• Fri, Sep 14 2012

That Awkward Moment When You Realize You’re No Longer A Priority In Everyone’s Life

My sister and I used to be each other’s number one priority. As not just family, but best friends too, we both would drop whatever we were doing to be there for each other. Then she got married. I thought for sure I’d lost her, but we still remained constantly there for each other. It was when she had my nephews, Jackson and Elliot, that what I had always feared finally happened: I was no longer priority number one. I had slipped down to priority number three behind those two ridiculously adorable monkeys.

As a woman in her early-30’s, my priorities are my family, friends and career. I do not have a husband with whom I have to cater, or kids I have to take care of and nurture. As I watch my parents age, they are my number one priority, as well as my sister, but since that has changed on her end I wonder if I should change it on my end.

This is just something that happens with a sibling, it’s also something that happens with friends. There was once a time when something monumental or even trivial happened, you could call your friends and they’d be there for you in a heartbeat, and vice versa. But as I watch my friends get married off one by one, and end up preggers, the tide is changing. The fact that I was stood up on a date or wasn’t offered my dream job no longer gets the same quick response of, “Oh my god! Let’s get a drink and talk about it!” Now I wait for a couple days, sometimes even a week or more, before I even get a call back.

I wish I could say that I fully understand, but I don’t. I don’t, because I’m not married and I don’t have kids. I can see how difficult it is to be a mom, but because that part of my life is still faraway I can’t fathom just how much my life will change. I know it will involve lots of spit-up and sleepless nights, but I like to imagine I’d still be there for everyone at the drop of a hat, if they needed me.

It’s not easy trying to maintain the close relationships you once had with friends or family members who have married and evolved into that stage of the game. When they do call you back, a lot of the time they spend the majority of it either cooing over their newborn or reprimanding Suzy and Bobby for getting into the cookie jar. Then, of course, is that part where they put Suzy or Bobby on the phone and you’re trying to be nice, but when Suzy and Bobby have a vocabulary that consists all of 30 words, you just end up asking the impossible, because you don’t know what to say: “So, ah, what do you think of that Paul Ryan character? You know, just mommy back on the phone.” The rest of the conversation is mostly one-sided with more reprimanding of Suzy and Bobby and when you finally get off the phone you realize that the input you wanted from your friend was never received because Suzy and Bobby have become priority number one and you’re somewhere else. You don’t even know what slot you’ve been downgraded too, but it’s evident and you slump over on your coach and wonder if maybe it’s time to shift your priorities around, too. Everybody else is doing it.

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  • Kimberly @ Twen-Teen

    I’m the same way, and it annoys me when I prioritize people who don’t do the same for me. A good friend of mine has a daughter who always interrupts when we’re talking. And she’s like, ‘oh, hang on, she needs to say something.’ and it’s like, no, she needs to shut the hell up because i’m speaking.

    Also, I think our moms would be friends.

    • Pants

      I stopped calling a friend of mine because of crap like that.

      Teach your kid some damn manners. Remember how our moms carried wooden spoons in their purses? Yeah, we knew not to interrupt. Your kid now expects a trophy for walking on to a field and taking a shit in the middle of a soccer game.

      Something’s wrong here.

      Hint: it’s you.

  • EKS

    maybe a mental help professional could help shed light on it in a way that would bring you forward rather than circling around.

    • Janice Ian

      I am a mental health professional, and what Amanda is describing does not warrant an intervention. (That doesn’t mean she shouldn’t avail herself to therapy if she chooses!) Experiencing, describing, and understanding negative emotion is not unhealthy or pathological. If she only had positive emotional content she would either a. not be human or b. be a deeply repressed human.

  • Pants

    Dude. DUDE. You are in my brain, I swear you are. I’ve been writing this in my head for the last few years. (It has a lot more expletives in my head.) And it’s part of the reason for my “Babies ruin everything” philosophy. I’m sick of losing my friends to crotchfruit. Yeah, yeah, I know. But whatever. I’m honest. I said it. I won’t take it back.

    Shoot me an email sometime so we can bitch about everyone else and remind one another why we are so fabulous. Email is my twitter handle at gmail. xx

    • jane

      Crotchfruit! Ew! LMAO!

  • worst

    Good god, you whiny self-absorbed muppet. Get a grip on yourself.

    • Maggie

      Right? God forbid everyone else evolve out of their early 20′s.

    • Samantha

      Wow, that was incredibly helpful. Thank you for reiterating everything she already said herself without anything interesting to add to the conversation.

      Amanda is a writer expressing her growing pains in a personal essay. If you don’t like the words, don’t read them, but don’t spew bile in the comments section. At least criticize like an adult if you’re going to reprimand her for her already admitted immaturity.

      These feelings are perfectly normal, part of growing up (which she admitted she needs to do), and not wrong to express.

    • Maggie

      I’m sorry if it seems harsh, but a woman in her 30′s behaving like a petulant child because her friends decided to grow up and she chose not to is not normal. At least she recognizes she’s being immature, but it sounds like she’s doing absolutely nothing to change that. I’ve been a fan of Amanda’s for a long time, but her last few articles regarding her personal life have been so self-absorbed and ridiculously immature that it’s making me not want to read her work anymore.

    • Kimberly @ Twen-Teen

      She’s actually being the opposite — she is AWARE that she’s self centered. Not everyone wants to get married at 22 and pop out 3 kids. If you don’t like her work then don’t fucking read it.

    • Pants

      Not even worth responding to the core of the comment, but I’m distracted by diction so I’m going to just ask:

      When did it become acceptable to use “muppet” in place of “moppet?”

    • Molly

      Again, why are people referring to Amanda as “not grown up” because she has not gotten married and popped out some kids? What the hell is this crap? Maybe she hasn’t met the right person to share her life with and maybe she doesn’t want kids. Leave her alone, it’s actually nice to see a female who values her friendships with other women. I know I’d (and probably will be) be upset if all of my good friends suddenly stopped making time for me. It is a normal human response.

  • Sue

    “Yes, but only because if you’re not at least someone’s number one priority, you’ll probably throw a fit like a three-year-old getting her way.”

    Good god, no wonder she has security and abandonment issues with a mother like that.

    • Penny

      Based on Amanda’s usual sarcasm, I’m pretty sure that in the conversation between she and her mom, they’re joking around with each other.

  • Sue

    My children grew up years ago but I taught them that family is all you have. Two sons, one daughter, and five grandchildren later we still have barbeques, family summers at the cottage (the cottage is mine but it is “the family cottage” so everyone has an open invitation to drop by during the summer and they do so frequently), and holidays together. I get grandma weekends with my grandbabies twice a month so my grown up babies can have some fun time on their own. They sometimes all stay for the afternoon and that’s the very best :)

    I don’t understand this whole impermanence thing people accept as normal nowadays. It is not normal or healthy for family to grow apart as they grow up, friends yes that happens, but not family. When one of my sons moved to Thailand for a year for his job we still connected with them through email, phone calls, and two visits home that year. Family is joy and support, which is not what this author sounds like she is getting.

  • Marissa

    Amanda, I feel you on some levels, but your mother had to ignore some friends to make you the center of her universe. I used to be hurt that my friend with kids didn’t make me as large as a priority as I made them, but then I realized clinging to them while we were at different stages was only hurting me. I call my FWK once every two months. I love them. But we have little in common anymore anyways.

    Whenever I come down with this sort of melancholy mood, where I logically know that I’m being immature and stunted, but emotionally can’t bounce out of it, I read DFW’s “The Depressed Person.” Something about reading a self-aware, depressed (and kinda awful) person forces me to take myself a little less seriously. In fact, reading in general seems to be the best cure. Maybe even read something from a mother/wife’s voice so you can empathize with your friends/sister who are juggling families. Carol Shields is pretty good for that.

  • Kimberly @ Twen-Teen

    I feel like kids expect a trophy for everything. Especially, this.
    http://deadspin.com/5942620/hey-america-dont-let-your-children-shit-at-restaurant-tables

  • Raerae

    I feel 110% the same way. I don’t feel that it’s so much that I’m self centered as it is that people who were once a great part of your life move on without you and it hurts. All of a sudden my very best friends, the ones that I’ve shared numerous secrets and sleepovers with since we were children, are married and starting popping out babies and I don’t hear from them anymore. Rude. Family is important, but friends are too. Especially the friends worth keeping.

  • Jamie Peck

    It sounds like you need to make some friends who are at the same place in life as you. It’s not selfish to want to have an equal relationship with someone. I care about my friends a lot, and I expect the same in return. I don’t think there’s anything selfish about that. Kids aren’t part of this equation for me, but I imagine I will still enjoy the company of adults if/when I have children?

  • Sabrina

    Amanda, you have a way of knowing exactly what’s going on in my life at all times. This is my life right now. Totally. I think I have complained to my boyfriend about this every night for the past month. When I was complaining that my friends were with husbands/boyfriends now who make it clear that they are the top priority, he finally said “Babe, her husband should be her top priority.” Oh. You’re right.

    Although completely right, it still feels really lonely at times. And in some ways, it almost feels like a punishment for not jumping on the married, baby train. I guess I just need to start branching out and making new friends who live a more similar lifestyle as me.

  • Alyssa

    Why does everyone think she didn’t grow up because she doesn’t have a husband or kids?

    • Pants

      Right?!

  • Kj

    Oooh, oooh, Kimberly you totally gave me the chance to pull out this link about how French moms do it better by not making the kid 100% centre of the universe all the time – ie, not allowed to interrupt whenever they damn well please. Which would piss me off to no end if I did have FWK…… (Fortunately, still too young. For now.)

  • Tee

    Go serve your sister and friends (single, married, married with kids). It will tell your friends they (which means spouse and kids if they exist) are a priority for YOU :)

  • Trisha

    Thanks for writing this- as the youngest of four sisters and the only one who is not married with kids, I could really relate. It’s nice to know I’m not the only person who kind of mourns the loss of closeness with a sibling and is also tired of being judged for her child-free life. It’s OK to feel this way- a big part of your life has shifted and it’s just kind of a bummer at times.

  • Stephen

    Great article, and very interesting to read. Sounds like harsh advice from your mom but could just be tough love.

    Thanks for the article.