Today at the pool I asked a nice blond woman for her phone number. Wait, that sounds weird. Let me start again with some context. Today, while hanging out with my two year old son at the pool, I noticed that the woman sitting next to me also had what looked like a two year old son. Never one to miss an opportunity to make new mom friends, I started a conversation with her, which ended with us exchanging numbers for a possible future playdate.
Trying to make friends as a mom feels a lot like dating, especially in the years before your kids are old enough to self-select their friends. Despite being friendly, smart, interesting and having a job in a similar field to me, she’s not my perfect match because she’s pregnant. Her two year old is her oldest child, whereas Luca is my younger. I’m not saying we can’t strike up a successful friendship and set our kids up to be friends, but as any mom of two can tell you, the ultimate ultimate is when both kids line up relatively close in age.
That’s not to say that some of my best mom friends have the right line up either. Because you can’t always choose who you love, and if at least one kid matches and the moms make a love connection, then you make it work. Two of my favorite mom friends (and two of my newest) are relatively bad match in the kid line up department. First is a woman who has two boys, and at five, while Julia is still willing to play with boys, she definitely prefers girls. Her other son is older, so no match for Luca. And her husband, while being probably one of the coolest guys in the suburbs (a jewelry designer with long hair and hip clothes) works every weekend, so making a love connection between the husbands seems unlikely due to limited opportunities for them to hang out. But she’s worth it; a woman that I would have been friends if we met before we had kids. She gets my sense of humor, she has great style, she doesn’t shy away from my oversharing and she’s a really interesting person. We ride the train together home from work whenever our schedules line up, so more of our mom friendship is actually separate from our kids, even though we talk about them a lot.
My other new friend has a son more than nine months younger than Luca and that’s her only child, so no match for Julia. We knew each other before we had kids on a casual basis at an old job, but I ran into her when she was pregnant and become one of the mom gurus who ushered her into motherhood. Literally hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of the kids’ old stuff went to her, along with advice on everything from finding affordable childcare to sleep training. Again, she’s the kind of person I would be friends with even if we didn’t have kids, and even better, our husbands love each other and have shared interests.
I tend to make friends easily because I am extremely outgoing (reader, I doubt you are shocked by this based on my previous blogs). But even I had a lot of trouble making mom friends when Julia was little. This is largely based on being a working mom, because I couldn’t go to all those activities you might use for “networking”. I did try a mommy & me class on the Fridays I worked from home and asked some of the women out on “dates” , but there was no real chemistry. Weekends weren’t much better, because Julia was born at the end of fall and going to parks, playgrounds and the pool aren’t things you do in the winter. I did have a few early successes. The babysitter I hired when Julia was six months old had a daughter three months younger, and we ended up becoming friends. She pulled me through some tough times those early days with my postpartum depression. But only six months after we met, she and her family moved upstate. We’re still in touch on Facebook, but it’s not the same as when she lived here and we’d go to yard sales together, put the girls in the same shopping cart at stores, etc.
My most successful and longest running mom friendship to date can be attributed to my bull in a china shop approach to making new friends. The aforementioned babysitter/friend and I were pushing our strollers over to mommy & me class when we saw a woman down the block from the play place taking a similarly aged girl out of her car. I went right up and asked if she was on her way to class. It turns out she actually lived on the block (still does) and I got her number and met her the next week at that mommy & me class. We’re still friends today more than five years later, and she has a daughter who is just a few months younger than Luca (but she did sandwich one in between, who just turned four). We’re zoned for the same school district and out of six kindergarten classes, our daughters ended up in the same class. This summer, I convinced her to enroll her in the same camp as Julia and they are in the same group. Our friendship is not without bumps – I went through a very unreliable period where I’d screw up plans with her a lot. I’ve peppered her with hundreds of anxious mom questions and cried in front of her more than once, all of which she handles with her calm, non-judgmental tone. She is a keeper, but we still need to work on getting our husbands to spend more time together.
Long parenting friendships like the one mentioned above are in many ways aided by circumstances. I find as a parent that keeping up with friendships is more difficult than when you are young and free, although there is considerably less drama within the relationships themselves. I have a friend group made up of the moms of girls from Julia’s old nursery school and for the last two years the girls have also taken dance classes together. Our group, plus a few other moms, mostly others from that nursery school class have “moms out” nights every month or two at local restaurants.
I love these women, some of whom I consider my closest friends. But our kids all go to different elementary schools now. Most of the moms used to belong to the pool but this year many of them skipped it. A bunch of them belong to the beach but Brian and I can’t join because our zip code isn’t zoned for permits for that beach. Will our friendships survive our busy lives?
In my teens I had a few friend groups that soured because of jealousy, infighting and back-stabbing. As an adult, I generally prefer to make individual relationships rather than groups, even though I realize adult women aren’t (most of the time) as catty as your average teenage girl. This group seems relatively drama free but I am still prone to those old insecurities. Are they hanging out with me? Yes, probably, as three of them have three year olds that all go to the same pre-school and several of them belong to that beach that we can’t join. But that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me (although there could be…).
What I dream of, what I hope for are the parent friends for life that my parents have. They somehow managed to find multiple couples they liked who had kids in very close age ranges to us that we liked. They had friends we went on vacations with, others that came to family holidays. Most are still close to my parents to this day. I want that for our kids, and for us too. The parent friends I’ve made to date have made me a better mom and a happier person, and I hope I’ll be the kind of friend for them that they want to keep for life. In the meantime, I’ll continue to hit on the women I meet that might make a good match. That’s the main difference between dating moms and dating for a husband – you don’t have to commit to just one.