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Being a Good Mom Makes Me a Bad Friend

Photograph by Twenty20

I’m sure you’ve been there, too. You make plans to go out with a friend or have them come over and it ends up not working out. Maybe you’ve set up a play date and circumstances outside your control make it impossible to follow through. It happens. And it happens to me a lot.

There are just are so many factors at play when kids are involved in making a schedule work. You have to account for naps, meal times, driving, and oh yeah, not going insane. And it’s all in a sincere effort to be the best mom you can be. Unfortunately, being a good mom often translates to being a less than stellar friend.

The struggle for balance in being a present, sane mom and an attentive friend is real. Sometimes it takes me days to respond to a text, and it’s not because I don’t care! It’s because I’m busy juggling motherhood, working from home and making sure there’s decent food on the table.

That doesn't mean I don't want—or need—time with my friends. I know I need it. I need that time to unwind with friends, to vent, share and have a drink. I need that time to let my kid play with their friends while the moms sit back and try to relax for two minutes at a time.

Easier said than done, though.

A few weeks ago I made an impromptu coffee date with a friend. The only time she could do it was in the afternoon—right when my daughter was supposed to have her nap. Even though she’d woken up at 6 a.m., I thought, it’s fine, we can do this! One missed nap won’t kill her. But I knew it was a lie. Because I know my daughter, and I know that without sleep she turns into a grumpy little bugger. Needless to say, the coffee date was riddled with cajoling, embarrassment, and iPhone games and ended with me being exasperated. And I only had myself to blame.

Navigating the waters of friendship after kids can bring your ship perilously close to rocky shores.

Sometimes I feel like putting my daughter’s needs before my own goes against the grain of the modern woman. I’ve now realized that it’s just me being selfish. Of course, I need time to myself and certainly there are instances I put myself first, but I've realized that I need to do it in a manner that doesn’t affect my child negatively.

No longer will I say yes to things that I know will only end in disaster. If every time my child plays with yours she comes home with a bad attitude that takes me a full day to undo, I’m going to politely say, “No thanks.” If you need my help, we’ll have to work around both our schedules to make it happen. And I’ll do my best not to feel guilty about being unable to jump in my car and drive over. Because, yeah, there’s a lot of guilt that comes with the whole mom thing.

Navigating the waters of friendship after kids can bring your ship perilously close to rocky shores. We’re all doing our best, and sometimes even that doesn’t feel like enough. Someone is always going to feel neglected, hurt, or left out. Add to that the social pressure of always wanting to appear perfect and have the best-behaved kids, and you’ve got a recipe for dissatisfaction. Just remind yourself that hey, you’re human, and so are those other moms you’re trying to get together with, it takes the burden off.

Friendship is a vital part of motherhood—one that can lift burdens and rejuvenate your soul—but life happens. Children are going to be cranky, plans are not going to work out, and that’s okay. There are times you’ll have to choose to put the needs of your child before you or your friends. And hopefully the ones who love you will understand that.

So if I don’t text back, if plans fall through, if I haven’t returned your call, I promise I’m still here. I'm just trying to battle my way through the trenches of motherhood.

I promise I'll be a good friend again when I'm out.

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