About eight years ago, when our kids were in elementary school, I became casual friends with five other women, moms “in the same class.” As time went on, the kids’ friendships changed. The moms remained. We usually get together for coffee about once a month. We have been there for each other in some difficult times (cancer, a divorce, the death of parents, etc.).
All of us work outside the home but one, and her kids are both now in their teens. Yesterday, at our regular coffee, she announced that her husband is leaving her after nearly two decades of marriage. We jumped in with condolences and support.
However, what this friend said next stunned me: that what devastated her the most is that she will have to get a job, and she can’t imagine not being there for her children because “what kind of mother chooses work over being a good parent?” Those are the precise words she used.
The remaining five of us work because that is the life we chose. We do not consider ourselves to be inadequate parents. I didn’t say anything, except continued support, but I am hurt by her words. Should I chalk it up to her being distressed, or is it worth bringing it up?
I don’t know — is she worth bringing it up?
Close friends can’t leave hurt feelings between them untended and still remain close, so if she is one, then I’d advise picking your moment and raising it one-on-one.
Coffee friends, though, can let all kinds of stuff go — just by saying to themselves mentally, “She can be a doink sometimes, but we go way back.”
There are also different ways to speak up, if that’s what you choose to do. There’s the I-just-need-to-say-this method — “When you said X, that bothered me” — and there’s the gracious offer of a mouth-defooting opportunity: “You said X the other day. Did you really mean that?”
Both of them can let a friend know she hit a sore spot but you’re still on for coffee next month.
I want to be a person who wants to hang out with friends. But most of the time when an opportunity arises, even to see people I like, I just don’t want to go. Usually I don’t regret it when I do drag myself out of the house, but that doesn’t encourage me to next time. I’m not anxious or anything, I just seem to be missing something other people have that makes them look forward to seeing people?
— Trying Not to be Asocial
I don’t think you’re missing something so much as you have something else. Contentment with your own company, for example. Introversion. Hobbies.
These aren’t good or bad, they’re just different from the traits that motivate people to seek the company of others more.
And as long as you pair them with self-knowledge, there’s no reason your conflicting impulses can’t get along. Just decide upfront that you will force yourself out X times per Y — then see whether that feels right, then adjust your rules as needed to sustain friendships without depleting yourself.
All of this assumes you’re at your typical energy level; if you feel you have less lately, then consider a trip to your doc.
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