Growing up in an abusive household, I learned one undeniable fact very quickly: your friends are the family you choose. I have prided myself on being the best friend possible, and surrounding myself with people who support me as fiercely as I support them. My friends have been my foundation, my backbone, and my saving grace on more than one occasion, so it's beyond painful to admit to all the times I was a
horrible friend the first year of my baby's life. However, I was. I failed my friends on more than one occasion, because I became overwhelmed by and lost in the responsibilities of motherhood.
Now, I do cut myself a little slack.
Adjusting to motherhood is difficult, and battling postpartum depression only made it harder. My priorities had to shift, and certain things had to sit on the back burner in order for me to take care of my baby, continue to work, and take care of myself. Shuffling the cards of your life into a brand new deck that works best for you is part of adjusting to parenthood. However, now that I can look back, I'm not too sure I shuffled that deck of cards in the best possible way. In trying to adjust to motherhood, I failed as a friend. I wasn't always there, I wasn't always present, and I wasn't always capable of giving the same amount of support that my friends were giving me.
Then again, my friends understanding why I was absent when I normally wouldn't be, is why I am lucky to have such a wonderful support system surround me. They were my foundation before I was a mother, and they remained my foundation even when I faltered and let them down.
That's true friendship, and why I think it's important that all us new moms acknowledge the ways in which we sometimes let those around us down. It's understandable, and sometimes it's even necessary, but it's something we can all collectively learn from in order to simply be better human beings. When I Couldn't Come To Parties
It seems arbitrary, I know. It seems like a "no-brainer" because, well, baby trumps parties. It seems, honestly, kind of silly to apologize for skipping out on a party to care for another human being.
Still, I know that so many of those parties were important: birthday parties, anniversaries, parties celebrating promotions, and parties for my friends' children. I would have loved to have been there, and I should have been there, I just put other things higher on my priority list. In that first year, it seemed like the thing I absolutely had to do, but looking back I know that if I would have planned better, I probably could have found the time to attend a party or two.
When I Forgot Birthdays
True story: I forgot my very best friend's birthday the first year of my son's life. I was just so overwhelmed it completely slipped my mind. Mind you, this is the very best friend who drove to the hospital the moment I went into labor, stayed in the hospital for over a day, and
was there the moment my son came into the world. I felt absolutely horrible and I still do, honestly. I should have been better, and continued to make her a priority in my life because, well, she was there before my son was. Still, I was drowning in my new mom responsibilities and, well, I just forgot. When I Chose Sleep Over Conversations
Just because I had a baby doesn't mean my friend's lives ceased to exist. They still needed me to listen to the situations they were finding themselves in, and be engaged in conversations as they navigated whatever it was they were trying to get through or were experiencing. Instead, I was sleeping. Like, I actually fell asleep mid-conversation once.
I was just so sleep deprived and exhausted and incapable of focusing on anything besides breastfeeding schedules and the number of diapers my kid was going through, that sitting through a conversation felt like running a marathon. I felt so horrible, and I tried my best, but sleep won out almost every single time. When I Focused On My Kid Instead Of A Breakup
Sadly, I know I made my friends feel as though their kid-free lives didn't matter. When
a friend went through a horrible breakup, I didn't give her the time and attention and support she deserved. Instead, I was focused on my baby. Yes, my baby deserves my undivided attention, but I can give myself to more than one human being. I know I can, and looking back, I wish I would have paid more attention to my friend when she needed me. Breakups are hard. When I Dismissed How Tired My Friends Were, Too
I remember going to school full-time and working full-time in order to pay for my school. I remember working three jobs and 19 hour days, just so I could afford a tiny studio apartment in Seattle. I. Was.
Exhausted. I didn't need to procreate to know the true meaning of exhaustion.
And yes, when I had a baby, I suddenly dismissed how tired my kid-free friends were. How rude, right? I mean, they were tired, too. We all are. I really should have been kinder and more understanding. Just because they weren't awake with a hungry baby at some god awful time in the middle of the night, doesn't mean they weren't just as exhausted and overwhelmed as I was. It's all relative, and I should have been able to understand that then the way I understand it now.
When I Took Everything Too Personally
I really had a short fuze during the first year of my son's life, and I guess it would be easy for me to blame sleep deprivation and a level of self-consciousness I have never experienced before. I was
so afraid of "failing" as a mom that I took anything that could even be perceived as a slight, as a personal shot at my abilities as a mother.
However it was so unfair, and really unnecessary. My friends were always supportive and trying to help, so even if they didn't call one day or say something that sounded like an insult, but really wasn't, I should have been more understanding. They were trying to learn how to support me as a mother, just like I was trying to learn to be a mother myself.
When I Stopped Asking About Their Day
I used to consistently ask my friends how their days were going and how they were doing. After college, we spread out and were no longer living close to (or with) one another, but we still checked in as if we were only a few minutes away. That ended when I had a kid, though. Well, at least for a while. I could have done better because, well, it really only takes a few minutes to send a text.
When I Downplayed Whatever Was Going On In My Friend's Life
For a hot minute, I became "that person." Even if I didn't say it out loud, I subtly thought, "Well, I mean, you don't have a kid so what
real problems do you actually have?" How horrible, right?
Still, in the overwhelming and
exhausting cloud of new motherhood, I couldn't see the forest through the trees. I lost perspective and really just zeroed in on my own situation. I passed off whatever my friends were going through as secondary, because even thinking about helping them became way too much to comprehend. It was selfish and insensitive and something I am making up for, now that I finally have a hold of motherhood. Well, at least for the moment. When I Expected My Friends To Read My Mind...
It was pretty unreasonable to ask my friends to just intuitively know what I would need, or how they could support me. Still, I started to get frustrated (especially in
those early postpartum months) when they sopped by instead of asked first, called instead of sent a text, or did normal things that were now a hinderance because I had a tiny human to take care of.
After all, I was one of the first of our friend group to have a baby. They were learning just as I was learning, and I should have been just as kind to them as I was hoping my baby was going to be to me. The learning curve is steep, no matter who you are.
...And Forgot How Supportive My Friends Really Are
In the seemingly never-ending sea of diapers and naps and breastfeeding sessions and doctor appointments and healing and everything else that came along with being a new mom, I lost sight of just how wonderful my friends truly are. They may not have stopped by as often as I would have liked, or said the right things at the right time, but they were always there. I knew all I had to do was call, and they would have been there for me. That's invaluable, and something I never should have taken for granted.
When you're a new parent and you're overwhelmed, it's difficult to be your best self. That's why it's important to surround yourself with people who will understand and love you anyway. Friendship isn't about being 100 percent perfect all the time. Instead, it's about finding someone who will accept you and love you when you're 30 percent at best, knowing you will one day return the favor.