Saturday, March 1, 2014

Can Stay-at-Home Mothers and Working Mothers Really be Friends?

How's that for a provocative, link-bait style title? Because of course I don't believe that mothers who are home with their kids full-time and mothers who go to an office or another job can't be friends in any absolute sense. And more importantly, I think that they should be friends. I'll admit, though, that I've found it difficult, as a practical matter, to maintain friendships with my mom friends who work outside the home.

When I was pregnant, a good friend of mine from the Hill was due exactly one day later than I was. During our pregnancies, we'd get together to go for walks, or we'd attend prenatal yoga classes together. During her maternity leave, too, we were able to hang out at home and chat, nursing our babies and watching movies.

And then she went back to work and, understandably, got considerably busier. I got considerably lonelier, and needed to seek out other mom friends who were home during those interminable weekday hours when David was at work. Although we certainly are still friends, our social interactions these days are basically limited to our kids' birthday parties or other large-group weekend events.

I quickly found that I needed friends who were available for lunch or playdates on weekdays, and that I felt very protective in keeping our limited evening and weekend time with David as family time. For moms who work outside the home, I imagine the need to protect their time is even more acute: Not only do they have less time with their kids, but they also have errands and everything it takes to keep a household running to fit into their out-of-the-office hours.

It's only natural, then, that my closest friends these days are the ones I can see on a random Tuesday afternoon when our kids are making us crazy. And if I still worked in an office, I'd expect to have closer relationships with women who could duck out for lunch with me or sneak in a manicure on a slow Friday afternoon.

My closest friend these days who works outside the home is also my goddaughter's mother, and both she and her husband are good friends of ours. So when we get together it's most often with our whole families. And that's great! I love seeing all of them. But I feel like it's not enough, really. I think that female friendships are important--and that it's important to get the chance to really talk without chasing after the kids or having our husbands around. I also think it's important for moms in different circumstances to gain perspective from one another.

I don't know what to do about it, as a practical matter. There are only so many hours in the day and only so much free time for any family in the week, and it's a simple fact that we're going to spend the most time with the friends who are more accessible for us. But just because it's easiest for me to be friends with other moms who are at home full-time (or most of the time; one of my best friends is a NICU nurse who works limited, irregular hours) doesn't mean that I shouldn't find a way to nurture my friendships with my delightful friends who have full-time jobs.

So really my question is, how can stay-at-home mothers and mothers with outside jobs best find time to spend together? If you're a mom who works outside the home, what would you like your SAHM friends to know about how to hang out with you more? What do you do to enrich your friendships with women whose schedules are very different from your own?


claire said...

This is something that I think will probably get easier when kids are older. When kids are in school Monday-Friday, playdates move to weekends, when both SAHMs and work outside the home moms are both free. Of course, then the kids will reach an age where mothers won't accompany them on playdates, but maybe that will free up more time for the moms to visit?

Erin G said...

My two closest friends actually aren't parents at all, which is probably why it is easy when I have a free lunch hour/weekend/evening, it is easy for them to be free to hang out with me.

Also, they both TOTALLY tolerate my kids, which is lovely, and more than I would want to impose on someone.

Also -- and I think in some ways this is an advantage -- because my husband works a rotating shift, I don't have to feel protective of his working evenings as family time. Which means a friend can come sit on my couch and eat popcorn and TALK. I mean, it isn't a night out in a bar or anything, but they are very sweet about being "stuck" at my house after my kids are down. Good friendship happens on my couch, truly.

Anyway yeah, I have very few CLOSE friends who work outside the home AND have kids. I'd like to think it is coincidence, but maybe it really is situation.

Erica said...

Interesting points. I like having other sahm friends but I also keep up with working mom friends and even friends without kids. I see the sahm friends most and especially the other moms at preschool.

HereWeGoAJen said...

It really does make it harder. Since we move so much, all my friends here are ones I made through my moms club and therefore almost exclusively stay at home moms. And since I almost never see any of them except during the day on weekdays, I can see how it would be really hard to keep up a friendship with a full time working friend.

Hillary said...

I've been thinking about this post. As a WOHM, I find it very hard to be friends with SAHMs because of the reasons you mention. Our schedules are just so different, and my time is limited. That being said, it's hard, in general, to maintain friendships because of that limited time. I mean, I'm very good at building friendly acquaintances with the parents at daycare and people at work and parents at Little League -- but deep friendships established since having children? Eh. I think it's one of the reasons I really appreciate the bloggy/internet friends I've found. Time restrictions are less of a problem when you're dealing with email, texts and twitter.

I do work very hard to maintain my longest friendships, e.g. Michelle, because those are very dear and important to me.

Susie said...

My closest friendships these days are conducted via iMessage, because none of them live anywhere near me. I have acquaintancey friends here, but between work and kids and husband and my special snowflake sleep disorder, I have none time for seeing anyone. So, I DO have close SAHM and WAHM and WOHM and childless/free friends.... but I can only maintain those close friendships because of the internet/texting. And the actual constraints of our days don't have that much impact, but DO provide a lot of richness to our conversations and variations to our viewpoints.