I walk in, late, of course. My hair isn’t curled or even washed for that matter. Maybe I’m wearing makeup — probably not. In general, I prioritize sleep over cuteness. I see another mom standing in the coffee line. I recognize her from her profile on Facebook, the organizer of the play date. She’s tall, gorgeous, and dressed in whatever Stitch Fix invariably delivered to her front door. Her child is wearing something fancy, an outfit mine would destroy before we even got in the car.
I take a deep breath and say hello. This is a meet-up, after all, and I need some mom friends. She’s polite, but absent any warmth. I change course and say I just wanted to introduce myself, apologetic I have to run. She shows no sign of disappointment.
“The others will be here in a moment,” she says looking over my shoulder, as though I wasn’t technically invited in the first place. As I exit, her clones enter, perfect smiles on their faces, their children dressed like some catalogue I don’t get delivered. Obviously it’s not the right fit for me, but I’m still jealous of their little club.
I miss my friends from my twenties. The friends I had when life was about me. It’s funny how after all these years, those are the friends who still get me. Like the ones I can call and talk to and just be myself, no matter what. Too bad we’re all spread out now, in different places in our lives, and don’t get to connect often.
Making friends as a mom isn’t as easy. It’s not just about me anymore. There are too many variables, perhaps. Will our kids get along? Will we offend each other somehow with our contrasting parenting philosophies? Can we connect across whatever social status we infer in one another?
I’ve tried it all. I’ve attended and organized online groups with meet-ups, I’ve signed my daughter up for parent-participation classes, I’ve had playdates galore. And, to be fair, I’ve met plenty of moms with bestie potential, but there’s always something in the way. Distance, jobs, nap schedules, family obligations… me.
I like to think I’m down to earth and easy to get along with, but maybe I’m wrong. Some playdates have ended horribly off-kilter and left me wondering if maybe it’s something I’ve said or done. I can’t automatically assume it’s the other mom, even if I want to. Chemistry is more complicated than just one person.
And, that’s exactly what it is. Chemistry. Finding mom friends is like dating after you’ve already been in love. You know how your college friends made you feel and you’re looking for the same thing again, but instead of all night “study” sessions where you feel like you have all the time in the world to share your innermost secrets, you have kids demanding your constant attention. You’re lucky to finish a single thought without someone interrupting, again and again. Forget telling a whole story.
To make things more complicated, we tend to repeat the toxic friendship patterns from our childhood. You know, chasing after the “cool” girls who just don’t seem to treat us exactly right? I don’t know what it is about these kinds of relationships that keep us coming back for more. Why would we possibly gravitate towards friendships where on some level we feel judged?
I’m reminded of being ten years old and wanting to play with the popular girls at recess. I approach them by the monkey bars and the leader asks me what kind of shampoo I use, as if it’s the secret password to join their club. Quickly I respond with the only brand I can think of, Pantene Pro-V. I’m certain it has to be the right answer. The advertisements include images of gorgeous, sophisticated women.
“We use that on my dog,” the leader says and they all laugh.
I leave and eat lunch with girls who are actually nice, even though I’ll undoubtedly put myself back into the ring of fire the next day. Why I can’t just be friends with the nice girls is life’s paradox.
I know they’re out there. The “nice girl” moms who magically have similar interests AND schedules as mine. But finding them is the trick. I feel like I find them again and again in my teacher friends but August comes and they all go back to work and I have to start over. There’s a definite chasm between working and non-working moms even if we like to pretend it doesn’t exist. Maybe being a part-time work-from-home mom makes me even more of the odd woman out.
So, when conversation turns to the village, as it seems to all the time in social media, I’m left scratching my head. How do I find a village when I have a hard enough time finding a few close friends to connect with on a regular basis? I have plenty of outer-orbit friends who I love to see when I can, but I’m talking weekly playdates, let’s watch each other’s kids, and have wine nights kinds of friends, (you know, if I could actually bring myself to leave my house in the evenings). I’d settle for a few of those over a village.
Then again, I’ve really only been a mom for three years, some of which I’ve spent working, and I did just hide under a rock with a second baby for a few months, so perhaps these things just take time. You can’t force dating, and you can’t force friendship. In the meantime, I’m going to seek out my village in my extended family and trust I'll find true friend love again one day.