Friend – it’s a simple enough word, but what it conveys means such different things to different people and in different situations.
Take Facebook, for example. There, the word ‘friend’ simply means someone who you know, to all intents and purposes.
I’m not saying I don’t like anyone among my Facebook friends (god forbid, I’m that shallow), just that it’s an odd way of expressing people who you have connected to.
I would say I can count my ‘real’ friends on the fingers of two hands at most. That’s to say the people who I care about the most and, I think, who care similarly back.
I’ve known them all for a number of years now and while the frequency with which I’ve seen some of them has waxed and waned, they’ve been there.
The funny thing is, having kids changes so much. My social life has pretty much vanished. Not only for financial reasons, but because I don’t enjoy going out and about as much, either.
I’d much prefer to come home and give my little girl her bath, than head into Soho and a (now thankfully smoke-free) pub, even if I am meeting friends.
It’s bad enough that five miles in London feels like 50 miles elsewhere, such is the transport nightmare on occasion. But also everyone else’s lives always seem more complicated or busy than your own.
Some friends have to be booked months in advance and then you find the appointment can be cancelled at the drop of a hat.
And ironically, as you get older, new friends are even more difficult to cultivate. It takes time to develop a friendship – something that, as priorities and responsibilities pile up, is more tricky to find.
While the benefits of kids are numerous, they also bring new challenges that you don’t expect.
Yes, the nappies, sleepless nights and tightening belts are inevitable, but I didn’t expect the isolation that comes with a reduced social life and disappearance from other people’s lives.
Sometimes I feel as if I’m walking through a tunnel with the odd window or door leading off. These openings are on a timelock and open for a short period of time, which allows me a glimpse of a life I used to lead, before slamming shut leaving me back in the semi-darkness of the tunnel.
There is a light at the end, but I’m not really sure when I’ll get there. Hopefully, to cheesily paraphrase the Beatles, I’ll get by with a little help.