FriendshipIdentity

Reaching Out

When you have a baby, you are community property. You have plans for every weekend, family visit upon family visit, and you perform such still-novel tasks as diaper changes with a constant audience.

You go along with it because otherwise you would have to think, and at this point, your ability to think is like your pre-pregnancy pants—a lovely but foreign concept, a relic of a different time.

So you show up where you’re expected. After all, it’s nice that people want to see you.

It’s not about you, though… it’s never about you. It’s about the baby. The people who surround you will expect access to the baby. They will resent your requests that they wash their hands or vaccinate themselves against the flu and pertussis. They have a right to be there, don’t you know? What makes you think that you get to act as gatekeeper between this person and the baby?

Not all are so self-involved, and some will do backflips to make your new-baby life easier, but others are really more interested in their own desire to see the baby than they are in your desire to schedule your own life.

So maybe you start to get burned out on people, and want some time alone. Maybe you turn down plans, or you just don’t go out of your way to make them.

And there you are, alone.

So you go to the mom groups. You join everything you can, schlepping the baby and the diaper bag anywhere you might make a friend. You soon realize you don’t have much in common with many of these people other than the capacity to procreate. Then there are some others you do get along with, but you don’t really know how to make plans now, mired as you are in the hectic baby schedule, knowing they have their own hectic schedule. Should you and your child have night owl tendencies, this will be especially difficult.

And there you are, alone.

So you find yourself in online parenting groups. If you’ve spent months on pregnancy forums, maybe you know by now to avoid the general parenting groups, and you look instead to more specialized ones where you can find like-minded parents. And you do, and you make great friends, and they vaccinate their children and never cite Mercola or Natural News as a source for anything. But they all live far away, and sometimes you wonder if maybe they’re ruining you for the people who live close enough to get together and have play dates or go for coffee.

So there you are, alone.

And as time passes, and the baby, now a child, tests your sanity more and more each day, you desperately seek connections with people who choose to spend time with you. You! With or without the child. People who want you around, not because they’re obligated in any way, but because they just… like you. New friends or old, parents or not. You don’t expect anyone to fix you, you just don’t want to overwhelm or offend them; you know your feelings aren’t pretty. You want to reminisce and you want to create new memories.

But over time, you have become weird. Was it becoming a parent? Was it lack of social practice? Was it the deleterious effects of loneliness on your sanity? Whatever the cause, you are weird now, or at least you suspect you are, and you think it must show. You don’t understand the social dance, and every step feels like a misstep. You know people care about you, but it’s not always easy to remember.

You know you need to reach out. You don’t know where to start and you don’t want to come on too strong, but somehow, you hope, you will find the strength to do…something.

And maybe you won’t be alone.

 

Featured image: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/83312

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Chelsea

Chelsea

Young mom raising a bilingual child (N) with her boyfriend (B) and trying desperately to avoid all the Woo down in Wooville.

8 Comments

  1. Nicole
    January 13, 2014 at 7:41 pm —

    Love this and so true. I have worked on putting myself out there more and meeting other moms, hoping there will be another out there that will just “click”.

    • January 13, 2014 at 11:29 pm —

      Yes, the click! I miss the click! My first real conversation with my best friend from high school was just us listing a bunch of relatively obscure bands and finding where our interests overlapped. I miss that simplicity (even though music means a lot, which is why my one link in the post is to one of my favorite songs of all time).

      Having to manage friendships is the hard part. High school sucked in so many ways, but at least it put me around friends and potential friends constantly so getting together and hanging out wasn’t so daunting.

  2. CanadaLes
    January 13, 2014 at 10:46 pm —

    I really identify with this post! I am a loner introvert married to an even more introverted guy. For many years I had casual workplace friends, but no one to just hang out with, but that did not really bother me. Being a SAHM made me really want friends, but I also felt weird and like an outsider in many situations. I have friends now from two main mom-based groups: parents who adopted their child(ren) from Ethiopia and the non overlapping group of moms of kids with autism (subgroup of of moms of kids with autism who vaccinate, don’t give their kids bleach enemas, chelation therapy or hyperbaric treatments). Finding these niches of parents facing similar issues and challenges, and making actual friends with some of them (hang out, go for coffee friends) was very hard for me, and made more difficult due to my existing self-esteem issues and insecurity. But I needed friends who understood my life, and I am so glad I left my comfort zone and reached out.

    • January 13, 2014 at 11:23 pm —

      I’m a shy extrovert living with a shy introvert, which can make socializing difficult, even though I need it desperately. (Our son, on the other hand, is an outgoing extrovert— he’s my inspiration!) I’m a young mom and a skeptic, which makes me feel, to borrow your words, weird and like an outsider in many situations. Most of my IRL friends not only don’t have kids yet, but many are going through a twentysomething woo phase (which I never really had, because I got pregnant when I was 19 and discovered Skepchick and The Skeptical OB at that time). That, and they almost all live far away now. So I don’t have my way-back friends around, and I struggle to make grown-up or mom friends. I actually have met some really cool people, but between the new-friend insecurity and my total organizational failures, making plans is so hard. It all starts to feel like when people would write “We should totally hang out this summer” in my high school yearbooks and we then didn’t see each other again until September.

      After having a lousy year and not really knowing where to turn– to my old friends: “Hey what have you been up to for the past couple years? Oh, me? Not much, just everything is falling apart and I hate the world. Remember that time you made a mustache out of chocolate syrup?” or to my new acquaintances: “How’s your little one’s potty training going? How are you? Oh, he’s in underwear most of the time. As for me, I just want to burn things with my eyes and run away screaming because fire is scary.”– I wrote this post, finally putting into words at least some of what I was feeling. I needed to shout out and see if anyone would hear. Well, my son and I have a playdate for tomorrow, so that’s a start 🙂

      Anyway, thank you for commenting. I’m glad the post resonated with you.

  3. January 14, 2014 at 2:07 pm —

    After my daughter was born, many of my friends drifted away, because I was now so “different”. When my daughter was two, we moved to my husband’s home town. The only people I knew, I knew through him or family. Now almost three years later, I still have few friends, but was able to convert some online friends into real life friends. And I added a baby to the mix. It’s hard, but thank goodness for technology that allows us to find likeminded people online.

    • January 14, 2014 at 2:52 pm —

      I’d lose my shit completely without the internet. It lets me meet new people and keep in touch with old ones. Just writing and sharing this was so worth it. I reconnected with one of the moms I talked about who I’d always wanted to hang out with. She and I and our kids had a great playdate today and it was fun for the kids and really comfortable for me. The things I wrote in this post are not things I could say to anyone in person, but thanks to the internet, I could share easily and those who wanted to read it could easily do so. We hear all about how technology pushes people apart, but it does plenty to bring people together, too.

  4. staceyjw
    January 16, 2014 at 2:38 pm —

    I get this. Without the web, it would be lonely. I have a few great friends here, which is a rare treat, but it took lots of work. I move all the time, so I get a lot of practice making new friends, but once you have kids, its so much harder. Just getting a night off to go out is a challenge.

    Love al your posts BTW>

    • January 16, 2014 at 6:13 pm —

      I don’t know how I’d survive constant moving! Though moving to a city would be nice since cities are better for my personality and my waistline.
      Thanks for the kind words!

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