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Friendship Advice Needed

Friendships in Peril

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

There’s a rift happening between myself and my best friend, I don’t like it, and I could use some advice about how to stay connected with an old friend who is also a new mom.

Her baby is about 7 months old, and I haven’t been able to be around as much as I’d like to be. We used to live about half an hour away from each other, so it was pretty doable for us to hang out after I got off work while she was pregnant and for me to go over some weekday evenings after work when the baby was really little. But recently my husband and I have moved, so now we’re more like 1-1.5 hours apart, and I’ve taken on a second job. I have very little spare time (most weekdays I leave the house at 6:30AM and don’t get home until 11PM or later), and by the time I get off work in the early afternoon on weekends, I just want to go home and take a nap, do some laundry and spend some time with my husband.

I know she’s feeling a little neglected because we’ve only seen each other twice in the past 3 months, she’s a SAHM and I know she’s lonely and bored during the day, and since I’m not a mom yet I can’t relate to anything she’s going through, no matter how hard I try. She’s asked a couple times if I could come over after work on a weekend, but it’s 30 minutes in the opposite direction of my house, and by that point I’ve had to drink a ton of coffee just to stay awake through my shift and I’m exhausted (I’d probably fall asleep in the middle of their living room floor). It’s pretty inconvenient for them to come all the way to our house, too, because of distance, traffic, feeding schedule, naps, our house is super not-baby-proof, our dog is an overly-excitable idiot, etc. (we’ve tried). I want to stay connected, we’ve been friends for over a decade, I just don’t know how to do that right now since the face-to-face time has always been how our friendship works, and it’s not really an option right now.

Do you have any advice about how to stay connected with an old friend who is a new mom, when we’re stuck at a distance? I can feel our friendship starting to falter and it worries me; she’s my best friend, I adore her son, and I don’t think either of us want to fade out of each other’s lives. Our friendship has always been a priority to me, her baby is the apple of my eye and I LOVE being his “auntie,” I could really use some help figuring out how to keep them a priority and keep our friendship alive while we’re stuck in this weird place. Thank you!

This is a really tough question about an even tougher situation. And as a person who has seen many, many friendships fade, weaken, or just plain up and vanish over the course of my life, I might not be the most qualified person to be offering advice.

When I saw your subject line (“Keeping a friendship alive with an old friend/new mom“), I assumed this was going to be one of those situations where the new mom disappears completely into an anti-social form of motherhood, or only wants to talk about baby-related things or do baby-related activities. Instead, we’re talking about a friendship that’s pretty much facing EVERY challenge in the friendship book, all at once.

To be honest, I’d say the fact that she’s a new mom ranks fairly low on the list of things threatening your relationship right now, as she’s at least reaching out consistently-ish with invitations, made the trek to your house, you seem pretty into babies and her baby in general, etc. But obviously it’s always a difficult thing to admit that you and a friend don’t have as much in common anymore, but in my experience, denying or flat-out ignoring that fact doesn’t help “save” the friendship.

In a way, both of you have shifted into lifestyles that require a lot of sacrifices when it comes to your free time and ability to hang out with friends like you used to.

Also in my experience, any move further away can have a much bigger impact on your friendships that you might anticipate. We moved 45 minutes away from our old neighborhood and given how often I’ve seen a couple formerly very close friends in the past nine months, you’d honestly think we moved to Siberia. We all made big promises at first, made the drive a couple times, then plans/invites became more and more infrequent, or tended to remain tentative right before falling through at the last minute.

But really, what’s killing this friendship–and I imagine your social life in general–is your absolutely brutal work schedule. I’m going to assume that second job is a 100% vital necessity, but MAN. You’re working seven days a week, and on five of those you’re spending over 16 hours away from home. Just thinking about working and commuting that much makes me feel exhausted and anti-social on your behalf. With that little free time, I feel like your friend could live next door and you’d still never get to see her, beyond maybe waving through the window as you come and go (and come and go) to work. It’s perfectly understandable that you just don’t have the emotional or physical bandwidth to make social get-togethers the priority they once were.

In a way, both of you have shifted into lifestyles that require a lot of sacrifices when it comes to your free time and ability to hang out with friends like you used to. She has a baby; you have a bonkers work schedule. So if your friendship is going to survive, it has to adapt to the present circumstances and learn how to exist without the steady face-to-face interaction. Can you guys at least text each other regularly? Chat on Facebook, Skype, Snapchat. etc? Send each other the occasional surprise gift or handwritten card? I have quite a few friendships that operate this way almost exclusively now, either because of distance or just schedules that rarely sync up. I mean, I admit that texting goofy .gifs back and forth a few times a day isn’t the same as having a regular Wednesday happy hour meet-up, but it at least lets us both know that we’re in the other person’s thoughts, and the regular check-in means we can keep up with each other’s day-to-day lives. And those are both pretty important components of a lasting friendship.

The more you guys keep trying (and failing) to make face-to-face stuff happening, the more those repeated failures and frustrations are going to chip away at the foundation of your friendship. You both need to accept that SEVERAL big changes have come along that make your “old way” of friendshipping (shut up, it’s a word) obsolete. It’s time to adapt  and evolve and figure out a new and better way. And it will likely take the form of some kind of app on your phone, yes, but hey. Modern tools for modern life. In the old days, people had to write letters to stay in touch with old friends. Or like, call each other on the phone. That was attached to the wall in your house. And it had a cord and no speed dial. And it was uphill in the snow both ways! But if you couldn’t see each other in person, that’s what you did.

My LAST suggestion might also uncover yet another potential landmine here, but I’ll make it anyway. You mention trying (and again, mostly failing) at hanging out at each other’s houses. Which requires a big driving/time commitment for one person. Is there a reason she can’t meet YOU after work on a weekend, someplace close to your job, or between your job and your house? Have a set monthly Saturday/Sunday super-late brunch get-together or something? I get that you’re exhausted and need to be uber-protective of your free time, but since you clearly value your friend and fear for its future, could you make something work with her so long as it didn’t require so much extra driving?  Or is another problem that she doesn’t ever want to leave the baby with anyone else (even her partner), and doesn’t like to take the baby out to restaurants and stuff like that? Because I’ve known new moms like that and as the complete opposite sort, it always struck me as needlessly restrictive. A 7 month old can sit in a high chair for an hour while you chat and catch-up, amused by the contents of a diaper bag. Or a 7 month old can stay home with Dad or Grandma while Mom gets a break and meets up with an old friend.

Either way, as you guys attempt to figure out how to make the friendship work without quite so much face-to-face, committing to making something work once a month might not be a bad idea, provided you can each meet each other halfway on the distance/convenience factor.

Photo source: Photodune.net/fuzzbones

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • biotelyn

    Set up a monthly/weekly lunch/dinner date that is a priority. Make it kid friendly and equidistant between your work and her house. Even if it’s a park and picnic or a coffee shop, try and get there for face time.
    When you have a break, send her a check in text , even if you have to put a reminder on your calendar, text once a week. I do this for my long distance friends and it seems cold, but it’s better than losing your friend in your work crazy. Staying sane takes friends, even if u lose a little sleep.

  • bookworm81

    Amy’s right, the main problem isn’t that the friend is a new mom it’s the brutal work schedule combined with the distance. The only thing I have to add to Amy’s advice is that since you mention your friend is a SAHM maybe she could join you for your lunch break sometimes? It sounds like at least one of your jobs is only 30 min from her house which isn’t a terrible drive even with a 7 month old (well, most 7 month olds anyway). Idk where you work/where she lives obviously but it’s possible that she could combine visiting you for lunch with some other activity/errand so she’s not spending 1 hr of drive time to spend 30 min-1 hr with you. For example I used to have dinner every week with some friends who lived about 30 min away and an exciting bonus for me was that they were right by the Trader Joe’s and Ikea that were closest to me.

  • OP

    Amy, thank you so much for your quick response! I really appreciate your insight. I wish it could work for her to come meet me for lunch after work on a weekend, but unfortunately (and I say this with love because she is my BFF) she’s a total pill about having to drive anywhere, and would likely expect me to pay for her lunch if she drove “all the way” to meet me, and I truly don’t have any spare money right now (hence, two jobs). She also isn’t huge on taking her baby to restaurants, he’s a scooter and gets PISSED if he’s confined in any way and screams his cute little head off unless he’s on the floor and can roll around everywhere. They came to our house the one time, but told us before they’d even left that it’s just way more convenient for them if people come to their house so they don’t have to drive anywhere and haul along all the baby’s stuff.

    I’m sorry I sound so whiney right now; I’m exhausted, trying to figure out how to keep her relevant in my life while remaining relevant in hers, and receiving a lot of guilt trips about how little I see her and the baby (of the, “I’m just sad that you’re never around and are missing his whole babyhood” and, “You never have time for us anymore! :(” variety), I’m just at a total loss. I text daily, I don’t always get a response but at least I’m trying. I’ll definitely send her a card or something in the mail, I think that’s a great idea (and who doesn’t love getting a card in the mail?!), thank you again!

    • irishredhead

      You’re not whiney, your friend is refusing to compromise. Yes she has a 7 month old child, but she can’t have it all her own way. If she really wanted to see you that badly, she would help come up with solutions and not just throw spanners at everything you come up with. Friendship is a two way street, you can’t be the one doing all the running.

    • CKD1

      Wait, so she’s upset you’re missing her child’s babyhood and she doesn’t work yet she expects you t do 110% of the heavy lifting in order to stay involved in her life? Nope. Not OK. You’re not being whiney – hell, you’re the one looking for solutions while she holds court in her house expecting people to come to her at her convenience! If she doubts your commitment to the friendship and being involved in her son’s life (which, to be honest, shouldn’t be your #1 priority – your life with your husband should be, just as her family is her #1 priority) I’d show her this letter and the responses.

    • OP, you don’t need to do more than you are doing. She’s being unreasonable if she wants you to do all the driving (or paying if she’s driving) when you are already working so hard and money is tight. Send cards and texts. Skype if she’s willing. But unless she’s willing to meet you half way (and I really like the picnic idea!), then you are not the one in the wrong here.

  • Myriam

    I would go at it the other way around… Ask HER for help. Tell her how tired you are and explain your priorities (gettint out of dept, saving for whatever) and tell her you need help brainstorming ideas. Make her realise this is not about her. And for the lunch thing, how about a picnic at a park? You each pack your own, baby can scoot around…