Of my wide and deep circle of women friends I was the first to have children. Until my daughter was born, I tended to my girlfriends' needs with the devotion of a surrogate sister and mother. If a friend lost a job or a lover, or simply needed some girlfriend comfort, I'd think nothing of dropping my plans with my husband and showing up at her home with a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream and a Bull Durham video. But soon after my daughter's birth I began to realize that motherhood would forever alter my approach to friendship.
At first my girlfriends seemed interested in my new mothering adventure, as if I were sending postcards from an exotic location. But after a month or so, they were eager to pick up our friendship where we had left off. "Oh good, she's asleep," my friend Anne said during a visit, as she passed my daughter back to me. "Now listen," she continued. "I really need to tell you what's happening between Jeff and me." As Anne spoke about her new boyfriend she became teary-eyed. At the same time Gabrielle started to fuss and squirm in my arms. Immediately I felt torn -- frustrated that Gabrielle was distracting me from my friend and annoyed that my friend was talking over my baby's complaints. For a moment I hesitated, glancing back and forth between the two females who wanted my attention.
"Hang on, Anne," I said, finally focusing on Gabrielle. "I need to figure out what she needs."
"I'll wait," Anne said impatiently, plopping down on my sofa and picking her nails, as if our conversation had temporarily been interrupted by a phone call. While Anne waited for me to finish comforting Gabrielle so that she could have her turn being comforted by me, I started to realize that motherhood was going to cause more than a brief interruption in our conversation. The urgency of Gabrielle's needs and the heart-tug of our mother-daughter connection made it impossible for me to be the same drop-everything, attentive friend that I used to be. Even when Gabrielle wasn't physically with me, it seemed that I was constantly distracted by the huge space that my child claimed over my heart, mind, and energy.