As much as us ‘un-mom’s have a hard time matriculating into certain die-hard mommy circles, there’s still a very real need for mom friends, and an unshakable bond that forms when you find one. One of the first things I did after recovering from the shock that I was pregnant, again, when my second baby was only 9 months old (help me, Jesus) was perform a mental scan of all friends who either had babies, were trying to conceive, or could be unknowingly knocked up after being as conceptually irresponsible as we were. Katie’s been a hot mess lately…maybe she’s prego.
Because being home alone with littles, with no one to meet you at the mall, park, pool, library bounce gym, etc., is frankly terrifying. Sitting alone in a sandbox while your one-year-old digs intently for an hour, watching other moms roll up together with community snacks and a week’s worth of chatter to catch up on is just so sad. This was my life with my first, and there was no way I was flying solo this time around.
Thank God I managed to make a new mom friend who was not only pregnant, but carrying twins, thus making her even more desperate than I was for daytime companionship. I might not have seen her ‘til she resurrected her mental/physical fortitude six months after birth, but after that, I finally had someone to call during that eternal 9-5 window-“I HAVE to get out of this house…park in 20 minutes??!” and someone who understood the level of crazy I called home.
I’ve found the key to a good mom friend is finding one who cares just as little for domestic perfection as you do, is spontaneous enough to socialize on a moment’s notice for an emergency therapy sess-I mean, playdates, and believes the entire purpose of getting together has nothing to do with the children.
I tell you, there are few things so valuable in this world as a mom friend who doesn’t judge, or insert her parenting style on friends, and perhaps most importantly remains unphased when entering your house in the most debased state of filth on a spur of the moment playdate. You feel a tinge of shame the first few times she catches you in your “real” state of living, until you realize she’s not only un-moved by the wreckage, but lives in a similar state of survival. Indeed. You’ve found yourself a friend for life. Your excuses go from “Yeah come over but it’s really disgusting right now, ” to “Yes! Come over, we’re reached an all-time low over here-are you passing Dunkin’ on the way?”
Those without kids might see this dire and endless quest for mom friends as a sign of weakness, dissatisfaction with life, or that we have a complaining spirit. But anyone with just a single kid knows that if we don’t have some form of outlet or kindred spirit to vent to, we’ll start locking ourselves in the bathroom again to Pilates breathe. “Mommy will be right out!” Exhaaaaale.
The problem is if and when you attempt garnering empathy from childless friends, you’re never met with the right amount of reciprocity. Describing parental woes to childless girlfriends, is what I imagine it’d be like describing snow to Africans. They just cannot grasp the magnitude of the situation, so their responses and levels of compassion simply don’t cut it. This can be evidenced by such actual text exchanges:
Me: “Eli won’t go back to sleep if we wakes up past 3. I make the Walking Dead look rested.”
Childless friend: “Ugh, I KNOW, I’ve been going to bed so late I can barely wake up lately too. Can’t you just put him back in the crib and turn the monitor off???”
Me: “I’m sorry I can’t make it tonight, the kids are so crabby and I just know it’ll be a disaster if I come.”
Childless friend: “What?! No you have to come, they’ll be fine. Just put Netflix on for them in my room!”
You don’t know what makes you want to harm her more. The fact that she’s guilting you into coming to her umpteenth Stella & Dot party this year, or the level of carefree ignorance leading her to believe your lunatic toddlers would stay put on a bed for two hours of purse party goodness. There’d literally be a better chance of the Earth standing still.
But why would our friend know this? She still functions in the land of the living, enjoying hot food and Saturday morning yoga. We wish they knew how easy they have it, but refrain from giving the full picture, for fear we’ll permanently frighten them out of motherhood.
We’re not jealous (that much) but the fact is, it can be a bit difficult remaining as close to your bestie when there’s such a big part of your life she can’t relate to. And visa versa. I’m sure my level of interest listening to her endless Match date fails is continually disappointing, as is my level of empathy when she complains about not having enough time for the gym. You don’t want to become one of those moms, de-valuing others’ experiences because they haven’t climbed the Everest of life’s achievements and birthed a child, and you want to be there for them, even when you’ve literally had 5 hours of sleep…in two days.
Childless BFF: “Hey that movie’s playing at 10 tonight, wanna go?”
Me: “Are you insane? I’ve been up since five.”
Childless BFF: “Oh. Right.”
And while your friendships with long times besties change after having kids, others will form with others you never thought possible, simply through the bond of motherhood. Once, a co-worker and I mutually discovered we each had boys. We hadn’t spoken a word to each other for two years, but from the moment she overheard me talking about my run-in with an psychotic pediatric nurse, and now we get lunch daily.
Connecting with other moms with littles like how I imagine veterans feel discovering each fought in the same war or region. You’ve both seen things no one else has, committed unthinkable lows, and somehow survived pregnancy, birth and the toddler years. You might as well take a blood oath.
Indeed, we need each other. And to help those still in search of a kindred, non-anal mom friend, here are some tips I’ve developed on my way out of lonely-ville:
1. Church is the best place to start. The obvious start would be to join your church’s MOPS group, but since mine seemed a bit intense (they actually wore MOPS t–shirts) I took the less intrusive route and stalked normal looking moms in the café after service, even Facebooking stalking before I made an introduction, to make sure they had a 50\50 personal posts to child photo ratio, not just uploading their children’s quotable moments.
2. Join a mid-day life group, where moms will most likely attend. If your church doesn’t have them, start your own at home or at the church, making it a kid-friendly moms’ Bible study. “Children welcome” is the new “snacks provided,” when it comes to social recruitment.
3. The park or library: It’s tempting not to throw a baseball hat on and be anti when you’re makeup-less and sleep-deprived, but similar to dating, you’ll never meet a mom friend if you don’t try. You unfortunately might have to appear friendly, smile, make eye contact and strike up convos when/if you ever spot a kindred soul. Like the old days trying to meet a good dude at church. Unfortunately, this might take some extra work for the introvert mama, but it must be done.
4. Say yes to the blind dates, and ask for the digits. So many of my working friends would tell me about their “nice friends with kids the same age,” who would be a great mom friend, but we’d never meet. They were like an urban legend, like the couple that met comparing bananas in the produce aisle. Finally, I asked my friends to arrange a mommy date, as awkward as that sounded. But times get desperate when you’re only daytime companion is your cousin-turned mom friend by default. And if you hit it off with a new friend at the park or wherever, absolutely get her social handles or give her your digits. There are four parks in my town, and very few moms who agree crocs are the devil’s footwear. We really can’t take chances.”
5. And of course, like anything, pray. Isn’t it funny how many things we complain and stress about, that we don’t even bother praying about? Like losing weight, or sleeping better, or being lonely We just assume God knows our struggles and hope for the best. But we know he wants to partner with us in our trials, and we’ll only hear his voice if we’re still and listenting. If you’ve been in a consistently lonely season while home with the kids, ask God to bring friends into your life, or even open your eyes to potential friends you’ve been overlooking or not noticing.
For more on the gift of friendship, check out my post “Friends. The Treasure of Life.”