I am always thinking about my work-life balance. Typically, I frame it in terms of how to manage my busy academic life with my family life. Recently, however, I have been wondering more often about how to manage friendships.
I was talking with one of my closest friends the other day and realized that, though we do not live that far from each other, I hadn’t seen her in person for months. It occurred to me that she was not the only friend for which this is true. The friends I have unintentionally prioritized are other moms who live nearby and have children that are similar ages as mine. The boredom of a long summer day with lots of kids to entertain unites us in a different kind of friendship. While they may not have the depth and closeness of my long-time friends, these friends can share with me the everyday experiences related to the daily challenges of parenthood. We debate camps and tantrums. We trade discipline and bicycle training tricks (tip: take off the petals of the bike to train them to balance).
Yet, I miss my other friends: friends from childhood who know me inside and out, friends from my first jobs who know the more youthful version of me. I realize that with Facebook, you can still drop in on your friends, but it’s not quite the same. Someone described it to me as knowing what your friends are doing but rarely knowing how they really are feeling. It’s no substitute for physically laughing with them in person.
The problem is, when I think about my daily schedule, I can’t seem to squeeze friendship back in my life any more than I have already. I confided this to another friend, who made the wise observation that I should see friends as coming into, and out of, and back into my life during different periods of time. I like this way of thinking about it. I’m hoping that, when my kids are teenagers and no longer want to hang out with me, my friends might be willing to take me back.