When We Change the Rules of Friendship

I have been thinking so much about friendships lately. I feel like I am at a place in my life where my friends are sort of sitting up on the shelf. Still there, available to play with or talk to, but getting gathering a little dust. Between work and home, I don’t have a lot of time (or energy) to go out and play. My weekends are truly the only solid, quality time my family has together, so I try to play the balancing act between getting things done, and spending time with sweet pea and the hubs.

But I am seeing more talk lately from moms complaining less about balance and more that their childless friends don’t understand, are selfish, slipping away, complain about silly things, etc. I’ll be honest, I have said these things myself. But I got to thinking about a recent episode of Sex and the City rerun I watched. (Yep, I think this is my second SATC reference for your reading pleasure.) Carrie goes to a party to welcome a friends new baby and is asked to remove her shoes, which end up missing. Yep, you know already which episode I am referring to. For those of you stuck under a rock, the episode refers to the general idea that unmarried, childless people are shelling out a lot of money on gifts and altering their own lifestyles for their friend’s life decisions.

So this is the question I pose: What do you do when you change the rules of your friendship?

Why shouldn’t my single gal pals want to go out at 10:30pm for drinks? Why shouldn’t they be able to complain that they are tired? They did not choose for me to have a child, I did. They do not have children, I do. I changed the game, I made new rules, I changed the guidelines of our friendship.

As you get older your friendships will change. This is inevitable. We each take a different path in life, and we walk down that path with different people at different times. I am a strong believer that you have a choice when it comes to friends, you can accept the type of relationship they are offering you, or you can walk away knowing you had a good run, no hard feelings. Some of my friends, for example, are more superficial (for lack of a better term) than others. We get together once in a while for coffee or lunch, chat about life, play catch up and laugh together. They aren’t people I call when I have the most exciting news or need a shoulder to cry on. We have accepted this friendship with each other simply because we genuinely  enjoy each other’s company. Then I have friends that are my family. These are the friends I talk to nearly every day and they share in every moment of my journey. We bicker like sisters and give advice like mothers. And of course I have the friends that fall somewhere in the middle of these two (and the typical non-friend Facebook friends). I have accepted my relationships, and when my path has turned, or they have ventured to a new course, I expect that our terms have changed. It may be a little sad, but that is life, forever growing and changing. We may pass by each other occasionally or one day fall back in step. Not all is lost, we may just need to put a part of our lives on a shelf for a bit.

Getting back to my question, what happens when we change the rules, well… that is far from an answerable question. I could go on and on arguing both sides of this, as a parent and as a friend. But unfortunately, much like raising a child, there is no handbook for cultivating healthy friendships.

I can only tell you this, when you change the rules, or have the rules changed on you, make sure everyone knows what they are playing. Decide if the friendship you are being offered is something you are willing to accept for exactly what it is. Be honest and open. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t feel like you come around since I have had the baby” or “I don’t feel like I can invite you anywhere because you always say no.” Then, from either side, take a step back. Are you being selfish? Are you asking too much? And if it isn’t a friendship you willing to accept, why? What can you do about it? Do you want to do anything about it? Ask yourself the hard questions.

You may be surprised.

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