What Matters In a Friendship



I don’t care if your house is a mess. I will move the laundry off the couch, sit down and help you fold it while we laugh about how much we hate putting the clean clothes away. I don’t care about your big, slobbering, rambunctious dog. I will accept his kisses and toss his tennis ball. It’s also fine that you don’t have any food in your fridge since I ate before I came anyway. I like your cheap coffee and your microwave popcorn too.

I don’t care if you go out of the house looking like that or if you bought your purse at Payless or if every single piece of clothing you own came from the Goodwill. Likewise, if you shop exclusively at Neiman Marcus, I can handle that too. We will both survive if your roots are showing, if you have a weird mole, a hideous and regretful tattoo and if you’ve recently gained fifteen pounds and none of it is in your boobs.

I don’t care what you eat or don’t eat or if that is organic or even if it isn’t. I don’t care how you feed your children or if you sleep with them, push them in strollers, let them watch Sponge Bob or if you could only breastfeed for a week. I won’t judge if sometimes you are so tired that you give your children chicken nuggets for dinner, put on a Tinkerbell movie, pray they fall asleep early and make yourself a margarita because you’re so damned tired and over it all. I have been there too and you know what? A few parabens and food dyes once in a while are not the end of the world.

If your child is fussy and throws a royal fit when we are out in public, I don’t care. We all have bad days and of course I will hold your baby while you take the toddler to the bathroom only to find that he has already peed his pants.

I don’t care if you have a dead-end job or if you haven’t yet found your passion. It doesn’t matter to me if you go to yoga twice a day or church once every three or four years and only to make your grandmother happy. I do that too. One day you will finish your novel or start your business and I will be there clapping and grinning and shouting with joy at your success even if we are ninety-seven by the time you get there.

You can cry to me. Tell me about what an ass your spouse has been and how your mother won’t stop tearing into you about each and every little thing and how sometimes you wish you could just get in the car and start driving and leave everyone behind.  For a little while. I have these fantasies too. Mine involve a dark, cold, hotel room where I can sleep and order room service for three days straight while watching every trashy show on TV that I can find.

It’s okay that you can’t cook and that you haven’t thrown me a fancy dinner party with homemade tablescapes that you saw on Pinterest. We can get takeout. There’s this amazing, little, cheap Thai place on the corner. You’ll love it.

I don’t think you’re a loser because you made a stupid mistake and lost your job and now you fry chicken for a living. I’m proud that you went back to school and followed your heart to finally get a degree in what you love instead of what your dad loved. Who cares if you’re thirty-nine when you graduate?

None of these things matter.

If we are friends, this is all I care about:

Are you kind?

I care that you are kind.

Do you mean well even when things don’t always work out? I care about that.

I care that you love, that you are friendly to little kids and servers in restaurants. I need you to be nice to animals, even if they are ugly and whether or not you choose to eat them.

I care that you don’t hurt with your hands or your words. I care that when you mess up, you admit it and that you can apologize sincerely, because of course, everyone makes a poor choice once in a while. We slip sometimes. The ability to recognize our wrongs are learn from them is more important than being perfect.

Your politics don’t matter to me. Your religion is insignificant, but I care that your words and actions aren’t based in hate. I care that you can tolerate people who are different. I care about empathy and compassion.

I care that in the midst of the noise and clutter of our messy lives, that in the tiny moments we find to connect there is meaning, there are smiles even through tears, that we part feeling just a little bit stronger, a little more hopeful.

That we are better off because of our friendship, that we are not alone – nothing else matters.

Related post: 10 Tips on How to be a Good Friend

first published on elephantjournal.com.

The 10 Mom Friends Every Mom Needs

group-of-young-moms Image via Shutterstock

Before you have kids, finding friends is all about you; who you want to hang out with, who you have the most in common with and who you can you can depend on for a good time. Once kids enter the picture, though, friendships take on new meaning. You need friends who understand exactly what you’re going through and won’t be annoyed when it takes six months to get a lunch on the calendar and can’t maintain a phone conversation for more than three minutes. You need moms who just plain get it, and make motherhood easier, not harder, for you.

Do you have the right mix of moms surrounding you? Here are the ten moms every mom needs in her life:

1. The MacGyver Mom. She’s prepared for everything, always. Find yourself at a nasty rest stop with no sink in sight? She’s got the Purell on hand. She carries enough extra snacks for your kids, always has Band-Aids and baby wipes on her and keeps a few extra booster seats in the car for impromptu playdates.

2. The Mom Who Can’t Be Grossed Out. She wasn’t phased when your kid puked in her car, and gets a sick thrill combing other people’s kids hair for lice. She’s the first one you call about that nasty rash… on them, or you.

3. The Mom Who Lives To Cook. This mom gets off on receiving compliments on her cooking, and she’ll go above and beyond to get her fix. She’s always inviting you over for dinner, creating meal wheels for sick friends and bringing homemade goodies to book club. She’s a complete culinary over-achiever, but you don’t mind because, hello — home cooking?!

4. The Crafty DIY Mom Who Knows Every Home Remedy. Whether it’s a cabinet door that won’t stay closed, how to get Vaseline out of your toddler’s hair, or where to find 2000 popsicle sticks at 3AM for a school project due in five hours, she’s your girl. And she already has everything you need, right there in her tidy little craft room.

5. The True Blue Friend. Nothing shocks her, she never judges you and she never, ever makes you feel like a failure of a parent. She may not be your go-to for the best time ever friend (if she is, she’s gold,) but you can count on her for anything, anytime.

6. The Neighborhood Fun House Mom. Her house is like a magnet. She always has snacks, games, kid-friendly new releases, and most of all, never seems to mind entertaining the whole ‘hood. She might be an angel in disguise.

7The Mom Who Likes A Good Glass Of Wine But Hates Drinking Alone. Wine mom never minds if you need to bring along a kid or two to your lunch and won’t give you a hard time for being late. You never feel guilty in her presence and she’s always up for a good time. She’s chill, she’s happy and she’s… wait, is she passed out?

8. The Mom Who You Can Ignore Your Kids With. You adore her, she adores you, and you have kids who play well enough together that you can pretend they aren’t there and catch up. It’s the trifecta of mommy-friendships.

9. The Mom With A Baby. The last thing you want is another baby, HELL NO, but a sweet little baby fix every now and then? Yes, please. Plus, once your kids are no longer the cute ones, it’s nice to be reminded of just how trying those days were… especially when you have a tween or teen slamming the door in your face. (Younger Kid Mom also serves as excellent free birth control.)

10. The Mom With Older Kids. She’s out of the trenches. Her hair is done, her clothes are stylish (and clean), and her kids are reasonably independent and well-behaved. Hanging out with her makes you feel like there might be hope for you yet… Someday. Maybe.

Related post: The Six Mothers Every Mother Hates

Why Losing My Friends Meant Losing Myself

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woman-holding-photo-albumImage via Shutterstock

Like most people, I’ve lost my share of friends. Every move was a source of culling, intentional or not. Each time I changed schools, I left friends behind. I’ve lost friends when we drifted away from each other, when our interests diverged, and after unrecoverable fights.

The ghosts of my friendships past still haunt me to varying degrees. The losses all hurt in some way or another but the most hurtful time I’ve lost friends was after I became a mother. Losing them was painful. Depressing. Gut-wrenching. Four years later, I’m still mourning the loss of not just my friends, but what those friendships represented.

When we’re young, many of our friends are chosen for us. Whether by school assignments, activities, or play-dates, forces beyond our control dictate who we are surrounded by. But, as we age, we begin learn that friends are more than just people we’re obligated to be around. By the time we’re adults we’re able to choose our friends for the most part. They’re people who often share our beliefs and interests. Who make us laugh. Who care for us, have fun with us and make us better people.

And, most tellingly, our friends reflect where we are in life. When I went to art school, I made friends with creative, uninhibited artists. In my early, carefree 20s, my friends were partiers – we hit up bars and clubs at night; brunch was never before noon. A few years later though, I was looking for something more substantial. I wanted to have more meaningful friendships with people I could confide in rather than just yelling in their ear at 2 am, straining to be heard over the music.

I began to value and cultivate friendships with women who were just as much fun on the dance floor as they were chatting over cupcakes or flea market shopping. And I was pleased when we formed a group of all-around, all-day friends. Real friends.

Leaving my partying and single life behind, I got married and pregnant soon after. Everyone was happy for me and we, of course, intended to stay friends after my son’s birth. I wasn’t sure what motherhood would bring, but I knew what kind of mother I didn’t want to be. I didn’t want to lose myself to motherhood. I didn’t want my son to consume both my life and my identity. After all, I was a modern, feminist, independent woman and there was no reason for a baby to change that.

But then I had a baby. A baby who wouldn’t sleep. And as I was swallowed by my deepening depression and an overwhelming anxiety disorder, my former life, complete with friends, ideas and goals slipped away from me.

My depression meant that I wasn’t the best mother I could be. Or the best wife. Or the best friend.

It’s not that I didn’t care about my friends anymore – I absolutely did – I just couldn’t figure out how to fit them into a new life that revolved around nap schedules, feeding schedules, and oh yeah, crying anywhere and everywhere.

Friendships without cultivation wither and die and that’s exactly what mine did. I had less and less in common with friends from my former life. They were in a totally different place in my life than I was. They didn’t understand what it was like to wake up ten times in one night or get up at four every day for a year and a half. My only priorities were about my family: making sure I could function on a day-to-day basis; keeping my son alive; trying my hardest to keep my strained marriage together.

My friends from my pre-baby life didn’t understand why I couldn’t meet them for dinner, drinks or shopping. They didn’t know that being without my son made me feel like I couldn’t breathe, like a physical part of my body was missing and that I was only whole when I was with him. Even though when I was with him, I was sure I was doing everything wrong. I worried about everything and anything and felt like nothing would ever get better, nothing would ever change. He would never sleep and I would never feel like myself again.

Fortunately, I was able to get help. Therapy, anti-depressants, and my son sleeping into the five o’clock hour allowed me to emerge from the deep pit of depression. Also of help? My “mom” friends.

I am supremely, unbelievably, fantastically lucky to have made several wonderful “mom” friends over the past few years. They were able to understand my challenges as a new mom and support me through them. I’m able to be a new Jen, Mom Jen, with them as we share stories about our kids, husbands and lives. But they haven’t replaced my other friends. I still care about them. I still think about them and miss them immensely.

But like I said, it wasn’t just losing their friendship that was devastating to me. It was losing what our friendship represented. I had lost myself. I often don’t feel like Jen, the friend and person anymore. I am Jen, the Mommy. My pre-baby life is gone. Everything about me and my life has been redefined. Wine glasses? Try sippy cups. Going clothing shopping means buying from sales online for my sons. I’m in bed before I used to go out. And any alone, art or writing time is at the end of the day, after the kids are asleep and the chores are done (are the chores ever really done?).

Four and half years after having my first son (and a year after having my second), I’m in a much, much better place. A good place. And even though I’ve embraced motherhood, I still think about the kind of person I used to be. The kind of person who wasn’t concerned with nose or bottom wiping, eating schedules, or missed naps. Who was fun, adventurous and spontaneous. I see glimpses of her every so often, but I know she, like her former friendships, no longer really exists.

Related post: Mommy Friends

This piece was written by Jen Simon as a companion piece to her essay in the anthology, My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends. You can preorder the book here

10 Tips for Making Mom Friends



Seven years ago, I passed a mom a note that said: “Will you be my friend? Circle yes, no, or maybe.” Not really. But my palms were as sweaty as a middle schooler’s passing a note folded with origami perfection to her latest crush. But the stakes were so much higher this time. If she rejected me, she rejected my son–my perfect, new boy. If she said thanks but no thanks, she probably thought I was a bad mother or a needy mother or an (insert adjective here) mother. If she circled maybe, it meant I still had to prove myself to her, and I was just too tired to prove anything. I regretted asking her to be my friend the second the stupid words tumbled out of my mouth. But then she said, “yes.” YES!

We had our first lunch date with our little ones in tow. They were tiny and sleepy in their carriers. We all hit it off.

I had a person. A like-minded comrade. Chemistry.

When lunch ended, we went our separate ways.

What next? What were the rules of this game? Would she call? Should I? Was this exclusive?

There aren’t any guidebooks for making mom-friends, but thankfully we figured it out. In case you haven’t, here are some tips for making mom friends..

1. Use the Children. You spotted her at the playground, and you can’t stop thinking about about the way she handled her toddler’s tantrum. You’re swooning over her packed lunch in non-BPA nesting bowls. Her baby wrap was flawlessly tied. Does she feel the same way about you? Throw your child into the sandbox with her little one to find out. Now causally make mom talk. “Isn’t she adorable?” Before your love interest leaves, tell her how much your little one adores her cherub. Reel her in. And boom. It begins.

2. Practice Momogamy (at first). There is nothing more awkward than being the third wheel at a party of inside jokes. Try one-on-one play-dates until the two of you are comfortable adding another and another and another. Before you know it, you’ll be calling yourselves a book club and serving wine.

3. Be Exhibitionists. Play in public. For conversation starters there will be plenty of other moms and their children to mock. No. Do not do that. If that sounded like a good idea, this isn’t going to work. Find a public place on neutral territory. The last thing you want is to hit it off with your mom crush only to have the kids marking their territory (with urine or saliva) and asserting ownership “That’s mine!” “No! Mine!” on every surface including each other.

4. Don’t ask her about that stain. By stain I mean any stain on her person or in her home (if you made it that far). No good will come of calling attention to the baby mucus on her pocket. And if the stain is in her home, you may as well call her an unfit mother and slam the door on your way out. Don’t do it if you want another date, and you do. You want another date. These dates preserve your sanity!

5. Don’t hit her up to babysit. You’re not in the market for a caretaker here, you’re looking for a friend. A surefire way to sink this ship is to ask this mother to take care of your children. She’s got enough going on with her own. Did you notice those stains?!

6. Split before dinner. If dinnertime at your house always runs smoothly, please don’t tell me or anyone else. Your potential mom friend may not be so lucky. Scratch that, if she lives in the world of toddlers, she’s not. It’s nothing short of herding feral cats when the dinner plates touch the table. Get out before she has to explain herself.

7. Make a move. Call! You’re knee deep in laundry. The kids have been crying all day. You’ve got a mortgage payment of late fees for the library. You’re hungry. Your son scored a touchdown. Your daughter is forward-facing now. Call. A person who relates to this, all of this, is what you’re looking for. Call.

8. Use your words. Big into attachment parenting? Trying the Cry it Out Method? Vegetarian? Avoid citing the latest research or any research, really. It’s not a job interview. And while we all understand there’s an impulse to show you still have at least two functioning brain cells, save the MLA citations for another time. Use your own words.

9. Leave the Exes at the door. It’s probably not the time to hate on your previous mom fails. Unload on the hubs until this friendship takes root.

10. Know when to cut and run. Ladies, not every relationship is meant to be. The beauty of having children is that you have a built-in excuse. It’s always nap time somewhere. Is that a hive on your child’s cheek? Did you forget her favorite snack? Did you see your son’s nose run? There’s no shame in it.

Of course, when you know it’s meant to be, it is. When you enter the friend zone, and you’ve had a candlelit dinner for two or a couples massage, by all means forget the rules. Congratulations. It’s true love!

Related post: The Rules for Visiting a New Mom