Female Friendship at Forty

I’m a female who needs other females. Although I’m blessed to have a husband who’s done a bang up job filling the role of best friend for more than two decades, he can’t (and shouldn’t, imo) fulfill every need I have for companionship, sociability, understanding, sympathy, or fun. Even Angeline Jolie — a “girl-who-isn’t-friends-with-other-girls” stereotype if I’ve ever seen one — seems to pine a little bit over her lack of female friends. Most women, in fact, don’t need scientific studies to validate what we know to be true deep in our bones: women need other women. Without them, we’re not as confident, healthy, happy, or successful as we would otherwise be.

But I’ve found myself in a time of life when my access to the energizing power of other women seems to be waning. I didn’t assume this would be the case when I was younger. When I had my first baby, I’d read a lot about the isolation that can occur when women decide to become full-time moms, an isolation that can be a real risk, especially for women who leave full-time work (and all their childless friends and co-workers) behind. But, for me, I entered into that time of my life actively determined not to be lonely. There were structures in place, through church or the community or even my own little cul-de-sac, that offered opportunities to make real friends: play groups, book clubs, loosely organized “let’s meet at the park” days once a month. I took advantage of those opportunities in my twenties and made some of the best friends I’ve ever had during those years. I even found myself accidentally making friends: when your kids are little, you go where they go, and the moms of all the other little kids go there too. You wind up spending three hours on a Wednesday afternoon sitting on a folding chair in the driveway with your across-the-street neighbor while the kids whack each other with light sabers on the lawn. And suddenly you know more than you ever thought you would about your across-the-street neighbor’s first marriage and terrible mother-in-law and, BOOM, just like that. You’re friends.

But now I don’t spend very much time sitting in lawn chairs on the driveway (although I do spend a ton of time driving up and down the driveway in my car, shuttling kids to rehearsals and practices and mutual and friends’ houses). I also don’t have a lot of time (or desire?) for the book clubs or writers’ groups or Relief Society Enrichment meetings that I yearned to flee to when my kids were little. Back then, nothing felt better than handing my husband the baby with the stinky diaper and disappearing out the door at 7:00 p.m., knowing that the kids would be tucked into bed by the time I returned at 9:30. But now? Now the hours between 7:00 and 10:00 are the craziest of all, with homework and kids’ extracurriculars and family scripture study spilling over into the time when all I want to do is put my head on my pillow and sleep. And during the day? Many of the moms from the cul-de-sac have returned to work, part-time or full. And it’s hard to find excuses to get together with those who haven’t. When kids were little, the kids were the reason: let’s take them to the zoo! Want to go with me to the park? But now, there’s not much to do with other stay-at-home moms of school-age kids besides go to lunch, which is lovely (don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good lunch date), but is either too expensive or feels too self-indulgent to do on a regular basis.

And then there’s me. I’m tired. When I moved to Minnesota the first time, in my mid-twenties, I started two different book clubs, one in my ward and one in my neighborhood. I printed out invitations. I made schedules. I read the assigned novel for both clubs every single month. But now the thought of starting a book club doesn’t feel like an opportunity or an escape, but an obligation I’m not sure I could follow through on. I’ve also moved three times since my mid-twenties, and with each move, the energy that I have to put on my friendly face and charge out into the world of women, intent on winning at least a handful of strangers over with my scintillating personality, seems to have dribbled out, leaving me with the social energy of a half-inflated balloon. I’ve lived in my current home for over a year and I know my next-door neighbor’s first name (Christine), but the women inhabiting the two houses across the street and the one on the right? I know they told me their names, but I’ve since forgotten, and too much time has passed for me to ask again without outing myself as the half-hearted (I really should type another word after half, a word that’s NOT hearted, but this is an LDS blog) neighbor I’ve become.

I don’t want to make it sound like I don’t have any friends here in Minnesota. I’ve met some wonderful women, mostly through church, and I relish the rare opportunities we have to get together and connect. In fact, I’ve often wondered how other stay-at-home moms of school-age kids without a church community make lasting friendships at all, especially when they’re “new in town” like me. It would be so easy to hide inside your house and never come out. Nobody would be the wiser. I also don’t know what I’d do without my cyber-friends: my Segullah sisters, the folks on Facebook who play Words With Friends with me and like my status updates, my old friends from high school and my young motherhood years who maintain blogs as a way to stay in touch. These relationships keep me from feeling more isolated than I already do, and I’m grateful.

But, wow — it’s frighteningly easy to find yourself without a support system of other women as a 40 year old stay-at-home mom of school-age kids. If you remain outside the sociability inherent in the working world, but also find yourself without the little kids necessary to head to swimming lessons on a Tuesday afternoon and sit on the bench with the other moms and chat? Hours, days, weeks can go by, without a meaningful conversation with another adult besides your husband.

What is UP with that? And how do you deal with it? In fact, no matter your age or your time in life, the challenges of cultivating and maintaining female friendship is real. What are your experiences?

About Angela

(Advisory Board) grew up in Utah, then moved to Minnesota, then came back to Utah, then packed up her husband and four kids and moved to Minnesota--again!-- in the summer of 2010. Although she loves the Land of 10,000 Lakes, she dearly misses Slurpees, Sunday dinners at her Mom's house, and eating a whole entire Cafe Rio pork salad while lunching with her Utah-based Segullah sisters. And yes, she finds it telling that everything she misses about her hometown is somehow related to food. She has an BA in English from BYU, an MFA in creative writing from Hamline University, and has taught writing to high school and college students.

60 thoughts on “Female Friendship at Forty

  1. You just described my life perfectly. Except I live in Illinois. And I, selfishly, have been feeling like “no one else feels the way I do”. I have marveled at the fact that I never felt alone and friendless during the years I was “supposed” to feel that way (young motherhood), but I often do now. And I’m frustrated by the fact that as a SAHM, I stay home by myself during the day when the kids are at school, and then I leave a different combination of children home without me during the after school hours as I shuttle the others around to their various activities. I never anticipated this. I too, don’t feel a desire to leave my house in the evening seeking social events. on occasion, I force myself to, and I always enjoy myself.
    This post came at a perfect time for me and rescued me from my self pity. Thank you : ).

  2. Sorry, I just don’t have much sympathy for your situation. I know that sounds harsh but relationships take effort. It is easy to get stuck in the “I don’t have time” or “I don’t want to leave my family” mode. Trust me, I have been there and have felt the same way.

    Investing one night a month for a “girls night” is one of the best things I have done. I relish the time I get to spend with fiends. We are all in various stages of life and at times it’s difficult to work around schedules, but we make the effort to see each other. I always come away from these girls nights with an increased appreciation and love for my friends and it restores a much needed “balance” to my life of a full time mother.

  3. Charity, I’m glad the post resonated with you. I think there are lots of women our age in the same situation, and it really doesn’t get discussed much.

    Jessica, for what it’s worth, I wasn’t trying to throw a pity party. (Although, clearly, if I WAS throwing a pity party, your social calendar would already be booked and you’d have to decline my invitation.) Okay, so that was a little snarky, but the truth is that I don’t think this issue is one that can be dismissed with a “just put in a little effort and get together with girlfriends once a month!”

    Here’s the thing: I’m a pretty extroverted, social person for the most part. And I *do* put in the effort to see other women: I still attend a writers’ group in the evening, I try to go to Enrichment (even when I’m not sure if I want to), and I organize lunch dates with friends, although doing that too much can be tough on the budget. But I don’t have the same types of friendships that I had when my kids were small and I saw other moms much more often, and my evenings are much busier and more exhausting than they were when my little ones were all in bed at 8:00 p.m. The truth is, I can’t maintain the close friendships I had when my kids were little by getting together with friends once a month. It’s better than nothing, true. But it’s still not the same. Also, it makes me wonder that if I’m having a tough time finding the time and place to make social connections, what is it like for women who are more naturally introverted than me?

    These are the facts: in broader American culture, most moms who stay home when their kids are small go back into the workforce once their kids are in school. Even in Mormon culture this often happens. And for those of us who remain home, it’s much harder to get together, both during the day and in the evening. Certainly it’s our responsibility as individuals to make sure that we don’t completely isolate ourselves, but it can be more difficult to accomplish at this stage of life than I realized when I was younger.

  4. I totally understand. I just turned 41. My youngest is almost 4 and I see my life headed this way. Luckily I have an out of state friend and we talk on the phone several times a week.
    1. I recommend calling old friends who have known you, on a regular basis. You might find that some or one of them might need you too. A phone friendship might be just what you need.
    2. Sometimes friendships develop because you need each other. Try to ask for favors. I noticed that when my younger kids were little, if I asked for babysitting then I was asked in return. Can you find a way to ask for favors? One thing I do now with a younger mom is I babysit for her and she gives my kids rides when I can’t be everywhere I can be. But I had to actually pick up the phone and ask her to take my kid to basketball practice even though it was her dinner hour. She was totally willing. Take a risk and ask for favors!
    3. Be willing to organize and host something. Maybe a lunch at your house. Or a lunch at the church. Organize a morning bookclub.
    4. Be willing to be friends with people older or younger than you. It is harder because you don’t get to have people say “I know how you feel” because of the different stage of life, but here in my ward it is all I’ve got.
    5. Keep trying to form friendships with people you meet through school. It takes more effort but having kids the age does help. I found a wonderful friend this way. We had to spend enough time together to firmly establish being friends. She was a single mom with one child, and she enjoyed coming over to our house for dinner. I felt like she appreciated her child seeing how a large family of married with four kids functioned. She also got to see how a healthy marriage functioned.
    6. FIgure out what those around you need and offer to help in a specific way. I know one person who I wouldn’t mind being friends with but I know she is busy, especially in the evening. She can’t seem to find the time to make plans. Rather than being offended that she can’t squeeze me in, last Monday I called her up knowing that she drives a long, far carpool for a kids’ activity. I invited her and her kids (husband out of town a lot) to come over that evening for dinner and FHE. She happily accepted worry-free dinner (no McDonald’s) and FHE. I know if I had called her a few days before it would have seemed like a burden, but a last minute thing just felt like something nice.

  5. This post comes at a perfect time. We are currently getting ready to move, my kids are getting older and I don’t have the excuses or energy to invest in other friendships. In my experience, women can sometimes be difficult to have friendships with because of the hormones, neediness, offendability, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I have a friend from a previous area we lived that I call on a regular basis to chat because she and I connect in a way I haven’t found with others. That is my way to stay connected. I also currently (I feel very lucky) have an awesome visiting teacher who I just love and am grateful for. I have never been a girls night out person. I know many love this, but I don’t see many guys doing this and wonder why we as women think it necessary.

  6. Girls night out is usually not the solution for me. The friendships you’re talking about almost always happen 1 on 1, and group parties can often leave you(me?) feeling shallow and more lonely than ever.

    After 6 wards in 10 years, I totally relate to the fatigue you’re talking about. You’re not saying you won’t keep working at it (you do.) You’re just wondering if there are some easier ways to make it happen. Here are a few of my tried and true crutches:

    1. The word “girlfriend” does wonders in breaking the ice. After a couple of friendly interactions, try answering the phone or waving with “Hey girlfriend!”

    2. The three minute phone call. Tell your almost-friends that you’re super busy, but that you need an occasional 3 minutes of girl chat. Quick topic–discuss. Awesome–then you have something to think about during the day (not unlike Segullah) and get back to later. See also number 3.

    3. Ask two girlfriends before you ask Google. It’s so easy to turn to the internet for things we used to ask our friends. Keep a mental list of things you might Google, (“What’s up with Syria?” or “Is there a good shampoo for controlling static cling”). These questions are great quick conversation starters when you’re standing in the hall for a moment before and after mutual night drop offs. They might not know, but you might be surprised.

    4. The errand-walk. Goes like this. “Hey girlfriend, I need to run to Home Depot today and I’m not going to fit in any regular exercise, so I thought I’d speed walk the isles for 12 minutes while I’m there. Do you happen to have any errands there too? Want to join me?”

    5. Pray before you go anywhere with people. Ask to have a “meaningful” interaction that is genuinely helpful or encouraging to both parties. He can steer your small talk. One month when I was particularly faithful about this, it seemed that 8+ women opened up about something real and tearful in what would ordinarily have been light conversations.

    6. Substitute article discussions for book club. Many of us don’t attend book club because there just isn’t time to read a book of someone else’s choosing (it’s not relevant enough to our pressing concerns.) But choose a fun short article about imagination or brain patterns or how comics learn their acts–you’ll find everyone has time to read it and interest to comment on it.

    Good luck and keep trying!

    P.S. One of my favorite all time discussions when I was at a playgroup was with a 50 year old woman who came sans child, just to be friends. We ended up discussing dream interpretation (easy universal topic) and both came to some break through realizations.

  7. I get what you are saying. When I was younger I did playdates often but now I don’t and I think it’s b/c of a combination of things. First, I am busier. Back then most of my evenings were free but now b/c of my children’s activities most nights are booked. It is hard to justify taking an entire morning to socialize when you know you’re going to be committed in the afternoon and evening as well. I also think as I’ve gotten older and more specified in my tastes and opinions it is more difficult to hang out with people–like little kids make BFF’s at the drop of a hat, I find myself more wary about people and situations than I used to be. I don’t want to be misunderstood–I like visiting with people but for some reason it seems to take more effort and energy than it used to and at this point in my life I feel the need to focus more on my busy household than meeting new people. Plus most of the women my age are working or not into doing play dates and while I LIKE many of the younger women in my ward, I’m just not as interested in the same things they are (and that I used to be) anymore. I see visiting teaching and my callings as ways to fill my social needs more than I used to. I don’t think this trend is unusual–I look around at the older women in my ward and realize that they don’t get together for many outings either. I guess I think it is a normal rite of passage. And I’m okay with that.

  8. One more. I find myself more fulfilled in my children and their conversations now that they are older than I used to. When they were all little it was tough. Now that they can talk and share things back with me I don’t feel that grinding need to get out and talk to an adult like I used to.

  9. Ditto on the interesting conversations with kids. My oldest is 14 and she is awesome and I get to talk about adult topics with her and get to tell her my opinion on stuff. Very different than home with little kids all day (even though I still have little kids home).
    BUT– I have decided I have to make efforts to be social for a variety of different reasons. I don’t want to be isolated and not have someone to help if I need help. I don’t want my kids to think that I don’t have my own life or my own interests. While bookclub now feels like a chore, I think it is good that my kids see me as a person with my own activities rather than just a chaufeur to theirs. And finally, I think that my kids need to learn to socialize and so I try invite people over so they get to watch the adults and get to practice with the kids.

  10. You know, Jessica, I don’t think Angela (or myself, for that matter) was looking for sympathy. I think she was looking for empathy. I, like Angela, am a very extroverted person, and have no trouble socializing with others. I do find this stage of my life intriguing and different than I had imagined, and I appreciate feeling like someone else understands that.

    Also- Ana of the Nine Kids, I totally agree that I enjoy the socializing that I get with my older children. I have often wondered if that’s part of the reason I don’t feel as great a need to “go out with the girls” as I did when they were little.

    One of your girlfriends today- I totally agree about girls night outs. I know I stated before that I come home happy that I went, but I too feel like the interactions are not the “real” conversations I want to have. I’m always glad to keep the association up by attending them, but secretly I hope to have a chance for more meaningful interactions later as a result.

  11. I feel the same way, even though I’m a bit younger than you. I had better friendships five years ago when I lived in student housing and spent nearly every afternoon hanging out on the playground talking to other moms while our kids played. Real friendships take time and they take effort, and both those things can be hard to come by. I go to a book club and I go to Relief Society activities, but they don’t provide the sort of sustained conversations that I would like. I live in a great neighborhood and I love my neighbors and the women in my ward, but I have a hard time feeling like I have ‘friends’. I do work and get a lot of adult interaction, but the nature of my job precludes much time for chatting, so it’s not like work fulfills my friendship needs either. I’m divorced so I don’t even have another adult at home to talk with about my day.

    The other day a friend called about something and we chatted for a while on the phone, and I realized how infrequently I ever talk to anyone on the phone or in person anymore. I have a lot of friends that I connect with online, and that seemed fulfilling until I had a more in-depth conversation (even long distance on the phone). I used to be a phone phobe, but I think I’m going to try harder to have more conversations with my friends. I still love my online interactions through Facebook and message boards, but now that I’ve remembered how different in-person conversations are, I’m going to try them more often.

  12. I am totally in the same boat–although I didn’t know this was a common problem. About five years ago (10 years into my SAHMomming) I belonged to three (?) playgroups. Now I belong to none–even though I still have two preschoolers at home. Maybe I have become more selfish and self-centered, but I have NO DESIRE to hear another birth story. No more stories about epidurals, or the tub of water you put in your living room or the background music you chose. I do not want to know how many hours it took to push little Roberta out. And I don’t think I will want to know until you are describing the birth of my grandchild to me (and I figure I have a good 10 years at least before I hit that one).

    Sorry, went off on a tangent. Anyway, I do have a current and somewhat solution to this problem. I walk two mornings a week with two women who have kids about the same age as mine at an indoor track (I am also a MidWesterner). It is cheaper and better for me than lunch and doesn’t feel like a waste of time since I am exercising.

  13. I meant to say …current and somewhat satisfactory solution to this problem….
    I really should edit myself sometimes.

  14. Angela, well-written, candid, and insightful as always.

    “One of your girlfriends today”, brilliant ideas. I love them.

    A few thoughts I’ve had since reading your post:

    We’ve lived in our current location for more than 5 years, and it is only in the past 2 years that I have really developed some meaningful friendships. It takes time to make friends. It really does. I am not saying that everyone needs as long as I do to finally let their guard down and open up to people, but it still takes time.

    I am a firm believer in flesh-and-blood relationships. Online interactions cannot replace eye contact, a hug, facial expressions, and connecting in real time. A few years ago, I started drastically cutting down on my time on the computer, and it has done wonders for my friendships in the here and now.

    I regularly walk with a dear friend. We have some of our very best conversations doing this.

    I also believe that lunch dates with friends are not a luxury at all. I see them as essential, especially when all your kids are in school. I try to do lunch with one of my friends at least once a week (now that all my kids are in school). We normally do places that are relatively cheap like Panera or Smashburger, somewhere you don’t have to leave a tip but is more inviting than McDonald’s. You can do something like that for around 7 bucks. My friend(s) and I often stay for 2 hours or more visiting, and we haven’t been kicked out of a restaurant yet:) When I spent a summer in Switzerland years ago, I was amazed by the relaxed pace when people ate out. They would stay and linger at a restaurant for a couple hours. There was no hurrying. It was true relaxation. When I lunch with friends, I feel like we share ideas and boost each other up. We’re better wives and moms. Everyone wins.

    As your kids get older, getting together with other families can get harder since everyone’s so much busier, but when you can make it work, board and card games can get lots of people interacting and doing something together.

    I also like the occasional couple date. When you’ve got older kids at home to babysit, this can be relatively inexpensive.

    Thanks for getting us talking about this. Thanks to those who have commented. Wishing you well, Angela.

  15. I moved to Wichita at age 47, and it was hard to make friends. Many middle aged women are very consumed with juggling a lot of responsibilities, and I felt as though they coulud not take their eyes off what they were already doing to regard me, or they would “drop the ball” on an existing commitment. After being rebuffed several times by women who had no need for another gal pal, I purposefully started focusing on forming friendships with women who moved to Wichita within the last 3 years, thinking that they had more space for a new friendship. That worked.

    Also, now that I’ve lived here for almost 4 years, I have stronger connections with women at church, the university, the skilled nursing center, the gym and other places where I have toiled, and they got to know me by working side-by-side. So we became friends more through the back door than by over efforts. Again, they are middle aged and super busy with kids, work, aging parents, service. We don’t socialize a lot, but if I have a problem, they will drop everything and help me. (Two years aho, I had the stomach flu and my husband could not make jello, and he bought jellow with whipped cream in it, so I asked a new friend here made me plain, red jello and I was sooooo grateful.)

    I do also tap into long-standing friendships. Middle aged women do not have the luxury to self-disclose for hours and hours the way I did as a college student and a single, childless professional. We also don’t rub shoulders with other women so much based on shared interests but more based on having kids the same age. (I am an older mother, so here in Wichita, most women with kids my kids’ age are 10 years younger than I.) But then it’s been a delight to form friendships with women who are very different from me, women I now know from the fabric of my life.

    But when I have a very sticky situation, I call my childhood friends and my college gal pals. They know the whole “backstory,” they know my “core self.” We can get very quickly to the substance of an issue as if time and space have not separated us. I guess it’s like that old girls camp song, “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold.” I hope that I treat my gal pals with respect and that I perform equal emotional labor and physical acts of service for them, because they are often my lifeline to get me through the rough patches!

  16. So true. I was thinking just the other day about how I always had so many people to talk too when the children were younger. Now my children are aged 11, 13, and 15 and I no longer haunt the school playground. I realised recently that aside from my church friends I am now only in contact with one friend locally that is not a church member. I live in England in a city with only one ward of about 120 people so really nonmembers are everywhere. If I see those that I knew at playgroup/school etc then I always say hello but then that is that. Of course this does not happen often either as most of them now work. Even my church friends do not live nearby. To be honest, I live on my phone. Without a long girly talk every couple of days I am doomed. I cherish my close friends as I know I can speak to them any time. Lunch is a major treat and we probably only do that about once a month. Even somewhere cheap breaks into the budget when money is tight. I am also still in touch with some dear friends from long ago. I love my friends and honestly couldn’t live without them as my husband just doesn’t understand me in the same way. I love him but his perspective is so different. I just need other women to connect with.

  17. It is so healthy for women to spend time together supporting each other as medical studies now show. Stress levels are lower. This used to be so natural in culture with quilting B’s or other lady activities. My mom was a stay at home mom until I was in high school. Our neighbor across the street had children the same age and she was also close to her local sister-in-law with children in the age group. Then, there were people from my Catholic School. Now that she is retired, the ladies from her former work(many also retired) get together too. With my condition, I seldom go places. But my mom lives with me and is my close friend. I’m also close to my lil’ sis’ who I see a lot. I connect with lots of women online too. When I’m outside, I chat with neighbors. It’s all good! I hope you can find the time to connect more!

  18. I have a ton of dear friends that i love. a good number of them are far away. a decade ago i used up nearly all my 500 monthly cell minutes every month.

    now i am almost never on my phone. long chats have become a thing of the past, those five hundred minutes go mostly unused, and the friends from far away are only periodic updates on facebook and the random phone chat here or there.

    my kids are older, and i have a lot more free time than in years past. and as time has passed, i’ve often wished i had friends to hang out with more often.

    the friends i am most drawn to that live nearby are all super busy. they have their lives organized and filled up already. i’ve wished for a friend to regularly exercise with, suggesting to this or that neighbor that “we should go for a walk, or a bike ride, or yoga class”. i put it out there but there isn’t a nibble.

    so i think angela is on to something with this post…it is a situation that i didn’t see coming back in the halcyon days of young mothering when my calendar was full and my cell phone was ringing. I don’t lack for friends that i love and care about. i just i miss having a check-in friend– one who i see or who calls regularly (few times a week) and that i can call without worrying about bugging them. the best i’ve got now is facebook check-ins…which is kind of sick, really.

  19. So many good suggestions, plus lots of excellent mutual commiseration. (The suggestions + commiseration model of conflict resolution is one of my personal favorites.)

    #6, One of my girlfriends today, I love your reminder that we should ask people first before we ask Google. Sure, Google is easier, but how many conversations are we missing because we automatically turn to it?

    And FoxyJ, I think I started transitioning out of the younger-mom model of friendship about five years ago, even though I had a caboose baby. I no longer felt like I fit in with the play group crowd, much like almostthefamous. I mean, it made sense: I was ten years older than many of them, and although I enjoyed their company, I didn’t yearn for it in the same way I did when I was 25.

    mom’o’boys, you’re totally right that walking (running, biking) with friends can be a great way to connect. Whenever I happen to see a friend at the YMCA it’s always fun to grab elliptical machines right next to each other. The hour just flies by. (But then there are days that I just want to put my earbuds in my ears and escape into my own head. Those days are sometimes necessary too.)

    KDA, longstanding friendships are hugely important, I agree. It’s hard to recreate the understanding and rapport you have with people who’ve known you for a long time, through all your triumph and sorrows. Hooray for the telephone in this case — yes, we can connect online, but there’s nothing like a good, hour-long phone conversation with a dear old friend.

  20. I get you. Thank you for writing what I can’t seem to express. I am in my mid-40’s and this is a whole new, strange circumstance. Still trying to find where to land.

  21. I’m currently a mother with little kids who has definitely experienced that isolation you happily avoided during this period (moving twice in the last three years has not helped). I loved reading this post, because I think about female friendships a lot (since I miss them so desperately!) and it’s so interesting to get a preview of the next stage. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  22. Angela, I, too, experienced precisely what you describe here when I was in my early forties. I think you’re right that it’s a pretty universal challenge. The good news is that it’s gotten much better in the last few years (I’m now 51). As my children have become increasingly independent and started leaving the nest (college, missions, one is even married now!), I’ve found more time and space in my life for friendship. I’ve also come to value it more than ever. We do need our girlfriends!

  23. I definitely feel where you are coming from. I think our needs change and evolve over time and when we make friends, it’s maybe not as easy or the same as when we were younger.

    I have found that I have had to step out of my comfort zone and put myself out there, and have had success and failures along the way. I don’t think this changes. I think it is a constant struggle our entire lives.

    I think women need women. We need to share and swap and vent with other women. Stuff that needs to be said with another woman’s perspective.

    Some of us are lucky enough to have forged and maintained friendships throughout the years and some of us are not.

    I believe that is exactly the role of visiting teaching…to give women an opportunity to have a womanly conversation at least once a month, because women need women.

  24. There’s a blog that I’ve been following called MWF seeking BFF, about a married woman seeking out friendships as an adult. I love it. It’s poignant, yet rich with ideas and thoughts about how to find and keep friends. She also just published a book (which I haven’t read so no endorsements).

    http://mwfseekingbff.com/

  25. We moved recently and I suddenly felt more disconnected than I ever had and then this post nailed it!

    I’m right there, 40 someting SAHM, and I’m introverted to boot. I’m not sure what the solution is for me.

    I’ve tried reconnecting with friends from way back, but half the time I realized just how far apart our lifestyles have diverged in 20 years. It’s like the past is the only thing we have in common. Nostalgia is good once in a while but it gets stale.

    I haven’t figured it out, though I have tried a little harder this time around getting to know people’s names. It’s hard getting the names stuck to the right faces but I think it’s a start. Maybe I’ll find one or two I can relate to and then I’ll feel like I’m finally “settled”.

  26. I am in this exact position! My oldest is 20, with five kids down to 10, and then I have a three-year-old. Reading these comments has been so interesting.

    I don’t feel the desire to go out as much now, but do feel the need on occasion.

    I agree about phone calls. They are a great way to have an in-depth conversation.

    Attending RS meetings, even when you don’t want to, is a great idea as well–if you need to, go with the intent to make someone else’s life better and less lonely.

    You know what they say about serving others–well, I was called as RS pres about 4 months ago, and the service opportunities have made a world of difference. I have had to let go of insecurities, and just love others. I have learned that to just call or email someone to check on them, especially if they have a hard situation going on, is extremely fulfilling for me. I am going to try hard to do this when I am released.

  27. Angela this is eerie. I swear you stole this from my brain: “with each move, the energy that I have to put on my friendly face and charge out into the world of women, intent on winning at least a handful of strangers over with my scintillating personality, seems to have dribbled out, leaving me with the social energy of a half-inflated balloon.”

    I’m just South of you in Iowa and I’m tired. My youngest is 4 and I’m deflated socially. I’ve hosted a cookie exchange and started a bookgroup since we moved 7 months ago but just don’t find the deep connections with women that I did when my children were small. The few I think might be friend material don’t return my calls and/or are busy with their grown children’s lives. I feel like I left a piece of my heart behind each time I moved and now it’s spent.

    Some of it may be that as I age I’m OK with myself, I don’t feel the need to please others to gain their friendship. At the same time I’d like someone to laugh so loudly with me in Chili’s that the other patrons give us dirty looks.

  28. I am so sorry for my earlier comment. (I should know better than to post a comment before 9:00 in the morning.) Angela, please accept my apology for not expressing myself well.

    As life gets busy it’s easy to lose touch with the friends we once had and let’s face it, friendships change over the years and take time to cultivate. My mother has always been a great example of balancing family and close friends. While she was in college, she lived in a house with five other women. These roommates all married within a two years of each other and decided to form a monthly “dinner party” date night as a way of keeping in touch. For almost 20 years the dinner party met on a monthly basis. When the hectic pace of life picked up, they decided to meet on a quarterly basis. Now that everyone is close to retiring, they are once again meeting for the dinner party on monthly basis. It hasn’t always been easy or convenient, but dinner party nights were a priority. The group has been around for over forty years; these friendships are time tested and have been so valuable for both of my parents.

    I guess what I poorly expressed earlier is that friendships are an investment. At times it’s hard to feel like making the investment, but effort can be made to make and keep close friendships. A quick phone call, email, or cards are easy ways to let someone know you are thinking of them.

    I know that girls night out isn’t everyone’s favorite, so modify to fit your needs. My girls night consists of a meal at a local restaurant with three of my closest friends. It’s usually good food, but better conversations. Girls night isn’t spectacular, but it works to keep our small group of friends close.

  29. Melissa, it can be tough to establish meaningful friendships no matter your time of life — if I’d lived in a different neighborhood, not met certain people, and on and on when I was younger, my experience could have been very different. I’m glad that someone from your time of life spoke up, because I know for some that the little kid years can be really lonely.

    Julia, great link. Thanks!

    mormonhermitmom, I hope it helps to know you’re not alone.

    Ana, you know, I’ve thought that very thing. There are scores of drawbacks to polygamy, but the one (ONE) positive I can think of is that if you have a sister wife you love and trust? That could be a good thing. It’s the whole sharing of the husband thing where I can see things going off the rails . . . :-)

    Jessica, I’m the one who needs to apologize for my snarky comment back at you. Can I use the excuse that it was before 9:00 a.m. as well? I understand what you’re trying to say about making an investment in friendship, in putting forth real effort and time, and I agree with you 100%.

    And Kath? Oh honey, you speak the truth.

  30. I second the phone friend idea. I thrive on conversation. I need deep thinking and discussing like I need oxygen. Since my circumstances are like yours (a recent move, no more need for playgroups or Playland hours-long sanity conversations, busy busy evenings, turning 40) I’ve relied on a couple of friends for almost daily phone time. It’s a lifesaver. We don’t have time for hanging out, and we no longer live close to each other, but we all love to talk while we wash dishes or fold laundry or clean bathrooms. I don’t know how I would have stayed sane without them.

  31. Amen and amen. I’m 45 and seem to be in a
    “no man’s land” of women friends. It’s been exacerbated by a change in ward boundaries, my left leaning political points of view, and as one bishop proclaimed, “I think you are misunderstood.” Whatever that means.

  32. #6, I think you’re kind of a genius at this. I never would have thought of some of the things you suggested. Great ideas. (Except I don’t think I’m capable of a 3-minute phone call. I think I’m one of those ones people are afraid to call because they’ll never get off the phone.)

    Although I just turned 40, I feel like I went through this transition earlier, when I moved to my neighborhood and most of the women had already hit this stage of life. Everyone was just too busy with work and older kids for the kinds of socializing I craved, and for me it was all encapsulated by something another busy mom said to me: I was bemoaning how hard it is for moms to find time for friendships of their own, and she agreed, but then added, “But we wouldn’t have it any way, would we?” To be fair, I know she meant that she would make the same sacrifices for her kids over again, but I wanted to shout, “Yes, I would have it a different way–I would keep my kids, but also make time for my own friendships!” It made me feel hopeless about changing things since I feared most other older moms felt just as she did and would rebuff me.

    Well, in recent years a lot more mothers of younger kids have moved in, and I often go to playgroups and girls’ nights out (I still have a 2-year-old) even if it means talking to younger women about toilet training and other topics that don’t interest me as much anymore. Sometimes I don’t feel like it, but end up glad I went. Other times I do come home feeling a little lonely. And lately I have been craving keeping my mornings quiet and to myself, since once my older kids get home from school, it’s all craziness until after bedtime.

    Church service also has sometimes rescued me from lonely spells–and sometimes social networks online really do meet my social needs (and other times not). I’ve even started meeting some of my virtual friends in real life–which is also sometimes satisfying, and sometimes not.

    I’ve also recently decided I must not be a BFF kind of person–I have a big family and lots of people I care about, but usually not one specific female friend I constantly keep in touch with. Maybe that’s sad; I don’t know. Actually it’s probably my mom who’s always filled that spot for me–and I can hardly stand to imagine what life will be like when she’s not around any more. My sisters are my best friends, too, although we are all getting to that stage of life where we can go weeks without talking just because we’re so busy–without any of us meaning to go so long.

    Anyway, I’m rambling–but thanks for an interesting topic. I’m fascinated by the ways culture inside and outside of the church does and doesn’t meet people’s needs, and also in whether or not people can overcome what society doesn’t give them, through their own efforts.

  33. This is my second marriage and have 8 children in total (eldest is 21 and youngest is just one and a half). I was married at 20 and started having babies straight away. Despite all this I have just finished an undergraduate degree and am starting my Masters next week. Without the chance to communicate with others I would go NUTS!!! If I only communicated with my husband; he would go NUTS!! Education is what is saving me. If I didn’t have a chance to go and talk with others about anything but children I don’t know what I would do. If I wasn’t studying I think I would do a course at the local community college in cooking or something just to get out of the general mommy-groundhog-day.
    Thanks for a great read.

  34. This post is timely for me as well. I’m in my mid-40’s and have really noticed in the past few years that I no longer hang out with friends while our children play together. I’m definitely more tired than I used to be and less willing to give up quite time at home when it happens. Fortunately I have strong connections with women in my ward and my social needs are generally met through phone time and a wonderful book club.
    Unfortunately after 17 years in one place we are moving across the country. I’m realizing that I’m really afraid of moving, and this is one of the reasons. I appreciate the list of ideas for making friends, and realize that I need to make it a matter of prayer as well…

  35. Great topic. I was (mostly) the loner type when I was younger. I only started seeing the need for friendships with other women in college, and then on my mission.

    I had always related more with the boys too, so when I got married and expected my emotional needs to be met by my husband and he told me I needed to go find some girl friends, I felt disappointed in my marriage.

    Over the years I’ve changed to make close women friends. I’m also mid-40’s, with 2 caboose babies (college and diapers). I feel like I have more friends than time, so I feel fulfilled that way. I’m the oldest at book group, but the youngest in dinner group. I meet with friends to paint and sew and go to bookgroup even when I didn’t have time to read the book.

    And I’m also preparing to move across the country soon and hope my support system can be replaced (yeah for phones).

    Loved reading these comments. So many great insights.

    An Ana,I’ve thought the same thing about polygamy…and Angela, I have the same reservations!

  36. I’ve never fit into the patterns of friendship most have described here. In my 20’s when everyone else was in the midst of the playgroup scene, I was dealing with infertility, closing the curtains (literally) in my BYU married student apartment so I wouldn’t have to watch the moms and kids hanging out together on the playground right outside my window, it hurt so much. By the time I had kids, I was 10 years older than the new group of playgroup moms, and while I enjoyed casual conversations with them, my life experience was just so different–and too many birth stories is a huge turnoff too (my kids joined our family through adoption). I had a couple of close friends off and on through the years, but between people moving and other circumstances, those friendships didn’t remain close. I’ve always been an introvert and a bit on the shy side as well, which doesn’t help things. About 6-7 years ago I kind of decided that friendship was too hard and the risks of pain too great, so I chose to focus on my family and not put myself out anymore. I have more casual friends than ever before–having kids will do that for you. I can go to RS and find a table and sit and chat and have a good time with no problem. But after awhile I longed for closeness, which was lacking in my life. I had no one I would feel comfortable calling up just to say hi. I hadn’t been to a girls’ night out in literally years. I hadn’t been to lunch with a friend in years either. Anyway, about a year ago the years of keeping to myself crept up on me, and I started to feel extremely isolated and lonely. But I wasn’t sure how to change it. The Lord must have known my heart, because He showed me a tender mercy and called me to be the Primary president in our ward. And now I’m surrounded by three wonderful women who are quickly becoming close friends of mine. I don’t think it would have happened any other way just by virtue of my personality and also my life circumstances (I’m extremely busy with many obligations and don’t have time to go hang out at the playground either).

  37. I totally understand the need for friendship. I guess I don’t understand why this has to be a friendship with a woman. My best girlfriend happens to be a man who I met through a professional organization. We have been there for each other for years and I can share things that I can’t with anyone at church or the women’s organization in which I participate. (They just don’t share our interests.)

    There is nothing sexual about the friendship. He has met my husband and most of my children, I have met his wife.

    I am open to being friends with women, and we have couples with whom we socialize. But I think friendship transcends gender, and if you find a person with whom you can connect, it is spitting on a gift if you don’t pursue the friendship just because the person happens to be the “wrong” sex.

  38. So, how can we all get together? Those of us for whom this post resonates so well? How ’bout dinner every month, as suggested by Jessica? We’ll just rotate states. I’ll host for March, in Illinois : ). Who’s in?

  39. Great idea, Charity. :) You all can come to Kyrgyzstan in July for laghman with eggplant, tomatoes, and jusay. I’d invite you in April, but there’s no eggplant here then.

    Seriously though, I do think online friendships can make a huge difference. I don’t like talking on the phone, but the internet helps me keep in contact with former real-life friends. I’d be pretty lonely without that since I can’t speak Russian well enough to make bosom friends here. I have some very good friends, but it’s not the same as my now-online friends in the US.

  40. Angela, chiming in late to say that your post really resonated with me. I’ve had the same experiences–I was much more social when my children were little. Over the years, as things have gotten busier with kids’ schedules and life has gotten more complicated, my social life has dwindled down to practically nothing—pitiful. I had no idea it would be this way. My husband and I hardly go out with other couples anymore. And I’m an introvert, which makes it difficult for me to just go out there and make new friends. But, after years of feeling lonely, I’m trying to reach out a bit more and I’m finally making a little headway. I am soooo grateful for the occasional lunch dates and the emails and the opportunity I’ve had to get to know some other women in my ward through church callings. I’ll be transitioning into the empty nest stage in a few years, so I feel more of a need to cultivate some female friendships now—I really need them!

    Thanks again for an insightful and highly relatable post—I always love your posts. =)

  41. Amira- I want to come to Krygystan for laghman with eggplant, tomatoes, and jusay!!!! I don’t even know what that is (well, I do know what eggplant and tomatoes are), but I want to come and have it, and meet you and laugh and talk. If only…..

  42. I totally relate, though I am 35 and my four kids are ages 8 to 6 months. I’m not sure it’s age, so much as current life circumstances that leave us feeling this way. I am YW president at the moment and with the kids getting busier in school and activities, plus the baby and my own commitments, I find it difficult to find time to shower, let alone nurture my friendships. I used to run with friends at 5:30 in the morning but have been so exhausted I’ve even let that go temporarily. The women who serve with me in YW and my running buddies are my closest friends, but it took me a good deal of time to develop a relationship with them. I have now lived here 3 1/2 years.

    My best trick? Prayer. I can think of two specific times in my life where my prayers were directly focused on the need for a friend and both were answered clearly. I was thinking this week that it is time for me to start that prayer again …

    Thanks for an insightful post. It is somehow comforting to know that I am not an island–and my feelings are not abnormal! :)

  43. I fit the profile (mid-forties, SAHM, out of the little kid stage, even moved to a new area fairly recently). I wonder, though, if for some of us the problem isn’t so much that we miss girl time, but rather that we send our kids off to school after years of playdates and hands-on mothering, and we find that we have lost touch with ourselves. Left to our own devices, we suddenly find that we don’t know how to define ourselves anymore. It’s comparatively easy to find definition through a career or through our associations, more difficult to re-acquaint ourselves with the essence of who we are. Girlfriends are wonderful and necessary (and I do so wish I lived near Blue again!). But it’s also necessary to find some of that fulfillment within our own skin.

    Having gone through my own little mid-life crisis since moving to the Midwest, I find my girl time as many of you do: solving the world one mile at a time on the bike path, serving in callings, driving a couple of hours to the temple monthly, occasional evenings to book group. I jealously guard my solitude and my writing time, but I also need my girls.

  44. I used to be an introvert but something happened and now I can’t stop talking!

    I live in an area with lots of friends in my same boat(kids all in school) so that’s been nice. Some of us started a knitting club. Only one person knew how to knit but we all muddled along thanks to YouTube tutorials. We do it every week at Panera. Some people don’t even eat or just bring their own food. The eating part is secondary to the socializing.

    Also, I’ve found a lot of friends by volunteering to share knowledge. I can sew and bake pretty well so I often invite people over. I give them a lesson or two and we generally have great conversations. In the last couple of months I’ve had people over that were in their 20’s and 50’s. Not ideally what I’d want in a friend since they’re not within 15 years of me, but we ended up having so much fun.

    Usually people won’t ask when they need help so I’ve been bold enough to volunteer myself.

    I lived in the unfriendliest area a few years ago and I swore I would never be lonely again. So I have gone very much out of my way to find friends. I have met a ton of people through blogging. They have ended up being real, honest friends. It takes a lot more effort to actually find someone you might like, but I make my friends one of my top priorities. They are so important.

  45. Amen and Amen! I just turned 40 and although I do have young children (my kids are ages 2-12) I don’t have the desire to go to play group with women who I could almost be their mother. I am very busy with little ones and older ones.I do have a couple of close friends but we don’t do social things together very often most of the time it’s calling about laundry advice or when is this particular activity.

    My bathrooms don’t get cleaned often enough let alone have time to go out with girlfriends for lunch. I will meet someone new at church and think how nice it would be to be friends with them but I cannot figure out how to nurture that friendship due to time constraints. I look at women in my ward who are so social and get together often and wonder why I am not part of it. But more often than not, they are significantly younger than I am, they have fewer children, more discretionary time and they have more discretionary income than we do (which is NONE). Oh well, I am content for the most part but sometimes I want some girl time.

  46. We have lived in the same house for over ten years and have been in five different wards. By the third split I no longer had the desire or drive to even try to make any friends, because they dissapear. I did try taking my kid to play groups, but then she started school, and since we appear to be done having kids (one kid and seventeen years of marriage) I find myself less interested in birth stories and tales of potty training than I was. I do have a book club I go to, citywide since our neigborhood book club kind of fell apart. Is our ward the only one that dumped all Enrichment groups after the last change?

  47. I’m sorry I didn’t read through every post, but I scanned them, so if this little tid-bit I’m about to share has all ready been offered, forgive me.

    Watch your kids. Do what they do. It works. It takes a bit more courage than when we were all six years old, but the formula is the same. It is quite simple: smile, talk, invite to “play” and join in whenever it appeals to you. I think we sometimes complicate things because that just happens as we age.

    Good luck and Godspeed. My female friends are as dear to me as family. I couldn’t live without them. Several of them are “newer” friends — women I met and came to know in the past few years by remembering what I did when I was six and just doing that again.

  48. I’m 35 with no kids. No THAT is a unique place to be in among Mormons. We have had to adjust our social patterns to accommodate our friends lives &schedules as they have children. We are happy to do this as we still want to see them, but it does take some effort on our part. We host parties at 5:00 pm when we can – or brunches or lunches – so that people can bring their kids. Or we hang out with neighbors and friends who are eager to get babysitters. But one of the best things I’ve done that has cultivated some friendships are CHURCH CALLINGS + VT + WALKING/RUNNING PARTNERS. Friends from these areas are some of my nearest & dearest. And they are the easiest to maintain as they are so built in to my daily life.

  49. It’s not just moms and wives who go through this, either. As a thirty-something single woman who has lived in four major cities and a few minor ones over the last 12 years, I’ve found that 31 and beyond is a wasteland for friendships, when you move around that much. People (married and single) have their established networks and they’re all busy and only have so much time/energy to devote to new friendships, and breaking into these networks can be hard as a newcomer.

  50. When I was newly married, our ward had about six couples, all the same age, all the same spot in life, and we swore we would be friends forever. Until the stake boundaries switched. Funny, the street hadn’t geographically changed location, but now, my friends were miles and miles away. Then the first couple moved. Then the next, and next, until we were the last to leave.
    Even though it’s been five years, I remember how I felt walking into RS for the first time in a new ward. My goal is to to get to know the name of each new sister as she moves in to the ward (before she gets popped into Primary), so that at least one person each week can greet her by name. (Sometimes it works, sometimes I have to ‘fess up and admit I forgot the name she told me last week.) It helps me to feel less “out there” because while I’m not making deep friendships, I’m helping others fit in.

  51. Wow. You just described my life right down to the moving around only we have moved 3x’s more. Our last move was to Nevada about four years ago and it did a real number on me. I have my friends at church and my aquaintnces in the neighborhood, but otherwise I really am a hermit. I have no desire whatsoever to leave my cozy little home unless there is a real purpose and I know that I am no setting a healthy example for my remaining kids (23 yr old daughter and 21 yr old son).

  52. Isn’t it interesting that so many of us we can’t just listen and feel empathy for a sister who needs to voice. Instead we judge, we try to fix it, give our “sound advice”. But there aren’t many comments that just say “I’m here for you, is there something I can do?” If we are this way with a woman we haven’t met that lives half way across the country, are we even more so with the sisters in our wards and branches that are showing up to functions, but don’t have us as a real friend to just listen and spend a little time helping us refill our depleated well.
    Be a sister- listen and love.. thats all.

  53. I don’t get to this blog very often, but when I do there is always something for me. I have felt this same way for quite a while. My youngest is 14 and I spend my evenings driving her to her dance studio while my husband works late or travels. No one seems to have time to get together during the day, so I am left to wonder what I should be doing different & I never guessed so many people felt this way, too. I’ve suggested different activities from tennis (I don’t play but would try!), to walking, to lunch, to fondue night and a Super Bowl party. People come and participate, but it ends there. We are now about to move to another town & I am hoping things will be different. I have loved reading the suggestions and hope to put them to use.

  54. This is apropos for me, although I don’t share a similar situation. I’m in my early thirties and have no kids. I’m self-employed and have a lot of extra day-time on my hands, and yet, I am hardly included in meet-ups with other ladies. I think it’s mainly because they’re meeting up for the kids, and since I don’t have any, I don’t get invited. I’ll get invited to an occasional girls’ night out, but then everyone talks about things that happened when they were all together earlier that week/month/etc. And it just reinforces my feelings of isolation and not being part of the most exclusive club in the world.

    Anyway, my main point is I wish people would be more willing to make friends with people they truly have things in common with, aside from having children the same age. I’ve branched out and found more friends with women the age of my own mother. They no longer have children at home and are willing to talk about things other than birth stories, poopy diapers, and potty training with me.

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