#21: Vanishing Act

#21: Vanishing Act

We made the decision very early on not to disappear the way that some newly-married couples do. So two days after Randy and I returned from our honeymoon, we invited some friends and siblings over to help us finish off the leftover wedding cake.

Many of my best married girlfriends were in the throes of babyhood when I was first married and living back in the US, and I tried to think of ways that I could spend time with them. With one friend, taking Chick-fil-A over for lunch and hanging out with her and her babies seemed to work for us. Another friend desperately needed to get OUT, so I’d come meet her at a Mexican restaurant close to her house after the baby went to bed. Believe me, I wasn’t perfect at this, but I tried.

And before we had kids, it was also easy to maintain friendships with my single friends. I wasn’t 100% as available as I once was, but I think we hit a stride. Movies, walks on the greenway, Weight Watchers (ugh), and lots of just hanging out at our house settled into a fun and easy pace.

So I was surprised, perhaps naively, by the loneliness of motherhood. Everything changed when we had a baby. Well, I should say, ‘when I was pregnant,’ because the plates began shifting then. Married mommy friends were full of mostly helpful advice and, thankfully, celebration as I grew month-by-month. Many single friends also celebrated with me, though a few seemed to alternate between denial and letting me know how much they hated baby showers (not an invalid hate, but come on).

Most of my best friends who are moms have children a little older than ours. When we overlay my schedule full of naps, feedings, and early bedtimes on their schedules of school events and sports, there’s simply very little time for us to get together and laugh over a margarita. I miss seeing them and I’m disappointed that my girls don’t know them better, but maybe there will be opportunity for that when everyone’s older. I hope so! Some other friends are just growing weary of my limitations, so we just don’t see each other as much anymore.

I’ve even lost friends on Facebook. I’ve told you that I’m a people-pleaser, yes? I’ve been disappointing friends all over Facebook land for years now, and I hate it. (And if you’re one of them, I’m so sorry!) A sweet high school friend found me on Facebook minutes into my pregnancy, and she was so kind in her encouragement and responsiveness to me for a while.  But then I stopped hearing from her, and I’m sure it’s because I appeared to have turned into an unresponsive, cold-hearted old friend who never responds to questions or comments. And the old college acquaintance who’s become a great opera singer – I loved reading his updates as he sang all over the world, but missed his “Respond now or I’m going to unfriend you!” ultimatum he issued to all of his friends.

My favorite unfriending story is of my college boyfriend, who always leaned a tad petulant and self-absorbed. He also friended me just before I started having kids, and we corresponded a little when I had time. In the year following our “friending,” I was working on finishing my doctorate and growing a baby. Suffice it to say, I had some stuff to do. One day, this very sleep-deprived new momma found on her Facebook wall his statement that he was unfriending me because I obviously wasn’t over him, as my lack of responsiveness surely signaled discomfort and pain. I actually started to message him back and explain, but then…um, no. I just took a deep breath and deleted his wall post.

When you have children, your world suddenly becomes very small. Practically speaking, you’re attending to the eating, sleeping, and overall wellness of a baby, and it’s all-consuming. Sometimes you yourself even disappear from your own view, not to mention loved ones.

Thank goodness, I have a few friends (single and married) who have not let me vanish entirely. With all that they have going on, they have entered my little world and understand that, like Nehemiah, I am building a wall and cannot come down. So they are awesome about climbing up on the ladder next to me and handing me bricks. These dear ones have my eternal gratitude, and have kept me sane.

But I have found myself grieving lately for the disappearance of friends from a prior life as a result of some cosmic drift that begins when one has children. Maybe the tide of new moms “vanishing” is stronger than me, and I need to just let go and be one of them.

Maybe, just maybe, if I stop worrying about keeping other people happy, I’ll come back into my own view again. Easier said than done.

And maybe this letting go is part of embracing the joy of doing what I need to do right now, brick by brick.

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