My Musings

The Seasons of Friendship

Seasonal (adjective): Fluctuating or restricted according to the time of year

This is a blog I’ve been struggling with. I want to figure out where my head is, but I’ve been burying it in the sand for so long.

What it likely boils down to is that those who are closest to us, have the potential to fall the furthest from their pedestals. It’s unfair to them – they didn’t put themselves there – but they can hurt us the most.

It’s a tough one to dissect, but I’m starting to understand that I think I feel betrayed.

We all have opportunities to be darkness and light in the lives of those we love, and in the truest friendships there will always be both
Sara Barnard, Beautiful Broken Things

There are phases to life, where it seems like everyone’s doing something.  There’s that period where everyone’s getting engaged, then married, then buying a house. Now we’re in the breeding season (ha!) and although I’ve always been very mainstream, I’ve found myself becoming the alternative. We’ve been married eight years and we’ve fallen behind.

Some friends used to understand what it was like, but now that they’ve become parents, they seem to have completely forgotten. At least, we don’t talk about it anymore; I suppose because it’s no longer pertinent to them. So here I am, with my dwindling club of people without children. People who get what it’s like to be on the outskirts, looking in. Forever compromising our own wants for the families.

A and V are mums that I aspire to be like, one day. They have self-awareness in spades and carefully walk the tightrope of doing what’s best for their children, whilst remembering who they are (i.e. not just someone’s mum). I’ve always appreciated their glimpses into “real mumming” and their honesty has always encouraged my own. Below is an email I sent to V, a while after our second miscarriage, much of which still stands.

4th November 2019

My friend A has always said that one of the best things we as women can do for each other, is to be honest about our experiences, so V, I greatly appreciate your insights into the tensions you’ve identified, which I’ve recently come to appreciate as glimpses into “real mumming”. As you make clear, there are two sides to every story and – just like with social media – parents can sometimes frustrate me with their one-dimensional depiction of it all. The idea of posts just being a “reductive snapshot” sums this up wonderfully. (Although here I should probably pause and acknowledge how my own social media updates do the very same).

If we’re being honest, I’m starting to understand that I think I feel betrayed by some friends. One, was always the go-to friend who I explored the idea of having / not having children with. I really tried to be empathetic and now believe I went too far. I questioned having a family and assessed the behaviour of those who already did, a lot more than I would have done otherwise. But now, I feel as though she’s forgotten those conversations (which were similar to the one we’re having now). She’s evidenced little of the self-awareness we promised to have and I’m the one left feeling I imagined it all. I can remember her saying she felt she was stood outside a window, peering in at her friends with families. And though I’m pleased she no longer feels that, I’m angry that she’s forgotten that it’s just ME outside alone now. It’s OK to be head over heels, I fully expect her to be. I just wish she could say “Anj, I know we didn’t get this, I know we rubbished it, but there’s something undeniably magic about it all”. Instead there’s no recollection of how it felt to be without a child. I was geared up to be her friend, whether she had children or not. I don’t feel it’s worked the other way round. It’ll probably all be ok if I have a child, but I shouldn’t need a child for someone to be friends with me.

I know that I’m very sensitive to this topic at the moment, and perhaps there’s no “best” way to deal with me right now. Perhaps it time to realise that there are seasons to every friendship. Some friends are great for summer, but do not have the emotional intelligence to deal with our winters. Perhaps growing up is not finding those who steal your heart, but learning how to steel it instead.

To answer your question, I have spoken to close friends about some of this, but I could do with being more explicit. I’m just not sure the upside (me feeling better) outweighs the downside (potentially offending them). And I don’t think I would be able to shift the feeling that I had forced them to be there, making time for us. I’d much rather the friends came to the realisation on their own, with them thinking it would be nice to spend time alone with James and I. In all honesty, I’m sure it doesn’t help that we are always so hands-on with their children (mainly because we don’t know how else to be), so I don’t think for a moment we betray how tiring and unfulfilling it sometimes feels. It’s something I need to think about for next year. Perhaps leaning out a bit and putting us first sometimes.

And what do the next steps look like? I think perhaps, going through the stages of grief. When it all happened, I focused on gratitude and hope. But it’s only recently hit me just how sh1t this whole situation is (mainly because I thought I’d be pregnant again by now), and so I’m embracing the sadness. I figure that I’ll cry at other people’s announcements and scans (like I did in the toilets at work this morning!) until one day… I don’t. I think that’s better than trying to hold it all together and being the big person all the time. I can still cheerlead for others publicly, whilst feeling privately sad for myself. I generally have good “bouncebackability”, it’s just taking longer this time, but maybe one day soon, it will stop feeling like such a shock. I think I’m still in shock: two miscarriages.

Have you read “The 5 love languages?” if not, you must! It was a real eye-opener. I read it in order to try to understand the people around me, who I always thought were being quite selfish, but as you say, were probably giving their love in a way that I wasn’t attuned to receiving. James and I did the quiz and it was pretty spot on. James’ ‘love language’ is “acts of service” – which probably won’t surprise you, given that I keep highlighting how he gives all of his energy to others, whereas I’m more responsive to “words of affirmation”. I like to say/give and hear/receive these. It was an insightful read and it’s helped me to realise that people show love in ways that are different to my own. But in this stormy winter of friendship, I guess it’s just difficult for me to see.

(4) Comments

  1. Tree says:

    I found this one particularly hard to read. My heart bled for you as I read the others but this one made me examine my own actions and I wasn’t particularly happy with the conclusions I came to. It was far too easy to not get in touch because I was busy with my own life (which I didn’t feel I should tell you about) and because I didn’t know what to say. Thank you for giving some guidance on what you need, and a massive thank you to all your friends who did better.

  2. Vicki says:

    Everyone should read this. Parenting is a bit like life – a mixture of highs and lows. Parents would do well to remember that, and I definitely include myself in that as it’s easy to make an idol of one’s own family (which can be even more painful for others).

    Your story is one of growth, of understanding good boundaries, and of helping others to grow too: that means it’s a journey of pain too (over and above the immense pain you have already had in losing your little ones). For that we as your team, your tribe, celebrate you! We are cheering you on!

  3. Monique says:

    Very beautifully written, i feel like a lot of our friendships diminished because they have advanced into motherhood and though we are happy for them we just wish they would still remember where they came from even though they have conquered the storm of being childless. It just sucks feeling like we are the only ones in this valley. ❤️

  4. Monique says:

    I have never met you but i feel like I connect with all that you say its like you always take the words out of my heart, i am here rooting for you!

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