I glance down at my voicemail box for the first time in three days and see I have two new messages from one of my closest friends and a third I already listened to five days ago. Crap. I still haven't called her back. "HOW HAS IT BEEN FIVE DAYS?" I think. I had full intentions of returning her call in a timely manner. And then.... life? sick baby? husband? 3 jobs? It doesn't matter. They are all excuses. Let's revisit that last statement instead: "I had full intentions of returning her call in a timely manner."
Dear childless girlfriends who are keepers of my heart, my history, and my freaking sanity, I want to explain something that you cannot understand in this moment, though I think you will at some point in your lives: my definition of the word "timely" has totally changed, despite my best efforts. Please know this is not just a mommy excuse. I'm actually concerned that time is being stolen right out of my life each week. Like I've been roofied and woken up to several voicemails and FIVE DAYS have passed but I could swear it was...well let's be honest - since I became a work-from-home mom, I don't bother with the days of the week... Without being chained to my former desk job where I was always acutely aware of how many days until Friday and how many minutes until lunch, I have lost a bit of my grasp on this here thing we call a CALENDAR.
So that's the first thing I wanted to lay on the table. It's also one of the most obnoxious realities for us new moms that we really, really hope you, our best girlfriends, will understand, forgive and let slide.
We have full intentions of returning your calls in a timely manner.
Now that that's out there, let's continue with some simple advice to help new moms maintain their friendships after the prodigal baby is born.
1. Stay Connected However You Can: Technology gets such a bad rap sometimes. And I don't really care. Texting, Facebook, Snapchat, Gchat and Skype have essentially maintained and even revitalized some of my most important friendships, and I am grateful. When my best friend unexpectedly calls me on her lunch break via FaceTime and I get to see her face and she gets to wave at my baby, I feel certain that God himself must have put Apple geniuses on this earth to make my life better. Thank you, Apple (and God).
2. Express Gratitude: Tell your friends how much you love and appreciate them and WHY. It can be six months after they send your baby something they don't have the money for but bought anyway, but just SAY THANK YOU. And "thank you for spending way too much money on my baby" is a great start, but adding a line about why you feel lucky to have them in your life is even better. They are going to hear from you a whole lot less in the coming weeks/months (YEARS-*cringe*), so when you have their attention, make it count and thank them for being in your life and sticking with you through this shit show called parenting.
3. Find Time: I don't care if you have to beg, borrow or steal it, but try, try, TRY to make time for your girlfriends. Go to the important stuff. Remind them that you are still here and still have the gal-pal parts of yourself buried under baby weight, dirty ponytail hair and yoga pants. Give yourself permission to do fun stuff with your ladies as often as you can swing it. You will be tired. It will be hard. Yes, the baby will still wake up at mother effing 6 o'clock in the morning. DO IT ANYWAY. I had a 20 minute catch up call with one of my besties yesterday while Aria screamed and cried "NO NO NO" in the backseat of the car for 10 minutes and then I grocery shopped and raced her around in the grocery cart while doing the obnoxious thing where you balance the phone between your shoulder and ear. I AM that mom. Sorry I'm not sorry. Conversation complete. CHECK. Time found? CHECK.
4. Show Them Your Human Side: Have you ever cried your eyes out to a really good friend and had them respond with, "What a waste of time. Thanks for the sob story?" No. No way. Not on my blog, ladies. I find that when I am vulnerable and honest with my friends, they are grateful for a quick peek inside the world of Gervase, the married mommy, and not just Gervase, my sarcastic friend who is really great at chugging champagne while sporting a sock bun. They want to connect with us and be there for us and help us in any way we'll let them - so LET THEM. Don't be too embarrassed to show your human side to those who love you. It will reconnect you (and take some heat off your husband who's exhausted since he married your crazy ass).
5. Know the Keepers: I know this whole post is sounding like dating advice, but knowing which friendships to keep and toss in your life is just as important as knowing which man to marry. Your relationships are your best assets. Invest wisely. Once you start having kids, you don't have extra time to spend on friendships that don't sustain your heart and soul. And the four relationship-maintaining tips above mean nothing if you're spreading yourself too thin and holding onto too many people who aren't giving you what you need in return. Don't be guilted into holding on to people you can't afford (mentally, emotionally, logistically) to keep. They will find others who have the space and time and need them NOW. People come in and out of our lives for a reason. Know if and when it's time for them to leave.
I feel INCREDIBLY grateful to have been blessed with a village of friends and family that has supported and nurtured me through a decade of downs and ups. And I credit my happiness in part to having that support system firmly in place. How much energy are you expending on people who aren't in your village? And - are you putting IN enough effort with the people in your life who deserve to be there?
Do you have other tips for maintaining relationships after having a baby? Share them in the comments below!
Also, if you haven't already and feel so inclined, hop on over to my Facebook page and like it and share it with YOUR lady friends!
Girlfriends and gratitude,