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Parent Friendships: The Reasons, Seasons, Parties, and Pitfalls

We all like to think that we are a good friend. Well, at least most of us do.


There are some out there that can take friendship or leave it, and that’s a rare bread.


For those that care about making a friend, being a friend, or nurturing a friendship, over time, the dynamics of relationships will grow, change, strain, or even break. How you approach all of these situations is the most intriguing part, and navigating friends in and out of parenthood makes it that much more challenging.


For me, friendships have always been developed based on familiarity, support, and time. I find it very difficult to just take on new friendships. Substance and meaning are very important to me.


It’s kind of like the way watching TV used to be. There were shows you watched for years and then, the “new” network line ups would come out in the Fall.


Decisions, decisions.


You only have so much time so you had to decide what new show(s) you would take on and what you’d pass on. Inevitably, I’d take a chance on one or two but pretty much stick with the story line and characters I knew and loved.


For others, friendships are based on spur-of-the-moment connections, shared experiences, and proximity and flourish in that new blush of excitement and sameness.


Another thing we all may have noticed was that making new friends in adulthood is even harder. We’re working, we’re planning, and opportunities to go to new places and meet new people become a bit more limited if you’re not careful.


And cue parenthood.


Becoming a parent does one of two things, thrusts you into semi-alienation or presents you with a whole new social structure, but the dynamics of friendships still apply.


As parents, it becomes even more important to be clear on the roles these relationships play in our lives because some will sustain you and some will deplete you. And yes, there are levels of friendship.


“Levels Jerry, levels!” There I go again quoting Seinfeld.


But these are not levels to discount people or prioritize one person over another, these are the levels you need to define as a person and parent to ensure they are in line with your values.


I once had a person tell me that people are in your life for a reason or a season. I was very young at the time, in college I think, and found it a cruel statement to make. It was not until I was older and had experienced the good, the bad, and the questionable in friendships that I understood the true meaning. And all of these scenarios are true in parent relationships.


Let’s start with the reasons.


The Reasons


I actually have friends that have had friends since childhood! My husband is one of those people. He still talks regularly to guys he ran with in elementary school. I’m truly fascinated at the concept of knowing someone that has known you probably before you really knew yourself. It’s so rare.


And recently, I had lunch with a friend of mine, and we have known each other for 30+ years. That truly fascinates me as well. As I mentioned before, I’m not the world’s greatest friend-maker so I started to think about why and how you can stay friends with someone since elementary school or 30+ years.


It all came down to reason and values.


Long-term friendships are usually based on more than a one-time meeting or shared interests or experiences. There’s a deeper synchronicity at work that’s based on values. That person was put into your life for a reason, but they have stayed in your life because of some core belief, understanding, or values. This is the key.


Yes, you can have someone in your life for a long time and consider them a friend. But would you confide in them? Would you trust them? Can you rely on them? If your answer is no that should tell you something. That person is likely in your life for a season.


So, the magic question that’s answered here is, does this friendship reflect respect and value? If you can tell this person anything, if you trust them with most things in your life, if they go to bat for you and have your back, and you would do the same for them, the shared value is there. When that friendship fills you up and your values are being supported and honored, that’s a friend for a reason.


If you’re trying to figure this out about someone in your life, ask yourself the questions above with an eye toward respect and values.


When you look at interactions with this person, ask yourself the following:


“Does this ___________?”

  • Conversation

  • Activity

  • Hobby

  • Request

  • Line of thinking

… reflect both our values.”


If there are questions or negative responses, they tell an important story. This doesn’t mean you should end the friendship; it just provides information and a roadmap as to how far you should go with it and how much of your time and effort you should invest in it.


Parents are busy. Don’t invest your time in friendships that don’t serve you. Your time, focus, and energy are needed elsewhere.


The Seasons


This is actually a pretty cool one. Having someone in your life at a time you really need it, or during a pivotal growth or transition period can be life-changing in itself.


There are people that come into our lives through a chance meeting, a new job, a home move. There’s an instant connection, a welcome ease that helps a situation feel less daunting or lonely and because of the proximity or time constraints, an instant friendship is born. In this moment, this friendship is vital. It’s a season and it’s all good.

But seasons change. And while friendships forged based on a “reason” will stand the test of time, the seasonal friendship will not. It serves a purpose, filles a need, or a void and when time passes, it will too.


If you’re a parent, you likely remember a mom or dad that you bonded with during Pre-K or first grade. There you were together, crying as your kids ran off to play. Maybe you grabbed some coffee, took a walk, or even met up a few times for playdates.


As time passed, you and the kids made new friends, did other things, you went to work, life got hectic, and you saw that person less and less.


Does this friendship mean less? Should it be forgotten? No.


You needed that person, or you needed each other in that season. In some cases, when shared respect and values are there, it can become one of your longer-term friendships based on a reason.


While it is important to give merit to a seasonal friendship, you must do so without overstepping its meaning. It could mean more to you and less to the other person, and vice versa. Pushing too hard often throws it out of balance and can take the other person by surprise. It’s no fun to put yourself out there and find out the other person doesn’t feel the same, it’s awkward. And they are not being rude, it was just unexpected. Kind of like going to kiss someone on the lips and you get the cheek, yikes!    


Seasons will come and go, just like people in your life. Enjoy them while you’re in that season of life. One of you was there to learn and one of you was there to teach. Everyone got what they needed.


The Parties


And then, there are the party people. There for a reason and season, but not how you would think.


We all have one or two of these in our past or present.


You know, the ones that always want to go out. Leave the world behind and let’s go have fun. These are the people you need when you could use a little pick-me-up, the “hold my beer” friendship.


The reason is fun, the season is when you need it.


You may have known these people all your life as well, but they are great in the good times and gone in the bumpy times. It’s not because they’re unkind, it’s just that they don’t like things to get “too heavy.” When you invest in these folks, you’ll likely end up a little disappointed. They are not the shoulder to cry on or the long-term support you may need so respect and value will be way down on the list. You might even love these folks, but you know where you stand with them, and you have to honor that.


As a parent, limiting these types of friendships can be wise. If you need that shoulder, that ear, that compass in the storm, lean on your “reasons.”


The Pitfalls


The pitfalls are just that, friendships where we end up in a place asking ourselves, “How the heck did I get here?”


These one-sided, uncomfortable, and even detrimental interactions with someone who calls themselves a friend, but either takes more than they ever give, has unrealistic expectations, or smiles at you personally but tears you down socially, are to be avoided at all costs.


If you feel drained, your values are being violated, and boundaries are desperately needed when you are with this person, you’ve run into a pitfall. The worst part of all is that the pitfalls are usually the ones most in need of a true friend. Wounded, unhappy, spiteful, you may mistake them for a party at first with their quick wit and sarcasm, but then the truth comes out.


If this person has been in your life for a long time, there’s a reason, but that reason may have changed. Look at this friendship again through the lens of respect and value to be sure. Has that changed? The season of that friendship may now be over.


Friendship should be a joy in your life, because as parents, there is so much more at stake in terms of your time and wellbeing. You simply don’t have the mental or emotional capacity to engage in the psychological calisthenics required to sustain friendships that don’t nourish the participants. If it’s causing you worry or stress, or if you feel you must support or problem-solve for someone else, it’s not working for either of you.


So, here’s me saying to you, you don’t have to be everyone’s friend. Choose who brings the most value to your life and who you can return that value to.


Don’t force friendships and don’t be unkind to someone that doesn’t reflect your friendship values, just move on.


Friends are in our lives for a reason or a season. Some are a party or a pitfall.


Know the difference and make good choices for your wellbeing.


Take care and be well my friends,



Mon friends with kids
In parent friendships, we often experience the good, the bad, and the questionable.


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