One day you’re sharing feeding tips with another new mom and a year later you suddenly realize that you’re actually in a beautiful and intense friendship. Both you and your kids have so much in common, so the time you spend together is never strained—an afternoon together leaves you both feeling light with mutual understanding, your necks aching from all the nodding. And then one of you has another baby. And one of you doesn’t.
Suddenly, she’s dealing with middle school track practice, while you’re still in the thick of missed nap meltdowns.
When friendships shift it can be difficult to decide whether to stay invested or cash out, but here are 5 ways to give your friendship the best shot possible, and 1 way to gracefully let it go.
Remember: You are BOTH busy.
Your busy will look different than her busy. If she’s understanding of your child’s need for nap time, respect her need for a consistent early bed time for school. I used to be able to chat daily with a friend during nap time. Then my children outgrew naps and I was no longer available at that same time. We worked through the change and have found a new forum for our talks—weekly walks in the evening after bedtime. Compromise has allowed us to remain connected.
Engage: Support each other.
Your friend’s child is excited about his first orchestra concert. You little girl is excited about preschool graduation. Whatever support looks like for each of you—do it. Show up to the concert. Take photos at graduation. Cheer at those first steps and congratulate the new driver. Many of my friends are just starting their families. I have two teenagers, a pre-teen, and an elementary student. I love to see pictures and learn about what new foods my friend’s baby is trying and she listens as I worry about my son driving off on his own next month.
Space: Give it, Get it.
Each of you will simply need space at some point in your relationship. That space may present itself in many forms including a reduction of play dates or outings. It’s possible you or your friend will have a NEW friend that impacts your time together. Space doesn’t mean that you’re being cut off or cut out. Don’t read into something that isn’t there. One of my closest and dearest friends and I will go months without talking, but are able to pick up right where we left off. We’ve figured out we’re in it for the long haul and we maintain open communication lines and understand each other’s “busy.” Her children are the same age as my youngest, so while we have that in common, she understands my lack of availability as I navigate the world of teenagers and I understand her double duty as a parent of twins.
Understanding: Oh, and Sympathy too.
There are times when you’re going to be completely unable to understand what your friend is going through. Either you’re “not there yet” or you’ve “been there, done that” and are possibly having a hard time recalling what it was like the first time. I’ve been guilty of forgetting how exhausting it is to have a toddler. My friend doesn’t understand why my teenager isn’t home at 10pm on a weekend and why I’m still up waiting for him. Accepting our mutual lack of understanding and simply supporting each other has been invaluable.
Communicate: Talk about your friendship.
Important relationships take work. It can be a hard conversation to navigate initially, but friendships worth maintaining are worth any minor awkwardness or discomfort. It’s possible that your lives may be on parallel paths or just moving at different speeds. Re-framing where that person fits into your life may keep the friendship alive.
And sometimes….it’s time to let go.
That doesn’t mean cutting your friend out of your life, de-friending them on Facebook. It just means that people and circumstances change, and that sometimes, friends aren’t forever. You needed each another at one time and those needs have now been met. Instead of daily chats, weekly texts will suffice. And it’s okay. It’s okay for friendships to fade because memories last a lifetime.