I used to be a good friend. I went out of my way to keep connections with my pals alive. I’d invite them to the coffee shop to chat over scones and lattes, I’d share a pizza or a pile of nachos with them on dinner dates, and I’d laugh with them at whichever bar hosted the best happy hour specials. I made it a point to accept invitations to brunch on the weekend, to movies on Tuesday nights, and to their overpriced jewelry parties. I called them and we chatted idly over the phone on a semi-regular basis. I clinked glasses of champagne with them when celebrations were in order and brought over comforting cheese-filled casseroles when times were tough. I greedily consumed every moment of friendship. I stuffed myself with those occasions like a hungry caterpillar devouring the lushest of leaves. When it came to friendship, I was full.
And then I became a mom.
It wasn’t long before things changed. Tuesdays have become bath night instead of movie night and swim lessons now fall during happy hour on Fridays. Coffee hours are almost impossible to make because they fall too close to school pickup time. By the time my friends are ordering their dinners out, I am in my pajamas tucking my children to sleep just before I head to bed myself. My champagne clinks have turned into texts that say, “Congrats!” because I can’t always snag a last-minute babysitter. I bail on their jewelry parties because money is tight, and because I’m just too tired to drag my ass to them. I have entered the pupal stage and even though it might look like I’m at rest, my energy output is higher than ever, it is just being directed toward my changing role. I even stopped calling my friends on the phone because every time I try, my children start sledding down the stairs in laundry baskets, knocking over lamps in the living room, or they get into screaming matches with one another over who will play the waitress and who will play the customer at their pretend restaurant.
I’ve turned into a shit friend.
Sometimes I attempt to atone for my shittiness. I’ll send an email or make a phone call to a friend when I’m driving somewhere by myself. Every once in awhile I’ll mail a card to a buddy the old fashioned way. Twice a year I get together with my close pals for an overnight. Occasionally, I’ll throw on a pair of black pants and a pair of heels and I’ll flit over to a birthday celebration or a special event and pretend I remember how to mingle. I might sometimes mimic a social butterfly, but it’s all a facade. I’m a marionette being held up by gossamer strings. But, at least it is something. I do still adore my friends.
A lot of times though, I fully embrace my shittiness. I’ll see someone calling and instead of answering I’ll watch my phone go to voicemail. I decline invitations to events when I have nothing to do other than binge watch Netflix. I skip the invitations to brunch and stay at home in my pajamas instead. I wrap myself in a cocoon of responsibility and fleece blankets. I remain firmly planted on the couch – it is not yet time to molt and be set free. I don’t order jewelry from their parties even when they send an online link. When my pals tell me they’re playing Bunco at 7.30 on a Wednesday night, I immediately dismiss that as an option for this Wednesday, next Wednesday, and all of the Wednesdays for the next 2-4 years. At 7.30 on every Wednesday for the foreseeable future I’ll be busy engaging in bedtime routines.
It’s not that I don’t value my friendships, because I really do. I love my friends and I very much enjoy spending time with them. It’s just that I’m too tired. My brain is abuzz from overstimulation. I have difficulty focusing when I’m in this state. Sometimes I need to go brain-dead and zone out while watching terrible television shows. Sometimes I need to sit in silence when I’m in the car by myself. Those moments of non-engagement are sucking up the minutes and hours that I used to spend feeding my friendships. I now choose to spend that time on my sanity instead of my social life.
Every day is a whirlwind – I get the kids ready in the morning, I work during the day, and then pick up the kids again straight from work. I try to squeeze in quality time with my children in between making them dinner and cleaning up the house. I tend to collapse with exhaustion when they’re finally down for the night. This means I’m quite often a shitty wife as well as a shitty friend, so I set aside energy every now and again for a date night with my spouse. This is usually fun but also fatiguing, so it takes me time afterward to replenish my stores. Before I know it, a whirlwind of a day turns into a whirlwind of a month.
As much as I’d like to say I’ll try harder to connect more, I can’t. Not yet. Just like a caterpillar in the chrysalis, I’m a bit broken down and am pretty much trapped in my own little world at the moment. I’ll shed my responsibilities and will emerge eventually, but for the time being, being a shit friend is as good as it’s going to get.