Before I got married, I had a full life. I had a great job as a journalist (at this paper). I had amazing friends, a lively social life, a growing sense of faith and time to read, a chance to travel some, go to a movie with my dad, have brunch with friends.
After marriage, my solo time was shortened, of course, but mostly I just added my husband into the mix. He came with me to friends' birthday dinners. He read his magazines on the sofa next to me while I curled up with a book.
But when the children came, first two and then another, in the blink of an eye, things changed. My full life got fuller. Before, my days were broken into two shifts — shift 1: work; shift 2: me time. Now, they are much more fragmented. Kid time is shift 1, work is shift 2, more kid time at shift 3 and prepare-for-the-next-day, shift 4.
I used to end the night with a novel or a phone call with a friend or a deliciously tacky television show. Now, after packing lunches, ironing clothes, tidying up and filling out school forms (so many forms!), I have only enough energy to crawl into bed and pray — fervently—– that no one will wake up with a stuffed-up nose or a scary dream. Sometimes I conk out in the middle of praying.
Almost any parent will tell you their days are similar. And generally, I bet, most don't really mind all the scurrying. Is it a little chaotic? Of course. Are we constantly exhausted? Yup. But there's so much life packed into those relentless hours, it's hard to be bitter. Sure, we whine and complain, but would the majority of us go back to our two-shift days if it meant not having the little ones we love? It ain't scientific, but my gut tells me: No way.
Still, five years into parenthood, I have noticed, in my quiet moments, a sort of malaise settling in. At first, I thought the predictable drumbeat of life had turned me into a "bored mom" cliche, the classic midlife ennui. But I'm not bored, by any stretch. My kids are hilarious, my husband and I still have romance and fun dates and, call me a weirdo, but I actually enjoy schlepping the kids to soccer and the Maryland Science Center and reading Mo Willems over and over.
It took some time for me to identify the cause of my unease, and it's this: I miss my friends.
Just typing that line makes my eyes well up. I miss them, all of them, even the ones I manage to see at play dates or book club or occasional birthday celebrations at way-too-loud bars.
Because that's the thing: I see them (some of them). And that's about all.
Having children shifted a lot of priorities for me, and rightly so. I've managed to make peace with most. But there is just no way to have the kind of intimacy you had with your truest friends, the ones who understand your soul, once the children come.
There's no time for hours-long phone calls about nonsense, or impromptu sleepovers, or entire days spent as co-pilot while they hunt for the perfect first-date dress. Every conversation is a catching-up rush of quick how-are-you highlights. No one has time for a dissection of what's really going on inside. No one has room in their schedule to talk about what hurts.
And when we do get downtime, mostly we just want quiet.
I'm as guilty of this as anyone; in fact, I can barely find a moment for the highlight reels with most of my friends, especially those who live out of state. But my complicity doesn't change the fact that this is the one thing parenthood has stolen that I desperately want back.
Friends, if you're listening, I really want to know: "How are you?" And I really wish we could talk, for real, about how I am. As our children grow and need us less, we'll get some time back, sure. But will we still know each other as fully then? Perhaps. But I worry. And until then, I miss you.
Call me. Let's talk.
Tanika Davis is a former Baltimore Sun reporter who now works as director at a communications firm. She and her husband have twin 5-year-old sons, a 3-year-old daughter, a perpetually messy house and rapidly appearing gray hairs. She also needs a nap. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears monthly.