Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Motherhood Can Be Lonely

Today, my very good friend D is closing on her house and moving back to her home state, Illinois. I've known her for many years (nine? ten?) and I'm going to miss her like crazy. We met when we volunteered together; we then worked together briefly; we became friends. We have laughed together; cried together; confided in each other. Most recently we shared our first pregnancies and have been navigating the rough waters of new motherhood together. Her advice and support have been invaluable. I will miss that.

Her departure has really highlighted how disconnected I feel from many of my friends; the friends she and I have shared over the years. I was the first in this group to become pregnant and have a baby and I was thrill when D found out she was pregnant just a few months after me.

She has been there for me - she has continued to call me; to visit with me; to invite me to do things and go places. Many of my other friends have not. I'm often not included on the list of invitees for a movie night or an afternoon at the pool or dinner parties or drinks after work or trips to the mall. Where I used to be included I'm now left out. With D's departure, I worry that I will be forgotten completely.

Parenthood can be hard on friendships. This is something that none of the books tell you, how to navigate friendship post partum. I know it has been difficult for some of my friends to accept; my new identity as mom, my new job as stay-at-home mother. It's been hard for me, too.

I make excuses for them. They don't know what is a good time to call, so they just don't call at all. They think it will be too difficult for me to find a sitter at the last minute so they don't invite me to impromptu happy hours or movie nights. They think toddlers are too much of a handful to invite to cook outs or pool parties; that I'll just spend all my time chasing them and not have any fun. But, they could still call right? Invite me even though they think I won't attend? Just so I won't feel like a friendless loser?

And, it's my fault too. I don't call either. I don't invite anyone over. I'm tired all the time. All I talk about is my kids. Maybe that's it? I'm just not all that interesting anymore?

There's also the fact that in the past two years, their lives have changed as well. There have been new jobs and new homes and new relationships and break ups and graduate school and millions of other life changes. So possibly this growing apart would have happened anyways and that it has nothing, or very little, to do with my status as SAHM of two. But I doubt that, as many of them are still very connected to one another. It feels very much like I am the only one on the outside.

And, it's not to say none of my old friends ever call. My friend Amy came over this week to help with the boys when I asked; she regularly emails to touch base. My friend Kate always makes sure I'm on the invite list for happy hours, even though she knows that chances of my making it in to DC during happy hour (= dinner, bed, bath time in these parts) are slim to none. I am invited to wine club events, when they occur. But my other friend Kate (I know lots of Kates and Amys, what can I say)? I haven't heard from her since shortly before I had Oscar. She didn't even call after he was born to congratulate me. I was so hurt, I never bothered to call her again.

This has been a hard pill to swallow, feeling left out. It was harder after Oscar; I've come to accept it now that I'm entering my third year of motherhood. I've made some new friends, but I'm not a playgroup Mommy so it's been tough. I've reconnected with some old friends who are parents of small children close in age to my own. That has been incredibly gratifying and I am thankful beyond words for them. They keep me centered; they make me feel connected; they validate my feelings and frustrations; they get me out of the house. Some of them live hundreds or thousands of miles away, but I still count them among my closest friends these days. I know I'm lucky to have them in my life.

I miss very little about my life before Oscar and Miles were born. I do not miss my office job. I do not miss my fancy clothes or expensive hair cuts. I do not miss drinking to excess or the way it left me feeling the next morning. But I do miss my friends.


Heidi said...

You said a mouthful girl. And you are not alone. The same thing happened to me. I've heard once our kids reach school age we will form more friendships with the other moms. I hope so. Because like you, my two best friends live thousands of miles and 2-3 time zones away. It's tough. And there is no good answer. But remember - you always have us! Granted, you won't be invited to my house for dinner any time soon (the 6 hour plane ride might put a damper on your appetite), but we bloggers are always available for a virtual chat over a cuppa.

Unknown said...

Oh, sweetie! I feel the same way. I think of you as the friend with all the friends!

Sprite's Keeper said...

I understand. When John and I moved across the state way before we were pregnant with Sprite, it was so easy to jaunt back and forth. Now? Hell no. We now have friends within Sprite's daycare program and I even know a few bloggers in the immediate area for playdates, but it's still a lonely routine. Unfortunately, with motherhood, YOU have to be the one to reach out.

Angela said...

You are so right. It is true. I was the first of my friends to have a baby and I was left out of a lot of things. I struggled when I stayed at home when Jalen was smaller. As he got older and was able to do more things, we were out and about more. It is true that when the boys are school age you will meet more mommies. Some of the old friends will come around, you will make new ones too. It does hurt though, it really does. Being the reproductive pioneer of your group is often times lonely.

diana said...

I know I'm in a totally different situation than you (uummm, Guyana), but the "playgroup" has honestly been my lifeline here. I have no idea what they are like in the States, but here a different mom hosts every friday afternoon, and we all run after the kids while munching on yummies and drinking wine here and there. I feel like if I didn't have Aidan, it would be SO much harder here. I guess what I'm saying is, playgroup can be a good thing if you find the right group. What ends up happening is that you start meeting those women from playgroup for dinner parties, etc. w/o the kids, and that becomes so much fun.

At the same time, I totally understand how you feel - we aren't often invited to the middle of the week or even the friday night outings, because it's so rare when we do go. But I honestly don't miss it - as you said, the drinking excessively and how you feel the next day can be easily left behind. sometimes I feel left out, but more often than not, I can say, I don't want that life anymore!

I think your post is going to garner a lot of comments - it's truly from the heart, and that is why we all enjoy your blog so much!

Casey said...

I've never felt so alone as I did after I quit working and stayed home after Elliot was born. I tried to keep in touch with my work friends and my other friends but things just change when you have kids. We're not the same drop of the hat partying people we were before and we have new responsibilities. A lot of my friends either don't get that or resent me for it. I had a horrible first year, so lonely and depressed over not having friends but lately it's been so much better. I gave up the idea of keeping up with my old friends and went out and found new ones with similar interests. Now I have a couple of friends who live close by, have kids on relatively similar schedules and understand my situation. It's so much better. I still keep up with my old friends from time to time but without the pressure of trying to keep up.

Keely said...

Aw! Most of my friends had kids before me, so I guess I was the one not calling...because I didn't know when was a good time to call.

But you're right, friendships do become hard to maintain when our children are young, even if our friends are in the same situation. Sometimes *especially* if that's the case.

Hang in there!

kelsey said...

Hi there... found your blog via baby bunching. Thanks for this post, I have been feeling similarly lately, and lacking the time or energy to express it. Reading it makes me feel not so alone :) Great blog too by the way!

Anonymous said...

I am lucky to be the other way around. I didn't have friends before babies (my family moved a fair amount when I was young and then I found it hard to settle myself), I just had work colleagues who I would have a beer with occasionally. I made some friends in my first ante-natal group and they have been a life-line for me. I'm holding out for school years to help me find some more.

Michele said...

This is the fate of most SAHMs. 20+ years ago I felt it too. Friendships are hard to maintain with or without kids because it takes time. Something of which most of us do not have enough of.

Heather said...

Some of this I can relate to, since moving to NY about 6 years ago I never made any friends here (I'm shy and not very outgoing) so it's pretty much stayed the same now that I'm a mom but I do feel very isolated at times (which is why I love the blogging world of other mommy's out there). If I were still back home it would be a different story because most of my friends do have children. It's small consolation to say that they weren't worth keeping as friends if they could so easily let their friendship with you slip away. I'm sorry your closest friend is moving away and I've got my fingers crossed that you will meet another mother out there who you can connect with.

Krystal said...

I know what you mean and it is not easy. To be honest, my best friend is this awesome chick who I met on a support group forum on-line about 5 years ago and we are like sisters. We text eachother, call, email constantly and we have never met but we share so much in common and whenever there is a problem we immediately call eachother. Other than that, my circle of friends is limited to blogging. I don't have friends I go out with or hang out with for drinks, etc. And even if I did, I don't even know if I would be able to with such a crazy life - but yeah - it would be nice to be remembered and called every once in a while. But hey, you have us!!!

EllenMarie said...

Awwww, honey. I am sorry you are feeling lonely. :( If it makes you feel any better, all my local friends that I made after college still don't have kids and many don't ever want kids and it has been REALLY hard to remain friends with them. I miss them. And god, it has taken me over TWO YEARS to find a bunch of SAHMs who are normal and that I feel comfortable calling up and yakking with. Also, when Oscar starts preschool you will meet more Moms...

blissfully caffeinated said...

Oh, Jenni. I'm sitting here crying over the keyboard. What a great post, and that last line. It broke my heart because, I know.

I got lucky after I had Caroline. We lived in Sac and all of my neighbors were around the same age, we were all having kids and hanging out with each other, plus I got involved in a play group ( and I am so not a play group type of mom) and made some great friends.

But, when we moved back to my hometown while I was pregnant with Avery I felt very isolated. None of my friends had kids, if they did they worked. I had a very tough couple of years after we moved here. Now it's hard because I'm pregnant again and my best friend has been trying to get pregnant for a couple years and having trouble, she barely even acknowledges my pregnancy. We barely see each other and when we do I feel like I can't talk about the most important thing that's going on in my life.

The nice thing though, is that we do have some couple friends with kids and we hang out with them quite a bit. I like those outings much more than any kind of girls night.

I know it's hard, but if you can somehow get sucked into a play group (or start your own) you can make some great friends that are going through the same things that you are.

Or you can move to CA and we can hang out. :)

Take care, hon.