Late last year I was working through some issues that were particularly painful for me. There were more than a few nights lost to tears and sleeplessness. I am very lucky that I have Kirby to talk to and share my thoughts and feelings with, but what I wanted most at that time was a friend to talk to. I wanted to go and have a cuppa with a girlfriend I had known for years and cry my heart out. But I didn’t. I couldn’t think of who to call, or rather I could think of friends to call but I never picked up the phone. I never let them know what was happening and that I needed them.
When we were younger it was easy to catch up with friends on the spur of the moment. A morning phone call, “Coffee?”, and we were ready to go that afternoon. This was especially the case with my friends who were also my colleagues early last decade. Around lunchtime, a head would pop through my office doorway and no words needed to be said – we headed out of the office for lunch or coffee or just a quick walk.
Now it’s different. Most of my friends, especially those I made in early adulthood, have children of their own. They are busy – and I mean really busy. They don’t have as much time as I do and their priorities are, as they should be, their families. Many of their activities and social outings are with other parents with children of similar ages. This is very important, of course, because parents need the opportunity to talk with each other and share the experiences, knowledge, joy, and frustration of parenting. Their main source of support in this time of life, in raising children, is friends who also have children.
But, sometimes I struggle with that, in that I feel I am not part of the group because I don’t have children.
I really hope that my friends with children don’t get upset at this, as I love them all dearly, but there are times when it is very, very hard for me. And I do feel excluded sometimes even though I know that is not the intent – and in thinking about it that exclusion exists solely in my own mind – it isn’t real. But, I’ll give you a couple of examples so you know what I mean. A few years ago we were trying to catch up with two families at the same time, both of who have kids, but it was difficult to come up with a date that we were all free. The months passed by, and we found out that the families we wanted to see had caught up together without us at the beach. We had no idea and at the time I wondered if we had done something wrong. Another example is that it is very rare for us to be invited to our friends’ children’s birthday parties. I sometimes think that if we had kids we would be invited. I do understand that there has to be limits to numbers at parties, and that many of our friends are torn about inviting us as they don’t want us to be reminded of what we don’t have – which, in thinking about it, really is thoughtful.
I guess, from all of this, I feel different to my friends who have children. They have a different type of life to me, and lives that are often far busier than mine. And that is where my problem lies – I say “my” problem because the problem rests entirely with me, and not my friends.
I didn’t call any of my friends last year when I was struggling because every time I thought I would call one or the other I thought they would be too busy, I didn’t want to burden them with my problems, I didn’t want them to think that I only wanted to see them when I was in difficulty, and I was afraid. It sounds ridiculous now that I have written it down. I can see very clearly how all of this is my issue and not theirs. I know that if I had called any of my beautiful friends they would have, if they possibly could have, been there for me.
I sometimes feel that because I don’t have children I should have everything sorted out – that I should be the one who provides the support to my friends, rather than the other way around. In a way this is an insult to my friends, who love me and don’t need me to put across the facade that my life is all good. I realise that I need to trust them more. That I need to remember that they are my friends – that they care, and that they are willing for me to call up and say “help” sometimes.
I need to learn how to ask for help. That is what friendships are for.