Tuesday, July 17, 2012

(not) making friends

I was never one of those girls surrounded by a huge group of friends. I didn't need that though and strongly preferred a few really close friends. They changed every couple of years as my life changed and I have only a few hold overs.

When I read a recent New York Times article: "Why Is It Hard to Make Friends Over 30?" it was like, "Hey, you too?!"

The article states three conditions that are crucial to making close friends: 
  • proximity
  • repeated, unplanned interaction
  • a setting that encourages people to let their guard down

One of my bestest friend lives 222 miles away. Add in busy lives, husbands, kids and gas prices and it's more like one million miles. I have some awesome friends I left behind in Minnesota, which is 438 miles away. I have a college friend less than 20 miles away and some newer friends in my city but...

Repeated, unplanned interaction.
The only unplanned interactions I have are at the grocery store every Sunday and these are not always desirable. I mean, I guess I could become close friends with the cashier at Trader Joes but generally everything in my life is planned. Actually, I can't even think of a time in recent memory that I just ran into someone I knew unexpectedly. 

Most of the moms I know from church and otherwise are staying at home with their babies. So they go on outings and play dates during the day. The working moms I know are catching up on everything they missed during the week on the weekends.

Guard-down setting.
This happened when we were in a small group with our church. After a year, the guard came down. But we don't meet anymore. The most my guard gets let down is the five page emails I send the to the 222-mile-away friend. I have friends I let my guard down about certain areas of life but the hubs is the only one I can walk into a room with tears streaming down my face for NO REASON (i.e. hormones) and be OK with myself.

Other than these external factors, the article cites a period of self-discovery: "After 30, people often experience internal shifts in how they approach friendship. Self-discovery gives way to self-knowledge, so you become pickier about whom you surround yourself with. The bar is higher than when we were younger and were willing to meet almost anyone for a margarita."

Perhaps this will be a glaring reason of why I don't have a ton of friends, but I do not like to hang out with people that annoy me. Especially when I am tired. 

It's harder to hang out with people that make a lot more money than us, live a completely different routine or have different goals. Not that I don't love to have those kinds of friends but they will rarely enjoy spending a Friday night with us or truly understand what it's like to be me. Other moms do. Well, other moms with the same philosophies on parenting and marriage. Who have some free time. 

And as the article also points out, it's even more challenging to meet couple friends since both wives and husbands have to click. Not that we're picky but it's not always that easy.

Bottom line.
I also know my priorities are different. All my energy goes to Henry first. If there is any left over, Shea gets it. Then there is school, work, church and family. So as good as a glass of wine on a patio sounds, getting Henry to bed at 7:30 so that our week starts off in a more sane manner is more appealing. And now I eat dinner at 5:30 and some nights I am asleep by 8 so when you ask me to meet you for dinner at 7 it's a bigger decision for me to make. 

We have good dinners with good people every few months. It's fun and we walk away promising to be more intentional. And then life happens.


  1. No offense but I hate those articles!! they do nothing great for my ego! I've known for years how hard it is to make friends...my guard never comes down quick enough. Besides desipite not having children-between work, hubs, dogs, extended family and volunteer stuff there really isn't a lot of time let alone energy to "hang out" (honestly I can't imagine having a child in the mix). I often wonder if society doesn't put too much into having to have lots of friends and an "active social life" at every stage of life. Or maybe that's what my mind tells me I'm reading when I see those type articles? :OP

  2. I read this yesterday and found myself nodding along the whole time. For me, however, this started such a long time ago. I was 23 when I had Lucy, and I immediately lost my entire social circle. Sure, there were about two amazing friends who would make an effort to come hang out at my house and watch bad TV with me once Lu was asleep, but for the most part, no one understood why I couldn't go out anymore or spend money on expensive cocktail hours. I was working full time, Trent was starting his business and we had a baby...it was crazy! The good thing is, now that I'm almost 30, I have lived this life for so long, I don't feel bad about it. The friends I have now are the ones I know will be in it for the long haul. Sure, I have work friends and mom friends (which gets easier once your kids get older in my opinion, when Lu was an infant I too had the issue with all the moms staying at home and me not being able to relate), but the ones I really love and treat like family are only a phone call/skype/text away. We even have wine and skype dates :)

    Sorry, long comment...just wanted to say I hear ya and when your priorities change, you really find out what good friends look like.

  3. I hear you. My priorities have changed. My friends ask me to meet them after work for drinks and all I can think is how badly that will mess up my daughter's routine schedule and throw the rest of my week off. It isn't easy and I completely agree with not having the patience to hang out with people you annoy you. I have a couple close friends as well but most of them live far away. The ones that are close to me don't understand what it is like to have a husband and child and think it is easy to just drop everything in a second to go meet for a drink. I have to plan these things, find a babysitter or arrange for Brock to get home early from work and take over so I can leave to meet friends just to sit and have them tell me about their "complicated" single lives while all I do is nod and wonder what my baby is up to. Sorry, long comment. Point being, I agree.

  4. AnonymousJuly 18, 2012

    My two cents is that for the most part like so many things in life, in friendship you get what you give. It is definitely more challenging to meet new people or maintain friendships post-kiddos but it is worth the extra effort. It seems to me that a lot of moms give off the impression that their time is more important than their unmarried or childless friends which can be extremely off-putting. It's true that we moms have waaaaaay less free time than before kids, but every once in awhile it is a very good thing to give that limited free time to a friend as a way of telling them- you still matter to me.

    There is a line between routine and rigidity and while I want my kids home and in bed at a certain time most of the time, I'm willing to throw their schedule out of whack in return for some good fellowship once in awhile. This gets much easier as the kids get older for sure, usually the worst that can happen now is a cranky day where we do more low-key activities. I think we struggled the most getting through the first year with our first baby, we didn't really do much besides with family and we both really missed having time with friends.

    Every good mom puts her kids first, and I know what a struggle it is at times to find the extra time and energy to give to others. But I just think it is worth the effort to maintain the relationships even as life situations change. Not all of my friends can relate to my life, but that is okay.

    Ugh, this sounds super preachy which was so not my intention. I definitely do not have it all figured out and when I've been sick we've gone months without company. There are some valid points to the article, but harder doesn't mean impossible. Anyways, we should get together some weeknight evening at 5pm to grill some burgers in this ridiculous heat while our collective three kiddos make it impossible to visit. Sound good??


  5. Elizabeth- Agreed on many accounts. I don't think it's the keeping of friends as life situation change, I think it's making new friends. Maintaining friendships that already have a bond and history is so much easier than meeting someone new and building the foundation.

    We're lucky that Henry is very flexible and will stay up with us til 11 p.m. while we hang out with friends and not freak out. At least so far.

    I don't think it's always priority of time but just logistics. You don't run into random friends, you have to plan it. And I find myself relating to the last story about scheduling a dinner with a friend - three months out. I have the same experience with my childless and with child friends :)

  6. AnonymousJuly 20, 2012

    You know, I may have been responding to the comments more so than the article...

    I just find that as I get older I am more comfortable with who I am and have found that I am able to form meaningful connections. For me, prioritizing the time is my toughest challenge but I don't really find the spontaneous interaction and proximity to be much of a barrier. That said, I definitely do miss the college environment at times!