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Friendships: The Dynamics Between Mamas

We all know that so much changes when we have kids. We've talked plenty about our relationships with our spouse / partners, siblings, with other children, but how about our relationships with our mama-friends?  Lori has an interesting question for the urbanMama community.  She writes:

I hung out with some friends the other night without my toddler.  During the evening, a good friend of mine who has two kids under three thanked me for the support I had given her over the last year.  She was being sincere but I realized that that I really had not given her that much support.  Yes, we have play dates and we talk on the phone at least once a week, but prior to having kids my female friendships were much different.  I now find that I do not have the time to listen like I used to or demonstrate to my friends how much they mean to me.  Luckily, most of them have kids also and are pretty understanding. How do you balance the needs of your family and the needs of your good friends? 

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Wow -- becoming a parent has really changed my friendships. Before, my best friend was a near-perfect woman who seemed to have few faults -- I ran to her for solace. Now, my best friend is a woman is openly admits her faults, who is realistic, who talks about how completely hard it is to parent. In her, I have found a true soul-mate. Still, the woman who was my best friend before parenting remains -- just can't relate as much to how perfectly she seems to pull it all off.

To be honest, I don't. After meeting the needs of my son, my husband, my workplace and occasionally myself, I just don't have much left for my friends like I used to. It's a constant source of guilt for me - the unreturned emails and phone calls. Keeping a friendship alive takes time and commitment, and of course it's all well worth it. I tend to be closest with those I see weekly at work or run into because of preschool. My oldest friends either live far away or don't have children (or both) and we definitely have grown apart. I wish I felt like chatting after I tuck my son into bed or squeezing in a visit after my Saturday shift at work, but it just doesn't happen. I'll be looking forward to suggestions from others who've made it work with their friends.

I'm worried that I'll lose all my beautiful mama friends when our babies get older and start fighting over toys and hitting each other.

I dunno, it seems easier to maintain friendships w/ the women who have kids these days. I remember when a few of my friends had kids before me and I felt the distance between us increase, but now that I'm a parent too we speak a common language again. It's the time and the energy that's lacking, but that seems understood & excused by other moms [and dads].

I struggle with this because I am a young(ish) mom, still in my 20s with a nearly 2 year old. None of my "old" (college, high school, young adult partying) friends have kids yet, so we have to rally them up for a fun night of hanging out at our house while my son sleeps upstairs (I still haven't really figured out the baby sitter thing yet.) Many of my old friends aren't married yet and this makes friend life a bit difficult.

I went to a play group when my son was very young and I was staying at home, but I went back to work when he was 14 weeks old and I really never saw my playgroup friends again (except for one).

I have a great group of co-workers that I socialize with on occasion and one of them is married with child. We have become a bit closer since our boys go to the same daycare and are about the same age. Time and effort keep me at arms length most of the time.

I'm feeling a bit out of balance though, tugged in different directions but a bit too shy and lacking time to come to a lot of the "urbanmamas" events and meet new people. Friends are the main reason I wish I worked less. I feel like I could get out and socialize if I got home from work before 6 pm. So I think this is an area in which I need lots of work!

i feel like there are only so many things that my husband *gets* about being a mom. i stay home so my day is a far cry from his. the moms in my online mom's group are a HUGE support and we can exchange emails throughout the day so it's not like it requires a massive amount of maintenance.

i think that moms get it- we know how much energy gets sucked out of eachothers days so hopefully we can extend grace and help when we see that it's needed by our mama friends.

Seriously...isn't the fact that having children can be an isolating and jarring experience that puts chasms between you and the people you used to have soooo much in common with the reason that urban mamas exists. Since my daughter was born, if you don't communicate primarily through email, we don't talk. If you don't eat dinner before 6:30 and breakfast before 8:30, we don't talk. If you aren't busy enough with your own family or life to forgive that I haven't called or seen you in over a month, we don't talk. Basically, I have maybe two friends that I still see and talk to that don't have children and everyone else....well, it's tough keeping up when you're winding down for bed and they're gearing up for a night out.

There's a great humor book about parenting called "The Three Martini Playdate" that says if you find another couple that you and your spouse enjoy spending time with and your kids actually get along too, then you hang on tight and don't let go, because that is a rare and beautiful thing!

I do seem to see my friends who have kids more often, but that's because our kids play while we chat and everyone is on the same wavelength. Friends without kids aren't as patient (sometimes) about the constant interruptions, strange schedules (pre or post nap?) and inability to commit to plans (can we find a babysitter?). So what my group of girlfriends and I do (only half of us have kids) is definitely meet for birthdays (ours, not the kids) and have a nice leisurely lunch together. We try very hard to get together on a more regular basis, but that doesn't always come to fruition due to all of us having busy lives, kids or not. I do feel that those w/out kids tend to stop inviting those w/kids to do things since they assume we'll be busy, and often they're right. But honestly, I'd love to get together for something other than happy hour all the time, especially since I won't be able to truly imbibe until I stop nursing. But that's just a matter of the moms in the group communicating our wishes to the others.

As long as both parties don't envy the other (or at least admit openly when they are) and don't judge one another, I think it works out fine. It's really about keeping the communication lines open, and knowing that a true friendship will last all things (lack of communication, lack of "face time"), even the great divide of kids vs. no kids. Sometimes that filter is a blessing, and your true friends become even more of a treasure.

i had a fantastic kid free life before....kids. then i moved to the suburbs. all my kidless friends drifted away...good friends have moved away over the years. two good friends remain somewhere in town and we communicate through email and phone, see each other twice a year maybe...they are extremely busy. i have no cool neighbors with kids to hang out with. every playdate i've gone to has been lonely and disappointing. either it's idle small talk that goes nowhere, or i'm completely ignored. when you meet new people, someone has to talk first, make the first move, right? i've heard alot of mamas comment on how hard it is to make new friends, how isolating it can be being a SAHM, etc...so i go to these places where mamas and kids hang out and i just wait and see if anyone is going to make the effort...and nada. i only do that because i have tried being the first before, and still no connections are made. i don't get it, so i gave up. i haven't been anywhere in over a year now!!! i'm just too busy, (3 kids), and tired now to care. y'all have fun =)

I'm hopeful that the kid connection will hold me and some of my friends together until we all have the time to develop deeper friendships. It does seem like going through this whole crazy experience that is parenthood together could form some pretty strong bonds! This thread has encouraged me to put a little more effort into those deep friendships I already have because I do think really good friends - the ones you really click with - aren't that easy to come by, kids or no kids.

Some of my closest friends I met through a newborn moms group. The kids are much older now (almost 5) and don't always get along (mine seems particularly tempermental), but I have truly come to depend on these women, these friendships. They have genuinely moved beyond just being about the children. In fact, I would say that for some of them, us moms are friends despite our children!

I really struggled (and continue to struggle) with the friendships. My 3 best friends all live really far away & my husband unfortunately is socially awkward so we don't get in too many visits. The one that most recently became a mama finally understood why our previously 2 hour conversations had to be whittled down to maybe 20 minutes. I moved to Portland while pregnant with my first child & ever since I've struggled to find friends. My one steadfast Portland friend I met at La Leche League & I knew ours was a real friendship when we didn't call each other for 4 months (moving/chickenpox/new job just got in the way!) but we were able to pick up the friendship without any hitch or recriminations about lack of phonecalls. I often wonder why I haven't formed more friendships in the 4 years I have lived in Portland. I've found that I'm just not socially confident as I was in college; I struggle with self-conciousness & feeling un-hip in a way I never did before!

I imagined all sorts of play dates and social events as a mom prior to having my daughter, and while I am part of several groups, few real friendships have come out of them. The problem is, as a single mom, I don't really fit in anymore with my single, childless friends, and I don't really fit in with my married with children friends. No one wants to do things on the weekends because they want to spend time "as a family" or with their partner, or go out with another "couple." I am content to get together with friends and just hang out for hours, but I find that mostly get-togethers last 1-2 hours now when they involve kids. I am so lucky to have 2 very close friends I made prior to my child who have been there for me all along, and I can just hang out at their houses as if I lived there. I also have made one fabulous friend who I met while nursing our babies together in a mutual friend's bedroom when our babies were 5 weeks old, and although we don't see each other nearly as often as I would like, she is always just a phone call away and usually can relate to each and every child thing I am going through! But I have also been blessed to meet many wonderful women through my single mom groups (usually most of us are so swamped we have trouble finding the time to get together more than once per month) and my Jewish moms group, which includes a wonderful wide diversity of families. I never feel alone when I know that any of them are just an email away for support!

I agree that when you have kids, maintaining friendships with kidless folks becomes really difficult. You are exhausted and in a serious time crunch, and it can be hard for people to understand who haven't been there. They have free time, you just don't anymore.

I will say for me that having children really helped me hone in on who my true friends were. Sadly, I lost an old friend who surprisingly had moved here too and I thought we would be really close. But me having kids (she wasn't married) just was something she couldn't understand and it fell apart. It was hard to maintain; I would get in trouble for not calling, instead of "hey, I've been thinking of you" it was "where have you been for the last month"? It was just too high maintenance. But some friendships have been easy to keep up. My best friend lives in CT and we have actually grown our friendship through having kids. Sometimes we won't talk to for 2 months, but within 30 seconds on the phone it's like we talked yesterday. We don't see each other much which is sad, but we both have two kids. I also have another kidless friend (now pregnant, yah!) who I did NOT drift apart from. She makes an effort to visit and call, but she too isn't offended when we don't connect, and for me that is key! I give what I can to my girlfriends and make sure they know they are important to me, but I can't be like I was before husband and kids, and the ones that know that are the ones that work out!

Having said all that, I moved here a few years ago and didn't know anyone. We got pregnant right away and when my first was little it was pretty lonely. When he was a year old I joined a playgroup and it was the best thing I ever did! We no longer have the group, but I'm still friends with the mom's and we try to go out (w/o kids) regularly! I'm so thankful for having met them as it was a lonely time in my life!
It was hard in the beginning, and I'm a really outgoing person! I struck up many a conversation with a mom at the library only to be snubbed and never see them again. I did gain a great friend from the library though so it was worth the effort.

My husband compares finding mom friends to dating. If he knows I'm having coffee with someone new, he will ask me how my "date" was, etc. It's kind of a joke around our house now. But it really IS like dating. Someone has to make the first move...then if you click, someone will ask for a number, etc. It is almost HARDER than dating IMO b/c we women are so judgemental sometimes!!!

Another random thing I did which ended up being a great friendship (hi Leah) was email someone randomly off Urban Mamas (long time ago when email addresses were on each post) simply because her son was the exact age as mine and I wanted a same age boy playmate for my son. Turns out we grew up in the same hometown and were born 1 day apart in the same hospital. Guess it was just meant to be!

My best advice to the ladies having hard time meeting other women is to just stick your neck out and make the first move. Someone has to!!!

Friendships require a bit of work at times, and that said, it can become difficult to keep up with those that continually "flake" or can't make things that had been planned--once in a while, sure, things come up, life happens, kids get sick, etc.--as parents we all know that--but with a few friends we have, unfortunately, we often just expect that they will flake, since they usually do this last minute with everyone, and we got tired of explaining to our son why so and so can't join us again, when he had been looking really forward to it. With those particular friends, we often don't even mention that we might be getting together until we know for sure that it will be happening as it just became too disappointing for our son, time after time. We aren't angry about it or at them, and accept it as the way it is especially since we all seem to have a great time when we do get together, but new and old friendships do require effort on both sides and it's nice when sometimes they do "just fall into place" for everyone.

My 3 y/o son constantly tells me, "You're my best pal, Mom-mom," and I've come to realize, that's all I need. Sure, it would be great if my 5 y/o felt the same way, but he's in school all day anyway--how many "best pals" do I really need?

But, seriously, it's true. The boys and I spend most of our time together, they understand when I'm tired or grumpy, they are usually fun to play with, they like learning how to knit and use my sewing machine--I really don't need anything more than that from a friend.

I thought when we moved here I'd miss my 3 close friends from NY. But even there, they were long-distance friendships, with only occasional face-to-face meetings, so I don't feel like I'm missing them too much here anyway. Of course, I've been friends with each of these ladies for most of my life--one since birth, one since kindergarten and one since high school. It's the 2% theory of friendship--most people only maintain real friendships with 2% of their friends. I think I have my 2% with these chicas. Not that I wouldn't like to find someone here to hit a yarn shop or a bar with (when I'm finally not pregnant again), but I really don't have the energy/time/inclination to find a new "best pal" right now.

I vowed to keep up all of my wonderful (and fairly new) friendships with the people I met when I moved to Portland - but I would really much rather spend my time with my daughter than my friends. It's sad, but true - perhaps made especially so for me, since I work full time and those hours with my child are so precious. I've accepted the fact that I've become the person those friends hoped I would not - I totally adoring mother who lives her life by the nap schedule!

I have great friends that I NEED. I make time for them. I have to or I'd go insane...Even the friends with no kids. I must admit, most of my old non-mom friends have fizzled out, but the two that remain are lovely.

My husband and I have an agreement. At least once a week we must go out for dinner/drinks/whatever with our friends & the other stays home with Tanner.

Here is the small print...this was not possible, for me, before Tanner turned about One. It IS a lot of work to maintain my friendships, but I do it anyway. I am the one who calls & plans almost ALL of our evenings out. Its a total pain and I wish someone else would take the initiative. No one ever does, so its up to me. There are ample amounts of flake-outs that I have to deal with, which is a bummer when I get my hopes up. I used to get angry but I have since decided, whats the point? I just say, "thats OK, I understand" and try to make another plan. Even with all of that my friends are worth it - my ME time is worth it! I'm a better Mom and Wife because I take time for my friends & myself.

Trying to make mom friends IS exactly like dating. If it goes badly you can't wait to escape, and if it goes well you wonder how much time you have to let pass until you can call them and set up another play date. I had a great group of mom friends that I saw a few times a week when my son was a little guy, but he was the first one to start school full time so I don't see them as much. It was hard at first, knowing they were all still getting together every week and I was "the outsider" who only came in for birthday parties or weekend events. Play dates changed to "moms' night out" when the 2-3 mamas I had the most connection with made time to go out alone once a month. As these mom friends have had their second children and we remain very happy with only one, those friendships have to change again. They need to worry about nursing and having a tiny baby and can't get away for kidless evenings. Mama friendships are in a constant state of flux, always changing and mutating. I think the only way to make it work is to be flexible and not take anything personally.

As a dad, I found hanging out with my single friends to be a complete bore. Now when they were single, I was married, but none of us had kids hanging out was a break from the newlywed routine. My wife had her set friends and I had mine. After we had kids, we both felt like our time was better spent with each other, or with couples that also had kids. Sports night with the guys turned into play dates at the park. My best friend and I still got together (kids in tow) to through the football at the park.

I was in a playgroup with my son and I really came to depend on it. At first I was awkward; most of the rest of the moms knew each other from a birthing class they'd all been to. I was older than the rest of them, and my son was younger than their kids. But he clearly had a great time with the other kids, so I kept going, even though a lot of times I went home feeling like I totally didn't fit in. However, after a month or so it got better. I got to know them, and they got to know me, and before long I would actually get UPSET if I had to miss our weekly group.

Then we moved across the country.

I miss seeing them every week, and exchanging recipes and knitting patterns, and running into them at the park. We've started going to a church that has a good program for kids, so at least the little guy has a social life. :-) We've also joined the Y, and between the church and the Y there are actually a lot of social events with free child care... if we'd just go. ;-)

God, this all really makes me appreciate my good luck. Several of my friends had kids at the same time I did. I met several other great friends through our kids. Best of all, though, my best friend nannied my daughter when I went back to work. Her first and my second are almost the same age. And then she moved to an apartment a block away. In fact, most of the people I am really close to live within a mile of my house, and my kids are friends with their kids.

I love San Francisco.

Well, it's been sort of hard. I email every day while I eat and baby naps. Just a few lines lets people know I am thinking of them. Talking on my cell phone in the car is a big part of my social life too, I'm afraid. My main mama friends--really friendly acquaintances--are the other SAHMs who we walk by when I'm walking the dog with baby. Sometimes we'll stop and chat. Also, I belong to a local Yahoo Group for Attachment Parenting and it's full of people who understand why my baby's needs come before my need to socialize with them, often. At 8 mos we are not even close to leaving my baby, who is fed on demand. If we had functional family nearby, we would drop her off for an hour or two, but we don't. Miss Baby goes to bed between 6:15 and 7, and we keep thinking we will start havig close friends over for dinner, but it hasn't happened more than once or twice.

Shannon, when I read your post my heart went out to you! It's not you... It's the suburbs. The suburbs could kill even Britney Spears social life.
Seriously, I used to live on Dolores Park in SF. Every morning I would climb over my back fence and sneak in the service entrance of the coffee shop next door.... just so I could get some coffee in me before I had to talk to my adoring masses.
Then, I moved to the suburbs of Milwaukie(OR). I couldn't have drinks in town, and drive home, with good conscience. No one would come to visit me....I was completely isolated. And this was all pre Baby. In fact, the only words I ever exchanged with my neighbors, was when one of them called the police. He saw a black man in my yard and just assumed I was being robbed. (It was a friend of mine who had come over for a swim.) Oooh, the suburbs.
Before children, we had time to squander, on finding, connecting and spending time with friends. Plus, as autonomous women, we were more self possessed-- a kind of armor against others attitudes, actions, avoidances.
But Motherhood made me lose that. My heart opened up to receive this new life. And with that, I became more sensitive in general. My feelings have been hurt when I've gone to BookBabies or Baby Gym and no one seemed to acknowledge me.I've felt jealous when my two closest friends go do things and don't invite me, (even though I can't often go when they do). But I think that that sensitivity will help me empathize as a parent as my children grow and learn how to get along in the world.
So Shannon, How old are your kids? I have a 15 month old. I am having a little art party for babies next weekend ( 3 and under). If you have a tiny tot I would love you to come.If not email me anyway! elciel@comcast.net We mamas all need to stay connected by more than just a computer.


oh lea, why'd you have to go and generalize like that? maybe your experience in the suburbs wasn't good, but what you said is equal to me saying that when you live in close you have to deal with drug dealers on your street and all pps schools are bad. come on now. i live in a suburb and although i sometimes mourn for the days when i was "cooler" and lived in inner se, i've started to realize why it was we moved out here. we moved out here to buy an affordable house so that mom could stay home (which i'm thankful for.) we also know all of our neighbors, have a neighborhood park that all of us with kids congregate at, we can walk to new seasons and coffee shops, and believe it or not, we do have people of different races/ethnicities in the neighborhood. your happiness and sense of community are what you make of it. it is hard to meet people. if you want friends, you need to put forth the effort. i have more friends now than i ever have. i put myself out there. i've joined a ton of groups. i feel lucky if i make a connection with one person. i'm not afraid to ask for someone's phone number. one of my best mom friends i "picked up" at the park. i belonged to a moms club and stroller strides and online groups. and when it was time for me to move on from those groups i took those friendships with me. i started a bunco group with 15 other local moms so that we had to stay in touch at least once a month. i take my kids out for activities everyday. even on those days i'd rather stay home in my pj's i get those kids out and socialize us all. and my kids are 18 mos. apart and i've been doing this since my youngest was two weeks old.

I think Laura said it best when she said you just have to stick your neck out and make the first move.

None of my close friends have young children. Either they don't have any, and aren't likely to for a variety of reasons or their children are all grown up (I'm an older mom). I've been amazed at how welcoming they have all been of my child, making extra effort to make sure he's welcome and meeting me at infant-friendly places. I went to a dinner party this weekend where my son was specifically invited; he was the only child there and he had a lot of fun with lots of people to play with, which gave me plenty of opportunity to catch up with people. I do meet parents with children at classes/events and hope to make some friends with children eventually, but I don't feel isolated from my other friends. I like to read this blog primarily to find out about events and resources that I might otherwise not hear about. Keeping in touch - since we have friends/family living in a wide variety of places, I set up a password-protected blog that people can subscribe to via e-mail. It's been a real time saver overall, since I just have to post info and pictures once.

A comment about the suburbs -- I live just outside Milwaukie. While I sometimes wish I could walk somewhere for coffee, I love the privacy and space we have. And one of the main reasons we don't think we'll move for a very long time is that the neighbors all seem to get along--it's a very child and pet-friendly little sub-community and I have everybody's contact info up on my frig. One of the problems with moving is that it's difficult to evaluate those factors from real estate ads, and it can vary from block to block pretty quickly.

I have lost ALL of my friends since I had kids and got divorced. I made such an effort to keep up with my friends and go out, etc. -- but there is just no reciprocity on the other side or understanding that my freedom is somewhat curtailed. Most recently, I had invited a friend down to spend the weekend for my birthday. She said yes, then after I got excited about it, emailed me two days ahead of time and suggested that I, quote, "ditch the babies for the weekend" so that I could come up and "party." When I explained that finding a babysitter to take my two babies for two days would cost me $500 that I didn't have, she then claimed that she wasn't feeling good and couldn't come down after all. And this was after I had driven up (with a homemade Yule log it took me 2 days to make) for HER Xmas party just a few weeks before. So birthday was spent alone. : ( And I echo what many of the other posters have said about the impossibility of meeting other moms at library storytime, etc. I feel like I am never going to have friends my own age again and it is SO GODDAMNED LONELY.

Melanie,honey, I apologize. the last thing I intended to do was offend or alienate. I am so glad you found a sense of community (and a new seasons) in the suburbs. I had a mcdonalds and an albertsons.... and all my neighbors were white AND voted for Bush. I was there for the same reason as you, it was where I could afford to buy.Now we live in a neighborhood with wonderful diversity of culture and classes, and a high crime rate. We are happy and social here, it is a better choice for us.

Love this topic. As a 30something guy I gotta say having a little one has certainly changed the social support scenery. It's interesting to me that increasingly I have to pick and choose as to which friends I'll turn to for which topic. Parent friends for parent issues. Single friends for more professional or nightlife type issues. Not that parents can't talk professional, but I gotta face it that since the baby has joined us, the nightlife is out. Finding a community of like-minded guys was proving too tough, so I've had to start my own. We're at ninjadaddy.com if anyone knows semi-geeky young fathers looking for community support.

All I can say is this column came at the right time for me as I have been conflicted about the few friendships I have managed to maintain - and the effort that it takes to maintain these even as I balance work, my wonderful son, and a husband who works a lot. When I had my son, I only had one friend who was a mom - she was a great support, but it has felt difficult to develop more mom friendships because it does seem like everyone is so busy with their own lives (which obviously they are), but hearing what everyone has said has made me more willing to stick my neck out and attempt to meet new moms wherever I am because I have come to realize that what I need is the balance between my family and relationships with other moms experiencing similar things that I am.

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