They say confession is good for the soul. Since becoming a mother almost 7 years ago, I’ve come to admit that 1) I should have stayed working (had I had an actual job/career that required me to be elsewhere most of the week) 2) I’m crap with toddlers and 3) I’m quite good at keeping another living being alive.
Here’s a new one. Over the years, I’ve made friends with many other mums (mainly stay at home ones) because our children go to the same school or activity. But I can’t honestly say we’re real friends. Do you know what I mean? We’re more friends out of convenience. There’s a certain lack of depth and it’s bothering me.
It’s difficult to have deep, meaningful conversations when you’re watching out for hazards to your kids well-being on the playground, or when you’re constantly interrupted, or pulling out treats, bandaids, kleenex for snotty noses and the like. There’s nap times, grocery shopping, dinner, laundry, whatever always pulling at us. I’ve noticed a certain desperation, loneliness that comes with motherhood. At first, I thought I was the only one. I used to hang out with this one mum in our old neighbourhood and she always seemed so blissed out, so content with her days. I admit it. I was BORED OUT OF MY MIND. She was always telling me to leave Boo with her if I needed to, always talking about what her kid ate, his sleeping habits, his developing personality. Hell, it was a while before I got out of her that she was a botanist! Not that I would have understood a bloody thing about that, but it took months to get to know her. And then I moved, she had another child and that was that. I was supposed to go visit her and the new baby, and en route, she texted to say she didn’t get any sleep and was cancelling. Considering it took weeks to arrange it to begin with and I had dropped my son off at preschool and driven like a crazy woman to even attempt a short visit before I had to return, I was a little miffed. Not in the how rude of her way, but in the omigosh, there is no way I can maintain this relationship with a woman who lives 40 minutes from me. I now have to deal with her new schedule. And I didn’t hear from her again. So what was the point of that?
These friendships are not usually based on the things the things the women have in common. They’re more about whether the kids get along, proximity and similar parenting values.
Another example. I’ve been friends with a woman who lives nearby and she actively sought out my friendship a couple of years ago. Our kids became great friends. I liked her, she was funny, we had dinner at their place, the husbands got along. Late in the school year her son was having trouble with the other kids at school and I was getting pulled into that. I actually had to pull the plug on their playdates because I was tired of hearing about what went wrong and she thinks her kid is always blameless. (On a side note, I also stopped having playdates during the week because some kids were just plain problematic to have over and I had to drive others back home at the same time dinner had to be prepared and it was not working for me. I actually had a play date with one kid and though I adored the mum, my kid did not want to hang out with the boy anyway.) I just told her bluntly that I was tired of their play dates ending in tears or recriminations and sometimes kids aren’t friends forever. It happens. It doesn’t mean they’re enemies, it just means they’re moving on. I was sick of hearing about who took whose marble or rock or whatever. She’s a good mum but she’s bit of a helicopter parent who prides herself on her kid telling her everything. Yes, I believe the term “tattle-tale” applies here. At this age, kids start to tell lies or don’t tell the full story and their parents don’t always see it. I dislike kiddy drama. I refuse to be dragged into little boy shenanigans like it’s the Cold War. Trying to “parent” another kid is a losing battle. She also has a delightful little toddler. So she has her hands full. I understand what it’s like to be sleep deprived, I get it. She certainly has taken my kid when I was running late or had to go to an audition; I tried very hard not to overuse her kindness. I’ve taken her son when they had to take the baby to hospital and I’ve also tried to be a good friend to her. But let’s face it, when you have 2 kids entertaining each other, it’s easier cause then they don’t bug you!
So I have only seen her once this summer when she took me out for my birthday. I keep trying to arrange a mum’s night out with her, but it hasn’t worked out. I do get the occasional text from her saying she misses our chats and I am truly fond of her, but it’s another one of those situations where I feel like I’d be sad if she moved, but life would go on. I’ll be seeing her soon enough when school starts up again in a couple of weeks, I guess.
I met another mum who had adopted as well and the one time we had a playdate, I felt like we could really be friends and I was always so happy to see her, but you know how that went. Her kid went into another class, she got a job and that was that. She’s also incredibly sporty and I am well…not.
I swear it’s like dating! Oooh, I really dug that guy and we had such a great first date, we bonded, made out and then he never called me. Or this guy keeps calling and so we go out occasionally but I’m not that into him. Or he likes me more than I like him. It’s crazy!
So what makes a true friendship? Shared experiences and on ongoing regard for one another despite life circumstances? A 50/50 give and take balance of exchanged baby sitting? What if your husbands don’t like one another or one can’t stand the other? What if you don’t like their kids? What if you rarely see one another? And the more important questions, what if they don’t drink?
I’ve found that as a grown up, it’s already difficult to maintain a good friendship over the years. Then factor in if you’ve moved from one city to the next, if you have children, if you live far apart, different religions even. It always takes time and effort and time is at a premium if you’re the one who is taking care of the kids, the dog, the household, and a job.
As Boo is getting older, the playground politics (among the women anyway) is getting a little more complicated and I’m not really digging it. As much as I’m ready for school to start again, I’m not missing the gossip about that family or that kid or how well their kid is doing in school or whatnot.