“It was so much easier to get together when you guys were little,” she said.
My sister and I looked at each other and then back at Mom’s friend like she had horns. We were in the midst of raising itty-bitties and felt like we couldn’t come up for air. Easier? Is anything easier when they are little?
But she was right.
As our children grew and got involved in their own things, the time we had with friends got squeezed out by the driving. Then squashed by Covid. Then squeezed again as activities picked back up. We used to be able to schedule a playdate with friends and even if the kids had never met, they would mix and have fun. As they grew, that got harder, so now we work on seeing each other when we are without kids. Which is harder with jobs and driving…
Recently, my husband brought home a copy of the Wall Street Journal for me. (WHAT?!?) The headline read: “Middle-Aged Moms Fight Loneliness.” I had to sit down for this one. After I finished it, I felt so lonely. I related to what it said about moms struggling through the pandemic, but also struggling in general. Struggling to connect with friends in the midst of the busyness of life. I was so irritated with the article, because it didn’t talk about how these moms fought loneliness, but only about how they experienced it. There was no resolution in the article about how moms are fighting back by squeezing in time with friends.
I feel like since Covid started, Loneliness stands at the door. Like she is a friend not invited to the party but refuses to leave. Every time a family member has been quarantined, it throws us back into the early days of the shut-down without the benefit of the solidarity we experienced with the rest of the world at that time. We were all in this together – apart. We were all fighting Loneliness together. But now, as life goes on and we end up with an event cancelled, a quarantine, or even a Snow Day, it throws us back into those feelings so much sooner. Loneliness steps into the room without being invited. She’s just so close that it is easy for her to show up. Or is it just me? I used to long for those lazy Sundays when we had nothing, but now they seem to grate on me. I secretly loved when a ball game was cancelled because of rain so we could have some space, but now the disappointment floods in along with everything else that has been cancelled.
Two years is a long time to put up with a pandemic. We are all feeling weary, but I’m realizing there is something more. Two years is a long time in motherhood. Sometimes I wonder what we did on a Nothing Day before the pandemic. But then I realize I’m in a different stage now. Then I had an elementary student, one in Middle School, one in High School. Now, the youngest is halfway through Middle School, the middle is looking at her Senior year coming up and the oldest baby chick lives outside of the coop (showing up on the occasional weekend to do laundry). I’m in a totally different season and it happened almost without transition.
Through it all, I’ve found myself welcoming the busyness – the end is around the corner. But I’m also all too quick to invite Loneliness into the room to binge watch with me. My relationships with other moms has shifted over this time and it’s hard to figure out where I stand.
This week I was invited along with a wonderful group of women. We shared an experience and a meal. We laughed and laughed and laughed. I treasured my time with them, but you know what I treasured most of all? Being invited. I realized that it helped me shove Loneliness back out the door, but maybe I need to be more purposeful in inviting others so that I can give her the kick in the gut she deserves. I’m tired of the pandemic, yes. But I’m more tired of Loneliness standing at my door, waiting for something to be cancelled (again) so she can join me on the couch. I can’t let her live here. She is not invited.