When I was planning to have children, it didn’t occur to me how my relationships with my friends without kids might change. I should have. I had had the experience when I entered a serious relationship and then again when I got married. With friends who hadn’t reached those milestones or didn’t want to, even as they were celebrating with me, there was always the hint of…what’s going to happen to us?
In my fantasy, my world would have my children and my loving husband, my family, my friends and my work. I would have time to spend with each and all of them would be constantly supportive and interested in the children I had and the life I had built.
But, as early as my pregnancy, I could see my fantasy wasn’t going to work out the way I had hoped. My best friend was upfront about my soon-to-be child: she was jealous. She (and then I) realized that this new little person would demand so much of my attention, attention I would normally give to her.
Some of my fantasy worked out: she was incredibly supportive during my pregnancy, became my son’s godmother and developed a special bond with him. But the realities of our different lives set in as early as post-partum when I was disappointed that she couldn’t make it to the hospital to meet him. She still remembers the first time I tried to go out with her after he was born and had to cancel at the last minute. Both situations were ones we understood but the gap was already evident.
We were very open with each other about our fears of losing each other. We had talked about it for months before my son arrived and continued to afterwards but now that we were in it, things felt a little tenser and harder to discuss. Neither one of us wanted to imply that the other’s one life or lifestyle was any less important…but we both felt sidelined sometimes.
We tried to figure out how to solve some of the tugging from our lives. She and I changed from having a theater subscription with my husband to having one of our own so we had pre-designated dates to see each other, when all else failed. Because my son was so important to her, I texted her funny things he did or said that I knew would make her laugh. W hen my husband was out of town, I would invite her over to spend time with me and my son and then we would have a girls’ night after he went to bed. I always made it clear that, while I found it important for her to see my son, I wanted my girl time with her and I needed my adult time, too.
While these things helped, they were not perfect. One time stands out in my mind was when she couldn’t come to a girls’ night. She was going out with another friend to go be single together. “It’s important for me to do that.” she said. And I burned with jealousy. “You mean you don’t want to hang out with my kid on a Saturday night?” I joked but it hurt to think that that was my Saturday night and I couldn’t go out with her and pretend to be single. I felt forever tied to my house and my parenting duties.
To compound this reality, we had a second child. However, there was a short and unusual period of time, after my daughter was born, when my best friend was changing jobs and I was often in the city at the right time to do a lot of last-minute dinners out. But when her business picked up and nights disappeared, so did the dinners. And, even though it meant that she was succeeding, I missed the spontaneity of those dinners and I missed seeing her again.
We tried to make up for it by doing more spontaneous calls in the middle of the day. When I increased my childcare responsibilities, it became nearly impossible. The time that I was with my daughter was time I couldn’t talk and the rest of the day was given to work, squished into a much tighter few hours. We relegated our phone calls to the evening or weekends and tried to text during the day instead.
When she started dating someone, long periods of time would go by when we weren’t able to match up our schedules. Even when we were able to catch up, I would hear, with dismay, how she had called on her other friends when there was a relationship crisis and wondered aloud why she hadn’t called me. There were always good reasons, truly legitimate reasons, but I was hurt. If I hadn’t had my kids, wouldn’t she have called?
Recently, we had the most wonderful gift of time together. We hadn’t caught up in two weeks and they had been intense weeks for both of us. After walking around for hours, talking, we made a vow: we needed to more actively make weekly plans to talk on the phone or see each other. An actual appointment. It’s been a month since that vow but we’ve kept to it. I even went so far as to take a cab home so I could talk to her before she went to bed one night (and I never take cabs).
Our lives are so different from each other’s now. She’s single and building an independent business. I’m a mother of two young kids with a husband and I’m a writer. It’s hard to admit to your best friend the things that are going on inside your head when she’s telling you about the new awesome thing that’s going on that’s going to consume more of her time. And it’s hard to hear it. But, in order to keep our friendship strong, we need to. It may sound idyllic but being brutally honest with each other is what has kept our relationship strong. We’re 12 years and counting…and we’re not giving up.