I hate advice-giving posts, but friendship is something that has really been on my mind lately, for reasons that I'll get to below, so indulge me this post please? Thanks. Correct me if I'm wrong (for real, I might be wrong!), but it seems like one of the hardest things about transitioning from single life to life as a wife and mother is making good friends.
I am a serious extrovert, and I need friends-- I mean I NEED friends. I need to see people on a regular basis, but I especially need a couple good friends, or even just one good lady friend who I feel comfortable just sitting with like I would sit with my sisters. I think that this is a really important thing for every woman, whether she realizes it or not, and I think that as hard as it can be, it is important to work toward.
A couple of years ago my closest friend, Marisa, moved away because her husband got a job. Our girls were very close and we were very close and it was really hard.
The curse of a community made up of grad students is that no one is here permanently, but everyone is here just long enough to get really close to them, and there are so many wonderful people to be friends with! After Marisa moved, I became really close with another wonderful lady named Sarah, and now I'm in the same boat I was in a couple years ago because- of course- she and her beautiful family are moving very far away and naturally just typing that sentence induced many tears.
While I am intensely sad that she is leaving, I don't feel the same kind of anxiety over the friend situation that I used to both because of this ideal community and because after 7 years of making friends, nurturing those relationship, and saying goodbye to so many friends, I am finally starting to feel comfortable with the process.
I am not a social expert by any means, but here are a few things that I have learned over the years:
1) Adjusting your exceptions will only serve to help you. When we first moved here, I was only one year out of college and found myself immediately only seeking out the type of friends that I had in college. Those friends were wonderful, but it didn't take long to learn that my new vocation would connect me with women with very different personalities and temperaments than those college friends and they would also be wonderful. Sticking with an arbitrary *idea* of the type of person I wanted to be
friends with was just not something that was helping me, and as soon as I
let it go, it got much easier. I ended up befriending so many great ladies in our first year here that I probably never would have hung out with in college- and many of those friendships I will have for the rest of my life.
2) Comfort zones can be traps. There are countless memories that I have of Mike telling me to "just send an email to her!". I would tell him about someone I met and got along with, and how I thought we could be friends, but then I wouldn't do anything about it, which usually resulted in very long lags between seeing any friends at all, but if I had just sent the email or made the call, I could have. I don't know if it's the case that children simply rob you of anything resembling a "comfort zone", but I don't even feel like I have one anymore and it's become much easier for me to initiate friendships and respond to others initiating them. I've had some really great friendships grow out of a quick swapping of info and setting up a play date-- sometimes it's really awkward, but most of the time it's entirely natural.
3) Parenting styles can be a total non-issue, if you let them be. This one is hard, especially if the majority of your interactions take place when you have all of your kids with you. I feel like I am notoriously the ultra-strict parent about a lot of things, but then I'm the one who lets her kids eat the most crap- and I imagine that is weird for my friends who are more laid back about the stuff I'm disciplining about and who don't want me loading their kids up with copious graham crackers. But you'll notice that neither of those things have much to do with lots of bonding elements in a friendship-- things like faith, political or personal interests, books you like, movies you watch, all sorts of things that you can chat about without even touching on the minutia of parenting. It means letting things slide when you're doing a play date, and not imposing your parenting style on others, and it means not letting it bother you if you don't do things the way your friends do-- this can be hard, but it's possible. Which brings me to the next one.
4) Hanging out when the kids are NOT around is the best thing ever. This is something I have started doing a whole lot more as more kids have come and as the older ones have gotten bigger. Play dates can feel so chaotic once each mom has more than 2 kids, and the big ones tend to dominate with their size and volume level, which makes any real conversation between mothers more challenging.
Case in crazy point:
The solution? Margarita nights! Dessert and tea nights! My friend Sarah and I generally squeeze one night in a week when just the two of us get together after the kids are down-- it is super laid back, there is no other intention other than talking and connecting without constant conversation interruptions, and I would say it has been the best thing for our friendship, I am really going to miss it.
5) Staying away from gossip and/or husband bashing is only ever a good thing. Call me Captain Obvious, but I still think it is worth mentioning, because it is always a temptation and never good for a friendship.
These are a few things I have learned and I am learning more all the time about this. I am not looking forward to the challenge of doing this in a whole new place, with lots of new people when it comes time for us to move on too, but share your wisdom with me! Then I can come back and learn even more!