In college, most of your friends were other young women from your dorm or classes or sorority. You may even have been platonically friendly with some of the guys. Post-college, you and those friends went your separate ways geographically, though you may have kept in touch with some or most of them, but it was time to find new friends.
And you did…some of “the girls” at work, perhaps some people from your neighborhood, and other singles you met in various places, with whom you shared the joys and woes of singlehood as you went out for dinner together, attended movies or plays or concerts together, or enjoyed whatever other leisure pursuits you liked.
And then you got married…and had kids.
The Mommy Track
Suddenly you found yourself socializing with the parents of your kids’ friends. It started when your first child was still in his stroller or baby carrier. You took him to the park or playground, and there you met other mothers, out with their own kids. You compared notes on breast vs bottle, disposable diapers vs cloth, and the best methods for potty-training…and your new set of friendships was off and running.
As your children grew and formed friendships of their own choice that resulted in playdates, you made friends with the friends’ moms. Then there were the fellow Scout moms, band moms, soccer moms, PTA moms, Gymboree moms, church school moms, and more. With your children as the focal point of your life—even if you had a career—it was only logical that you’d make friends with other moms who shared so much in common with you and your life.
You still were interested in genealogy or bird-watching or line dancing or crafting dollhouse furniture, but these activities took a backseat to the activities that centered around child-rearing. And when you did indulge in one of your hobbies, you did it alone or tried to involve your husband, your kids, or one of the friends you’d made through your child. You had no time to seek out fellow enthusiasts of your hobby.
But now your kids are probably grown and gone. Or if you still have one in college, who comes home only for vacations, she’s busy doing her own thing when she does come home, seeing her friends or studying for upcoming exams, and you don’t interact with her friends’ parents.
You might still keep up with some of the friends you’ve made through your children’s friendships and activities, but it’s time now that you can choose your own friends again, based on their interests or their personalities.
You’ve finally come full circle.
A Happy Circle
With more time on your hands, you may have picked up an old hobby you’d formerly abandoned for lack of time. Or you may have acquired a new hobby or interest. You may even have gone back to school, whether you’re trying to complete that Masters or PhD or simply studying something one evening a week for fun or because it interests you. And in your classes or on your birding expeditions or at the hobby and crafts store or at a social gathering, you may have met other people who shared your interests.
In fact, you also may have acquired new interests through new people you meet. You’ve heard the expression, “it’s a vicious circle” (or “cycle”). This is a happy circle: You take up genealogy, go to a meeting of local ancestry-tracers, meet a new friend there, and she introduces you to one of her other hobbies that you find you also enjoy. And through that hobby you meet yet another congenial friend.
Now you’re meeting people and making friends on your terms. You’re off the mommy track and doing your own thing. You find friends with whom you have much in common that has nothing to do with carpools and bake sales. You may even bump another woman’s shopping cart with yours in the supermarket, apologize, find yourself in a conversation, and wind up with a new friend.
I’m not downplaying the fact that you can develop close, true friendships with “fellow mommies” or find your BFF in the person of your co-class mother. But the majority of the friendships you form during your kids’ childhood are friendships of convenience. Now, once again, you’re back to meeting people on your own terms and making friends with the ones who either have something in common with you (besides your kids!) or whose personalities are very appealing.
You may be facing empty nest syndrome, but suddenly your cell phone is full of new numbers, and they aren’t the pediatrician, the orthodontist, the Scout leader, and the school. They’re friends, friends you can enjoy on your own terms and for their own value.
Isn’t midlife fun?!