Motherhood: The Shifting Sands of Friendship

Published: April 9, 2010 | Last Updated: April 9, 2010 By | 1 Reply Continue Reading



Jordan and I have been best friends since our first day of college 20 years ago. Over the years, we both married (me=happily, her=constantly teetering on the edge of divorce) and had children. I had my children several years before she did, and she was always incredibly supportive and understanding of my new obligations and priorities, while longing for a child of her own.


Three years ago, Jordan had a daughter. I have tried to support her in all the ways she supported me though those baby/toddler years, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to do. We live many time zones apart (different continents) and the onus of our friendship has gradually shifted so it is now entirely mine.


Whenever I pick up the phone, she spends the entire call (which is always scheduled in advance) dealing with her 3-year-old. She recently hung up on me in the middle of a "crisis" because her daughter was angry that she wasn’t coloring with her. She has mentioned that she never talks to any of her other friends anymore, either, which leads me to think that I’m not the only person feeling frustrated. I have tried instigating emails, but get fairly unsatisfactory replies (two sentences back to my two pages) though she always mentions how much she misses me and wants to talk. The only time it actually happens, though, is when she’s having an emotional emergency.


I understand and support her love for her daughter, but I’m tired of feeling like our friendship has turned into a one-way street. I know that she focuses on her child so much, in part, because her marriage is very unhappy. While I don’t think this is healthy for either of them, I don’t want to interfere with her parenting (her other friends and family have told her that she needs to start setting limits and it hasn’t made a difference, anyway–though she has cut those people out of her life to a great degree). I do, however, want my friend back–at least occasionally–but I can’t figure out how to talk to her about it without immediately putting her on the defensive. Any thoughts?




Dear Missy,

Your friend Jordan is struggling with a tough situation at home: She’s simultaneously dealing with a challenging child and an unhappy marriage. While her friends and family sound well intended, it’s probably naive to think that all her domestic problems can be resolved by merely setting limits with her daughter. Some children can be challenging to parent for a host of different reasons.


By virtue of her circumstances, Jordan isn’t in a position to be the same friend to you that she once was but you shouldn’t take her inaccessibility personally. Without cutting her off, you may need to scale back your expectations for the time being and get involved with other friends. It’s common for the balance of a relationship to swing in one direction and then another over the course of a long-term friendship.


Imagine how your best friend feels when she compares her life to yours, which seems so peaceful and perfect. Cut her some slack and be a good listener rather than joining the chorus criticizing her parenting skills. You might also suggest that she seek professional counseling to help her better cope at home. Finally, ask her if it would be easier for her to initiate phone calls when she has the time and focus rather than have you run the risk of calling during another crisis.

Hope this is helpful.


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  1. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like you have differing parenting styles. All the three year old children of my friends and my own three year old gets frustrated when their Mommies are on the phone. I often hear people telling parents to “set limits” when they have completely different parenting styles. What is she supposed to do…pay for a babysitter to look after her child while you phone her? Sounds like her husband isn’t much support, so of course she is taking on the lion’s share of looking after her child.

    The bond with her child is way more important than the bond with anyone else around her including you. You are going to have to accept that. It’s really not surprising that a mother of a three year old doesn’t have time to answer a two page email with the same amount of attention! Give her some space, sounds like the last thing she needs right now is pressure from you!

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