We flew in from New York, New Jersey, Boston and Atlanta. We arrived in Florida for some fun in the sun; for some rest and relaxation; to reconnect and revel in our friendship as we celebrated turning 40. I’ve known these women since we were little girls -- since the fifth grade, when I made the switch from Catholic school to public school and they welcomed me into their fold. I had a freckled face, bespectacled eyes, a mouthful of braces and a yearning to be liked. To be accepted. To be part of the crowd. And thanks to them, I was. And thirty years later, I still am.
These three incredible friends know me better than I know myself. We hadn’t all been together in almost ten years; my wedding was our last hurrah, signaling the end of our care-free twenties and the beginning of our baby-making thirties. Over the past decade, months -- even years -- had passed without us talking. But that didn’t stop us from comfortably and familiarly picking up where we left off -- before even having that first glass of wine.
On the first day, I felt a bit on the periphery. I was happy to be there, thrilled to see them, but anxious and guilty about the life I left behind. On the work front, my inbox was overflowing and on the home front, I’d left my husband home with five kids and a jam-packed weekend of baseball games, soccer games and birthday parties. While my pals chatted merrily about family, friends, in-laws, home decor and recipe ideas, I poked my nose into my book, more comfortable escaping into a story than sharing my own.
This changed toward the end of the second day. Without even knowing how it came up or why it came out of my mouth, I suddenly blurted “You know what? Our life is hard. REALLY hard.” And then I started to cry.
They hugged me and exchanged knowing glances that seemed to suggest they’d been waiting for this moment. They knew I was holding something in. Something I didn’t even realize was percolating inside me. With them, finally, I let my guard down. I admitted that as amazing as our full, busy life is, it is hard.
It is hard to juggle five kids and a full-time job and still find time for my husband and myself. It’s hard to raise our children with little family support. My in-laws both passed away before we had a family of our own and my parents still have jobs of their own. We pretty much do it all our own. I know that many people do but, it was liberating for me to admit that this grown-up life is exhausting and at times overwhelming. And much harder than I thought it would be. No one said it would be easy, but no one said it would be quite so hard either.
My girlfriends agreed. Their lives are hard too. In fact, I think it’s universal -- being a grown up is hard work. And while I bound through life with a smile on my face and tackle my long to-do list with great aplomb, my closest friends have always known I’m not the dynamo I sometimes purport to be. I struggle just like everyone else. I just hate to admit it.
I recently bumped into someone who said she loved to read my musings on motherhood but wondered if I ever had a really bad day. I recall looking at her with surprise and saying, “Seriously? We have TONS of them! I just don’t write about them.” “I wish you would,” she said. “That way the rest of us would know that you’re not Super Woman.”
Well, lest there was any doubt, I’m not. I’m pretty sure that none of us are. We are all only human. We are all struggling with raising happy, healthy, well-adjusted kids. We are all caught somewhere in the swinging pendulum of work/life balance as we question our roles as mothers, wives, and daughters. But the one role we never seem to question is our role as friends. The kind of friends who intuitively know just what you need – whether it’s a little space or a warm embrace. I am so grateful to have these friends in my life… and I can only hope that we see each other again before another decade swiftly flies by.