Last Thursday was a good day for conversations – online and off. After several weeks of sickness in the house and similar stories in my friends’ houses I managed to catch up with one friend for morning coffee and another one for afternoon coffee on the same day! On top of that, Annie of Possum Cottage started an interesting conversation about intentional living and defining their lifestyle over on her Instagram. This got me thinking about who are friends are, and why we’re friends.
My two friends are, like me, mothers and married to academics. They’ve both been in this particular town longer than we have, but we share a history of moving around with funding and contracts and ending up in places we didn’t necessarily expect. We’re navigating raising small children without family nearby, in a culture and language that is not our own. Our best common language is English, but our kids are more comfortable in other languages (Dutch with one family, French with the other). We swap parenting advice and are alternately amused and baffled at what our friends back home, from here and living abroad do differently. (How much outdoor time small children need daily is both baffling and amusing in terms of difference. From EXTREMELY high priority in Finland, diminishing through Canada, Poland, Germany and finally apparently “not really a thing” here in the Netherlands.)
Much as I really resisted the idea of living in a little “expat bubble” before moving here I am finding it really has its advantages. Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Finding community is difficult, and while I’ve met some lovely people with common interests over the years I think in many ways finding people you can converse with make better friends.
Many of my friends my age are young scientists or artists building their careers. I have no interest in that for myself but I see their struggle to succeed in something they are passionate about and it’s so close to my heart because that’s where Kyle is at too. And it’s so fascinating to hear about their research, their art, their process. How they find and generate ideas, where they look for inspiration, what their hobbies are and how these different things feed off of each other, inspire each other.
Most of my “mom-friends” are actually a bit older than I am, though we didn’t have our first particularly young. I don’t know if it’s just a question of the communities we’ve lived in, or of who I happen to get talking to (though it probably has something to do with the fact that I was drawn to the quiet confidence of experienced moms of multiple/older children when I had my first – I had enough anxiety without having a bunch more first time moms panicking over small things around me…). Many of these friends have jobs outside the home too – which I don’t and don’t have much interest for either, honestly. It’s often a bit awkward – the whole “what do you do?” question is not a favourite. Of course, we talk about our kids and that is an inexhaustible topic, but the friends – not acquaintances, despite some being very friendly – are the ones where we talk about other things, about travel, about books, about our past and our future and our theories on how the world works. They are – most importantly – the ones who will turn to their children and say “Just a moment, Mommy’s talking right now.”
I think it’s starting to hit me t in spite of being very good at seeing the differences in age, stage, interests etc within my set of friends I’ve overlooked something important. I’ve often felt lucky to have so many creative, bright people as friends – that there were always such interesting people to talk to everywhere I went. I think there might be a reason for that. That maybe, just maybe, in spite of having a dusty degree and having retired from my official career, I might be one of them too.