My best friend and I grew apart after she had kids — and that's okay
“Do you remember that one time we went camping at the lake?” I asked her. “I want to say 2007? We got drunk off of those wine coolers before setting up, and then couldn’t figure out how to put the tent together. So we just passed out in the hammock, and then we woke up and had no idea what time it was. Hahahaha. I miss those days. We’ve got to do another — “
“Hey, I’m really really sorry,” she interjected. “I’m gonna have to call you back. But let’s do lunch on Friday?”
I could hear her son crying in the background. Knowing her duties as a mom, I respected her need to get off the phone. He was four months old at the time. Her other son was six, her daughter, four. I had been to every single one of their birthday parties from the time of their existence (and I went to the baby showers before that). The older kids were just getting to that age where they could remember who I am, and even started to call me “auntie.”
In high school, we always talked about having kids — imagining what our weddings to our boyfriends would be like and believing our future children would become friends, too. Obviously, they would listen to all the emo classics (because My Chemical Romance and Brand New would be considered “classic” by then), and they would be creative. And above all else, we’d teach them to love themselves, and to stick up for other kids.
They’d always have each other’s backs, because they were our kids, and it was just supposed to be that way.
It was the kind of fantasy lots of young friends have because, at 15, you’re too short-sighted to see that most things won’t go according to your plan. But even then, I knew there was a heavy level of uncertainty tied to my future. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life (writing was part of the equation, and so here we are today), but I really didn’t know what kind of degree I would pursue, or where I would live.
But I always knew one thing. No matter where I went to college, no matter what happened, thanks to Myspace and AIM, there was no way she and I would stop being friends.
When the first baby came a year after high school, the only feeling in my heart was pure joy. I booked a flight home from my college town to be present right after the delivery. Seeing the light in her crystal blue eyes sparkle when she held him is one of my most treasured memories of the past decade. She was meant to be a mom.
I spent a lot of time visiting home during the first couple of years after the baby’s birth so I could play the active role I so badly wanted to have in this child’s life.
I went to the park with him, I read to him, I played with him, I did everything I could to try and let my best friend know that I was going to be there for her. Having a baby wasn’t going to change that.
One night, she hired a babysitter and we went out to a club. I wasn’t yet 21, and I remember her sneaking me the occasional sip of her cosmopolitan while we danced along to “Tik Tok.” It was the first time she’d been out in months, so we went all out.
“C’mon! I want you to have fun too! You don’t turn 21 for another eight months and I only see you every other four now, so, this is pretty much our only time together!”
I felt guilty after hearing her say that, like I hadn’t been around as much as I could have.
“Sorry! Just been busy lately!” I yelled, trying to not to spill the drink she shuffled at me.
Later that night, we left the club laughing hysterically while we quoted our favorite stand-up comedians, something we had always done during our late-night talks in sophomore year. We called her then-boyfriend to come pick us up, and blasted Drake on the way home.
It was like we hadn’t changed at all. Even though she was a mom and I was a student with no boyfriend, the fact we could still could go out and have a great time, and still laugh at each other’s jokes, meant we were for sure going to be best friends forever.
However, as the years passed, I learned that this would all change.
Only a year after that night at the club, another friend married and had children of her own. My best friend actually helped her plan the baby shower, and was even the maid of honor in her wedding.
Soon after that, their social media profiles were covered with pictures of them going on mommy dates to Starbucks, and their kids playing together. Our club selfies from the year before were deleted.
After college, I moved to San Francisco and did my best to keep up with everyone’s lives. I had an 11-hour workday and a new boyfriend, so keeping up usually meant posting a #throwbackthursday picture and tagging whoever I wanted an update from. When it came to my best friend, though, we always called.
I was on my lunch break when I learned on Facebook that she was engaged. My best friend of 12 years was finally engaged! Of course, I only found out because her other friend had written a congratulatory post. I had no idea.
I didn’t want to feel bitter or jealous. We hadn’t talked in a couple months, and it had partially been my fault. Maybe I didn’t reach out as much as I could have, but I struggled to find down-time in my post-grad life. But still, I hadn’t received a single phone call, not one text. I felt hurt. I really thought that, no matter how many years went by, I’d still always be the first to know.
Somehow, I thought the memories of us crying over ex-boyfriends and being together when that second pregnancy test line turned pink were going to anchor us to each other forever.
But who could blame her? She was a different person now. I was a different person now. She had been a single mom for six years and brilliantly hustled to make a life for herself and her children.
My career goals pushed child-rearing toward the bottom of my to-do list. I moved to another time zone. She stayed in our home town. My priorities are traveling the world and trying to make a living through writing. Her priorities are ensuring her family is well taken care of and happy. Both are equally valid, wonderful goals — but they’re different.
That’s when it hit me. She wasn’t choosing someone to replace me — she’d just found somebody who understands her in ways that I cannot.
That kind of connection is something I want her to have — I know nothing about being a mom, which means my ability to relate to her struggles is limited. I want her to be happy more than anything else, and that means realizing I cannot be every kind of friend to her like I used to be.
This doesn’t mean we can’t be friends anymore, but it does mean we must accept that our old friendship only exists in memories. It’s often the case that we have to walk away from the memories that anchor us together in order to become who we’re meant to be. For her, that meant becoming an incredible mother, woman, and role model. No matter what happens, I will always support her choices.
As the years pass, I am better understanding that the role you play in someone’s daily life doesn’t necessarily represent what you mean to them. You can have absolutely nothing in common with a person, but still love and want only the best for them. What matters is that you take time to show you care, even if it’s in the form of a short phone call every six months.
“So. How’s lunch on Friday?” she asked me again.
“Yeah, that sounds perfect. Bring the little ones — I haven’t seen them in ages!”
“Perfect. You’ll be happy — I got them listening to My Chemical Romance, and they love it!”
(I guess not everything changes after all.)