Remember the days when your friends were the center of your universe?
Well, thanks to the chaos of work, family, kids, aging parents and grocery shopping, those days are long gone. But the importance of friendship remains the same. Who else can you call in a panic because you don’t have the right shoes to wear to a funeral? Who else will you cry to when one of your children tells you they hate you? Who else will send you condolences when your favorite celebrity from the ’80s dies?
But having friends and being a good friend is different in our 40s than it was when we were younger. As our kids mature, our relationships do too. We need less drama and more fortitude, and we have less time, and, perhaps, more angst.
So here’s my guide to making and keeping friends in your 40s.
Avoid the perfect moms: The one mom who has it all together: She dresses like a model, and her kids eat the healthiest meals and are athletic and academic superstars. She is the one dispensing advice in the schoolyard and has a line of subtle humblebrags about her busy schedule and incredible gluten-free baking. Avoid her at all costs. She is the craziest one out there.
Lower your expectations: It’s Friends Forever week at The Cut, and they have some good suggestions about lowering your expectations of what constitutes a good friend date. Side-by-side grocery shopping isn’t the same as a long leisurely dinner, but when you know that you only have one hour together, you cut to the chase quickly. And it’s still quality time, even when it isn’t quantity.
Let go of some of your baby group friends: These are the women who got you through those endless first days of motherhood; you spent hours discussing poop colors and the minutiae of sleep deprivation. But now when you see them, you have nothing to say, and that’s okay. They were a great fit when you needed to commiserate, but now your interests have changed—they probably feel the same way about you.
Be honest: It was much easier to talk about toddler milestones than it is to really express your fears about your kids as they get older. It’s not easy to admit when your teens are difficult to handle, or your tween seems to be heading off the rails. But if you share the difficult and dark days of parenting older kids with your friends, you will be rewarded when you learn that you are not alone.
Be forgiving: By this time, you’ve probably said and done some mean things, and so have your friends. Don’t focus on the drama and rehash the old wounds. We all have bad days and say hurtful things without realizing it. True friends forgive; the rest can stay in contact on Facebook.
Learn to make one good casserole and one sugary treat: The 40s are hard years. People get sick, marriages break up, and parents die. A part of being a friend is being that shoulder to cry on, or the one who delivers a delicious ready-to-eat meal when a family is overwhelmed.
Don’t fall for the hipsters: Yes, they are very cool with their tattoos and fedoras and Instagram-ready lives. But they aren’t your people anymore. If you thought they were just babysitting your child’s friend, then they may be too young for you.
Use the phone: Don’t just text! We grew up in the time of the landline and chatting on the phone for hours. Guess what? You can still do that! Just dial a number and talk on the phone like it was the old days. Phone conversations are much more satisfying than typo- and emoji-laden text conversations.
Quality over quantity: Sure it’s great to know everyone in the schoolyard, but it’s not enough. Your closest friends in your 40s are probably the ones who are going to be by your side when your parents get sick, when your kids move out, and when you decide to grow out all your grey. These people matter—choose wisely.
Go dancing: Pretend you’re young, go dancing, have some shots of Jägermeister. Flirt. All friendships need some good stories—and secrets.
Don’t be afraid to make new friends: And I don’t mean “friends” on Facebook. It’s never too late to meet your bosom buddy and be friends for life. You never know when a kindred spirit could walk in—it may be at the hockey rink, the coffee shop or an art class. Embrace it. Friends are the color and texture of life…and you need someone who will tell you when you need your roots done.