Friendships can be temporary and still rich and authentic. When it stops working, whatever the reason, give yourself and your (now-fading) friend a break. It’s part of life. Move on – and remember what you gave to each other while it worked.
When I had my first baby, over a decade ago now, I wondered how I’d strike up solid friendships with other new moms.
Looking back now, I realize how lucky I’ve been. Here are some gestures, big and small, that can go a long way toward building a real friendship.
1. Be honest about the hard stuff. We all benefit from being real about how tough it is to be alone with a baby and find time to just use the bathroom. Don’t gloss over the lowlights.
2. But don’t be toxic. Envy, anger, and endless complaining are easy to fall into but bad for both of you. And besides, little ears are listening.
3. Make her laugh. And hope she’ll do the same for you. Having someone to laugh with is even more important when you are sleep-deprived and full of self-doubt and generally just finding your way.
4. Listen. Put your phone away. Those snippets of real-life conversations will carry you through the hours when you don’t have adult company.
5. Snap a picture of her with her kid. We can’t have enough candids of ourselves with our kids. Take one when she doesn’t know you’re watching and send it to her. Even better, print it out and stick in an envelope before your next play date.
6. Share your hand-me-downs. But only if it’s something you don’t need back. No one needs the added stress of trying to keep track of your onesies or get spit-up out of your favorite overalls.
7. Ask about her pre-parenthood life. And tell her about yours.
8. Keep money in mind. We’re all on a different budget. You might need to realize that pricey lunch spot won’t work for her – or learn to put your own constraints, graciously, on the table.
9. Remember that it’s not always about you. When she doesn’t return a few texts and you’re feeling left out or forgotten, she may have stuff going on that has nothing to do with you.
10. Strike a balance when it comes to favors. Be willing to offer help and be able to ask for it. Be generous, but not to the point where you become resentful. Remember that she’s not your built-in babysitter and you’re not hers.
Finally, know that friendships can be temporary and still rich and authentic. When it stops working, whatever the reason, give yourself and your (now-fading) friend a break. It’s part of life. Move on – and remember what you gave to each other while it worked.
Karen Dempsey is a Brain, Child contributing blogger. She has written for the New York Times Motherlode blog, Babble, and Brain, Child. She lives in Massachusetts. Read her work at www.kdempseycreative.com. or follow her on Twitter.