Sunday, 6 January 2013

I miss having friends

I miss the university days of dropping by to each others rooms, hanging around drinking coffee or wine, setting the world to rights; I miss the work days of knowing so much about these people you see every day, sharing a private language, sharing angst and frustration and terrible jokes. I miss my old pre-baby friends, regular contact, making plans, spending easy time together.

Lonely isn't the right word at all. Perhaps isolated? Of course I still know the people I always knew - I sent Christmas cards, many of those dear and close were at our wedding, on the text-list when Isaac was born, and so on....but I feel unconnected. I know I'm terrible at trying, always was, to be honest, but now the logistical difficulties just seem overwhelming. I can't go out in the evenings, Isaac needs me; I can't make phone calls at the weekends, Isaac just grabs the phone; I can't write lovely long chatty emails, because every minute that he's asleep, I'm working.

My pre-baby friends without children go off and do fun adult stuff at the weekends (that's not, as a rule, anywhere near as rude as it sounds) and there's no space for mother + toddler. A year in South London had me just about getting to friendship with some other mums (after a sparse few months in west london before that), but now we're not there, and I'm meeting people here, but how on earth do you get to the stage of being actual friends? How do you move to inviting people round, to having proper conversations with them, to being open enough with each other to get close? They're all settled already, they know people, or they have other children, or whatever else, I don't know..and of course at weekends most normal women are spending quality time with their other halves - no one wants to meet up then.

Not, I should repeat, that I'm feeling lonely. Isaac is a delight to spend time with, and we're busy, and I never find myself wondering what to do with my time. I just miss having that genuine warm connection with people, and I don't know how to get it back with my old friends when our lives have charged off on such different paths, or how to strike it up with new ones. I don't know how to reassure my old friends that they really are still so often in my thoughts even if they never hear from me, I refuse invitations, I take weeks to respond to emails - and I have no idea when I'll be back in a position to do that nurturing. It's not like being busy at work for a few weeks when you know it will be over. This is my new life, now (well, no longer particularly new) and I've chosen it, and I love it, and I wouldn't swap it, but what can I now offer, how can I be interesting when all I can talk about is sheep and horses and pompom matching, and technical accounting, and the things I'd be reading if I had more time? I've got a whole post brewing up about staying an interesting person while so occupied with the crucial trivialities of toddler world, but at the moment it's mainly just a general cloud.

I expect that patience is the answer, and turning to inner resources, and leaning on the new kinds of connections it's easier to make in internet-world....but it doesn't stop me from having the occasional sense of a kind of melancholy detachment.  Any tips, anyone? 


  1. A helpfull tip, if you are free on 2nd of February we must do tea or coffee again:-) of course with an Isaac in tow... Have now found another lovely place to meet in Bath which I think you will like,noisy and lots going on.....

  2. It's tough, I can really relate to this. Things that helped me to feel less isolated - do you know of an online forum called Baby Led Weaning? It's incredibly friendly and welcoming, not the horror that some other forums can be, they don't just talk about weaning but about all sorts, I got a lot of virtual emotional support through them for years and after meeting up with a few in real life, have made a couple of good friends. As Jake got older, I started doing more stuff for myself and met people through that - yoga, writing group, ukulele, volunteering. It does take time though, to build up the friendships. All I can say is, keep trying, and take heart, it does get easier.

  3. Hey, I'm glad you're back :)

    It can be tough to meet people at this stage because people have to some extent made their 'baby friends' networks and aren't so desparate to make friends as they are in the initial months. But that doesn't mean it is impossible. I think the key is just to leap in, bold as brass, even if it doesn't feel particularly natural. The only way to get to the 'shall we go for a coffee?' stage is to just blurt out 'shall we go for a coffee?' at the end of a playgroup or similar. The joy of it is that mums, while incredibly busy, are still quite fast and loose about what they do with their time and like to have other people to hang out with. You may also find the fact they have groups already is quite useful in the end, because it means all you need to do is get to know one and she'll get you in on the group events and it all rolls from there.

    And as for the intimacy thing, well there again I think mums are weirdly easy to get onto quite close terms with - I was chatting to a mum at a party the other day and realised at the end that I knew the full details of her two labours, epesiotomies and stitches and full bloody gore - but I didn't actually know her name. Somehow once you know someone that way its very easy to fill in all the rest :) Moving somewhere new is always difficult, but I'm sure you will be fine.

    (Helen of Charlie fame)

  4. I was just reading this back having posted another long whinge, and realised I never acknowledged your lovely comments, any of you.
    Emma - well, we've been in touch, we really need to do that lunch!
    Tammy, yes, I've hung out on BLW a bit though the areas I've looked at haven't been that busy, perhaps I need to try harder. How do you move from virtual friendships to real life meeting??
    Helen, although I didn't reply, that comment has really stuck with me, and I keep finding moments when I think I should be blurting out "shall we go for a coffee?" to people - but miserably failing. I suppose it's just about trying again, and again, and again.

  5. Ah, perhaps I should also have put a note on it that I am dreadfully bad at it too - I'm not sure I ever actually HAVE - it's just that other people have said it to me and I've always felt happy that they have and have responded positively, and I always think 'so what's the problem?'.... It's easier said than done. A sidelong go at it is sometimes easier - 'I am going to go to X cafe for a drink - you'd be welcome to come if you want'. The crazy thing is it that while it makes you feel really vulnerable, you actually look really strong and confident!

  6. Yes - I can't think when I'd say no if someone else suggested it - and would love it that they had (as well as envying their confidence). One of my dearest friendships is with an ex choir-friend who bravely suggested the dramatic move to having a coffee together outside of rehearsals, and I know she'd not view herself as particularly socially outgoing - it only took that tiny leap from her to give us a relationship that I hope will last a lifetime.
    Must get my big girl panties on!