We Think About Friendship All Wrong
I should probably acknowledge up front that I’m not a very good friend. I suck at keeping in touch with people. I’m not very proactive about reaching out. I don’t always remember birthdays. When it comes to responding to text messages, I have a spotty record, at best.
I’ve only made a handful of new friends in adulthood, and since becoming a mother, I’ve lost more friends than I’ve made. Motherhood is, in fact, a turning point in many friendships. Fatherhood certainly can be too, but more fathers are able to hold onto their sense of autonomy in those early years, enjoying permission from society to continue their own lives outside the home. Motherhood, by contrast, tends to be all-encompassing, whether or not we want it to be.
I’ve been reading quite a bit lately about this turning point from the perspective of women who are not having children, whether by choice or circumstance, and how difficult it has been for them to watch their friendships fall by the wayside, one by one.
For many of us, our 20s are vaguely Friends-esque, even if we’re not hanging out 24–7 with the same five people in coffee shops and gorgeous Manhattan apartments. But our social lives still revolve around a loose group of other people around our age — people who, like us, are finding their way in the world, getting bills for things we didn’t know we had to pay for, and finally understanding why our parents always yelled at us for leaving the lights on.
Then the marriages start, fraying the edges of our friendships. But it’s the babies that bring them to their knees. And of course, this is often painful and isolating — for all of us involved.
For those of us having the babies, we find ourselves suddenly tethered to a small creature who prevents us from doing most of the things that previously defined our social lives, including anything that conflicts with nap time, anything that conflicts with feeding time (which for both my babies was every hour, on the hour), or anything that conflicts with bedtime. For those of us not having babies, it becomes increasingly difficult to find people to hang out with, let alone talk to, let alone carry…