One of my oldest friends lives in Seattle, about three hours away from me. He’s one of those people who you can’t exactly remember meeting, but you also cannot remember a significant moment in your teens and twenties when he wasn’t present. And yet, even though we live only a couple hours away, we haven’t actually seen each other in years. Maybe even a decade.
I mean, sure, we text now and again. We talk on the phone once a year. I snoop on his social media when something comes up, but on the whole, we aren’t that close anymore, and let’s get one thing straight: it’s not him. It’s me.
We are both in our late-30s, only I am married with three children. He is single with zero children. I just cannot seem to find the time to be a good friend, an okay friend, or even a half-assed friend. I go weeks without responding to messages. I cancel plans at the last moment, and I return calls as much as a month after they hit my voicemail.
None of this is personal, and none of it is isolated to this one friend. It’s just the fact that I am in the craziest time of my life. And chances are, you might be feeling the same way too.
Right now, at this moment, I work two jobs. I have always worked at least two jobs to make ends meet. Before that, I was in college with children because I was a late blooming idiot who couldn’t get his crap together. I get up before the sun, and sometimes I get home well after the sun goes down. Evenings are filled with soccer practice, gymnastics, homework, house chores, scrambling to make dinner, picking up crap, laundry, bath time…
My weekends are filled with two children in muddy soccer cleats, and one charming little gymnast. Each weekend, I rush from one soccer field to another, as my wife rushes to the grocery store, and then Costco, and finally home to find out our son had been hiding a final project and instead of two weeks to finish it, we have two days. We split up the duties, and once everything said and done, we both plop into bed, exhausted. Then we look up at our dark ceiling and plan out the next day.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are moments to breathe. But I usually spend those moments trying to connect with my wife, or spending some one-on-one time with my children, or fitting in some time exercising.
It’s funny, when I was kid I wanted to be an adult because then I’d be able to do what I wanted. I’m 37 and I’m sitting here, writing this article, and I can’t for the life of me remember the last time I did what I wanted. The best I can come up with is watching half a movie on Netflix a couple months ago.
And I know this all sounds like one more parent complaining about the demands of parenthood, but trust me, it’s not. I’m tired, sure. I’m busy and I’m stressed, but the fact is, I’ve never been happier. I’ve never felt so full of purpose and drive and reason in my whole life.
I love my kids and my wife is a dream. But right now, at this moment, it’s all them. It’s all family, and I don’t really have time to be a good friend. This isn’t to say that I don’t have friends. I do. I try to keep up with them. I’m excited to know about their success and I’m sorry when I hear about their struggles, but I realize that I’m really very busy. There are moments where I’m close to burn out, and all of it is making me a bad friend.
And you know what? It took me years to admit this, but I’m comfortable with that. I’ve set my priorities. I’ve established what I can and can’t do, and right now, at this moment, friendships just aren’t all that high on my priority list.
I know that sounds harsh, but I don’t see any other way to make it work. I cannot change the needs of my children, or the dedication I have to my wife and our family unit. I have been at this game long enough to know that if I don’t give my children, my wife, and our family my all, it won’t work. And I’ve never wanted anything to work more than I have this family, so I’m 100% in.
So friends of parents who feel neglected, please don’t. Please realize that it’s not you, it’s just the situation. We are swamped. We are all-in with our kids, and once that settles, we might be better at calling back. We might be more available, but right now, we need to focus on our priorities.