[It's International Women's Month. Let's talk about issues and concerns that women face. This week, it's how motherhood is changing the face of friendships.]
To my dear single girl friends,
I miss you so much. I’m so sorry I’ve been MIA. I feel terrible about it.
I swear I’m not avoiding you when I turn down your lunch invites. I just don’t want to bring the kids to lunch. Thanks for telling me it’s okay, that you don't mind hanging out with them. You tell me you miss them too, and you want to see how much they’ve grown.
You tell me my stories are hilarious, especially the one about my daughter insisting on wearing a different shoe on each foot, or how the other daughter reminds me over and over that she wants her step stool to be dry before she climbs on to brush her teeth, then one day decides she prefers it wet…after I’ve bent my exhausted body to wipe it dry with the hem of my nightshirt. You say you want to witness all this cuteness firsthand.
The truth is, I want to sit with you and talk for hours about everything under the sun: about your exciting single life, the gossip at work, about the guy you’re considering on Tinder.
I don’t just miss you, I miss those days too: When I could think about the controversies in the office and not about the extra work the kids’ teacher wants me to do with them at home. When I could check out the newest food neighborhood and not have to wonder if the kids will be able to eat anything there. When I could just laze in bed while chatting with you online or over the phone without someone trying to wrestle my gadget from me with sticky little fingers.
I don’t want to talk about my kids, but somehow stories about them are all that come out of my mouth. And when they do, when you laugh with me about my crazy life, I feel the tiredness lift from me. I realize that when I do step away from them, from their seemingly calculated chaos, they are adorable and funny.
But no. If I bring them with me to lunch, neither of us will see them as adorable and funny — especially not when they refuse to eat and I have to remind them to chew or swallow every fifteen seconds, or when a glass crashes to the floor because one of them can’t keep still, or when you can’t get a word in to simply tell me your new office crush’s name because little hands are tugging at your arm, insisting you pay attention to her and not to her mommy. You don’t know how lucky you are to be able to eat in peace.
So you say you’ll come over instead. We don’t have to do lunch in a restaurant. I take a look around at the toys strewn all over my living room, my kitchen, and my bathroom and sigh. Maybe? After I’ve worked up the energy to figure out where the toys are supposed to go.
Sure, I could easily throw them into one big plastic box, but I remember the wails: “Mama, where is my mint green teacup? The mint green teacup that’s supposed to be Princess Celestia’s crown?”
I remember my reply, “Oh, honey, I think it’s just there where you left it.” But all the while I’m quietly praying I didn’t throw it out when I did a general purging because I couldn’t stand finding single Barbie shoes, pink Lego pieces, and beads of all shapes, colors, and sizes everywhere I looked and everywhere I stepped.
So you send me an SMS in all caps saying I need time for myself. That this can’t be healthy. And hey, why don’t we go on an out-of-town trip, just us gals? Like we used to when all of us were single.
Oh, singlehood. How I miss thee. The days when I could make decisions without having to consult anyone. The days when I could say yes to a night out or even an out-of-town vacation at the drop of a hat. The days of freedom and me time, when shopping meant makeup, shoes, and clothes for adults (namely, me) and not children.
I allow the nostalgia to cloud my senses for a few moments then I remember that my littlest one still can’t sleep without holding my hand. I text you a few crying-face emojis and try to explain why I can’t do this anymore, at least not right now.
In the end, I give up on all my excuses and, with a heavy, guilty heart, text, “Sorry, not yet. Maybe in a few years.”
It’s a promise I hope you hold me to. Because I also know that right now, my baby wants me next to her, to hum and sing a lullaby till her eyes close, to wrap my arms around her so she won’t have bad dreams.
This is when I turn to her and bury my nose in her hair, breathing in the baby smell I know won’t be around for much longer. This is when I know I have made the right decision.
I may not be hopping on a plane anymore for a weekend of booze and sun, or partying at a late night concert, but I’m at a different kind of party. One with My Little Pony instead of Prosecco.
Sure, it gets lonely most of the time — and at this point you send me wide-eyed emojis and demand to know why I’m not seeing more of you — but I also know these short years are precious.
I need my babies right now as much as they need me. This is the choice I have made and I need your help to stay sane.
I need your help to come out of this with my heart intact and my laughter light and carefree (albeit with a slightly more responsible edge to it). I need you to understand and to wait because in a few years, when my little ones don’t want to have anything to do with me, I’ll be all yours.
And if it’s your turn to have little ones asking for a dry step stool when they really prefer a wet one, I’ll be sipping margaritas and telling you that you will get through it. Because you were there for me, as I will always, always be here for you.
Your married girl friend with kids