a single mother

I’m Not a Bad Friend, I Just Need Space Sometimes

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It’s a Tuesday evening around 6 pm and I’m walking in the door with my 5 year old son a few steps behind. I’m juggling his lunch box, the countless sheets of papers and notices from his preschool, and the snack wrappers that I refuse to allow him to toss to the ground. My evening has revved up.

From now until he goes to bed, I am in total mommy mode. It’s time to cook dinner, clean my tiny apartment, bathe my son, read him 3 stories even though I swore I’d only read 1, and various other single mom duties.

By the time 10:30 rolls around, I am powering up my computer to get in a few more hours of work before heading to bed. This routine plays itself out everyday with the exception of the 2 days a week my son is with his dad. I am not complaining, because being a writer and being a mother are two of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given in my lifetime. But I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t exhausted. By the end of the night sometimes, my brain is fried. I don’t want to make anymore decisions. I don’t want to talk, and I don’t want to use any more energy. All I want is to be in silence with the low whir of Netflix muttering in the background while I get lost in the inception like web of social media.

Unfortunately, when moods of solitude strike, I can come off to my friends as standoffish or as if I am too busy to care to be around for them. They call and my phone goes straight to voicemail. They text and I read but don’t reply. The truth is that I’m not trying to be a bad friend. I just need some space sometimes.

One of my biggest pet peeves with people is when they try to make themselves seem busier than they are. As if they are so damn busy that they can’t take 5 seconds to reply to a text or return a phone call. There are 24 hours in a day and if Obama can send a text to his daughters here and there, I am sure my friend can. So, with that in mind, I make an effort not to use being busy as a reason why I am not answering phone calls or text messages. I know how implausible and self serving that can sound. And, honestly, I’m not too busy to respond to efforts of communication. The truth, though, is never understood or received well by others.

The truth is that I need alone time to recharge and be with myself.

I don’t want to have to explain that I had a panic attack earlier in the week because I couldn’t find my other shoe that was tucked under my bed and that I was taking that as a sign of needing to take a break. I don’t feel like I should have to break down how I simply want to spend the small amount of time I have alone, alone. Naturally, I am a fun loving person who really loves being around people and having a good time. But in order to be her and get there, I need to recharge. And I can only do that by disconnecting.

When I take a step back, be it a day or a week, it’s not because I don’t care about my friendships. I am not trying to be a shitty friend. However, I have to take care of my mental and emotional well being and I don’t want to have to ask permission from the people that are supposed to love and support me. I have dealt with anxiety and depression for several years and I know that, when the dark days come, I am burnt out.

It feels like I am a sponge that has been wrung out to the point of crumbling.

I have absolutely nothing to give to a friend at that point. It’s not that I don’t care about your daughter’s dance recital or the on-going issues with your mother, because I do! But when those dark days come or when I am exhausted, I am barely holding it together for myself. Being available for an hour long phone chat is just not going to happen.

For my friends and for people who have friends that withdraw sometimes, don’t forget about them and don’t assume that they’ve forgotten about you. I know it can be tough to need your friend and feel like they are intentionally dodging you. Please don’t take it personally as it’s not you and you haven’t done anything wrong. It’s us and our own shit that we are trying to sort out. We still love you and we still care. I just ask of my friends that you guys support me through the times of distance because it’s not permanent. I still need you.

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(Image: iStock / @bernardbodo)