Make new friends and keep the old

In Yom Kippur services yesterday, a friend came over.  “Have I done anything to offend you this year?” she asked, earnestly.

“No, of course not,” I answered.  “Have I done anything to offend you?”

“No, no.”  She paused.  “It’s just that we haven’t seen each other much lately and I thought maybe I had done something…”  I quickly assured her that she has done nothing, and, frankly, I cannot imagine what this particular friend could do that would offend me.

I pointed up two feet above my head.  “Honestly, the air is up there and I am just trying to get to it. I am treading water here.”  She was gracious and understanding.

They are always gracious and understanding.

Over the past several years, I have spent so much time with one nostril above water, frantically trying to float, that I have been a negligent friend to far too many delightful and interesting people.  I make choices about what is going to get done and those things happen consistently.

The kids get regular checkups and are up-to-date on their vaccines.  We eat healthful, home-cooked meals. (I typed in “homo-cooked meals” first, which is a slightly different thing.)  The kids have been to the dentist, we reward with sticker charts, we read with Zachary, Benjamin seems to finally be learning his letters, and Lilah is getting tested for all her food allergies.  I read sometimes.  Now and then we call J’s aunt whose husband is very sick.  I exercise a few times a week.  I dropped off muffins at a house with a new baby yesterday (because everyone likes to get home-baked muffins on Yom Kippur).

I write.  Sometimes I even find time to submit articles and pitches.

But, these things are all that happens.  There is a pile of stained clothing that sits in my bedroom, waiting to be turned into rags.  It has been there for six months.  Every now and then, when our current rags are disgusting, I grab a few old onesies and quickly tear them into rags.  On top sits a box of clothes to be donated.  I am two sizes behind donating Lilah’s old clothes.

The blinds in the boys’ room have been broken since July, but they are still functional.  J wanted to know when I was going to schedule someone to fix them.  “After I find time for a dentist appointment,” I snapped.  I haven’t had a dentist appointment since I was pregnant.  The baby is now a year old.

Our counters have piles on them.  We need printer paper.

And I don’t call my old friends.  I don’t get together with new friends. I rely on them to understand, to forgive.  As they have done for years now.

I don’t understand why other people seem to have it together.  Lots of people have three or more kids.  But somehow they find time to keep in touch with people, to have dinner with friends.  I put all that energy into playdates for my children and the infrequent date with my husband.

So, I write this, and I post this.  I will send it out to all those people who I have neglected time and again.  This is my plea that you will all forgive me, wait for me, and be there when I finally resurface, no matter how long it takes.  Because I value you, even if I don’t show it enough.

20 responses to “Make new friends and keep the old

  1. I’m guessing you’re an introvert. Extroverts always have time for get togethers. They serve their kids organic chicken nuggests from Trader Joes, organize babysitting co-ops and meet their friends for coffee and to shop for fabrics. For what it’s worth, I’m more like you. I tell myself it’s because I have no time but that’s only part of the story.

  2. Actually, I am quite an extrovert. That’s what is so surprising about the last few years…

  3. vigorousanonymity

    I think you’re being very hard on yourself. I know of what I speak.

    For years I struggled to clean my house to the specifications of others. One of my best friends has a spotless house and mine never is and I always figured if I couldn’t achieve that, then I wasn’t trying hard enough. I was home all day, albeit watching my kids, and there was no excuse for not getting the counters cleaned off every day.

    I recently went back to work, and now there is just no time at all. I am now trying really hard to stop defining myself by the cleanliness of my house. There are other more important things…like being happy.

    Please, try not to define yourself by a box of rags. Those things just aren’t important in the great scope of things. Your kids are healthy and happy – that means everything.

  4. That’s interesting to hear you’re an extrovert, Emily. I wouldn’t have guessed that.

    So hang in there. Your nature will eventually have its way again. Having young children is very demanding. I also wonder if you underestimate the energy required for healing and for keeping at bay an abusive childhood.

    It takes a lot of energy to keep those things in check while raising kids. And I know that you put a lot of effort and thought into raising your kids well. That may not show the way muffins do, and a pile of rags don’t. But it is major.

  5. I, too, would never have guessed you as an extrovert…. I think that so often its the relationships that keep things from getting so overwhelming… often when I plan a girls afternoon with my friends, I am shocked by how BADLY I needed it, despite the fact that when the day started I walked away from house thinking, I could be doing this, that or the other.

    My hubs and I haven’t been on a date since well before my daughter was born (in fact I don’t think we went out when I was even pregnant with my daughter–since I already had one kiddo–and the first night I spent away from him was when i was in the hospital having my daughter) and she turns 16 months old tomorrow…. we had scheduled a date night for last Friday, but sadly the hubs work got in the way, and having a date with him being on call, seemed like we were inviting an interruption. I was shocked at how down I was over the loss of that night out, I didn’t even know that I was counting on it and needing it so badly, until it was gone. We hope to be able to reschedule it in the coming weeks, but with our schedules and grandma and grandpa’s (who will keep them for us)….its tough to work it in.

    Anyway my point is, this week things have just seemed so much harder, things I would normally have patience for I am snappy about, and I know that its because I need to get OUT of this house, I need a few hours at least to be the woman I am, and not just the Mom I am at home.

  6. I’m an extrovert, but really didn’t make time for friends until my oldest two kids were well into their school years. It just seemed to keep slipping through the cracks, and I reasoned with myself that I didn’t NEED to have fun with my friends, my kids needed me more, their needs were more pressing. And to a certain extent that was true…but it was also true that my needs mattered, and that my kids would have been just as happy if I’d made more time for myself. I wish I’d known then how much having a social life would energize me and make all the rest of it–the doctor appointments and dishes and dusting and all of that–feel more manageable.

  7. I don’t know everything about your situation, but you have three kids, one around one (right?) and I have the impression that your husband isn’t able to be around as much as some are. In a year or two you’ll probably be slightly close to a front crawl than treading water madly (just to beat a metaphor to death). For now? You’re doing better than most. Does the woman who asked you if she’d offended you have kids? If she does, and if she’d thought for a moment, she probably would have known very well why she hasn’t heard from you very much.

    You’re doing splendidly. Seeing your friends shouldn’t be an added source of stress. When it will fit naturally into your schedule, you’ll know.

  8. Pretty darn good sum-up of the problems of forgiveness.

    For all that you have been through, your ability to use it to reflect on so many things with eloquence and clarity is inspiring.

  9. I think that one of the issues can sometimes be balancing your needs for socializing with your kids. My firstborn is a very outgoing 4 1/2-year-old. She wants to go places and do things, and it’s easy to take her. It sounds like your situation is a bit more complicated.

    We have to parent the kids we have, in the best way we can. I think you’re doing that. I hope that you find a way to get your needs met, too, in the midst of the chaos.

  10. I definitely agree with those who said that you’re doing just fine, and that having a social life shouldn’t be another source of stress for you. I think though that for extroverts, it can feel like a source of stress until we actually get what we need, and only then do we realize how much we need it! My point is, sometimes life loosens up and clears a path for us to do what we want, and sometimes we have to shake it up and either find or create the path ourselves.

  11. i could have written this. sigh.

  12. I, too, often wonder how other people seem to have it all together. I assume they have a maid or a husband who cleans. Neither of which I have.
    Having young children is only for a short while since they do grow up. Later on you will have more time for other things. Well, I assume so. I don’t actually know since I have a one-and-half year old who takes up every spare minute, but I hope so!

  13. Another thought on moms who have it all together–I knew one of those moms, at least, I thought I did. Then she confessed that she tells the teachers every year that if they send paperwork home, she probably won’t read it and that if they don’t get something back from her just stop her in the hall and tell her. She makes a point of being in her kids’ school often because then the teachers will know she cares and can tell her what she’s missing when she flakes out. I felt so much better and realized that her beautiful dining room and spotless car and great hair apparently didn’t mean she was as together as I thought she was.

  14. For what it’s worth, I don’t have a husband or kids, and I STILL feel like I can’t keep up. I don’t know how you do as much as you do.

    I’m guessing that everyone feels that way in some areas, though. The moms with the perfectly clean houses or the active social lives may feel like they don’t spend enough time at the park with their kids.

    I DO know that I have a special place in my heart for those friends that I don’t talk to that often, but that don’t seem bothered by it. (My best friend lives in MO, and we only talk every few months, but when we do, it’s like no time has passed. We laugh about that phenomenon and are each grateful that the other one “gets” that there’s no offense intended.)

  15. no one- I repeat NO ONE has it all together. We are all just doing the best we can.

    right? right.

  16. It’s priorities isn’t it?

    I feed my kids more frozen food than you do, I have playdates with moms that I like and luckily my kids like their kids.

    I facebook, email and phone people often. I rarely see them face to face, I have two small boys and work full time but my friends are hugely important to me, they let me be me and not just Mom or the working me.

    I couldn’t survive if I didn’t have that time with them even if that time is a 10 minute phone call on the way home from work or a quick comment on their status on facebook. Over the years I have allowed people who were energy wasters to drift away but I give out what I hope to receive from the friends I keep close, I pay attention to them, I remember important events and check in from time to time. Like Marste I have friends that I may not have seen in months but it’s no bother to pick up where we left off. Like you I am not living in my “home” so maintaining a connection with my oldest friends is not always easy or convenient but it is important so I make the effort.

    I’m not suggesting that your friends are less important to you or that my kids are less important to me but perhaps you are more able to get along without that contact? Or perhaps too stretched to have much to give? If it’s the latter please be careful that you still have people to care about you when the children no longer need you so much.

    I hope I’m making sense?

    I agree with vodkamom nobody has it all together we’re all trying our best, the most we can do for each other is to try to understand and accept. I’m not Jewish or even religious in the least but I do like Yom Kippur some attention to atonement could help a lot of people.

  17. you’re a good person

  18. I would absolutely have labelled you an extrovert- that’s obvious if one reads your blog for very long!

    I think the person you need to forgive is yourself- you are routinely extremely hard on YOU. NO one has it all together…or if they do, they have hired help. I’m with Boliath that it’s all about priorities. You have some, others have different ones. I would be shocked if any world-changing person has ever had a clean desk.

  19. I can’t even pretend to have it all together…. See, I am way behind in reading your blog.

  20. I don’t understand how other people have it together either. I only have one, but as a mother with a full-time job, I’d be embarrassed to have most people over and see what kind of a mess my place is. We neglect lots of things. I see others with 3 kids in Manhattan and they seem to have it together. The only secret they seem to have is lots of money, full time help and close relatives nearby.