Friendship and Parenthood

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Latebloomer’s blog Past Tense Present Progressive. It was originally published on June 27, 2014.

Many people find the beginning of parenthood marks the sudden decline of their friendships.

Babies are constantly needy and deprive you of sleep, energy, and coherence.  Toddlers, when awake, need constant monitoring; and even their sleep must be prioritized in your schedule.  Preschoolers are fast and fearless and can disappear in an instant because of a whim.  And for all of them, their constant stream of needs and your constant stream of worries, day and night, can completely shut down your ability to think of any other topic.

But somehow, although all of those things are true about my two kids, that does not describe my experience.  And I’m forever grateful for that, because increasing my already unbearable feelings of isolation just might have killed me.

Somehow, in the haze of new parenthood, I actually connected to a group of other new moms.  Maybe it was because they were in a similar haze, and we were all in the trenches together.  Crying, worrying, laughing, celebrating together.  Just what I had always wanted, for my whole life, but never experienced even once.

And it didn’t stop there.  I also began to feel closer to a few other friends that I had always wanted to connect with more.  And I began to meet even more people, around the neighborhood, in kid classes, through friends, through preschool.  Was it my newly increasing confidence and happiness?  Was it the oxytocin boost of motherhood that made me better able to connect?

Whatever it was, I wish that myself as a child could have known that a good future was coming, so that the dark nights didn’t seem quite as cold.  However, the coldness of the past makes me value even more the warmth of friendship now.  The empty silence of the past, the years of absolutely no conversations with anyone, make me value so much even the broken snippets of conversations that moms have while also monitoring active young children.  The lack of attention and lack of empathy from my parents means that I don’t take the attention and empathy of my friends for granted today.

Thank you friends, if you are reading this, for being you and letting me be me.

I wish it weren’t true, but unfortunately my past does still sometimes reach all the way here to my good life today.  Sometimes I still struggle with depression.  Sometimes another person’s choices or mistakes hit me in an area where I am vulnerable, leaving me shaken and crippled with emotion.  Sometimes, when my mind is stretched between sleep deprivation and two active kids, I find I have no bandwidth left to function socially, and then I resent the deficit I have to work with, and the fact that basic social skills and conversational skills that come naturally to many others require so much extra attention for me.

But now I can better fight my way out of those dark moments.  Instead of trying to “be better” so I’m not a disappointment to God, now I have the positive motivation of wanting to connect with my husband, connect with my kids, and connect with my friends.  Because, now that I know what it feels like to connect with others in a healthy and non-codependent way, there is no way I’m ever letting go of that.

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