When I was pregnant with my first child, I imagined my future afternoons would be filled with mimosa-powered playdates, and I looked forward to that group mentality I hear and read about so frequently.
Then, reality occurred, and it turns out balancing a full-time career and motherhood while also maintaining friendships was not going to be manageable for me.
As an introvert, it felt absolutely exhausting to even imagine attempting to socialize once the weekend hit. I guess I eventually stopped trying and then most of my friends did as well.
I had seemingly forgotten the elementary-level lessons that teach children the importance of maintaining friendships, which was especially ironic since my career as a school counselor includes teaching these lessons.
At first, while I was in the depths of postpartum depression, I didn’t notice that I was failing as a friend. I began to notice how lonely I felt after I returned to the daily grind of life as a working mom. Some days, I found myself thinking it would be nice if I had someone to meet up with for a walk or glass of wine, but for some reason, it felt unattainable.
Even if I was able to muster the energy to connect with someone, I worried that reaching out to a friend I had not seen for months or even a year would just end in awkward rejection.
Then each time a social media post reminded me my friends were doing just fine without me in their lives, I gave up a little bit more.
I was torn between a desire to be part of that group, even a very small one, and apparently not even having the energy required to be an active, contributing member.
It really hit me when I was pregnant with my second child and a co-worker asked when my “sprinkle” would be. I realized I would have only one (maybe two) friends who I could even invite. And I definitely didn’t have any friends who would be willing to throw this party to celebrate my baby. It was such a selfish realization, but I guess things had just been so busy I hadn’t realized how lonely I truly was.
As my pregnancy progressed, I pondered my lack of a social support system and found myself wishing I had put the effort in earlier. As my due date was approaching, it felt so strange not to have had any type of celebration to welcome this new life. Sure, I would have welcomed the help with gathering baby essentials, but I felt sad and oddly guilty thinking about how this baby was not being born into a village.
My family tree resembles more of an indoor bonsai than a massive oak, and I had always hoped and imagined I would maintain close friendships that would be more like a chosen family.
It became apparent that I had not put in the energy that was required to make this a reality.
Looking back, I think checking in with my friends would have gone a long way, even if I didn’t always have the energy to make plans to hang out in person. Maybe if I would have been honest about how overwhelmed I felt, then my MIA status would not have possibly been misinterpreted for a lack of interest in maintaining that friendship. I also think it would have been good for my mental health to get a babysitter and send myself off for a girl’s night even though I never truly felt that desire to be away from my child.
In the end, it seems that it really comes down to the fact I didn’t follow my own classroom lessons that teach children the importance of spending time with their friends and taking a true interest in their lives.
The act of balancing motherhood, a career, and meaningful friendships may be a challenge but it is a challenge that is worth the energy and time each area requires. My second daughter is almost 9 months old now. COVID-19 may be making social connections more challenging than ever before, but I am glad to have the self-awareness required to put in that extra effort toward old and new friends even though it is from a distance.