There are very few mom blogs or parenting articles you can read about “self-care” that don’t talk about maintaining relationships with your adult friends. Every post that talks about the stresses moms experience talks about “going out with girlfriends” or “having a wine night” or “grabbing coffee and gossiping.”
Sure, all those things provide a little bit of reprieve from the day-to-day monotony of building wooden train tracks and coloring pages four crayon scribbles at a time. But the thing they don’t tell you in those “let loose” posts is that all those things also have one other thing in common: They are exhausting.
Truthfully, it can be a ton of fun to get dressed up and go out on the town until the inevitable fatigue of 10:30 hits. Sometimes it is nice to open a bottle of pinot after your kids are asleep and try to laugh with another woman about the fact that half of your makeup collection got dumped in the toilet. And yes, the Starbucks inside Target can be a safe haven for venting frustrations while still thinking about getting your kids little gifts from the dollar section. But in order to have adult friendships as an adult, and in my experience especially as a parent, your friendships must be made up of adults who act like grown-ups.
Let me explain.
As a mom, I spend 85% of my day uncovering whatever is wrong. My sons often just walk into a room sulking and expect me to get to the bottom of that moment’s injustice only to find out they are sad because lions don’t like taking baths. And if someone is truly hurt, uncovering the truth about who pushed whom or where that bruise came from is a tireless and entirely thankless endeavor.
If you need further proof, a few nights ago my 4-year-old spent 30 minutes sobbing uncontrollably because I cleaned him up after he threw up during dinner. When I finally found out the reason he was crying was because I wouldn’t let him eat the chips he threw up on, he looked at me for a solid minute repeating, “You broke my heart.” Yup, that’s right, I broke his heart because I didn’t let him eat vomit-covered chips.
There are days when my kids sit on the couch emitting such discontented sighs that I fear asking them what’s wrong — not because anything is actually wrong, but because I don’t want to lose my cool when one tells me it isn’t fair that he can’t earn his screen time privileges back after he lost them for clocking his brother in the head with a stool. In fact, the nondescript sigh, or whine, or little “hmm” sound is so exhausting that, not long into our parenting journey, I lost my cool on my husband for making the same sounds while reading, signaling he wanted to fill me in on what he’s reading. I literally shouted, “If you are going to say something, then say it like an adult! Don’t make me ask you. You are not a child!” I think I scared him with my mom voice because he was pretty quiet the rest of the night.
I spend my day raising adults. We have two, soon to be three, under the age of 5 whom we are hoping will someday grow up to be functioning and communicative adults. We do this all the time. I don’t have time to decipher a sigh or a “hmm” or a vague Facebook status. If you’re going to talk to me as a friend, be an adult.
This is not to sound arrogant like I have it all together, am the best at adulting, and never make mistakes. I totally make mistakes — I have selfish and immature moments. But what it does mean is if we are going to be friends, I need you to say what you’re going to say. I can’t dig for it. I don’t have the time or the energy to do so.
I truly believe one of the best parts of growing older is getting to choose how you direct your energy. I have had this conversation multiple times recently with some of the best women I know. We can talk openly and honestly about how we love investing in certain friendships , and not worrying about whether or not we can be friends with everyone. It’s truly liberating when you can be honest with yourself about it.
Because when we get to the honest stage, we understand that “letting loose” means not caring what our house looks like when one of us comes over with pizza and a movie for the kids. It means using my shirt as a spit-up rag for my newborn without missing a beat and being totally okay when you put my kid in a time-out. It means knowing the difference between when I need a friend to sit with me in the mess and knowing when I need help doing dishes because I haven’t seen my countertop since 2013. It means wine night can sometimes be wine afternoon, and it means having a trusting enough relationship to say, “I think you need to reconsider how often you have wine night.”
It doesn’t mean I want easy and flighty friendships now that I’m a mom. It means I want to have friendships without drama and backbiting. I want to be there through the big and the small without hesitation or explanation. I want to say I’m sorry when it’s needed. I want to say I forgive you and move on. I want us to be adults about it.