Most of us grew up seeing our parents with friends of their own. If those friends had kids that you were friends with, so much the better. Sometimes these friends were the people your parents saw from time to time, and other times they were the kind of friends that would be second parents. I personally never game to much thought to the kinds of friends and friend-relationships my parents had. I assumed they were just grown-up versions of the friendships I had–minus sticker collections and crushes on boys in Tiger Beat.
But friendships in adulthood are indeed different. I can only speak from my experience, but here’s what I’ve discovered. From kindergarten until I got together with my husband, the single most important force in my life were my friends and our relationships. Everything that mattered to me was about them–spiritual, social, emotional life–it all centered around my friends. They were the ones I discussed everything with, the ones I laughed with, cried with, and complained to.
Then I met my husband who very quickly became the greatest best friend I could have ever hoped for. Now the innermost workings of my mind and my heart were opened to him. And then there was this very deep and intimate relationship we were developing ourselves. And when we got married and especially when we became parents, priorities shifted.
I think that happens for a lot of us when we got through transitions in young adulthood and moving forward. And it also depends. Maybe a marital relationship doesn’t offer that type of best friendship and the close adult friends of either spouse are still the people to turn to. Perhaps even if your marriage/friendship relationship is incredibly close and fulfilling, you still have great bonds with best friends albeit you don’t see each other with the frequency and spontaneity as before.
Friendships in adulthood flow with the seasons. Often parents of kids the same age find reasons to be close, after all that season of life comes with a lot to bond over. But eventually, kids grow up and even if they are friends, their paths diverge. If the adults had things in common outside of the children, the relationship can grow in this “empty nest” season. But sometimes once the kids are out of the picture, you realize you didn’t have much in common to begin with and the goals and paths ahead are not lining up.
If chic lit and sitcoms are to be believed, all moms are instantly best friends who never compete with each other and are sources of amazing support to all mothers in the friend group. They are endlessly affirming, selfless in the face of their own struggles, have each other’s backs, and are never judgmental of each other and parenting skills or lack thereof.
What a sweet world that would be, huh? Being completely candid here, I have never found that type of camaraderie of women and fellow mothers at any stage of parenthood. The moms in my daughter’s preschoolers weren’t friendly. I was a lot younger than most of them and the fact that my daughter and I have different skin tones led many of them to treat me as if I were her nanny. In elementary school for both my kids, the other moms were cordial, but I didn’t click with them in any meaningful way. Maybe it was a vibe I gave off–I am shy and hate making small talk for the heck of making small talk. I abhorred the birthday parties where I had to stay with my kids for the stilted and waste-of-time conversations I would try to force out with some of the other parents. That sounds horrible, I know. But can any of you relate?
I will say, outside of my own school and work situations, it has been hard to make friends in adulthood. But friendships are still so needed. I’m very fortunate to have a husband who is 100% behind girls nights or weekend trips with a best girlfriend. But with competing work schedules, children in different stages of life than mine, or just disinterest in doing anything outside of their homes and families, I have not had much luck in cultivating adult friendships of my own.
When you are in the heady days of early childhood through your kids leaving for college, your family life is the focus. It was that way for me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But when they start doing things on their own and you start getting pieces of your life back with surety, what then? Creating meaningful connections are important, but can be tricky. And I don’t know that I have solutions to share as I’m navigating this myself. Now that September will bring a new phase of my life as an empty nester at the ripe old age of 46, I completely see this next season as I time to pursue as many things as I can outside of the home–things that raising children took priority over. And hopefully, adult friendships will blossom because of it.
Keep your eyes out for a podcast on this topic coming soon.
What have your experiences with adult friendships been like? I’d love to hear from you!