in the same stage of life, going through similar things, but not necessarily because we have the same world view, political or religious beliefs, sense of humor, etc.

I’m the kind of person who jokingly says that my motto in life is “If something is stupid, I tend to say so.” But yet, there have been times when I’ve bitten my tongue when a fellow mom starts to get all pious about never allowing processed foods to pass her children’s lips. Do I expect to become best friends with someone who clearly approaches life very differently from me? Probably not. But we can still be friends in another, more toned-down way. Um, except she can’t come visit my house because all the CheezIts and Star Wars fruit snacks might give her a coronary.

But oh, isn’t it nice when you find someone and you really connect? I love that feeling that you’ve discovered one of your people, one of your tribe.

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Abby September 21, 2011 at 9:45 am

Lou & Jennifer make a good point: not everyone has to be your BFF for life or soulmate. A variety of friends & acquaintances IS a good thing.

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Malia Jacobson September 21, 2011 at 5:49 pm

I think buying white clothes for your kids speaks to a certain innocent optimism. That’s a good quality in my book. :) One of the best things about motherhood, for me, is that I’ve connected with tons of people who I would have otherwise written off–but since we had children the same age, I was forced to spend enough time with them to discover that I actually do like them. And sometimes the people who grate on me the most when I first meet them end up being my favorites. Strange how that works.

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Malia Jacobson September 21, 2011 at 5:50 pm

P.S. if you don’t like white clothes on kids, don’t look at the family photo on my blog. :) But that was for our vow renewal, so we had an excuse.

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Abby September 22, 2011 at 10:16 am

Those pics are GORGEOUS, Malia! And that’s a good excuse. :)

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Kim September 21, 2011 at 11:00 pm

I had to laugh, because my four-year-old daughter’s favorite thing to wear is a white dress to the playground. I’ve given up and realize it’s only $12 spent and amazingly bleach as kept the dress white :) I really got what you’re saying here about making and keeping friends as we get older. Not only does being a mom and a wife drive out the time and energy we could devote to making new friends, but it seems like the older I get at least the harder I find it to relate to others. I guess I just have my own interests and lifestyle and when it comes to trying to blend it all with a new friend who is different, well, it doesn’t work because it takes too much effort. I really may like a lot of the women I meet who are very different from me, and am all smiles when we run into each other, but it definitely takes a certain person for me to make the effort to arrange time to spend together.

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Abby September 22, 2011 at 10:14 am

I hear you about the effort, Kim. My new mom friends are mostly ones who go to my gym or kids’ activities — we’re already there, so there’s no extra effort required to see each other. Perfect!

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Angie September 22, 2011 at 6:09 am

Ha! Am I the Pollyanna? This friend of yours is also paranoid. But I’ve had one of those weeks. You know this already, but I’m thrilled we’re friends. I can honestly say when we spoke on the phone a few times, I knew exactly who I was speaking to. And I bet if we got the chance to meet in person, it would be the same way. Could you imagine the play date we’d have? It would definitely involve a bottle of wine.

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Abby September 22, 2011 at 10:13 am

Nope, not you. You ARE paranoid! :) It is great knowing another writer-mom who really gets you. I’ll save a bottle of wine for our future playdate after your next little one is born!

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Angie Mizzell September 23, 2011 at 7:21 am

I’ll hold you to that. And thanks for being my friend, despite my paranoia. I’ll blame it on the hormones.

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Abby September 22, 2011 at 10:11 am

OK, OK, I take back what I said about dressing your kids in white. Sheesh, who knew there were so many of you? You must be better at stain-removal than I am. Just know that if we ever have a playdate, my boys will destroy those white clothes in 0.2 seconds!

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Kelli @ writing the waves September 23, 2011 at 12:21 am

hahaha – I had to laugh reading all the comments about wearing white. I swear, white clothes are like stain magnets with my kids. Even armed with my precious Zout stain remover, they don’t completely come out. It does work better than anything else though – you’ve gotta try it. It may just open up all kinds of new friendship possibilities. :)

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Shannon @ AnchorMommy September 23, 2011 at 3:16 pm

My daughter happens to be wearing a white shirt today, but generally, I’m totally with you on the white thing! The reason she’s in it is because Grandma gave it to her, Grandma is babysitting tonight, and the weather’s about to change so this is the only time she’ll probably ever wear it. Still, I had to think long and hard about whether I wanted to maintain the whiteness of the shirt today…

And also, this is such a timely post for me, because I think I’m making a new friend! It’s so exciting! She has one kid – a boy the same age as my baby girl – and after we ran into each other for the second time this week, I got home and she had sent me a message on Facebook with her phone number! She likes me! She really, really likes me! Maybe this new friendship might actually work out? It’s so weird though, about how some friendships fizzle and others hardly take a hit when you’re a mom. I still meet a childless former co-worker friend of mine for coffee quite often, about once a month! How weird is that?

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jetts31 September 24, 2011 at 1:26 am

Maybe its a guy thing, but I held on to my high school and college friends for as long as I could after each stage of academia ended. I wanted to stay connected to my buddies and swore nothing would split that.
Then I had kids. I found myself less interested in beers and football and more interested in Dora and tea parties and the people who shared those interests too. Its not to say I’m not friends with them but I had to put them to the side. Our interests, our directions, were different, though they will always be my friends, I find myself gravitating towards other parents.
But it is nice, occasionally (rarely if you ask my wife) to get together with those guys.

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