Friend alienation happens when real life begins. When you are little, say in elementary school, everyone is your friend. You have class together, you play together, you learn together, you eat together, you do group projects together. You don't start forming peer groups until you begin to have things that set you apart, like designer clothes, a skateboard, or boobs. From that point onward, each and every human on the planet feels some form of friend alienation at one time or another.
I got married at eighteen. In fact, I was still in high school. That fact set me apart from my peers from the get-go. I lost many friends over the next few months. They couldn’t relate. Most of them were still giggling behind their hands and trying to decide which boy to go to prom with. I was married by my senior prom. I just finished planning a wedding. What thrill could prom have held for me?
The following year, my husband and I moved two hours away from pretty much everyone we knew for college. It was impossible to make friends there. “What dorm do you live in?” “Oh, I have an apartment.” “An apartment? I didn’t think freshman could have apartments!” “Well, I’m married, so that’s the exception I guess.” “You’re MARRIED??” Honestly, I think it would have went over better if I had told them I had a child out of wedlock, or a second head, or a third nipple. Anything but being married.
The following year, we moved to a city much closer to our hometown. That might have changed things, as people began to visit us and we seemed to be reconnecting with people, but then we got pregnant. People didn’t even know what to say. Most of our peers would have viewed it as the end game if they had found out they were pregnant, but we were excited to begin our family. Friends called and chatted less and less. No one visited anymore. I was fat and hormonal and tired. I was setting up a nursery while they were drinking themselves stupid. Our priorities were worlds apart. Once I had Cheerio Champ, the few friends I had managed to hold on to fell off the grid.
We later moved back home. We reconnected with family for the first time in several years, developing a support system we didn’t previously have. The friend department wasn’t so great, however. Drama from past friends just didn’t mean anything to me anymore. So some boy didn’t call you? I haven’t slept in two days. Cry me a river. It works both ways, mom alienation. The non-mom friends feel left out and can’t relate just as much as you feel left out and can’t relate. They didn’t know what to talk with me about, and I didn’t know how to hold a conversation that didn’t include baby talk.
I think it really dawned on me when a friend visited out of the blue. I hadn’t showered that day and was dealing with a cranky teething baby, my house was a wreck, and we were trying to get out the door. When this friend showed up, I was surprised and happy to see her, but I wish she’d called and set up a later date so I could have prepared for that. As I’m packing a diaper bag feverishly, I’m updating her on some things that have been going on, all of which involve Cheerio Champ, “He’s got four new teeth! Isn’t that exciting?” I ask. “Maybe for you,” she replies, as she smiles and nods. That really hit home for me. I realized most of my non-mom friends didn’t give two licks about what my life with kids was like. I was experiencing all these milestones that meant everything in the world to me, and they just smiled and nodded when I talked about them. This friend wasn’t being a jerk. In fact, she’s a really sweet and gentle person. She was just keeping it real. She also helped me to realize that I had nothing else to talk about with friends! I had no hobbies, no job outside the house, no accomplishments that didn’t center around being a mom. I realized I am more than that, and I wanted to be more than that. Having other things in my life would allow me to reach out and find common ground in order to make friends.
I started the task of becoming a person again right after Cheerio Champ was weaned, by combining fitness and friends. I began walking at the park and connecting with friends that had fallen off the grid. And I started with those I actually gave a crap about. Just because you have 797 friends on facebook doesn’t mean you have to hang out with all of them in real life or that even half of them like you. You don’t like them either, don’t worry. They’re real douche bags, I promise. If you were to open up your facebook friends page and scroll down it, how many of those people would it hurt you to never see again? Maybe ten, at the most. And of those ten, do you know any of their family members? Hobbies? Where they work? If not, cross those off and you are down to at most five. Five friends. Most people can count their true friends on one hand, and sometimes those friends are even family members, as depressing as that sounds. But I realized this and slowly began to reconnect and become a whole person again.
Over the next few years, our friends began to hit the milestones we had already bypassed and grew closer on a relatablility scale (shh. It's a word if I say it is). We could talk about kids and diaper rash, bills and debt, husbands and clothes on the floor. Life got busier and it was easier to not hold it against one another when we didn’t call when we said we would because we passed out on the couch after finishing off our kiddo’s mac n’ cheese dinner.
After having Princess Cheerio, I grew closer to mommy friends that had started their families later, because now my youngest was close to their kiddos’ ages. I lost nearly all of my non-mom friends. It was like they could forgive one kid, but two was just past their limit! But really, what do we have in common? People come and go for a reason, and sometimes it’s for the best. Although, I will say some non-mom friends I still chat with on occasion. We just connect over other things (Zumba! great books!) or social media.
I also became alienated from some moms I knew over the years because of their parenting choices or the amount of time and effort they spend on other things while neglecting their kids. That’s something I can’t understand and refuse to accept. It’s one thing to be a working mother, but it’s quite another to leave your kid with your mom every weekend so you can go out and get wasted. But, I digress.
Now don’t get me wrong. I did not lose all of my friends from square one. There are several, I’m happy to say, that are lifelong friends. They are practically family, and I know that no matter what happens in our lives and how long passes between our conversations, we will be there for each other at the drop of a hat if need be. And I am so very grateful for those friends of mine. And of course, I’m also lucky enough to have married the best friend that I ever had.
My advice to you would be to be yourself. You don’t want friends who like you for who you are not. Find hobbies that you love and take a class every now and again. Combine friends and chores. Don’t like to go grocery shopping? Leave the kids with hubby and go with a friend and get some catching up done as well! Need to exercise? Walk with a pal or take a fitness class together. Hate cleaning? Make a long phone call to a buddy while you wash your dishes or clean your bathroom. It makes it go by much quicker. There are also a lot of great websites, like café mom or parenting.com that allow you to connect with other moms and spill your thoughts about parenting and other stresses.
The truth of the matter is that you don’t have to see someone every day to be their friend. And you aren’t alone when you feel alone. Sometimes you have to get out there and make new friends when your old friends aren’t up for the challenge of being there for you. And that’s okay. Chances are, years from now, those friends of yours that fell off the grid will be starting up their own families, and guess who they will come running to for advice. You were just ahead of the curve. After all, someone had to be first. ;)