A Friendly Stroll
by Jenny Rough
Finding new ways to stay connected when changes in life pull friends apart.
I was with my friend and her toddler at a cupcake shop. It had been ages since we caught up, but each time we tried to talk, her attention was diverted and our conversation cut off.
“No, come here,” she called as her kid waddled behind the cash register.
Or, “Don’t put that in your mouth,” she said when he dropped his sippy cup.
Finally to me: “Gotta go.” She pointed to her son who was racing out the door onto a busy sidewalk.
“Mmgdbye,” I said with a mouthful of vanilla-vanilla, but she was gone. I sat alone in a state of sugar shock. Crumbs covered the table and a puddle of water dribbled over the edge and onto the floor. Wrinkled napkins and frosting-covered forks were scattered about, and I felt something lumpy stuck to the bottom of my left shoe (smashed Cheerios). That’s when it dawned on me that, one by one, I was losing my girlfriends to babies.
I was 35, married but childless, though not for lack of trying. While I understood parenthood shifted priorities and consumed tons of time and energy, I assumed our friendships would rekindle as the babies grew older. By that time, my friends were popping out a second (sometimes third), and the cupcake fiasco repeated.
I cherish my companions and adore their babies, but I began to wonder: were we doomed to drift apart? My mom-friends also missed hanging out, but no matter the meeting place, adult conversation took a backseat. Shopping? A fun daytime activity, but my friend Stacey summed it up well: she’ll no longer shop with friends because she’s too busy managing her kids’ temper tantrums. Dinner? Babysitters are expensive, and my mom-friends go to bed early.
One day I read a book about a woman trying to lose weight so she invites her friends to exercise. It gave me a brilliant idea. I tried my plan on Angela first. We’d gotten together for lunch twice since her baby Michael was born, but his fussing drowned out our conversation. This time, we met at a walking trail near our homes. While the motion of the jog stroller lulled Michael to sleep, Angela and I had a long chat. Days later, Kristin and I talked religion as she pushed her daughter in a stroller while her older kids rode scooters. We bonded and burned calories.
Walking isn’t always ideal—one friend of mine has a toddler who won’t tolerate a stroller—but for the most part, it’s a clever solution. Sometimes the discussion veers to areas that highlight the diverging paths in our lives. I can’t contribute much on breastfeeding in the same way a stay-at-home-mom friend might not relate to my career dilemmas. But offering a listening ear—even on alien topics—is an important part of friendship. In fact, those moments that widen our horizons can be the most enriching.
Jenny Rough (JD ’99) is a freelance writer based in Alexandria, Virginia. When in Los Angeles, she likes to visit her alma mater and walk the Malibu campus loop.