Monday, December 12, 2011

Parents and Friends: The Transition Phase

There were moments during my pregnancy when I wanted to call someone and talk about what I was going through.  The moments of anger at nothing fitting, the times when all I wanted was to eat bacon, the overwhelming feeling of the impending doom of parenthood.  The same instinct came just as frequently after my daughter was born.  

I would scroll through my phone looking for the right person.  Who could I share the tales of sleepless nights with or the little moments when I was so amazed by my baby I couldn't really describe it?  I couldn't share this with my married friends who didn't have kids, they wouldn't understand.  My single friends?  I didn't even know if I had any anymore.  I began to feel disconnected and tired of hearing another story about how someone can't relate but their cat did something really funny the other day.  

My friend Ariana and I discussed this recently.   Its this feeling that slowly creeps up on you where something's wrong but you can't place it.  Like when you've walked around all day wearing two different colored socks.  Its a weird purgatory you're in when you're not quite connecting with current friends and are slowly or not really making new ones.  We've dubbed this the "transition phase."

I'll admit I've spent way too much time idolizing those tight-knit fictional posses from prime time television.  I've admired how they all manage to stay together when work schedules, relationships, and money issues typically get in the way.   But when I really think about it, things changed for all these groups when someone had a kid.  

Monica and Chandler adopted twins and bought a house in Westchester, forcing everyone else to move on with their lives and leave that trendy apartment to the next batch of pretty twenty somethings. 

Miranda realized she was hanging on to a city life that didn't want her anymore and couldn't function with a bed in the dining room.  So she packed up Steve, Brady and Magda, and moved to a brownstone in Brooklyn.   

Lily and Marshall are now expecting and considering living on Long Island, potentially leaving Ted to whine about not meeting "the mother" alone in Manhattan. 

Though all these characters moved physically, the point is they made a choice.  They moved on with their lives and chose family. While not looking to ditch their friendships, they understood that sometimes other environments and social circles may benefit certain life changes.  We all saw the episodes that followed, focusing on them coming to this uncomfortable realization, the decision making process, and concluding with the moral of the story:  that the friendships you have before you become a parent, inevitably change after. 

Its sad but its true and now I know why people who don't have kids feel ditched by those that do.  But its not our fault.  Us parents need to talk to other parents.  We need to surround ourselves by people who are also too tired for riveting conversation, who know we are not full of it when we say we're busy, and who can appreciate an enthusiastic discussion about the frequency of infant bowel movements.

I was quite amazed at the need I had for parent comradery and equally shocked at how, quickly and organically I started connecting with people.  Before I was a mom it would take consistent emails, showing up at parties, hosting parties, and an abundance of effort to create new and maintain current friendships. It was work that my more fit, energy infused, twenty something body and mind could handle.  Yet, when I missed an email or phone call, didn't show up to a party, or even worse, stopped hosting, the ship sailed on without me.

Every week Ariana and I have lunch near our offices.  We respect the fact that some weeks, money is tight for one if not both of us and so our weekly rendez vous is at Subway.  We reschedule on each other frequently and coordinate emergency "I'm having a bad day" lunches just as much.  Our relationship is easy because we know it has to be.  We are both busy, tired, and not up for any drama.  I tell her if she's got lettuce in her hair and she lets me know if something is in my teeth.  Easy, done.  I look forward to our chats, knowing its the one hour a week I can talk about my daughter all I want and not feel like I'm boring someone.

What amazes me about our friendship, is that until our kids were a few months old, we hadn't spoken in eight years.  We were very good friends in college and I was even in her wedding, yet we were both going in different post graduate directions and lost touch.  I heard our kids were born only a week apart and took a chance sending her a friend request on Facebook.  We reconnected and have been meeting for lunch and playdates ever since.  We talk about how much time has passed and that the conversation flows as it did years ago, yet we both sense that we have changed.  Not only because of the lives we lead in the past eight years, but because we are now parents.

As with Ariana, I find myself connecting with old friends with whom I was never very close to, or just fell out of touch with, thanks to the common bond of parenthood.  The conversations, be them on email, in person or via text are effortless.  I get the same warm and fuzzy feeling with a text from Roz at 6 a.m.,  happy its Friday and her daughter is getting over her cold, as I used to hanging out with ten friends playing paintball or hosting taco night.

This ebb and flow of friendship is tricky.  It's left me feeling so many emotions at times and wondering for a while if it was just me.   When I've felt I'm missing out on something or have become less "fun" my husband reminds me of what we have in our daughter.  That we aren't really alone when we have each other and that we have a lifetime of new friendships ahead.

Over the past two years I've learned its no use fighting an ever flowing current.  The things we want in life change and in turn, so do we.  At times we all float down different streams.  Traveling that water way may seem long and lonely at times, but at some point, most of us will meet in the same crazy whirlpool.

1 comment:

  1. I had the same thing happen to me as well. My ex-roommate from college and I had lost touch for a few years after school. We would check in every once in while, but we certainly didn't talk on a regular basis. Then she got pregnant, and then I got pregnant 3 months later. Ever since, we've been much closer.

    It's really comforting to know that you have someone you can go to, to ask any silly question or opinion, and they just get it. I don't know what I would do without my mom friends! I'm also in a situation where I'm one of the oldest of all my cousins, and now they're starting to have kids too. We have things in common that we never did before.

    I think it's all part of life, like you said. Our lives and needs change. What we need in a friend changes. My whole life I feel like I've had "waves of friends". There are some that, for lack of a better term, "served their purpose" and now we are no longer close. But I wouldn't change the fact that we WERE close. And now I have some new friends, and they are exactly what I need at this moment in my life. Of course there are some constant friends - who, although, may not have kids - value our friendship enough to understand some changes in me and my life.