Busy with my first baby while my girlfriends were starting their careers and planning their weddings it was easy for the months to slip by before we even realized that we hadn't spoken in half a year, let alone met for a visit. Married to a man I was miserable with, stranded in the town he moved us to an hour away from anyone I knew, raising my baby all on my own without the option of a half hour's relief for a coffee date with a friend, I often felt lonely when I'd hear about the glamorous, grown-up, independent lives my girlfriends were all living and the freedom they had to meet one another for after-work drinks, go out for a nice steak dinner with their husbands, make party plans for the weekend with other friends. I loved, and still love, being a mom more than anything in the world - my boys are the centre of my universe and they are what give meaning, shape and form to my entire life - but in my first few years as a new mom I felt very isolated and alone.
Realistically, things haven't changed that much in terms of personal freedom - I'm still an at-home mom and a very hands-on mom and despite now having a husband who's a real partner and parent in every sense of the word I don't have any more time to myself, time for us, or time for friends than I ever did.
But in the last few years I've realized just how important girlfriends are as a connection to reality, a connection to the outside world, a connection to our non-mom selves, a connection to other women and other moms (now that some of them are). Even if it's only a few texts or Facebook messages every week or two and you only manage to get together for a coffee every couple of months or meet for Christmas cocktails once a year, those quick messages back and forth keep you connected to your adult self, the non-mom you who likes to giggle and gossip and dress up and go dancing.
Once a week - actually more like every two weeks, to be honest, since we're both always busy and time seems to just slip away - I have a phone date with my best girlfriend. I only see see her once a year (which is shameful - she only lives an hour and a half away - it's just that it always seems so impossible to find the time...) but I have a closer connection to her than to anyone else in the world who lives outside this house because of our bi-weekly marathon phone dates.
These phone dates are, in essence, my social life these days. I don't really like to leave my kids with a sitter - these years when they're young, this time with them when they actually want and need me just seems so short that I'd hate to waste any of those hours when we're not busy with work, school, sports, playdates, birthday parties or any of the other things that seem to take up so much of our time as a family by leaving them with someone else. I've been told time and time again that it's necessary, that you need it for your own sanity, for quality time to yourself or as a couple or with friends. But it's just not something I've ever been able to reconcile myself to. My alone time, and quality time with my husband, is at home after the kids go to sleep at night. And I'm absolutely fine with that.
But girlfriend time is harder. I have a couple of close girlfriends who have children now, and we'll do a coffee-slash-playdate at one of our houses or the park or an indoor playplace perhaps twice a year. I have a couple of close girlfriends without kids who I meet for coffee - usually with at least one kid in tow - every few months. In the summer we have a big group of friends over for a family-friendly barbecue in the backyard, and every Christmas season we have a night-time cocktail party - the kids sleep soundly through it all. But these social activities are fairly few and far between, and if it weren't for my bi-weekly phone dates with my best girlfriend I feel like I'd be in real danger of losing touch with the outside world and the reality of life outside what takes place within the walls of our home.
My phone dates with my bestie have grown over the years into two or three hour marathon sessions, and I look forward to these dates the same way I would to a rare child-free outing. We plan them out a day or two ahead, booking them for a night when she'll be home from work at a reasonable hour and we'll be home from soccer early enough for a normal bedtime and we warn our husbands in advance. After I get all three kids down and she's finished her (much later, grown-up-time dinner) with her husband I pour a glass of wine, settle down on the couch and call her.
We get all of our "what's new" news over with in the first ten minutes or so. The rest of the phone date is devoted to ramblings, gossip, heartbreaks little and big, happy moments and the general insignificant nonsense that makes up most of what goes on in our heads most of the time. These phone dates remind me of our years together as roomies in university, of all the ups and downs we've shared over the years, of life as an individual rather than a wife and mom, and they are what keep me in touch with life outside the bubble of family life in Pleasantville I live in. And I love them.
I know that one day my kids will be old enough for me to have a real social life again, to go out for coffee dates and meet for drinks after work and go to cocktail parties and have dates outside the home with my husband - but until that happens, it's these once-every-week-or-two phone dates with my bestie that make up my social life, and they make me very happy.
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