So, I was having dinner with some friends the other night, and we were discussing the importance of friendship groups as adults.
These girls and I started our midwifery careers together, and rode the exceptionally steep learning curve of being graduates together.
Somehow, despite the limitations of shift-work in facilitating get-togethers, and our own heightened levels of stress and fatigue, we have found ourselves at the end of our first year out, relieved as anything, and absolutely thankful for the solidarity and support we have found amongst our little group.
Somehow, despite the odds, we have become friends, and good ones at that.
I think this bunch of ladies may well be my little “midwife tribe”. And while I didn’t expect to find them, I’m bloody stoked that I did.
It got me thinking.
When we are kids, making friends is pretty simple. School throws everyone together, in the context of one, huge shared environment, and children are drawn together by their personalities, hobbies and interests.
Most kids, especially young kids, aren’t particularly judgemental, and they’re awfully forgiving. So while childhood friendships can be fickle; falling apart briefly if one friend shuns another in the playground, they are rapidly repaired in most cases when the bell rings to return to class. Lunches are shared, notes are passed, play dates are made. The friendships are simple, yet solid, based on the proximity of classroom chairs.
Of course, this isn’t true for every child (which really is heartbreaking), but for the most part, if you look around the average Primary School playground, there’s clusters of kids, playing alongside each other, happily and easily.
So, when is it, then, that this changes? When do we start having to really work at our friendships? And what is it that makes us friends in the first place?
The groups of kids and teenagers that stick together throughout the schooling years slowly dwindle off, as interests change, or people move away, and as we enter adulthood, we often find ourselves wondering whatever happened to those people we used to hang out with, all day, every day at school, and every weekend that we could. Was there really any common ground, once school was over?
Facebook has been a bit of a marvel in connecting people outside of the classroom and into adulthood, but it also highlights how often people really DIDN’T have much in common. The kids who hung out together at lunchtime have grown up to have completely different interests, despite being convinced at the time that they’d be friends forever.
Most of the adults in my world have one or two really close friends; often people that they have known for a long time, and that they really entrust their hearts to. And aside from that, they keep their friendships on the down-low.
Think about it. How many people do you work alongside, every day, yet know nothing substantial about? How many people in your circle could you call, right now, if you needed support and love? And, to take it a step further, are the people that spring to mind for you, the same people that you would have thought of five years ago?
I find it interesting that as we move through different phases of our life, the people we keep company with will consistently change. Not because of any fall-out, or disagreement, but simply, because we have changed, as people and from each other. As we go through life, and accumulate the baggage that it gives us, it becomes a conscious and heavily weighted choice to open up to others with any kind of depth. Day to day conversations are easy. But actually choosing to share parts of yourself with others, seems somehow, riskier, as adults.
Making friends as a new mother was exceptionally challenging. Parent’s groups are designed to facilitate friendships, but truth be told, it’s a bit like being at school again. Only this time, you’ve already defined your own interests and values, and somewhere amidst the sleep deprivation, you’re supposed to be able to find others that you align with.
When you’re struggling to remember who you are, it can be damn near impossible to engage with others as your best, and most witty self. When your brain isn’t firing, the conversation isn’t flowing, and the result is stunted sentences and awkward silences. So relaxing.
Add that to the fact that every parent in the place has got a different idea about what is right or wrong in the whole gamut of parenting, and that the quantity of hormones in the place is undeniably volatile, and it’s pretty clear as to why Parent’s groups aren’t always a successful option for new mums.
That being said, I think they are worth giving a go.
I was really lucky to meet a beautiful group of ladies at our antenatal classes with the Boy Child, and by some miracle, we all “clicked” before the kids were even born. To this day, they remain some of my closest friends.
Because we hit the big issues together. We understood each other, intuitively, and we supported the shit out of each other through pretty much everything that life could possibly have thrown at us. It was those girls that I was able to disclose to about my postnatal depression, with any fear at all. They were my “mummy tribe” and I adore them to this day.
I know how rare this is. I hear women say all the time how much they hated their mother’s groups, because they just didn’t gel with anyone. In groups that were designed to be supportive, they felt nothing but judgement. For those women, there is no “mummy tribe”. And that breaks my heart.
No matter what stage if your life you’re at, I believe you need a tribe. That group of people that understand where you’re up to, and who have shared similar experiences. A “work tribe”, a “mummy tribe” or even an occasional “getting together to drink wine” tribe are those people you know you can call on. They may be online. They may be in real life. They may live in your town, or on the other side of the country. But they will be your people, and while you may not see them all the time, or be in contact every day, you know they’ve got your back.
They might send you cat Memes to make you laugh on shitty days.
They might drop off dinner when you’ve been sick.
They might text you out of the blue to tell you they’re thinking of you.
They might order your coffee before you get there because they just know your order (and they make it a double because they know you need it).
They might take one look at you, haul you out in the corridor and ask you what the hell is going on.
They might cry with you when your life is falling apart.
And they’ll definitely celebrate like crazy people with you when it’s all coming together.
They are your people. They are your tribe.
If you haven’t found them yet, I hope you do soon.
Because, everyone needs a tribe.
And you know what? You can count me in yours.
* image found on etsy (not my image)