To tweak a famous quote, no mom is an island. As moms, we get so caught up in our daily lives and obligations that cultivating friendships can often fall to the very bottom of the “to do” list. But as I was reminded the other evening, female friends are essential for reassuring yourself that you are not alone on this sometime crazy journey called motherhood.
When I had my first child, I was a full-time professional and single mom. I did not have “mom friends.” My girlfriends and work friends were in their 30s, like me, but I was among the first to have a child. Someone offered that a hairstylist she knew was a single mom with a child; perhaps we could be friends? I dismissed the idea and continued socializing with my work and college friends. Upon the suggestion of another new mom and work colleague, I began taking my daughter to a children’s music class on Saturdays. Although I didn’t really socialize with any of these parents outside of the classroom, the time spent singing and banging on instruments was a window into the social world of other parents of small children.
After my daughter turned one, I married a wonderful man, and a year and half later, we moved to a new city, along with our newborn son. I had stopped working at my law firm around the time of my daughter’s second birthday, and I was excited about the prospect of being a full-time mother, able to enjoy my children throughout all hours of the day, and truly experience all facets of motherhood.
My experience in our new city of Houston was vastly different than my mommy experience in my hometown. I didn’t have the security blanket of my parents, school friends or work colleagues to rely on; instead I dove in head first to the task of meeting other mom friends. It wasn’t really so hard – I joined the local MOMS Club, and I discovered that just showing up to a playdate or planned outing was the biggest hurdle. The moms were friendly, and it was a diverse group, ranging from moms with master’s degrees to engineers to the more rare Martha Stewart types. Overall I found most of them to be highly educated and professional women who had chosen to stay home in order to spend quality time with their children and not miss out on those early years.
Six months into my time in the club, I found myself as the prospective president of our chapter. I somewhat kicked myself, as the position took up a lot of time and planning, and other aspirations, like writing, took a backburner to planning social events, handling email correspondence and attending meetings. I didn’t realize the value at the time of these interactions and friendships that I was forging. When I had my third child, and other moms brought meals to us for four weeks straight, I was overwhelmed by their generosity and the power of moms. I finally understood that a group of moms is a powerful thing that could support each other in times of need. We eventually moved, and a few years later I still think fondly of the different ladies with whom I had the privilege of sharing parts of our lives.
After spending two years in Houston, we moved up to Connecticut for a short six-month stint for my husband’s job. I considered joining the nearby MOMS Club, but unlike my previous chapter, this one required a much longer drive to attend functions. With the winter weather and occasional snow, I tended to stay in my bubble and venture out primarily to the YMCA. I met some great moms at my daughter’s preschool, which is another promising venue to meet potential friends, as well as a like-minded young mom in our neighborhood of mostly retirees. After only six months, I was sad to say goodbye to the small group of friends I had made. We were now headed down South, where we would settle in and have the opportunity and time to forge deep friendships.
Since moving to Florida, my experience in making mom friends has been different but positive. There are various ways to meet people, and these days I prefer a more organic approach. I have met other moms at the dance studio, the local YMCA or playing at a park. There are some nice moms in our neighborhood, and I have met some friends through a simple introduction by established friends. I saw one mom that looked familiar to me at a popular, kid-friendly restaurant the other week and realized that her son was in my son’s music class. We struck up a conversation before her friend came to join her, who I realized I had met at the local pool the previous summer.
It had been awhile since I had attended anything formal or organized like a girls’ night out, as some friends had recently moved away or given birth. Last week a mom friend of mine through my daughter’s school and dance studio (though I initially met her as my daughter’s Vacation Bible School leader) kindly agreed to watch my daughter while I attended some local writers’ workshops. She asked me if I wanted to perhaps have a glass of wine when I came to pick up my daughter that evening. My Friday evenings are usually spent getting the kids to bed super early and gearing up to watch Dateline with my husband, but I thought a glass of wine sounded nice and didn’t require too much effort.
That evening, I made the drive over to her part of the island and noticed the way the orange tinted sky looked immense from the winding road. Living on an island, people joke about not wanting to go “OTB,” (over the bridge), and I must admit, I don’t go OTB too often, or even venture to the south side of the island. As I pulled up to her home, I admired their vibrant fruit trees, blooming rose bushes and its elegant cottage feel. I entered their inviting home, and the girls were ensconced in a cozy set-up with cheese pizza and a Disney movie. Admiring her distressed white kitchen cabinets, we agreed on a red California blend and settled into her white couch to sip and talk. (After an unfortunate red wine and white couch incident at a close friend’s urban pad years earlier, I hoped that I did not repeat my past gaffe.)
An hour passed by quickly as we chatted about the differences between boys versus girls, our rescue dogs, career aspirations and feeling overscheduled with activities and obligations. I met her daughter’s pet lizard and was impressed that she allowed a pet that required live crickets as its diet. Not every mom would go for that! I thoroughly enjoyed myself and realized out loud that I hadn’t known how much I missed hanging out with another mom until in that moment. The clock struck 8, and not wanting to overstay our welcome or keep my daughter up too late, we headed back to our part of the island.
The next few days following our social visit, I began to have grand plans of double dates with other couples, game nights at our home with a few other parents and making time every few months for a fun moms’ night out. Sometimes as moms our focus is so laser-like on our children and pets (and husband, if he’s lucky) that the thought of nurturing our need for human connection doesn’t register. A simple shared conversation over a glass of wine was the eye-opening realization that cultivating friendships does matter, even to a woman in her 30s. Friends now are probably more important than ever. I’m looking forward to that next glass of wine.