Last week I posted “can we be less than friends” which was about the limbo land of the third circle friends. These are the friends about whom I imagine these meme’s are directed:
As I caught up with a casual friend for coffee recently and she questioned me about my writing – I expressed my ongoing confusion over the topic of friendship and the ways in which it works. She was kind enough to give me some insight into her own perceptions and experiences.
She expressed exasperation at her lack of time. As a full-time working mother, with a demanding job, a 2 children and all their commitments, a husband and a dog to cater for, and a house to run, she felt she had not much room nor energy left over for friendships. Using our brief catch up of less than an hour as an example of how little time she has to offer people, she said most of her friends are in similar situations. Give what little you can offer, take what you can get and be grateful for it.
I took from this conversation that most of her friends, including but not limited to the ones she considers close or good friends, are actually in circle 3. Some of them may have been circle 5, it was unclear, however, it seemed to me that perhaps many of them never made it there to begin with. 3 seems as high as she can go at this point in her life.
Her friendships are high in understanding and low in time. The types of friendships you may consider low maintenance. The types where it could be said “Yes, I could call her in an emergency,” but it’s unlikely you ever would because the general understanding is that any expectation of time or anything else is considered burdensome. Rather than spending her time enjoying, sharing and relating to her friends, she spends her time perpetually catching up on what she has missed, or what they have.
I asked if that didn’t feel lonely, and she said she hadn’t thought of it that way. I suppose she feels too exhausted to add more ‘needs of others’ to her list, however that also leaves her own needs largely unmet. She could agree with me that many women were unable or unwilling to make time for friendships when their partners were available and that as such much socializing was done in the context of “couples and family friendly” events. Being that much of the intimacy from female friendship is derived from privacy, this method of experiencing connectedness is limited at best.
I wondered why it didn’t bother my friend the way it bothers me. I suppose women like me make people like my friend feel an extra layer of guilt they would rather avoid. As I am not a full-time working mother, it stands to reason my needs would be different and perhaps the social interaction that takes place at work allows working women to feel less isolated. While I am not sold on the longevity or authenticity of work friendships entirely, there is much to be said for the perception of having friends and the need that work friends are able to fulfill. Much of these interactions would include conversations that play out the familiar social script that women are so busy doing it all and nobody has times for themselves, let alone for their friendships. If everyone is talking about it – surely that is normal?
My question remains, is it normal or are we making excuses for ourselves and others to have low expectations because it is less pressure on us if they do? So many women, myself included suffer from symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression – all of which I feel could be helped if we spent more time connecting with one another and less time avoiding it and making excuses. The benefits of friendship on health and stress levels have been widely documented and yet almost unanimously unacknowledged in everyday practice. It doesn’t make sense. The loss of identity widely associated with marriage and motherhood is also widely overlooked or unacknowledged.
We may feel we are doing each other a favour by having low social needs and expectations, yet it strikes me that we are actually doing ourselves a big disservice. Part of the reason we do this is the aforementioned guilt. It is seen as selfish to take time for oneself and friendships are considered even more “unnecessary and indulgent” as a way we spend our time. This is perpetuated by women saying to each other that they are “lucky” if they manage to find ways to spend time with friends instead of encouraging it and then finding ways to make time themselves.
If all your friends are 3’s and you spend your life perpetually catching up with them, doesn’t that indicate that you are in some way behind? Next time you feel stressed, anxious, overwhelmed and busy… literally phone a friend. (Or even better – leave the house and go see her!) It sounds counterproductive when you have so little time already, but just try it and then tell me if you don’t feel better.
I know I always feel better after spending some quality time with my friends, and I’d rather be perpetually catching up on the housework than my friendships. After all, when I die, my house is not going to stand up and say how valuable I was to it, and I certainly don’t want “Her house was so tidy” in my eulogy as some kind of accomplishment. Those of you that know me will laugh because you know I am at no risk of that regardless, but you get my point.
Maybe it is time to move some of those 3’s (back) into 5’s. You won’t regret it.
Your Best Friend ForNever