Reader Q & A : Young mother finds female friendships discouraging

September 19, 2008 | By | 4 Replies Continue Reading

QUESTION:

Dear Irene:

I recently experienced a broken friendship with someone that was my closest friend at the time. We both have 3-year-old boys who were best buddies and attended part-time preschool together. However, I began distancing myself as she was quite needy, manipulative of family, and superficial, though I did help her out quite a bit when her second child was born a year ago (neither of us have family nearby).

 

At the time I began distancing myself, she began a new friendship with another woman who seems to be more her type – and someone I never connected with. Since the end of my friendship, I have attempted to find more female friends without success. I have one young son and another child on the way, so my pool of potential friendships is limited right now to women in similar situations: stay-at-home moms with young children.

In newer relationships, I find many women to be very similar to her: manipulative, talking about each other, out for themselves, interested only in relationships in which they gain something, superficial, materialistic, complaining about husbands all the time, etc. I really do not engage in these behaviors. I believe they are destructive, though I understand that in many instances they work to keep these women connected to each other.

 

I believe the other factor in this conundrum is that I have a doctorate, a factor I wonder if others are intimidated by. Many of the women I meet seem to fit the stereotype of majoring in their MRS in college, or have never gone to college. I tend to stay on the edge of things rather than join a group as my values are completely different. I have attempted to reach out in several instances to make new friendships but there was always a little red flag raised in the back of my mind about the person, so I would back
off, trusting my gut.

 

It truly feels as if I have never left junior high or high school. I fear that this is the norm in female friendships, and that finding a friend who holds my same values/ideals of friendship will be the exception, which is quite discouraging. Is my observation accurate? I have had a few women tell me "yes." My experience in graduate school was approximately the same, but the women in graduate school were very competitive and had completely different motives for their behavior. I thought once I completed graduate school I would enter a world in which individuals were mature, respectful, caring, etc. but perhaps this is too high of an expectation?

 

Any input you can provide is greatly appreciated. 

Signed,
Chris

 

ANSWER:

 

Hi Chris,

Compared to almost every other stage of a woman’s life, except perhaps–old age, being a stay-at-home mom with young children is one of the most challenging times for making new female friends. Realistically, your opportunities for meeting new people are likely to be limited and having a little one with another one on the way, you must be busy and exhausted. Yet, your note makes it obvious that you really would like to connect with another woman in an intimate way.

 

Here are a few simple suggestions for a complicatd problem:

 

Stop thinking all or none. Admittedly, it’s hard to find any one person to meet all your friendship needs. Instead, can you patch together a few different friendships? For example, a phone friend (perhaps someone you know from the past); a mom-friend, so you can have playdates for your kids; an academic friend (perhaps someone who is interested in the field of your doctorate)?

 

Find new places to look for friends. Since you are somewhat homebound, can online friends fill some of your needs, either people you meet in social communities or people you know that don’t happen to live close enough to get together? See my post on the trend towards moms logging on for companionship and advice. Can you have your husband or another relative babysit a night a week while you take a continuing education course in your community, work on a political campaign, or join a community group?

 

Try to be more open about the people you do meet. You may be stereotyping the people around you and not giving them or yourself enough time to know one another. One difference between an acquaintance and a friend is often the length of time two people know each other. It takes time for people to get to know one another, and to feel comfortable enough to share intimacies with one another. Could you be crossing women off your dance card without giving them a chance? Women who seem shallow at first may have more depth to them when you get to know them better.

 

I hope this gives you some food for thought. Congratulations on your pregnancy! What an exciting time for you and your family. Thanks for reading my blog and taking the time to write.

Best,
Irene

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Comments (4)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I do agree that being a woman with an advanced education seems to really be a turn-off to other women, who might otherwise have a lot in common with you. In my experience, it is they who usually don’t give you a chance, not the other way around.

  2. Irene says:

    You have offered several good suggestions for meeting other kinds of people. The fact that you were successful should also provide encouragement to Chris.

    Thanks so much for telling us your experience!

     

    Best,

    Irene

  3. MF says:

    Dear Irene,

    I have the same situation as you do. I stayed at home with my child for 6 years and during that time, found it most difficult to find friends. I found so much jealousy amongst women. I attempted to organize and run a play group and while we had a large number of participants, all the members did was complain, back stab and compete. It was horrible, so I stopped running it the second my daughter started preschool.

    When we moved into our current neighborhood, I was excited because most of the ladies were stay at home moms. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that they also had no life or no interests outside shopping at Costco and daytime t.v. I tried to start a book club, but no one ever made time to read the book and the meetings felt more like jr. high gossip sessions that interesting, intellectual gatherings.

    My child is now in school and luckily, I found a group of mothers there that are wonderful. They are truly my salvation as they are smart, interesting, friendly and welcoming. We have all been friends now for 3 years and continue to nurture the friendship.

    I hope that you are able to find your group too. One friend of mine had great success at http://www.meetup.com. She joined several womens’ groups and has a very rich life now full of new friends.

    Best of luck to you.

    MF

  4. Chris says:

    Thanks for the response and input! I do engage in “separating” friendships (church friends, neighborhood friends, preschool friends) and have found one or two friends. However, hearing someone else speak this is affirming. I am on the Social Committee for our neighborhood, which involves planning/coordinating the neighborhood events, so I definitely extend myself and am open to meeting new people. I do find the most difficulty in establishing friendships in our neighborhood, which prompted my becoming active in the social events and my writing the email. It is in our neighborhood where I find women with the characteristics I tend to shy away from, and unfortunately my largest pool of acquaintences/potential friends. So perhaps this is what is forming my opinion. Unfortunately, we live in quite a competitive school district which happens to be one of the top in the country…and I believe the competitiveness begins at home. I do also have to wonder if my education/profession tends to intimidate some of the moms – my doctorate is in child psychology. Anyway, thanks so much for your words and time.

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