Ok, I’m not a horrible friend. But, I am definitely not as good a friend as I used to be. Before motherhood I was the girl you’d call at 2 a.m. and sob about your broken heart. I was the first to remember your birthday and get everyone together for cake. I’d join you at the gym any night of the week; and if your car broke down in the ghetto I’d leave work early to come get you. Now, that I have kids I am completely unreliable to be there in a crisis and my friends may get a birthday card a month later. I know people are disappointed by this. What they don’t realize is that it is just as painful to me to not be available.
When my kids were just about 2 years old a friend’s apartment was hit by the flood waters of a hurricane. It pained me to see pictures and status updates on Facebook showing the ruins of her home. I wanted to be able to rush to help and sift through the remains with her. At the time I had two babies in tow and had to put their safety first (as well as their nap time and feeding schedule). I couldn’t afford to pay someone to sit with my kids to drive 3 hours one way to help and then return home. I didn’t have family that could just stay at my house until I could return. Recognizing my limitations, I did my best to send emotional support from where I was in life. But, it wasn’t enough. She stopped returning my phone calls, emails, private messages, etc. I could tell there was a shift and when I called her out and asked what’s up? I got the cold shoulder. A “nothing” response. Eventually, it came out a year later she was angry that my husband and I did nothing to help her. At the time my husband was working two jobs seven days a week. If we were lucky we saw him for 1 hour a day.
So, what happens when we become parents? Why such a change in our friendships? Here are my thoughts:
1. Everyone has different expectations. It took a really long time for me to adjust to the new normal of parenting. The demands of being the sole caretaker to twins commanded my attention first. I had my own expectations of life as a parent and had to learn to change them all in a second while everyone else continued living at the same pace. My friend’s expectations were I’d still be the same and be able to give as much as I had before. Impossible when you become a mom.
2. Mommy Brain. There is scientific evidence this condition exists! How it works is I walk to the fridge completely set on getting a glass of milk and what I walk away with is the empty coffee pot from the counter. I have zero recollection of how I got to the living room with an empty coffee pot or why I was even in the kitchen in the first place. I wake up Monday morning and I think, “So-and-so’s birthday is next week I should send a card.” Then I wake up in October and think, “I did send her a card right?”
3. Routines and Schedules change. Once you are a parent you live and die by the almighty schedule. There is a schedule for diaper changing, for feeding, for naps and for all the activities you would like to accomplish while nap time takes place. You remember to call your friend to congratulate her on her engagement, or new job just as your head hits the pillow at night. You think, I’ll definitely remember to call tomorrow!
4. Limited Funds. This one doesn’t require much explanation. Once you are paying a mortgage payment for diapers, wipes and formula you get it. Some of us have to live and die by the almighty budget.
5. I used to have conversation skills. I didn’t always talk about the different sizes of bottle nipples and the controversy over vaccines (what childless person even cares?). I also could finish a sentence without stopping abruptly to shout over the chaos you hear happening in the background of our phone conversation. I also miss eye contact while talking to people. Having two kids means I need both eyes on them- one for each kid.
6. Leaving the house has never been such a chore. Before having kids I could get a call and be out the door in 30 seconds or less. Now, I have to analyse if it is worth the risk of a 30 minute screaming meltdown over socks to meet you there. See you there in, oh… 6 hours when my husband gets home.
7. My needs have changed. I have never been a needy person until I became a mom. Now I am so tired and exhausted, frustrated and emotional. If you ask me how is everything I’ll either just fake a smile and say good, or completely crumble and unload. Depends on the day. It isn’t fun riding this roller coaster and asking my friends to take care of me. I’ve always been the strong one taking care of them.
I’m sure there are a few more offenses to add to the list. But, this covers the big ones. Oh and by the way potential new friend, if I seem like I’m just not that into you please don’t take offense. I only appear socially awkward the first time we meet (maybe second). I’m trying hard to look like a put together human who can form sentences and keep my kids from melting down in front of you. But, if you can look past all that and keep your expectations of our relationship low (really low) I’m happy to get to know you!