Before we get started, let me say I’m not talking about being crappy with my single friends. When I was single and childless – and I was single and childless for 20 of my adult years – I never faulted busy moms for allowing their families to encroach on their friendships with me; I saw it as my duty to fit in with their new, overwhelming roles. There was that old saw we repeated in college – never dump a girlfriend for a date – and it was true then, but once you get married, your priorities shift. I understood that on their behalf, and I claim it as my prerogative, like Bobby Brown said.
But jeez. Even if you take all that into account, I am one lousy, crappy pal these days. Here are just some of the sins I’ve committed just in the past month:
- I offered to drop off my pregnancy pillow for a pregnant friend. Never happened. She’s due like next week.
- I also missed her baby shower, but that was because Penny got a cough and I got paranoid.
- Another friend had twins. I was in constant phone and text contact while they were in the NICU, but both have been home for a week, and have I called? No.
- I got an email from a woman at my synagogue with twins who get along great with Penny. She wants a playdate. So do I! But do I remember that when I sit down at my computer? No.
- Another friend’s dad died almost six months ago – no, nine, I had just found out I was pregnant when I sent the condolence card – and I still haven’t gotten on the phone with her.
In general, I have two modes: (1) I am out with both girls and feel too frazzled to spend much time on the phone, though I’m constantly distracted by it, which is another story. (2) I am home, and in my office, for barely 3 hours per day, with a workload that makes me want to throw up and cry whenever I think about it.
When I’m in Kid Mode, I somehow can’t focus enough to even have a decent conversation. I’ll be actually sitting with a woman that I genuinely like and value and want to know better, and I keep losing the thread of the conversation. It’s some unholy combination of sleep deprivation, toddler save-me moments, breastfeeding hormones, and um… wait. What was I talking about?
I need some kind of conversation butler. A guy who’ll stand there and say “Ma’am, you were in the middle of a story about how the midwife didn’t listen to you.” Of course, if I had that guy, I’d be handing him the baby every other minute and using his pocket-square to blot spitup. (Do butlers wear pocket-squares? I’m too scatterbrained to even search Google Images.)
When I’m in Work Mode, I spend at least 45 minutes wading through emails, because I mark everything “unread” that needs my attention when I’m in Kid Mode and can’t process it. To date, I have 373 unread messages that are people I need to get back to, appointments I need to enter into Google Calendar, press releases or tweets that might make good story ideas, evites I have to ask my husband about because they fall on stepkid-weekends … yadda yadda. I also have – ohmigod. I have twenty-four open tabs in Firefox that are things I clicked on and want to address, including Abby’s birth announcement (which is also supposed to be the thank-you card for her baby shower), a few NPR programs I wanted to listen to, and an Old Navy shopping cart I can’t pull the trigger on. (I just closed the 3 tabs that pertained to a story I posted yesterday. Oh, so much better. Not.) By the time I get to actually writing and posting the articles due that day, it’s way past my editors’ bedtimes, and I usually frantically realize that I only have 45 minutes to do 4 posts. If I have to interview anyone, I’m SOL.
Huh. So I’m a crappy friend and a crappy worker!
Good think I have patient friends and editors. At our Monday morning playdate, Simone’s mom patiently and skillfully guided us back to conversations started and abandoned, and recapped our visit briefly just before I left so I wouldn’t forget its salient points. Are there people who are just really organized about friendships? I like that as a skill.
Anyway, I’ve heard friends talking about the “haze lifting” when their toddlers become independent enough to allow for conversations that last more than 30 seconds. Part of me looks forward to this, though another part worries I’ll miss this frenzied activity like doctors miss their ER assignments.
That does it – I think I might be nuts, too.
Do you feel like being a mom has made you less present as a friend?