7 Things You Can Do To Help A Bereaved Mother In Her Second Year Of Grief (And Beyond)

The first few weeks after losing a child, the outpouring of love and support is enormous. But as other’s lives go back to normal, it’s easy to feel forgotten.

Throughout the first few weeks after we lost our son, Beau, we were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support we received. Meals, cards, small gifts, texts, and many emails were all graciously sent to us during that difficult time. Some days there were so many that I had to set them aside or scroll past them because it was too much for me to process. At first.

As the months went on and we passed through our first set of major holidays without him, we continued to received fairly regular mementos and kind messages. When the anniversary of his death came around for the first time, our family and friends helped us remember him by carrying out a random act of kindness. We called these “Beauments,” a term that a friend coined using our son’s name. Each of those Beauments helped to ease our pain just a little on that first anniversary.

But after that first year was over, we were in a strange place. We were still grieving as mightily as we were the first day after we lost him, but the world had moved on. When the gestures trickled away, I began to feel that he was being forgotten. I knew that many people still loved him, but in my mind, I was feeling panicked. I was just as fragile and shattered as before, but my grief wasn’t as acknowledged as it once was. People either didn’t know what to say, didn’t want to bring it up in fear of making me sad, or didn’t think of it as often as they did in those first raw months.

As our second year without Beau dragged on, a few moments stood out to me. It meant so much when I received a note one day telling me that a donation had been made in his name. Or when a friend texted me on a random Tuesday to say she was thinking of him. Someone posted on my Facebook page that they had carried out a Beaument in their home town. When friends or family members said his name out loud, my heart jumped for joy. Each time his existence was acknowledged, it meant that he wasn’t forgotten. Those gestures in that second year were almost more important to me than the ones we received the week he passed.

Here are seven things you can do for a bereaved mother in her second year of grief (and beyond):

1 | Send her a text, email, or a card on a random day telling her that you’re thinking of her child. Use her child’s name. It needn’t be long or fancy, just a few words will brighten her day.

2 | Make a donation in her child’s name to an organization that will be meaningful to her. Or dedicate your yoga practice, hike, or solo jog one day to the memory of her child. Be sure to tell her that you did so.

3 | Perform a random act of kindness and write to her to tell her what you did, and that it was done with her child on your mind.

4 | Remember anniversaries that are important, such as the day her child passed, her child’s birthday/due date, or the major holidays including Mother’s Day. These are hard days to endure after loss, and your gesture will help.

5 | Take a picture of something beautiful you see and send it to her with a note that says you’re thinking of her and her child.

6 | If it’s an appropriate time and place, ask her how she’s doing with her grief. Tell her in person that you’re still there for her to talk about her child at any time. Acknowledging her grief after so much time has passed will be deeply appreciated.

7 | Commit to doing a few of these things from here on out. Whether it’s the second year after the loss, the sixth, or the fifteenth, it’ll always remind her that her child is loved.

8 Simple Ways to Make Someone’s Day

Thoughtfulness doesn’t always come naturally. But with these simple ways to make someone’s day, it just may become a habit.

I am not a thoughtful person. It pains me to admit it, and I’m certainly not proud of it. But it is an ugly reality. And when I say that I’m not thoughtful, I mean exactly that. I do not think.

When I know that a friend is having a rough time, I will listen. I will pray. I will offer words of encouragement. But I rarely think to actually do anything. I let birthdays get by me. I forget to send get well cards and congratulations. I continually miss opportunities to show the people I care about that they are on my mind. Of course they are, and I tell them that. But too often I forget to show them.

I have always chalked my thoughtlessness up to love languages. Gifts and acts of service are not my love languages, so I’m not inclined to rely on those things to show others how I feel. But last week when my friend Tonja surprised me by leaving a pumpkin scone in my mailbox at the high school where I teach, I realized that this little gift (which was also an act of service because she baked it herself) meant a lot to me.

I was delighted, and more important, I was honored. 

Not only had my friend baked me a scone, she had gone out of her way to drop it off at my school, and she did so because she remembered that I am crazy for all things pumpkin. With this one act of kindness Tonja had literally made my day.

She also got me thinking. When was the last time I surprised someone with a gift? When was the last time I remembered to share a treat with a friend or go out of my way to cheer someone up? When was the last time I made someone’s day?  

I’m not saying that scone was a burning bush, but I realize that God was using that pastry to get my attention. How like Him to use the kindness of a friend to gently remind me that I need to be more kind.

Not one to ignore a sign from God, especially one that has a crunchy nut topping and a sugary glaze, I’ve made a list of simple ways to make a friend’s day.

Bake something

Okay, obviously I got the idea from Tonja, but baking for someone is a charming way to let a friend know she’s on your mind. We all have countless recipes pinned to our Pinterest SWEETS (or bulletin) board. Making a treat to brighten someone else’s day is a wonderful way to start actually trying out some of those recipes. 

Remember her favorite

Giving another person a gift, no matter how small, is thoughtful. But giving someone one of her favorite things is extra special because it shows that you know her. You’ve been paying attention. And you’ve made the effort find something she loves.

Give a little luxury

Even if you don’t know your friend’s favorite scent or how she likes her coffee or whether she prefers chocolate or cinnamon, you can still make her day. Most of us are too busy to pamper ourselves, but surprising a friend with little bottle of hand lotion or a fun new nail polish, you can make her feel special.

Give a unique compliment

Not every gift has to come from a store. Someone once told me I had an infectious laugh. I’ve never forgotten it. We all like to hear kind words, but when those words shed light on a quality that is unique or that we didn’t realize we had, they can really have a lasting impact. 

Compliment her children

As much as we all like to hear good things about ourselves, we love to hear good things about our kids. From now on, when I see a child being kind or thoughtful, using his manners or being polite, I am going to remember to tell his mother. That’s the sort of thing that will brighten any mom’s day.

Make her life easier

Once when I went to a movie with my friend Jonie, the girl at the concession stand took my money, gave me change, and then used that same hand (the hand that had touched everyone else’s money, too) to pick up an unwrapped straw and drop it in my drink. I could not bring myself to drink that Coke.

What did Jonie do? Not only did she not judge me for being a mild germophope, but the next time I saw her, she presented me with a box of 500 individually wrapped straws. 

For years, I kept a couple of wrapped straws in my purse at all times. Last week, the same day that Tonja gave me the scone, Jonie presented me with another box of straws.

Write a note

Oh, the joy of receiving something in the mail! In this day of texts and emails, it’s a rare treat to get something that isn’t a bill or a catalogue. From now on, I don’t plan to wait until it’s someone’s birthday to send a card (not that I was doing a great job of that before).

Post a photo

Most of us have experienced that terrifying moment when we receive a notification that we’ve been tagged in a photo.

What photo? When was it taken? What was I doing? How do I look? But when it turns out that the photo is fun (and flattering), it’s a real treat to suddenly get to relive an old memory on Facebook or Instagram – and to know that a friend is reliving that memory, too.

Even if, unlike me, you are naturally thoughtful, I hope this list inspires you. If so, then Tonja’s pumpkin scone has created ripples of kindness. Either way, it was amazing with a cup of coffee.

How My Work Husband Saved My Sanity

Getting out of the house and back to work, the friends you find may not be the ones you expect.

No one goes into a job expecting to fall for her gay coworker. Okay, at least I didn’t.

I’d sprinted back into the working world after taking time off to have our son and chase after our princess-obsessed three-year-old daughter. It was a year when the days crawled on and blurred into sleepless nights. Going back to work was like going to Hawaii.

I’d noticed Rick eyeing me on LinkedIn before I arrived on the job. I met him on my first day when I discovered he’d be sitting across from me in cube land. Starved for adult interaction after spending a year with little people, I’d chat him up any chance I could, remarking on how quiet the office was or probing about his weekend.

I didn’t mind that Rick’s responses were brief. They were also witty and wry. He had a sarcastic sense of humor I related to. Rick nonchalantly shared that he was a writer – a gay romance novelist with over 30 novels published and an active fan base. I was an aspiring writer, too, so his success and prolificacy impressed me. 

Our conversations grew longer and more in-depth as we talked at our cubes. Rick was like an onion – each layer more unique than the one before. He’d lived a previous life as a theater critic for a newspaper. His work had been published in the Huffington Post and USA Today. I shared with him I’d submitted a few articles to the Huffington Post, but never heard back.

“Keep trying,” he said. “Once you get one published, it’s easier to get more articles published.”

In a bizarre way, when I was with Rick I felt taken care of. For the past year, I’d handed my life over to my children, tending to their needs, constantly taking care of them. It was refreshing to feel taken care of myself. It was the little things. He opened doors for me on our morning quests for caffeine and chivalrously walked on the street side of the me while oncoming traffic sped by. He asked me how I was doing and genuinely cared how I responded.

I asked him dozens of questions about writing. How did he get his ideas? Often they were inspired by real life. When did he find time to write? He woke early every morning and aimed to write a certain amount of words before he headed to the office. Does social media really help boost sales? Yes, absolutely. Rick posted regularly on a few sites and engaging with readers definitely impacted his sales.

One crisp Monday morning I’d come into the office to find Rick waiting for me.

“I’m quitting,” he said. “I’m going to write full time. All these years of keeping at it have paid off and I…” I screamed because I was so thrilled for him. I was crushed that I wouldn’t see him regularly, but my heart was jumping up and down for my friend.

Though we hadn’t known each other long, I knew that once Rick left, my job satisfaction would plummet. He had become my favorite part of my new job. I had no expectations that we’d keep in touch – I was simply grateful that I had the chance to meet him and know him.

Rick’s last day came and we celebrated with a team lunch. I gave him a quick hug to avoid an emotional goodbye but ever the sensitive writer, I could tell that he was tearing up. I had a lump in my throat that told me this friendship was real. 

When I got a text from him a couple weeks later asking if he could whisk me away for lunch, I knew that he felt the same way.

Dear Teens: Here’s How Not to Behave at a Sleepover

Teens don’t always exercise their best judgement. And if they pull these antics when they’re guests in someone else’s home, they won’t be invited back.

When I was teen, I was cursed with raking three acres of leaf-ridden lawn if I ever misbehaved while on a sleepover. So I made damn sure I was courteous, ate whatever was put in front of me, and never acted like a tool.

Until I turned 13, and my friend and I decided to light up an old cigarette we found in an abandoned car behind her house. Her mom happened to be walking the dog about the same time I got the Virginia Slim lit and let out my very first nicotine-infused puff (and nearly choked to death).

She was livid and called my mom before I even had the chance to breathe. I remember my insides turning into a knot of anxiety and feeling like a complete schmuck. I had broken a cardinal rule – one that was important to my family, and one that I had always followed. I didn’t want my friend’s parents to hate me or to ban me from going to their house. This was the first and last time I ever caused a problem while on a sleepover.

It seems today’s teens never received the sleepover etiquette memo. Or parents are not following up to make sure their kids are being good away-for-the-night citizens. Since I’m seeing a pattern, here are six reasons your teen won’t be sleeping at my house again anytime soon:

1 | He’s loud. (Especially at midnight. And 2 a.m. And again at 3.)

I don’t expect teenagers to go to bed early. They have endless endurance (when they’re not asked to take out the garbage or do the dishes) and love to see how long they can stay up before falling asleep.

But when they come to my house, I expect there to be some level of respect. I have two littles living under the same roof in a very tiny house. It’s okay to talk, laugh, and have fun. When they’re screaming about missing a kill (video games; come on now) or laughing so loudly the walls are shaking, it’s too much. And I will call them out. Or take them home. They can wake you up and let you know what happened.

2 | He stinks.

I make my teen shower, brush his teeth, and put on deodorant before heading out for a sleepover. Since teen boys are especially known to smell like… boy, it’s a common courtesy. Nothing hits you in the face quite like the odor of a stale teen armpit that hasn’t been washed for 48 or more hours. When they’re in a small room hanging out, no. Just no. Please have them shower before they come over or at least take one while they are at my house.

3 | He won’t stop eating.

I do not have an unlimited food budget. We typically shop once a week and whatever we have needs to last those seven days. So when your kid comes over and starts eating everything in sight (and doesn’t stop), I have a problem. There is breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a few snacks. Anything else, he better pack it and bring it along. 

4 | He suggests stupid shit.

My teen isn’t perfect. He makes mistakes, and does things without thinking them through. But I do believe he has basic street smarts and knows if something is potentially life threatening. If your teen comes over and I hear a whisper of bridge jumping or using any type of illegal drug… the beast will be unleashed. Do not get me started.

5 | He swears like 50 Cent.

Truth be told, I swear like 50 Cent. I’m also an adult and try to limit my cursing around the littles. When the Master of Curseaster enters my home and starts going off at the mouth, I’m unamused. First, he’s a guest. Second, there are only so many F-bombs that can be infused into one sentence before it loses its artistic flair. Remind him to use a filter or his best discretion.

6 | He never says, “Thanks for having me,” or expresses any gratitude.

Manners. Manners. Manners. They count for something. A lot, actually. Teach your teen that it is very appropriate to say thanks when leaving a sleepover (or being dropped back home). It helps them learn how to express gratitude for the little things in life. This will come in handy when they’re expected to work in a team environment. Or when they get married someday.

Don’t get me wrong. Most sleepovers we have go well and the kids are great. There’s just that occasional teen who will never step foot in my house again to spend the night. It’s either that, or expect him knocking at your door at 1 a.m. jacked up on snack cakes and zombies that never seem to die.

The Mommy Wars: 10 Ways to Be the Solution Instead of the Problem

There’s no shortage of judgement between moms. And the truth is, it only serves to divide. Let it stop with you.

Mommy Wars.

The phrase itself is so completely tired out – a cliché – and yet, it still rings true in our day-to-day existence.

When our babies are first born, there are the inevitable “hot topics” that can easily lead to arguments and one-upmanship. Will you breastfeed or bottle-feed? Will you circumcise? Vaccinate? How will you handle sleep with your babies? Ferberize? Attachment parent? And on and on and on.

Of course, these are all important decisions that each parent has to make, and we all work to figure out what’s best for our families. We form strong opinions based on research and experience, and sometimes, we inadvertently contribute to the problem of mommy wars.

So how can we stop ourselves? How can we be supportive of other mamas instead of piling on the judgment? Here are some suggestions for those who wish to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

1 | Scroll on by 

You know that social media post? The one where someone shares their strong parent opinion, and then other people disagree, and the next thing you know it’s just a free-for-all of statistics and personal anecdotes, maybe even an “I can’t believe you think X” comment? Ignore it. Do not engage. Don’t publicly call out other moms. No good can come of it.

2 | Make eye contact 

The mom in Target, you know the one, with the cart full of essentials, including her melting-down toddler? Look her in the eye. Maybe even give her the nod of empathy. She could use the affirmation that it happens to everyone, because it does.

3 | Shut it down

Inevitably, moms will be having a social gathering, maybe a book club, and the conversation will turn toward “concern” for another mother’s child, or marriage, or career. And it more than likely starts with actual concern, but then devolves into gossip. Don’t join in. Think of how you wouldn’t want to be the person discussed. Be the brave person to steer the conversation elsewhere.

4 | Practice random acts of coffee

Do you know a mama who could use a small treat? It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. It could even be something from your own kitchen. Drop by with a cup of coffee, or a fresh-baked muffin. Sometimes all we need is for someone to acknowledge that we exist. That can turn around the worst of days.

5 | Get together

No mom is an island. Call a friend or two, meet up at the park, or the zoo, or even the local mall. Let the kids run around while you take a moment to discuss at least one grown-up topic. It doesn’t need to be deep or intellectual, just enjoyable. We are social creatures. (The added benefit of tired children who may even nap on the way home and let you listen to your music cannot be ignored.)

6 | Offer to babysit

One of my fondest memories of my neighbor was the day she showed up and took my young children, commanding me to take a nap. I was hanging by a thread, and the three-hour stretch of sleep I got as a result of my neighbor’s thoughtfulness was the longest I’d slept in months. A few hours of your time can mean the world to a fellow parent.

7 | Just listen

When a mama friend is going through a rough time, give her space to vent. Don’t offer any advice unless specifically asked. Most of the time, she knows what she needs to do; she just needs someone to nod along and commiserate.

8 | Make it a double

Are you making lasagna for dinner? Make two of them. Your girlfriend, who just started back to work after maternity leave, or your neighbor whose husband is deployed, or your mama friend who is overwhelmed with life at the moment could use a night off from making dinner. If you’re having a good day, make the most of it. Doubling the recipe won’t require a lot of extra effort on your part, but may feel like a lifeline to a friend in need.  

9 | Get on the list

Working moms worry about how quickly they can reach their child in case of an emergency at school or daycare. Chances are that you would only be called upon once or twice a year, but if you’re available, why not ease the fears of a friend by volunteering to be an emergency contact for when she’s in a bind? This will make her afternoon commute exponentially easier, knowing that if she hits a traffic jam, you can pick up her kids along with yours.

10 | You deserve a break today.

Practice self-care. You’re a mom, too! You need to make sure you are able to do your job well. If you’re exhausted, emotionally drained, and pushed past your physical limit, imagine how miserable you’ll be and how likely you are to fall prey to engaging in the mommy wars yourself. Get out of the house, even for just five minutes. Walk around the block. Weed the garden. Hide in the bathroom for a bit with a book. You need to recharge, too.

Being a parent is as difficult as it is wonderful. Instead of letting our fellow mothers wallow through the freakish misery all alone, let’s all make an effort to make it just the tiniest bit easier for one another. It doesn’t take a lot of money, or even a lot of time, to be a positive change in the world of motherhood. If we join forces instead of take sides, imagine what we could accomplish.

Why is Making New Mom Friends So Scary?

What is it about having kids that renders us completely incapable of making new friends? These blind playdates are more nerve wracking than actual dating.

My palms are sweaty, the butterflies in my stomach are having a riot, and I seriously might throw up any second now. I keep going over and over in my head how this could go down, always going to worse case scenario.

“Well, she’s probably going to be nothing like me, it’s going to be so awkward, super weird. We’ll have nothing to talk about. I can just tell her I have to go do something, I’m not sure what, but something.

What could I be doing in the middle of the day on a Wednesday? Doctor’s appointment? No, that’s stupid, why would I schedule a play date if I have a doctor’s appointment? Maybe my husband can rescue-text me. I should text him so he knows the code word. If I text him “avocado” he’ll know to call and say there’s an emergency. She’ll probably hate me anyway, so what does it matter? I bet she gets a rescue text from HER husband…”

And on and on and on. All those voices in my head, telling me just to turn around and go home, save everyone the trouble of an awkward meeting.

I’m going on a mom date. A blind-mom-date. And I’m FREAKING OUT.

It’s kind of surreal, really. I don’t know this person, but a few mutual friends thought we’d get along – like a straight-up blind date. So here we go, I’m going to her house. Taking my kids. “Hey, stranger, nice to meet you, will you be my friend?” It’s half desperate, half funny. But, isn’t that the way, when you’re making friends as an adult?

It’s hard, meeting people. You see other moms at the park or the grocery store, maybe the library, but what do you say, how do you initiate the conversation? You look for tells that they are similar to you, someone you might get along with. “She’s wearing her baby, maybe we could be friends,” or “She’s got food on her shirt, maybe her baby spit up on her, too,” or “She’s nursing in public! She’s my people!” You scope out her kids, check ages, and gauge their behavior. Are they running around like barbarians or picking the wings off of grasshoppers? No?

It’s on.

You catch her eye across the playground equipment, grin, try not to seem like an insane person, nonchalant, cool, not needy and desperate for companionship. You drop a, “How old are your kids?” “Your baby is adorable” “I love your carrier!” Any generic icebreaker or small talk starter.

And then, before you know it, you’re chatting. It’s uncomfortable, your both feeling the other out for any weirdo vibes. It’s tentative and unsure, but you’re totally doing it! And in your mind, you keep asking, “Is she the one? Am I making a friend? What next? Do I ask for her number? Tell her to look me up on Facebook? If I look her up on Facebook, will she think I’m a stalker? WHAT DO I DO NEXT???”

And usually, unfortunately, you don’t do anything. Your three-year-old pees on himself or the baby has an up-the-back explosion and you have to leave. You say goodbye, nice chatting with you, maybe I’ll see you around, and that’s it. You don’t see her again at the park. Even though you go every day at the exact same time as that day, but she’s never there again. 

Now you’re super bummed and even lonelier.

And if you DO follow up and exchange numbers, what do you do then? When is it okay to text? You don’t want to seem anxious or creepy, but if you wait too long she may not even remember you, right? What if she just gave you her number to be polite and doesn’t really want to meet up with you again. What if she’s the crazy stalker? OMG, what have you done?!?!

Why is it so hard, y’all? What’s wrong with all of us that we can’t just walk up to someone, have a conversation without second-guessing everything, make a friend, keep in touch, go to lunch, schedule a playdate? Why can’t it be easy like it was before kids? It seems so unfair, like a cruel trick of fate, that the time in your life when you need people more than any other time is the time it’s hardest to make friends.

I don’t have a solution or advice or inspiration. I have one friend and can’t even figure out where she came from or why she stuck around. Just know, mamas, that it IS hard and it’s not just you. We’re all freaking crazy. We’re all tired and we’re all dirty and we all get spit up on and most of us probably smell a little strange. But, we have to be brave, right? If we want it badly enough – that village they talk about so much in the parenting magazines – we have to be brave and go find it. And if we can’t find it, we build it ourselves.

7 Ways Good Mom Friends Are Like Sports Coaches

Lately I started to notice similarities between the moms I love and my favorite high school coaches.

Not to toot my own trombone, but I have lots of mom friends. Both moms who’ve become friends, and friends who’ve become moms.

Some of them are even teammates from an adolescence spent playing sports: soccer, water polo, track, swimming, and more soccer.

Lately I started to notice similarities between the moms I love and my favorite high school coaches:

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]1. “Nice hustle, keep up the good work.”[/su_highlight]

My best friends encourage me relentlessly, praising effort as well as accomplishment. When my attempt at a gourmet dinner that’s both nutritious and delicious tastes like packing peanuts, they say things like “such a great idea” and “even Ree Drumond burns toast sometimes.”

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]2. “Grab a cup.”[/su_highlight]

My mom buddies ply me with beverages during breaks in the action. We’re talking wine and cocktails instead of Gatorade, but still. Tipsy is the new hydrated.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]3. “Okay, okay.”[/su_highlight]

They’re never angry at me. As long as I give it my all, they don’t express disappointment, even if I’ve totally screwed up. A miffed penalty shot. Shouting at an infant who won’t sleep. They tell me to keep my chin up and focus on the future.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]4. “Take a lap.”[/su_highlight]

When I used to get so frustrated that I wanted to remove my cleats and throw them at someone’s head, my coaches told me to stop and clear my head. These days it’s more “take a nap” than a lap, but my girlfriends are the ones who say pushing through and working harder aren’t always the answer.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]5. “Need a hug?”[/su_highlight]

Sometimes the big game doesn’t go as planned. Sometimes your child wakes up from a nap after twenty minutes or yells, “I want a different mommy!” When all seems lost, my mom friends step up and offer the warm embrace of commiseration.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]6. “Weeeeee are the cham-pions, my frieeeeeeend!”[/su_highlight]

When I score a really big win—like getting a three-year-old to wear socks or managing a family photo where only one of my kids looks possessed—these gals celebrate the hell out of it: “#bestmomever #killingit.”

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]7. “Want a sub?”[/su_highlight]

Sometimes a lap/nap just won’t cut it. I’m overtired and overworked, running my body into the ground and depleting my mental and emotional reserves. My mom friends know when to let me sit on the sidelines for a bit: “I ordered you delivery,” they text, or, “how about I pick up your kids from school today?” Because there are times when putting your feet up is the only way to optimize performance down the line.

Of course, there’s at least one way my romances bear no similarity to the coach-player relationship: they’re reciprocal.

Of course, there’s at least one way my momances bear no similarity to the coach-player relationship: they’re reciprocal.

I will do your laundry and empty your trash cans, even the bathroom one, so that you can snuggle your new baby and/or cry. I will tell you that your kid is great and you are a terrific mom, even if she kicks you in the shins for the third time this month, breaking the skin this time.

They get my impossibly high expectations and the devastation that comes when my kids and I inevitably fail to always meet them. And I get theirs. We take the edge off together with encouragement, booze, understanding, hugs, props, and tangible support.

Let’s go, Mama Bears, let’s go!

The Struggle to Commit to Friendships in Today’s Culture

This destruction of all friend-mitments means we can go around commenting on each others’ posts without having to pick up the phone or even send an email. We get further and further away from having to make any effort to have friends.

I’m sitting in the break room at my office using my ten minutes to catch up on some imperative text messages.

I text a friend about how one of the pediatricians on “Grey’s Anatomy” reminds me of her (which is true), and I wait patiently for her to respond with something equally as significant to both of our lives.

My phone vibrates in response with a “Heart-eye emoji, heart-eye emoji, Yeah, I love that show. We need to hang out soon.”

The blood drains from my face. I nearly choke on my cashews and am immobilized. I feel the full weight of those words as a swinging door that goes unrealized until it’s too late. “We need to hang out soon.” “Hey, we need to hang out soon.” “We need to hang out soon.”

The phrase plays over and over again in my mind as I slowly realize what the sentiment actually means. I begin to grasp that it will be approximately 6-8 weeks before I see my friend again. That estimate, by the way, is generous. So I start to cry.

A few years ago, I would have responded to such a text with something like, “Yeah, you’re right. We do need to hang out soon. It’s sweet of you to notice/point that out.”

But now that I know people, I know that this is one of the assorted pleasantries they pass around when they, like most of our generation, are horrible at making friendship commitments (or, as we will now refer to them, “friend-mitments”).

Now, I love this friend.

She’s fantastically sweet, insightful, and athletic (the big three for me, because I am none of them, and I feel they balance me out).

So I’m sure you can understand how pained I was to find that she no longer wanted to have anything to do with me. It was a rough break period for me, to be sure. I wanted to respond by asking why she had suddenly come to despise me so, but I figured that that would only give her the opportunity to tack on a few more cringe-worthy remarks, such as “No, we’re cool,” and “I’m just super busy.”

These phrases reveal an enormous lack of friend-mitment.

They are tossed about like trash cans in a windstorm amongst people my age, and up until recently, I was probably the leading offender. I would constantly tell people how soon we needed to hang out, only to, upon being met with agreement, do things like not call them for months at a time.

My understanding of friend-mitments was shockingly low. I have seen this in many of my other friends as well, and have grown to wonder why my generation is so lacking in this area.

I’ll tell you why: because the Internet.

Why are we so incapable of communicating in meaningful ways with people we like? Why do we keep telling each other how much we like each other and doing absolutely nothing about it? I’ll tell you why: because the Internet.

Often times you will hear people say that they like social media because it helps them keep in touch with people who are important to them. But here’s the thing: social media also helps users keep in touch with people who mean nothing to them. And unfortunately, I think the latter use trumps the former much of the time.

Sure, plenty of people use Facebook to message old friends from college and find out what in the heck they are up to now. That happens. But most twenty-somethings go on Facebook to scan their newsfeeds for things that appear funny, interesting, or just generally amusing to them.

Instead of keeping in touch with old friends, my fellow Millennials and I just “like” random photos that people from high school post of themselves at important sporting events and hope that they don’t think it’s super weird that we did that. Heaven forbid we were also at that sporting event, though, because we definitely wouldn’t have said anything to that person when we saw them.

A girl I haven’t spoken to since third grade commented on a photo of my son the other day to tell me how cute she thought he was (which, I mean, I can’t blame her) and I had actually to go to her page to figure out how I knew her. I think we may also have “needed to hang out soon,” but I can’t be sure.

Millennials are so technologically advanced that we can now talk to people we don’t really know casually and without having to feel weird about it. We can then make what might be called friendships with others without doing any work whatsoever.

Thanks, Al Gore.

[su_quote]The “We need to hang out soon” sentiment rears its ugly head, but so do much less specific phrases, like, “I miss you,” “Where have you been?” and my preferred mode of expressing vague nothingness, “Get in my life.”[/su_quote]

Social media might allow us to be lazy with our acquaintances, but its primary target is people with whom we would like to have a real connection. Indeed, one of our generation’s all-time favorite things about social media is that it allows us to stay in touch with people who we like without having to do literally any work.

The “We need to hang out soon” sentiment rears its ugly head, but so do much less specific phrases, like, “I miss you,” “Where have you been?” and my preferred mode of expressing vague nothingness, “Get in my life.”

We see these phrases being thrown around between friends all the time on the internet, and they seem to be overall kind things to say. But in reality, they are the biggest red flags of horrible friend-mitments there ever were.

The phrase, “I miss you” normally speaks of an emotional attachment that one person has for another and a longing to strengthen that emotional attachment by oh, I don’t know, spending time with that person in real life.

But 98% of the time it appears on the Internet, it says, “Hey, I appreciate your Internet presence and you as a person, but I refuse to take this conversation to a more intimate medium. So please just acknowledge that you know this and understand that I will be there for you at least 2% of the time that you need me.”

“Where have you been?” is a more nonchalant offender, which, when spoken in real life seems to portray a desire to catch up with a person and know more about their life. On the Internet, it reads, “You are doing stuff with your life that makes me feel like I am out of the loop (which, by the way, is mostly my fault). You should probably comment on something of mine to confirm that I’m not. And hey, maybe just let me know when you are free and I’ll let you know that I’m not.”

“Get in my life” is the cream of the crop when it comes to sucking at friend-mitments because it’s just a weird thing to say in all instances. When you say it to someone in real life they think, “I didn’t know I wasn’t, or that maybe you weren’t in mine…? Which one of us is the protagonist here?” When you put it on someone’s Facebook timeline it says, “The ball’s in your court on us having any sort of relationship whatsoever,” which is just a really sweet thing to say to someone.

This destruction of all friend-mitments means we can go around commenting on each others’ posts and staying in touch with the occurrences in each others’ lives without even having to pick up the phone or send an email. As time goes by, we get further and further away from having to make any effort at all in order to have friends.

I’m sure I’m exaggerating a bit here. Maybe plenty of people my age manage to make specific and well-established plans with one another over the Internet.

But I think that much of the time, even when we do complete the painstaking task of actually making plans with others, they are the worst-laid plans ever. Whether we want to “meet up sometime this weekend” or “see each other at x event,” we always seem to cap off our commitment to spending time with our friends at about 60%.

One of my biggest friend-mitment offenses as far as planning goes is the ever-useful phrase, “Just text me.” It’s the best because it makes it seem like you are chill and reachable when really you are terrified that they actually will text you about hanging out and you will have to come up with something to do and some time in which to do it.

[su_quote]I think we fall into these awkward situations because we just care about too many people at once. It’s a good problem to have. We just need to approach our friendships differently.[/su_quote]

And it’s not that these tendencies come from any animosity or lack of love. In fact, I think we fall into these awkward situations because we just care about too many people at once. It’s a good problem to have. We just need to approach our friendships differently.

As I’ve mentioned several times now, I am the master at sabotaging friend-mitments. I’ve done it all, from tweeting “Hey” to people when they are in the same room as me, to responding to someone’s phone call with a text that reads, “What’s up?” instead of picking up the phone and just CALLING THEM BACK. But I have found that becoming a parent has made the issue of dwindling friendships an, even more, significant one.

Before I had a child, I always heard people talk about how you sort of drop off of the face of the Earth when you get married and have kids.

And in a lot of ways, it’s true: parenting takes up time you never thought you had. But in many ways the reason parents stop seeing as much of their friends is because this popular lackadaisical approach to friendships is a terrible foundation on which to place the family lifestyle.

When I get texts from friends about how we “need to catch up” I no longer simply see them as vague and disappointing. I also realize that my life just doesn’t really allow for phrases like that one.

Unless my friends are willing to make plans more than four days in advance, there’s pretty much no way they will actually occur. And for the most part, they don’t.

Parenting requires things like schedules, meaningful interactions, and, you guessed it… commitments. It’s not because parents have become lame or distracted or less amiable; it’s because parents are now held accountable in a dramatically different way than ever before.

I am wagering that normal friendships require proper friend-mitments, and friendships with parents require even more firm ones. But of course, as with all beneficial relationships, both parties need to put in the work.

Without waiting for our friends to grow out of their bad friendship habits, what can we do to make better friend-mitments?

It may just be simple things like calling each other on the phone when we want to talk instead of just tagging each other in photos they need to see on Instagram.

Whatever the solution may be for you, it’s important to make a commitment to your friend knowing how much work it is going to be to follow through with that commitment. We parents need to work harder at a lot of things, and friendship is, unfortunately one of those. But who other than our dear, wonderful friends deserve that effort from us?

No one, that’s who.

I hope that one day we will all live in a world where we don’t get texts (text messages, things that you often don’t even realize were received, much less check the second they come in) from each other asking us to meet up in an hour. Because that’s just an outrageous thing to ask of someone else, especially someone we consider a friend.

Lately, when people ask me if I can meet up with them in an hour, I actually laugh audibly.

“Lol, you’re joking. It’s quite possible that in an hour I will still be trying to get my son into one of his coat sleeves.”

One sleeve.