Once upon a time, Greg and I were invited to join a book group. This was at a time when we were still relatively new to Austin and had yet to find a close group of friends. We ended up becoming good friends with many of the people in this group. We shared common interests and viewpoints, and we felt incredibly lucky to have these smart, funny friends. Many of us began to have babies, and the book group slowly dissolved, and instead of seeing these friends a few times a month, I saw them a few times a year.
New friends came along. I got to know a lot of the people in our neighborhood, who conveniently had children that Eleanor could play with. Forming friendships when you have children is tricky. I have to find a match for both myself and my kids. I remember learning about “handy playmates” in my psychology class. Young children form friendships based on convenience rather than interests, and I think that parents end up in the same situation.
I’m still learning to navigate these relationships. I make a conscious effort to have something to talk about other than my kids. I read novels and follow the news partly for fulfillment but also so that I can engage in adult conversations. When I end up at a children’s birthday party, which seems to be the bulk of my social life lately, inevitably the conversation is about soccer practices and Halloween costumes. I understand. These are safe topics. Sometimes I make a stab at a non-kid topic, and sometimes I find a kindred soul. Other times I end up with a room full of women looking at me cross-eyed.
In an effort to reclaim some adult time, I helped to restart our book group a few months ago. We did it with kids included, so there are more interruptions, but I was still thrilled to be having discussions with like-minded people. Already I can see that our group is going to fizzle out again. Between work and nap times and children’s birthday parties, we can barely squeeze in our meetings. And most of us (myself included, I admit) haven’t even read the book for our upcoming meeting.
I know that it’s possible to have close friendships when you have kids because I do have a few, but man, it is tough. I feel like I need a “help wanted” posting. Wanted: Friends with young children. Must enjoy reading contemporary novels, watching dark television dramas, and debating the minutiae of parenting.