My circle of friends has changed a lot since having kids. Some people have withstood the test of time, and the challenges that come from a friend having a baby. Other people have drifted away. I was thinking about my “past life” recently and had a realization: those people who I keep in touch with, what did they have in common? What did they mean to me and to my kids? Read on for my epiphany, the most important thing you can do for my kids (and for me).
Psst, the answer is: just show up.
Just. F**king. Show. Up.
Ok I’ll watch my mouth (err, fingers). But seriously. The people who I still hold dear to my heart – whether by blood or by friendship – put their time where their mouth is. They make an effort to see my kids and I. They’re in our lives.
Here’s a test. Think of your college roommate, your kids’ godparents, your old neighbors, or your best friend. If you ask your kids who that is, do they know? What memory do they have of this person?
If your child gets that funny squinty look on their face and says “Huh?” or they need an explanation on who the person is, then chances are those people aren’t really around a lot. And that may be due to circumstances beyond their control, like a deployment or an illness.
But I truly feel like a lot of people melted out of our lives because sometimes it just sucks to be friends with someone who has a new baby. It’s not fun like it used to be. And as new parents, you often feel like you’re drifting alone on an island and there’s no one for miles.
Now that my kids are older – four years old and almost two years old – we are able to see people more easily. The kids can come to restaurants and stay awake the whole time; people can come to our house and not have to tiptoe around; I don’t feel like we’re particularly difficult to see.
But someone has to want to see us badly enough. And a lot of people don’t.
So I get the “Aww I miss you!”s and the “When can we hang out?”s, but some people don’t ever act on it. And those well-intended words start to make me mad, because I want to say “You know where we are. We’re the most routine people you know. If you want to see us badly enough, don’t go to that movie and don’t get your nails done and for once just come see us. We don’t need you to spend monty or wear make up or even shower. Just make an effort, please.”
Because my kids are growing up without you, and they’re forgetting who you are.
I’ll admit, I had a season of mourning after my son was born. He was my first baby, and we moved from north to south Texas just before conceiving him. I felt like I was forgotten by all my old coworkers and friends. Facebook and texting let other people know we were still alive and well, but apart from some generic messages it was like everyone went back to their regularly scheduled lives … without me.
Now I’ve birthed and raised two babies, and that sorrow has turned to annoyance. I’m a lot better about cutting people out of my life if they can’t seem to make time for me. Because let’s be honest, I have too much going on to pretend to be good friends with someone who always has something more fun and exciting to do than visit me, or talk to me about something other than themselves.
And I have found ways to make my own “mom tribe” (I know that sounds cutesy and cliche, but my God it’s true). We have a wonderful circle of families near us with kids of the same age, and our children play while us moms stand by to bitch or ask for advice or just be there for each other. We show up, damnit.
My best friend is a fantastic example: she’s a single working mom, and her only child is almost three. Even though she works her ass off, takes care of her son, and does all the other home/chore/errand stuff herself, she makes a point to see my kids on a regular basis. She could have excuses to not answer when we FaceTime, or to never visit us (and let us visit her), but that’s not the case at all. She is acutely aware that the most important thing we can do for our kids is to just have regular contact, to let them talk and see each other whenever we can. I’m so grateful that our kids will grow up together.
And you’re right: I need to make an effort too. I certainly don’t just sit on my ass and wait for people to call on me. But I can’t follow people around and beg them to be my friend, either. Or beg them to give a damn about my kids. What quality friendship do I have if I put in all the effort? (I used to do that to an extent, and do more than my share just to keep a dying friendship alive. But ain’t no mom got time for that.)
So all of you parents of older kids, or non-parents, or anyone who’s old enough to read this: Make an effort. Show you care. Not a non-committal “like” on Facebook or a forwarded email chain letter, but real effort. Effort is the most important thing. Effort is free, but it is so valuable. It means the world to my kids and I. Even though we still have naptimes and doctor’s appointments and other boring kid stuff to work around. We love you and we miss you.
And when they’re older and look back on their childhood, I want my babies to remember you. I want them to smile when they think of your face, and have happy memories rush over them when they hear your name.
But that’s up to you.