An old friend called me up out of the blue one day, shortly after I'd started telling people I was pregnant. She wanted to go for coffee. I always want to go for coffee, and I hadn't seen her in a couple years, so I said yes. I never could figure out why we didn't see each other anymore; we hadn't had a fight or stopped speaking on purpose, I thought. We'd been friends, the kind who saw each other every week for coffee and garage sales and movies, and then we didn't even text anymore. She suddenly seemed to be perpetually busy, I eventually gave up even trying to make plans, and our friendship just kind of disintegrated from lack of care.
To be fair, a lot had gone down in that time, not the least of which was that she'd had a baby. I'd expected that to change things, but I didn't expect it to end them - and who knew? Maybe our friendship would've dried up around then anyway. That happens sometimes. In any case, it was nice that she wanted to reconnect. I did too.
We met at her place, a cozy apartment building across town. She loaded her baby into a fancy stroller and I, not yet understanding the complete luxury I was enjoying by having to get only myself out the door, watched her fiddle with straps and shoes and infant sunscreen, trying to comprehend that I would soon be taking on those same responsibilities with a child of my own. I felt like I was watching someone pack for a two-month backpacking trip through Mozambique. Going for coffee suddenly seemed like a lot of work.
We eventually made it out the door and were not two blocks from her house when she smiled at me and said, "I'm so glad you're pregnant - now we can hang out again!" She motioned silently to her stroller, as though it had been holding her hostage for the past two years. "I've really missed you. We can talk about baby stuff and our kids can play together."
Now we can hang out again.
So that was it. She'd had a baby and I hadn't, and our friendship couldn't hack it. I didn't know the language; I couldn't talk diaper bags and baby food. I had no birth story to share, I got an adequate amount of sleep and I spent my Saturday mornings in and my Saturday nights out. I thought about it and realized that any of our mutual friends who were still in touch with her were moms too. From where I stood, it seemed as though she'd surrounded herself with an army of women who were in the exact same life stage as her and everyone else had kind of fallen away or joined up. It seemed like I was being welcomed back in only because I fit her new friend criteria.
Fair enough though, I thought then. I couldn't be mad or hurt about it. It made sense that it would be easier, as a mom, to be friends with other moms. People who presumably have similar schedules and struggles and all-consuming thoughts. Of course it'd be easier, as a mom, to 'talk about baby stuff' and let your new status consume all conversation. Easier, but was it what I wanted?
Was it what my friend had wanted? Or had it just happened because it was easier?
I realized then that it was something that could just happen to me too if I didn't decide one way or the other. Like water flowing down a hill, taking the path of least resistance.
It's twenty-some months later, and I've got my own mom army. We go for walks and frequent each others' houses for coffee/play dates and tramp through the malls together in search of post-baby pants. They, the Moms, can completely relate to where I'm at. We can talk for hours upon hours about our kids - about transporting those kids and feeding those kids and trying to get those kids to sleep at nights and nap times. We discuss controversial parenting articles we've seen on Facebook. We rejoice over firsts and reminisce about our birth stories and how they now seem so distant. I treasure those friendships. Our kids know each other and play together and learn how to share and communicate and respect others by being around each other. It's a community, it's accepting and helpful and comforting, and I am beyond thankful for those beautiful, wonderful women.
And yet, no matter how much I love my mom army, I need, crave, love the relationships I've formed with my single, childless friends. And my married friends who don't have kids. And my older friends who have done the mother thing and whose kids are grown up now. And my older friends who never married or who married but never had kids. And my younger friends who are just trying to get through high school or college in one piece.
These relationships admittedly take extra work.
Because there are jobs or school to work around for them, my boy's strict schedule for me. We don't just end up at the same park or play group, we don't text in the middle of the night because we both know the other will be awake feeding a newborn. I'm neck-deep in motherhood, my brain is a train on a single track; they're occupied with equally important, entirely different, things. I get why motherhood strains non-mom relationships.
We're not running at the same speed anymore. One of us inevitably has to break stride and walk (or crawl, or sit) beside the other.
But the extra work is worth it to us. We go for early morning coffees before my baby is awake, and late night dates after he's asleep. We go for walks while he contentedly takes in scenery from his stroller or carrier - he's there, but he is, for once, not the centre of attention. We talk about music, and life, and theology, and literature, and hobbies, and aspirations, and whatever else we need or want to talk about. We fall into step with each other at a pace we're both comfortable with.
I don't think it's 'wrong' or 'bad' to surround ourselves with people of the same age and general life stage who can relate and help and be helped and talk things out from a place of solidarity and mutual understanding. Obviously, that's a very good and beautiful thing. But I do feel like, in limiting our friend groups to strictly that kind of person, and in limiting our conversations to all things motherhood, we're missing out.
Missing out on the perspective that can be gained from a person who has been there, done that, survived and thrived, has 20/20 hindsight vision, can impart impartial wisdom. Missing out on the joy of being that for a much younger person, someone struggling through a sour relationship or trying to find their way in life or just needing reassurance that we made it through and past adolescence so maybe they could too. Missing out on the opinions and voices and ideas of people who have chosen a vastly different path in life (or have had it chosen for them) and therefore have vastly different opinions and voices and ideas. Missing out on opportunities to share and learn and grow and help and be helped and inspired and challenged and to have a lot of fun. And, honestly, missing out on the parts of our own selves that get neglected sometimes when we're thrust into the role of being Mom, Mom, and only Mom.
So have your play dates. Make your mom friends and assemble your army. Discuss your kids, talk it out. Help each other and be there for one another. Definitely, do that. Do that lots. That's good.
But don't forget the friends you had before you had kids; don't let them go just because they're inconvenient right now. Don't be afraid to attempt a challenging relationship. Ask an older woman out for coffee. Ask a younger woman out for coffee. Call up one of your co-workers or text somebody you haven't seen in a while and say, "It's not blizzarding; want to go for a walk?" Go out with one of your mom friends sans kids and talk about things that don't have to do with colic or sleep training.
Nurture these friendships, and they'll nurture you right back.