One of my best friends just went back to work a few months ago. Well, technically, she went to work, because aside from a few starter jobs right out of college, she’s been not working since she got engaged to her husband thirteen years ago. Anyway, three kids later, she’s gone to work. Her husband is starting a new business, and he’s recruited her to take over a part of it that she’s especially suited for. And suddenly, my non working friend who I could always count on for a lengthy midday conversation, a quick lunch, solid advice for birthday party planning or summer camp shopping, instructions on where to find the latest hard to find thing that “every” third girl has, recommendations for dermatologists and hair stylists and amazing doctors, has suddenly disappeared. Like, vanished from thin air. Calls are unreturned, texts are ignored, emails are not responded to. My informant on the Los Angeles underground mommy world has gone dark. It sucks.
I finally spoke to her this morning for about half an hour (the first time we’ve spoken in nearly a month) and she immediately apologized for not calling me back sooner. I told her that I get it. I’m a working mom, too, and if anyone understands not wanting to waste precious work hours talking on the phone, it’s me. After all, I have been known to drop off the face of the earth for months at a time when I am coming up on a book deadline, so I really don’t take it personally or hold it against her.
It’s funny though, because our conversation quickly turned to how hard she’s finding the whole balance thing. I have zero balance, she told me. She hasn’t been exercising, she hasn’t been cooking dinner for her kids, she hasn’t been spending time with her family. She wanted to know why nobody warned her that it was going to be this hard. I told her that she should start reading my blog, because I’ve been writing about how hard it is for more than five years now.
It was funny to hear her say these things, though. We all remember what it was like when we went back to work after having kids. There’s a reason why working mothers are often depicted in cartoons as juggling a zillion balls at the same time. In the beginning, it feels like you’re getting bonked on the head with one of those balls every fifteen minutes. But eventually, we figure it out. It never gets easy, but when you’ve been doing it long enough, you learn the little tricks that make it bearable. You learn that you can go for a walk in the morning and make productive phone calls at the same time. You learn to tell your colleagues that you won’t be responding to emails after six pm so that you can give your kids your undivided attention. You learn which frozen entrees from Trader Joe’s your family likes and which ones they don’t. You learn to make lunches the night before, to have prescriptions delivered to your house, to shop for Christmas presents online at midnight. You learn to let someone else offer to make the cookies for the bake sale. You learn exactly how many balls you can juggle, and you don’t even try to juggle a single ball more. And then, suddenly, you find that you’re not getting bonked in the head anymore.
I miss my friend right now. When you’re working, one of the hardest things to figure out is how to make time for your girlfriends. With the demands of work and kids and husbands, friends tend to take a backseat. But I know that eventually, she’ll figure it out. And when she does, I’ll be happy to take whatever she can give me.