Recently, I was reading a fellow mom blogger’s post about keeping adult friendships alive and it got me thinking about female friendship in light of my recent divorce.
Divorce is weird. You were once a part of a pair and now you’re not. You once had two sides of your family, and now you don’t. You once got together with other married couples and their kids, and now you don’t. Before you claim that it is possible to continue to spend time with married couples with kids when you are divorced, just take my word for it; these get-togethers wane.
Friends can become another asset that gets divided along with the furnishings and dishware. You once lived in a community where you recognized faces in the grocery store, but now you’ve moved and you’re just another face in the crowd.
Nothing is familiar. Everything is new. You’re not partnered with anyone, but you’re not alone because you’ve got your kid. It’s loss and grief and transition, but no one died. Your ex may even still be a part of your day-to-day. You may even be friendly.
Post-divorce, I’ve found myself feeling like I don’t quite belong in the married-with-kids group. I don’t quite fit in with the single, never been married, never had kids crowd either. Or the kidless.
As a divorced mom, I need other divorced moms. Divorced moms understand this schism between before and after. They can empathize with this unusual middle plane that now exists.
After having my son (and before the divorce), it was easy to gravitate towards married mom friends. Now, with only having my son half of the time, I feel somehow less like a mom. As though my identity somehow changes in the hours and days I am not with him. The days I don’t have my son, I’m a little more flexible with my time. I still do what I need to (laundry, groceries, bills) but I’m also not as apt to turn down drinks after work, or a dinner out. I could check out that show or gallery I noted in my calendar, or finally go to a trivia night (even though I would drag down any team).
I feel a certain level of guilt with my newly possible social life as a result of not being with my son half the time. Guilt, perhaps because I enjoy it. I enjoy this time – these outings, these moments where I can just be. Guilt because my married mom friends don’t necessarily have this luxury. Of course, the catch here is that they’re with their kids the entire time. I’m not. Each situation has advantages and disadvantages.
When I’m with my married mom friends, we predominantly talk about our kids and not about my budding social life or personal time.
Our friendship rests on the shoulders of our children. We are friends – or friendly – because of our kids and because we are moms. Automatically we have those two things in common. It’s a surprisingly substantial foothold for a friendship. Our kids may be in the same daycare or class, or the same age. Our conversations are about our kids and about our lives as moms. We stick to those dialogues and conversations because they are safe (mostly) and familiar. We don’t touch the divorce piece really because they rarely ask and I don’t bring it up.
My married mom friends don’t know how to map out a custody schedule or how to share holidays. They are strangers to the co-parenting challenges of communicating across text, emails, or phone calls. They aren’t familiar with the hole in your heart when you don’t have your kid, or the worry about what if something happens when they’re not in your care, or the silence in the house the nights you don’t have your child. They also don’t stress over the inevitable challenges that will come with the eventual new partner (because, heck, you don’t want to be alone forever).
My kidless girlfriends don’t get it either, though.
While these girlfriends will ask about my son, we don’t spend a lot of time talking about him. We talk about our inward journeys, our vision boards, self-care, self-worth, or our next big idea. We share stories we haven’t yet shared. Or we try something new. We swap podcasts and book titles. Or pictures of the latest deal we nabbed at a local thrift store.
One girlfriend of mine is married, and while we do spend some time talking about relationships, we don’t spend a lot of time on that either. Truthfully, we focus on who we each are individually, separate and apart from those relationships most dear to us. For me, my son and for her, her husband. We each recognize their importance and relevance in our lives, but they aren’t the center of our dialogues, our friendship, or our time together.
All of these friendships – married mom friends and kidless girlfriends- are critical to me. It goes without saying. I value female friendship immensely.
I need my mom friends because I need other women who get how hard this mom thing is and to partner with me at child-centered events. I need my girlfriends to remind me of who I am apart from being a mom. But where are the divorced moms?
A divorced mom friend could be my secret weapon to truly navigating this chasm I’m in.
She can share with me that look of understanding when I’m losing my patience because it’s tough work to solo parent a portion of the time, regardless of the frequency in which you have your child.
A divorced mom friend likely will know that any real adult conversation will be interrupted 100 times because our littles constantly require our attention with a nagging, “Mom? Mommy? Mom?” They’ll know that because without Dad to share the attention-load, our kids are used to our 100% undivided attention when we do have them. Or, that they’ve missed us so much in the time they’ve been apart they now cling like velcro.
And, divorced mom friends just may have that window of opportunity where they’re without their kids. Now we can talk, let loose, offer support, navigate our way through this common path we share: divorce. We can do it all with a big glass of wine or coffee or apple pie or fistfuls of peanut butter cups and slightly less guilt – so long as we are some of the lucky ones with trustworthy ex-husbands and fathers, knowing our kids are in great care on our “night off.” I am lucky enough to say I fall into this category. While divorce is no picnic, I am blessed that my situation is what it is.
My point is: