by Leah Hasse
When I was pregnant with my first son, I watched my friends drop like flies. Some of them because we grew apart, and some because I couldn’t maintain a relationship where I felt constantly scrutinized for my decision to get married and have a child.
At twenty, I was younger than most had deemed acceptable for such responsibilities, so I grew to be guarded and skeptical of friendship. I was still young in my new identity of “mother,” and I didn’t yet know how friends would fit in with this huge role that meant the world to me.
As a new mother, I did what so many others do and let my social life get pushed to the back burner as I put my energy into caring for my family. When I found time to focus on outside relationships, I struggled to balance friendship and parenting. I didn’t know if my desires or my child’s current stage of development was most important when scheduling hangouts.
My family and I move frequently, and we usually live in areas with lots of other transplants. I felt like playgrounds became speed dating sites where parents went to find their new best friend. Friendship seemed like a dance dictated more by the children than the adults – when I met a cool new mom that I thought I could get along with, I’d wonder if our kids would mesh. Are they close enough in age to play? What if they hate each other? What if they love each other and I end up not liking the mom?
I tried to make friendships work so that my son would have regular play dates, even if I found I didn’t have anything in common with the other mother. I felt guilty when my son was miserable during a playdate because he didn’t like the other child, but I left feeling revived after really clicking with the mother.
For a while I wondered if I could have genuine friendships at this stage in my life, or if I’d have to wait until my son was a little older. But once I stopped seeking friendship, it came to me, and I made some really fantastic friends whose children my son loved. I even met a few gems who didn’t have children, but with whom I could genuinely connect with and who didn’t act like my kids coming everywhere with me was a buzzkill: they welcomed my kids on lunch dates, to watch shows, and for hiking and beach trips. These wonderful people reinforced the importance of friendship and showered my family and me with extra love and support.
My friends and I are now spread out across the globe, but we still keep in touch. We love and embrace each others’ imperfections, and we always hold each other up. Sometimes we talk on FaceTime for hours, and sometimes it takes us days to reply to messages. These friends will be with me until the end, and no matter the the physical distance between us, I know we can lean on each other for support and encouragement. We don’t need to put on a brave face and put our best selves forward; instead, we can be honest about our struggles and rejoice together in our triumphs.
I will soon be entering my fourth year of motherhood, and I feel like I’m finally starting to learn the steps of the friendship dance. I’ve learned to put myself out there, to open up, and to be there for others. I’ve learned to not try to keep friendships that are a mental and emotional drain going, despite fearing loneliness, and I’ve learned to manage my children’s friendships and my own as two separate, though important, things. I feel that I am now in a place where I have a few really great friends from each stage of my life – friends I can call any time for communion and advice, and who will call me seeking the same.
Being able to lean on my friends for love and support has helped tremendously with my recent move to Germany. They have helped me to embrace my new home, and to have faith that my family and I can build a life here. I am again in the early awkward stages of meeting new people. I don’t know anyone in our town, and my kids don’t have any play dates scheduled in their near future. Living in a new place has stirred up the feeling of overwhelming uncertainty that I felt in my early days of motherhood. Once again, I am feeling the sting of isolation and the desire to find common ground. But today, unlike before, I am not in a rush to force friendships to expand my circle. I would like to make friends, and I know I will, but it will come in good time. Being a mother has taught me that friendship is much more sacred and intimate than I used to believe it to be.
Leah currently lives in Germany with her family. She loves everything related to the outdoors, and can often be found hiking or camping with her husband and two children. She enjoys traveling, studying languages, and taking random classes online to learn new skills. She hopes to use her writing to bring people together and to challenge biases surrounding motherhood.