A few months ago I found out that we had stopped receiving invites to parties. “We don’t want to offend you,” my girlfriend explained, “but we know you can’t come, so we didn’t want you to get depressed about having to say no all the time.”
I thanked her. The reality is that as a first-time mom with a new baby, I can’t go out partying all night every weekend. “We stayed up until 3 a.m.,” another friend gloated last week. “That’s cute,” I replied, “I was up by 5. You’re sure you want to try for a kid, right?” I chuckled as she balked.
This has been the year of saying no. No to parties, gatherings, nights out, hang outs. No, I can’t just drop everything and meet you at the diner for a late lunch. Yes, I know I’m home all the time. No, a baby doesn’t work like a purse puppy. Sorry! I’ve apologized often to the friends I have and felt sorry for failing the friends I haven’t made because a sleep schedule suddenly changed, or a stomach virus happened, or I was just too tired to move.
Yes, being a mother gets in the way of being a friend. It also gets in the way of making them. My brain is still too focused on adjusting to parenting to think about handling a conversation with someone I do know, let alone someone I don’t. The other week we went to a local synagogue for the first time. A lanky redhead in the parking lot wished us, “Good Shabbos,” and I had to blink twice. I was too busy making sure we pulled all the baby stuff out of the car to automatically reply with the simple, well-known, “Shabbat Shalom.” Fortunately, when I stumbled she just looked at the stroller and smiled. Maybe one day we’ll actually have a conversation. Right now, I’m thankful for her grace.
What’s more annoying than being unable to enjoy the friendships you already have? Being told to forge new ones by virtue of your current circumstance. Everyone encouraged me to find mommy groups. They’d be a great way to get my son socialized and for me to get out of the house. The only thing is that my attempts usually resulted in me playing with my son and a group of other babies while the rest of the mothers gabbed about the cost of preschool and re-doing their kitchens. You need something more in common than being a mother if you want to be a friend. Remember all those birthday parties you had as a kid, the ones where you had to invite the whole class to attend? You weren’t all friends because you sat in the same room together. Why would you all be friends just because you happened to give birth around the same time?
The truth is that being a mom doesn’t make you a lousy friend. It will, however, make or break your friendships. Social media is a daily reminder of friendships that once burned red hot and are now barely a simmering flame in the back of your mind. It’s also a validation that it’s okay not to remain close friends with everyone you’ve ever had lunch with. To tailor a quote from Anne Shirley, “True friends are always together in spirit,” but right now, I’ve got to change a diaper.