The other day I was apologising to a friend for having to cancel our much-anticipated, long-overdue get-together. The children were ill, hubby was away working and well, it just wasn't going to happen.
The thing is, she wasn't surprised.
"Oh, you're always cancelling", she said. "I never expect you to keep a date these days".
I should have been affronted, possibly even hurt. But I wasn't. Because it's true and she's right. I am always cancelling. I do always let people down. And despite endeavouring to make more of an effort every time it happens, I still don't seem to be able to do anything about it. I promised one friend I'd make plans to see them, ooh, about a year ago. I keep meaning to call another friend who's had a baby, but can't quite find the right moment. The list is, unfortunately, endless.
My friend went on, obviously having already spent time thinking about the likes of me.
"Pearl Lowe once said that you can only ever have two out of the three - friends, family and work. I'm still trying to challenge that and have all three."
"Crikey", I thought, "I'm struggling to have one..."
But it did make me think. Can we really have all three? Once children enter the equation, isn't it too much to ask for? Why do I always let people down? Why can't I keep a date? Is it just me?
And then it got me thinking about friendship and what it all means anyway. What does being a friend mean? Does it mean always being there for someone when they need you (not entirely practical when they're curled up on the sofa in an emotional mess needing a hug and you're a two-hour drive away wiping bottoms and changing nappies)? Or does it mean having had shared experiences? Knowing someone inside out? Enjoying their company? Or loving someone despite all their faults?
I'll tell you why I'm asking.
A very good friend of mine, (not the one above with a penchance for quoting Pearl Lowe) - Edie's godmother in fact, has recently decided that she doesn't want to be friends with me anymore. I know, I know. She's obviously completely crazy.
When I pressed her on her reasons why, she said,
"You're just a crap friend and you've cancelled the last four times we were meant to meet for what I can only see as a better offer".
A better offer? Well, possibly if you count having ill children, an absent husband and complete and utter exhaustion as better offers, then she may have a point.
I apologised, told her how sorry I was, offered to drive the hour and a half it takes to get to her house once my husband was around so he can pick up the children from nursery and school, but no. It seems I've let her down once too often.
I am, obviously, gutted, but given my circumstances, I really don't know how to redess the balance.
Here's the sob story.
My husband works away more often than he is at home. I never know when he's going to be away until a few days before. I have two small children who are 100% dependant on me. I have no family in the vicinity who can help out with childcare even in an emergency. What this means in terms of friendship is that even the best laid plans have to be cancelled if the children need me.
Does this make me a 'crap' friend?
I like to think it doesn't. And that when I do see friends I'm genuinely pleased to see them. I'm happy if they're doing well, caring if they're not. I'll offer advice, cake, cups of tea, just an ear. I'm interested to hear what they're doing. But I can't be there all the time. And that is no indication of how good a friend they are.
That's just the way it is.
And I'm sorry if that's not enough.
And just as a quick endnote - apologies to those of you who have commented on my previous two posts - I have been ridiculously busy at home and haven't had time to reply. But, I will do.
See - I'm a crap blogging friend as well.
I will make more of an effort. Just as soon as my children have grown-up and left home...
hayley balozi posted a blog post
8 hours ago