Her Bad Mother

Friday, June 15, 2007

Around The Corner, I Had A Friend

Almost exactly one year ago, I lost a friend.

I lost this friend because new motherhood had caused me to be neglectful of the relationship. The phone calls were fewer, the visits were fewer; the friendship, all told, was left to languish in the dustheap of obligations from my previous, childless life. My friend - a longtime friend, a best friend - felt that neglect. She knew that I couldn't help that my attention was diverted by an infant, and that my head was clouded by depression, but she felt, still, that the neglect was something that she couldn't tolerate. So she left me.

This in itself would be unremarkable - every parent has a story about how some childless friend drifted away, uninterested in the constant baby-prattle, unimpressed by such accomplishments as good latches and regular shits - but that the gap that opened up between me and this particular friend wasn't a gap created entirely by new parenthood. This gap was created, in part, by blogging.

That I was unable to make sufficient time for the friendship was a problem for my friend, but it was not the entirety of the problem. More serious, from her perspective, was the fact that while I did not have time to go for coffee or spend leisurely evenings chatting over a bottle of really good Syrah, I did have time to blog. You make time, she said to me in her 'Dear John' e-mail, for what matters.

She was right. I was making time for what mattered. I needed blogging. In the midst of all of the confusion and isolation and - yes - depression that I was feeling as a new mother, blogging gave me something to cling to. It gave me something to do. It provided me with a means of opening up, of finding my voice and giving voice to the feelings that were threatening to overwhelm me. And it helped me to rediscover myself as a writer.

These were all things that I couldn't do with her, that I couldn't do with anyone in the lived space of real life. These were things that I had discover for myself, in the shadowy company of virtual peers. I needed other parents, other writers, other friends who I could speak to, confess to, through the curtain of virtual space. I needed to do this from the security of my sofa, in the dark of night, in the grey hours before dawn, as I sorted my thoughts alongside freshly laundered onesies. I needed to do it in the company of sympathetic strangers.

I can understand why she felt hurt by my self-imposed isolation. And I can certainly see why she felt hurt by the fact that I had gathered strangers around me, behind my closed doors. But I was angry, last year, when she accused me of neglect, of not caring, of thrusting her into the role of, as she put it, window-licker. I am still, sometimes, angry. But that anger, when it comes, comes mostly from frustration and regret. I regret that the friendship ended. I regret that she'll never know Wonderbaby. I regret that this friendship couldn't survive my motherhood. The loss of this friendship was just that, a loss. I have formed some very, very special friendships in the blogosphere - incalculably special friendships - but this friendship was important, and can't be replaced.

But it's done. I can't do the calculus on gains and losses here - I would no sooner give up what I've gained from my friendships in the blogosphere, and from the rediscovery of my voice and my (figurative) pen, than give up my motherhood. These are among the most precious things - after WonderBaby - that this new life has given me. To say that I've been empowered as a woman and as a mother doesn't even begin to adequately describe what I've gained from this community, this experience. From blogging.

But there has been - rightly or wrongly, fairly or unfairly - some cost, some loss. I suppose that with every new stage in life, every new road travelled, there is something lost, something left behind. Does it mitigate the quote-unquote empowerment that I've discovered on this journey? No.

But it does make it somewhat bittersweet.


Posted as part of MBT's BlogHer or Bust Round Up. There's still time for you to participate: sometime before midnight tonight (Friday), write a post about blogging and the empowerment of women and link to MBT. Not only will you feel really, really good about yourself, you'll be eligible to win a two-day registration to BlogHer. Or candy. Your pick. And your post will be linked up here, and at MBT, and at BlogRhet, where the brightest minds in the blogosphere will immediately set about deconstructing it and identifying its greater meaning. An offer you can't refuse, no?


Blogger S said...

This was lovely, C.

I've had a few of my own friendships suffer for similar reasons -- generally, the friend doesn't understand why I spend so much time blogging when I don't make any money from it (!).

Obviously I wouldn't mind making money off of blogging, but blogging fills a need even without remuneration.

I got this post. Totally.

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking as a single childless male, I have many friends who have children at various ages -- from newborns to twenty and then some. I have always understood, or more appropriately, an appreciation of the pressures of parenthood. I have understood the joys and wonders of babies, their sense of wonder and the sense of how that new world with the new addition to the family changes one's focus as a parent-- if it didn't I would be worried and downright alarmed. Of course you were focussed on WonderBaby -- and why wouldn't you be?

I thought that the whole idea of adulthood is that one grows to appreciate that the world does not revolve around one's self -- that it is, rather, a web of relationships that make life as rich as it is. HBM- I think that you're accepting too much responsibility for the end of the relationship. I think that the door is never entirely closed on a relationship or, if it is, others open.

Yes, with any end to any relationship, there is grief at the loss. Please don't beat yourself up (figuratively -- for those literalists out there) as there are lots of people out there who love to browbeat. Don't give them a headstart.


4:10 PM  
Blogger painted maypole said...

I'm sorry for your loss, but glad for what you've found. It's that community that I sensed that drew me to blogging, as well.

4:11 PM  
Blogger Laural Dawn said...

That was beautiful.
I get where you're coming from. Though my blogging world is way different from yours (I'm not as introspective, for instance), the understanding and the friendships are still just as important.
I totally get it. I've never lost a friend to blogging, but I have gained new ones. I love my "real life" friends, but sometimes the ones in the blogosphere, the ones who know the stuff that I can't exactly share with people who don't get it - they are the ones I turn to.

4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apparently blogging has opened you up to photography as well. Or were you always as good at capturing people as you do wonderbaby? That face, those photos...leave me breathless.

4:24 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

I wish I could send that to a former friend of mine, but I'm too afraid of getting rebuffed again. I guess her anger just runs too deep... I still miss her sometimes though.

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that also...non parental and no internet/blogging people don't understand that amazingly enough..blogging or emailing someone is a hell of a lot easier if you have small kids around than a phone conversation is OR going for coffee.

Even folks who are just on baby no. 1 don't seem to get it.

I get invites to go to coffee shops and I look at them and wonder what I am supposed to do with a five year old and 3 year old while attempting to drink this coffee and presumably talk.

Talking is hard...in this house anyway.....my kids don't like adult conversation and we have somehow totally blown the seen and not heard thing here.

My GOOD friends get this...my childless less close friends never did.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Jenifer said...

When I think about my early blogging, the word lifeline comes to mind. It is like you could not have helped it even if you tried to stay away.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Karen Bodkin said...

Wow. That post was amazing, Catherine. I can relate so very much.

5:28 PM  
Blogger flutter said...

I am so glad that you threw the lifeline out and found what you needed, what you need. I am so glad to come here and connect to your world, in some small way

5:52 PM  
Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

I'm so sorry. Unfortunately, I can relate. I lost a friend because she disagreed with my priorities as well. Although her disapproval was because I choose to work instead of stay at home. After a post about why I work on my blog and on the Washington Post, she sent me a Dear John letter.

I'm so glad you find what you need in the blogosphere. You are right that much of what we get here we can't get from people in our "real" lives.

6:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One day she'll become a mother herself. And then she'll understand oh-so-well what you went through. And my bet is that she'll feel really bad for bailing on your friendship.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Blog Antagonist said...

I hear you. I learned that it has to be about balance. I tend to really go overboard with things that I find enjoyable, so I had to put the brakes on when blogging started showing signs of becoming another crutch for me. I'm nodding with all of these posts about blogging.

6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please don't think I'm belittling your loss, as all losses are to be mourned and felt deeply.

But I guess I've left so many people behind and felt so uprooted, that part of me just feels like you should have said to this ex-friend, "Tough tittes, bitch. Your loss."

Which it is, you know.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Phoenix said...

It's so sad when people can't give you the time and space to change and be willing to change your friendship some too. Because that's what true friends do.

I'm glad you found blogging when you needed it. I've just really begun, but it seems important to me already.

ps. Adore the picture of WB from yesterday. That could be on the cover of a magazine. Great photo and perfect baby cuteness. Or toddler cuteness. ')

7:18 PM  
Blogger Julie Marsh said...

I'm not good at keeping up with friends. It's a limitation of mine that I've chosen to accept, along with the inevitable consequence of losing friendships. That said, I don't question it when my friends don't reach out to me.

We all have demands on us, and we make time for what we enjoy, what relaxes us, what gives us strength needed to cope with all of those non-negotiable demands. A friend should not be a demand.

8:23 PM  
Blogger Jezer said...

This one inspires me to go off of hiatus. But I'm afraid that I'm already too smashed on Pinot Grigio.

The way that you include images of WB that so accurately reflect the mood of your posts is gorgeous, btw.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Jezer, love: just keep drinking that Pinot and get off hiatus, stat.

And Madame M - there were, believe me, more than a few moments of 'fuck this shit.'

8:40 PM  
Blogger Kyla said...

WonderBaby's little nose! It just demands a kissing!

Beautiful post, HBM. Crappy situation, I think handled poorly on the side of your friend...but I'm so glad you stayed.

Blogging was a lifeline for me, too. I was drowning under the weight of KayTar's newly discovered challenges. Without it, I would have gone straight to the bottom of the sea.

8:45 PM  
Blogger Marty, a.k.a. canape said...

I have always been the childless friend. The one looking in, wondering when we would have time again to shop, drink coffee, go out. And then the one standing back realizing that we wouldn't. It's hard.

The thing is, children aren't the only thing that change friendships. Marriages do. Divorces do. Careers do. Deaths do. Relationships are living things. And they change.

If you have to write someone off as your long time friend just because they need some time to adjust to a major change in their life, then you lead a very sad existence. If you aren't comfortable taking on a modified role in your friendship, then you are a selfish brat, and were obviously on the receiving end of the friendship anyway.

Then again I guess I'm jaded. My best friend wrote me off after my divorce and subsequent new relationship. Her words? "You just aren't sad enough."

I guess she never read my blog. I got your sad, bitch. And what kind of comment was that anyway?

People are strange and needy.

Sorry I just hijacked your blog for my own venting. I'll go home now.

9:15 PM  
Blogger Run ANC said...

I have lost a good friend (I thought one of my best friends), not to blogging, but because I had a child. She's never seen him, nor shown any interest in seeing him. It hurts, and it's something I doubt I could ever forgive.

I hear you.

10:56 PM  
Blogger Granny said...

I haven't lost any friends to blogging because I didn't have them to begin with after I retired and moved here.

I was far too old to fit in with the "moms" and I didn't fit with the "seniors" when I had 3 babies tagging along behind me.

I have never felt so isolated. Long story short. Had an unexpected small windfall, bought a computer, and discovered blogs.

What a difference! I now have a few real life friends here but if I didn't, it would be okay.

11:29 PM  
Blogger BabyonBored said...

I think that post was beautifully written first of all. Secondly, I can relate but have been on both sides of the equation. I have blown off friendships - of course I'm not proud of my behavior - because I felt left behind and later when I had a child of my own I got it! And those friends forgave me! And now, I try to understand when my single or childfree friends blow me off or feel blown off by me. But it doesn't stop it from hurting. It does remind me of the hurt I've inflicted though.

11:44 PM  
Blogger Girlplustwo said...

dude, so in just under the wire, damn time zones.

11:47 PM  
Blogger Julie Pippert said...

Ahh sigh.

I understand this, I do.

And maybe someday, she'll understand too. If not, you're right...you found what you needed. It is harsh, though, sometiems when things end up costing us for what we gain.

Great insight.

12:08 AM  
Blogger crazymumma said...

Yes. We all have had a breakup.

I wonder if at theat time, could she not have just ridden out the storm and waited until you came out the other side.

12:19 AM  
Blogger moosh in indy. said...

When you write such tasty stuff like that it makes those of us who basically beg for a free ticket to blogher look like, well beggers. But beg if I must, I so want to be there.
Lovely post.

12:55 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

Wow - great post. And I agree; as moms we need a creative outlet. Blogging really helps with that. And we can dash over to our computer while cooking, or running the bath, or while cleaning, and jot something down. We can't always do that with friends.

1:18 AM  
Blogger Bobita said...

I remember that post. It stuck with me for weeks.

Blogging is bittersweet, I agree.

1:38 AM  
Blogger mo-wo said...

I believe this topic (from last year's posting) was my first HBM read. Apropos of nothing?

It is a special 'venue' the blog and the community it creates is all you say.

ps..I think I did just post on the empowerment issue.

2:14 AM  
Blogger kristen spina said...

(de-lurking to say) This post really hit home for me. Also, your post about the loss when it first occurred. I recently had a friend tell me that blogging wasn't "a normal way to communicate."

Well, if someone could give me a reasonable explanation of "normal" perhaps I'd be willing to listen. In the meantime, you know where to find me.

7:24 AM  
Blogger Bea said...

I have a friendship that has drifted so far now I'm pretty sure it's lost. I really don't know whether she is angry at me or regretful, and if she's angry I'm not even entirely sure which of several options applies. Is it my fault we haven't called each other in over a year? Do we simply have too little in common now that children fill my life and not hers? Or is it the sympathetic remarks I made when she was considering cancelling her engagement to her now-husband? That last one, I suspect, might be unforgivable.

8:01 AM  
Blogger Heather @ thedomesticdiva.org said...

I recently added you to my "domestic divas" the good blogs list and wanted to come over and say hello

11:42 AM  
Blogger The Domesticator said...

This post hit me square in the chest...
I am sorry you lost your friendship. It is painful, and it is a loss, and you must go through the mourning of that relationship.
The same thing happened to me last year, but not because of kids or blogging: it was because I did have a little post partum, and I was moving away. My friend didn't have the capacity to be there when I needed her. Is that really a friend? I think not...

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aw Catherine, you always have a way of hitting my chest in that soft spot where it hurts.

Going through a breakup of sorts myself with a friend who I held dear. But she can't wrap her head around my choices (blogging, persuing an adoption, etc) and I can't have such negativity around my precarious and fragile mental health.

Blogging really was the life line that got me through the death of my son, and it still is. But that is a post I intend on writing on my blog and not in your comments.

Thank you for sharing. And more importantly, thanks for becoming my friend.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

I've always thought that there's no "the One" for you and that applies to friends as well as men. There are just the right people for certain tims in your life, and we're lucky to have them for whatever time we do. Perhaps that friendship would have gone by the wayside eventually for other reasons - it's hard to say. And while you haven't filled that particular gap with someone else, it's nice to know that you've filled others.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Lady M said...

Beautiful post. It's too difficult for me to talk yet about the complications of blogging - new friendships, better personal/family connections because we see each other online, the stress on other connections because of too much time online.

By the way, WonderBaby looks just spectacular in that Toronto hat picture below.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Damselfly said...

Wow, you wrote that so frankly and yet poetically. Losing friends is something I fear because I feel I have already lost so many....

Good luck on winning!

10:48 PM  
Blogger moplans said...

Its sad that your friendship ended for whatever reason though I suspect blogging was just the scape goat here. It is so difficult making the transition to motherhood without extra stresses. I almost wrote off a couple of friends but they have since come arround. Still I will never think of them the same way I think of you and the other bloggers as other moms who really understand what I am going through, or at least empathize with me.
Thanks as always for sharing this with us.

11:49 PM  
Blogger karengreeners said...

I remember when you first wrote about this. I'm sorry that time hasn't changed the situation, but it was interesting to read with the perspective of a bit more distance.

And in case I didn't say it anywhere earlier - love the new 'do. It fits you like a bob.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Namito said...

All of my single women friends have lost touch with me over the past 2 years. Some of this loss of contact is due to distance, but it is more because of I am now a mother. I know that grief of losing a friend. I'm so sorry.

The friends I have made over the last few years have all been mothers...there is a common ground that set us at ease when we met in the early hours of the morning at the playground, and realized none of us had had a full night's sleep.

But here, through writing, in some ways, it is as if more of myself is revealed. I have said more in these pages than I have in my daily relationships, only because time and place do not allow for the more intimate conversation that happens here. We are so lucky in this community.

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The space of real life". Yes, that's exactly what it is and to be living outside of that is a lonely, lonely place. I remember being asked to return to the school where I had been teaching so that I could show off my firstborn son who had been born the previous spring. Everyone thought he was precious, but then the bell rang and these people HAD SOMETHING ELSE TO DO. My classroom was taken over by someone else and I had "retired" from teaching. The space in this community where I had once been a part was closed up. Doors clicked shut as my friends returned to their jobs and I stood there realizing that there was nothing else for me to but load my son into his carseat and go home. Many of my friendships took a nosedive, too, though not because I didn't have time, although I didn't. It was because of the separation between those who had the freedom to move around after work and...people like me. I didn't regret becoming a mother, but I regretted that I didn't have anything of my own to hang onto WHILE I was being a mother. Suddenly, I felt as though I didn't know anything about anything. No profession...no identity. It wasn't until two years later when I became a freelance writer that I felt as though I could call myself something. Something besides "mommy" which, although a sweet, sweet word, could not adequately describe all of the things of which I was capable.

Love the new design!

10:58 AM  
Blogger Baby in the City said...

Well. As for the loss, you know already that I agree with Madame M.

As someone who felt like they knew you very well before WB and before your blog(s), I can say that, in retrospect, I knew but a sliver. The biggest revelation being your writing ability. No one should keep one of their strongest talents such a secret. It feels like a bit of a revolution in your life (seems like that from the outside), that you revealed it to everyone - finally.

And I suspect this is one of the bits about your blogging that drove your friend away. You upped your pace when you started blogging and the stride you hit left that certain someone in the dust.

8:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's so strange for me to listen to stories of childless women who don't get the change a child brings to a woman's life. Of course someone's priorities change. Of course their schedules change. Of course their EVERYTHING changes... how can you expect anything else?

It's a fine line between supporting someone in the changes in their world and treating them like they just abandoned everything they were before they became a mom, though.

I think I work to take note of both... and offer babysitting when needed, and a girl's night out when needed, or a dinner brought over when needed, or a shopping trip for the first non nursing bra in forever... when needed.

Some of us get it, I promise.

I guess it helps that I would have babies right now myself, if I could.

2:15 AM  
Blogger JChevais said...

That was a very lovely post.

4:43 AM  
Blogger BOSSY said...

Bossy believes real friendships endure much worse.

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this is not uncommon with friends who have babies when the other does not. She is in a very different place than you and can not understand. If you are lucky and she is honest with herself she will have a baby one day call and say sorry. This sort of thing happened to me, except I was the friend who was baby less. Two years later I realized a apology was in order when I had my own baby and had started to do some soul searching, (as often happens once you have a baby.)
Best of luck.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Wonderful post. I can also relate.

11:51 AM  
Blogger PT-LawMom said...

I can definitely relate. Sometimes after a day of answering Pumpkinhead's constant questions and dealing with people at work, I just CANNOT talk to another person. Blogging is a low energy way to share myself without speaking out loud or having to hop on the phone. This post is precisely why I haven't "come out" as a blogger. I want to be free to post when I want, say what I want, etc., without judgment (at least from people whose opinion matters, like family and friends).

3:43 PM  
Blogger Alex Elliot said...

I can definitely relate to your post.
I go through cycles when I'm not as prompt as I would like to be with emails, but I always have a blog post up which of course let's all my friends and family know that I have indeed been on the computer that day. This has caused problems before. I feel like blogging is something that I do for me. I'm sorry for your loss.

10:10 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

love this post, and sorry i came to it so late.

window licker, huh? I can see how some people would see it that way--that we only get to have "relationships" through lookin on from the outside. But you, my friend (my *friend*) are not guilty of this.

10:38 PM  
Blogger ewe are here said...

I remember that post, and I think every new parent could relate to it, sometimes only too well.

I understand your regret and frustration, but I still don't think you bear the responsibility for the friendship ending... she ended it, deliberately and, I think, nastily. She also did it in such a way as to ensure she had the last word...

If she ever has a child or children of her own, she will probably regret ending your friendship the way she did. And you're right: it is her loss. She will never know her once dear friend's family.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I first started blogging, I sent out an e-mail to about 50 friends and family. For about six months, I sent a weekly "tickler" with titles and teasers of my most recent posts and a link to take them there.

Living overseas, I thought people would jump on the chance to stay in touch this way. They didn't.

Three of my oldest, dearest friends read my blog regularly as do one or two family members. Most others ignore it, or check in on it only if I write to them and tell them to do so.

It's strange and just a little disturbing how many people claim to want to share my life but don't want to share in my writing.

They don't have to love it. They don't have to comment. They don't have to read every post. I just think they should know they can't claim to care about me and then leave my words behind.

1:35 PM  

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