Friendship as a concept has always interested me. Maybe it’s because since I was two, I’ve had best friends, and even though some of those have drifted away, I’m one of the lucky ones who held on to the closest ones. Our relationships evolved, we had our disagreements, we moved to different corners of the world, but they remained a part of my life. Even some of the friends I made through the years, in college, and after, are people I consider my lifeline, my sounding boards. But it would be untrue to say I didn’t spend nights worrying about and questioning the friendships I lost. Missing those who drifted away. It’s because like I said, friendship has always been on my priority list. But as life went on, friendships also evolved to be need based, situation based or locality based. I got married and obviously, a need a couple friends arose. We became expats and it was important to find a support group here. But the situation I was least prepared for was motherhood and it’s own need for a support system.
I was left in a lurch. Suddenly everyone around me was talking about how I needed mummy friends. And how important it was to have playdates with other babies. And how your friends, no matter how good-intentioned they may be, will never understand your constant preoccupation with poop and nap time. To say the least, it was a bit scary. How was I, a previously 100% committed professional, suddenly be expected to find mom friends? Where would I go?
So I began my hunt. I joined groups. I joined coffee mornings. I did the small talk. I watched my baby look at other babies with this look of awe on her little face. I did the walks, the lunches, the playdates, the endless conversations about weaning and night feeds. It was tiring. And made me feel like I was role-playing. Not being myself. But I kept on. Slowly, it got a bit easier. The small talk can sometimes, not always, evolve to a more meaningful conversation. And after attending many of these get-togethers, you find a few women that sort of understand what you are going through. The recognise your awkwardness and it forms a kinship. And then you take it from there.
It’s certainly not easy. To be in a different country, to raise a baby on your own, and then to find a network that is completely different from your previous one. You don’t need these new friends. I was certainly happy enough with my old friends, boring them with my little one’s daily antics. But it helps to have these friendships especially when you feel you wish you had someone around who just got it, you know?
I can’t say I’ve figured it out. Or even that I know what I’m doing. But all I know is, it works both ways. If you feel you can find the support you need in your family (which is where I usually find mine) or your existing network, then that’s what you need to hold on to. And if you feel you need a little something different then you can put yourself out there. It’s daunting and it’s tiresome. But it has it perks. Because sometimes, in one of these get-togethers, you find someone in the group, eagerly nodding, understanding exactly what you mean. And that feeling of being understood is precious, no matter where you find it.