A fewarticles have been floating around the last
couple of weeks about how difficult it is to make new friends if you’re a mom.
I read these with benign curiosity until I saw one linked by the STFU Parents
Facebook page, and read a few comments from readers that basically said, “This
is why I don’t have kids. Even moms admit that being a mother is the worst.”
All right, first of all, everything is the worst if you think
hard enough about it. Driving is the worst. Owning a house is the worst.
Getting in shape is the worst. Working is the worst. Not working is the worst. Whatever we write about, commiserating
over the hard part is more entertaining and honest than rejoicing over how
great everything is. Motherhood is neither the best or the worst. It’s a huge
spicy meatball and those of us who write about it are just using words to try
to sort it all out.
I’ve had a lot of issues to wrap my brain around when it came
to accepting my new role as mom but I’m very happy to say that friendship, by
and large, has not been one of them. I haven’t had to make new friends
post-baby because my mom friends are actually just friends who happened to have had babies
around the same time I did.
The shorthand that Meaghan O’Connell mentions in her New York magazine piece between new moms
is invaluable. I remember not long after my son was born, my friend Erin took
me out for pedicures and drinks and dinner and a lot of the conversation was me
going, “It’s so hard,” and her saying, “Totally,” and that was exactly what I
needed. Or friends whose houses I could basically invite myself over to, to
plop the newborn down and sit on the floor in sweatpants and drink white wine
at 1 p.m. and just be comfortable with that type of reality.
But when you’re with the ones with whom you feel comfortable and real, you can stop trying so hard to prove how you’re the same and just acknowledge what is different and hard.
Once, a (childfree) friend asked me if I looked at other new
moms pushing their strollers around and smiled at them knowingly, since we were
in the same tribe and all. I was horrified by that proposition. For me, if
anything, whenever I saw women like that I tried to convince myself that I was
somehow different. I was just a
normal person pretending to be a mom. I know how the world sees parents. We’re
all the same, with our strollers and diaper bags and lost identities. But when
you’re with the ones with whom you feel comfortable and real, you can stop
trying so hard to prove how you’re the same and just acknowledge what is
different and hard.
What I really cherish
with my friends-who-happen-to-be-moms is that our friendships are not based
solely on motherhood. We talk about husbands, too! Just kidding. Yeah, OK, we
do talk about husbands, but we also talk about writing and money and travel and
our own parents and pop culture. They’re cool women, and were before they had
kids and were after they had kids too, and I don’t have to dig deep to find the
coolness, because I know it’s already there.
My experience is not prescriptive. I was just lucky. If I had
just moved to a new city, or were the first of my friends to have a baby, I
maybe would feel more like Meaghan O'Connell or the women in Rachel Levin’s
piece. And as my kid gets older I know I will need to become children-based
friends, or at least acquaintances, with more parents, when he goes to school
or joins Boy Scouts or does sports or whatever where you’re obligated to
communicate with other parents based on your children’s shared interests or
activities. I’ll hope for the best and try to prepare for the worst.
I think the one thing you can do is to be kind to other new moms, especially when you’re out of the
weeds. It truly astounded me how generous other mothers were to me after my son was born. It was the food and the “I think
your kid would like this because my kid did” gifts but also just the looks,
those expressions that said “I know what it’s like. How are you doing? OK?
No? If not, that’s normal.” It at first shamed me that I wasn’t that helpful to
my friends who had kids before I had my own, but you don’t know what you don’t
know. So I try to do that now, both with women I know and women I don’t know,
to check in and smile and try to let them know they’re doing a good job and
it’s going to get better. One way we are
all the same is that we need all the help we can get.