My experience as a mom is that it’s much harder to make and maintain friendships—but those that stick are one of the greatest, most valuable gifts. Friendship as a parent looks like a text message from a friend who is checking in while the kids are sick. It’s the absence of judgment while you’re spilling your heart about a challenging stage of parenthood. It’s the love and support from someone who wholeheartedly wants you to succeed. And, just like a healthy relationship with kids or a spouse, these kinds of friendships are worth every ounce of effort.
The keyword: effort. The kind of friendships that mean something don’t often just happen when you are also juggling life with kids. Before becoming a parent, I had a notion that kids were natural “wingmen” for making connections with potential adult friends. I envisioned striking up a conversation with another mom while pushing our babies in side-by-side bucket swings at the park and walking away with a lifelong friend. I dreamed of camaraderie and easy chats with parents at the sidelines of our growing kids’ soccer games. I believed the school pick-up area was a great spot for socializing.
But, as with many of my now-debunked beliefs about life as a parent, I quickly learned that meaningful friendships with other adults was going to take a lot more effort than showing up in the right time and place. More importantly, there is a big difference between those conversations in passing and the kind of friends who keep you afloat.
Like all good things, these friendships are built through time and shared experiences—which was something I was short on when I became a mom for the first time. During my pregnancy, we moved to a new town in a new state where we didn’t know a soul. As excited as we were for the adventure ahead, I couldn’t help but feel like I left my “village” at the moment when I needed them the most.
In the six years since, however, I’ve been fortunate to develop new friendships while preserving my long-distance relationships. Here’s how I make that a priority...
I’ve had many close friendships during my life that eventually seemed to fall through the cracks—which I think can be natural. However, this has shown me that wanting to maintain a friendship is different than actively trying to maintain a friendship. For the latter, one of my best tricks is to send a friend a quick text message whenever a fun memory together crosses my mind. I don’t do this 100% of the time because that would get out of hand in a hurry, but it has proven to be a good way of keeping the lines of communication open with friends while we navigate busy lives.
Not surprisingly, my nearest and dearest friends right now are moms who have kids a similar age to my own. We just understand the highs and lows of parenting young kids in a way that means so much. (If you know, you know.) While the majority of the time I spend with these moms is with our kids running circles around us, getting the chance to have uninterrupted conversations during adult-only time is when our bonds really tighten.
And, because we are parents whose natural state is to multi-task, many of these get-togethers have dual purposes—like going on a hike together or even seeing if another mom wants to coordinate on Target runs.
I heard several years ago that “if you have more than three priorities, they aren’t priorities.” I would argue the list could be a bit longer than that. Still, the truth is that our lives as parents (or adults in general) are complicated—and there will be months when we need to turn our attention inward.
That’s why, although I believe sustained friendships take effort from both sides, there are occasions when the most loving thing to do is not ask or expect anything of the other person. Yes, continue to show up. But, it’s the difference between asking questions in a text message versus simply saying “thinking of you.” Then be there, waiting with open arms, on the other side.