There’s Nothing Like Being A Kid Again With Your Mom Friends

Or, why you should really consider that mud run, or axe-throwing, or camping trip.

Written by Laura Onstot
A female athlete is hugging her teammate at the end of their mud run competition. She is happy and s...
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My brain screamed, “abort, abort!” as I stood in front of a bathtub-sized mud puddle full of algae, cow poop, and quite possibly an alligator. (This is Florida, after all.) But my car was a mile away, and I did actually pay money for this dubious opportunity, so I lowered myself into the murky water, tossed my head back, stuck my belly up, and floated on my back under a fence obstacle. Neon green bits of algae embedded themselves in all of my crevices and orifices. With my ears submerged, I couldn’t hear what my tutu-clad friends were saying, but their faces said it all: This was, indeed, a really bad idea.

Yes, my mom friends and I had signed up for a mud run. And despite the sore muscles, the mud, and the fact that algae bits sprinkled off my body like confetti for the week following the race, it was totally worth it.

My group of mom friends is unlike any other I have. It’s not like my group from high school, cross-country-runner nerds who lived in sweatpants. My college friends and old coworkers, meanwhile, all speak the language of medicine and know if I text just “hgb 3,” a person is actively dying.

You have a little less agency over your mom friends. The thing we have in common is that our kids are all around the same age and go to the same school. We see each other most days at pickup and cluster around a picnic table while our kids get their after-school wiggles out. Our conversations are mostly about stuff like dinner plans, the latest illness circulating the school, and the recent minor crimes of our husbands. Our personalities are as diverse as our parenting styles.

Kara knows everything and everyone, in the best way possible; she actually reads the school emails and she’s a member of the PTO. Megan is the one who got us into this whole mud-run mess; she goes by “Sporty Spice,” exercises regularly and drinks probiotic soda as a treat. Jessica is the rare kind of person who looks adorable in overalls and bakes a mean sourdough; Carolina picks up all our kids on her golf cart and ferries them to the nearby picnic tables in a glamorous wide-brimmed hat; and Jessie is the one I call when I can’t bring myself to shovel up the dead, fly-covered possum behind our AC unit. She shows up in a mini skirt, removes it without flinching, then pulls her Goodr sunglasses back down.

But while I know these women well, I know them first and foremost as moms. And I got a whole different perspective on them when Megan suggested we all do a mud run together.

I’ll be honest: I thought it was a bad idea. It involved exercise, and it was on the weekend. Also, we live in Florida, and it was hot AF. But I like mud. And as a former cross-country runner, I know that in its brutality, running has a weird way of bonding people together.

I agreed to participate and was added to a text thread where, for two months, the team name was debated, and then for the following three months, the group shirt design was planned. I realized if I never replied to any of the texts, they’d forget I was there, and do all the work without me. They pounded out all the details: how we’d get there, what we should wear, and what we should pack, as I lurked. An unexpected benefit of doing something with a group of moms is that I was able to do nothing and take advantage of their momming.

All I had to do was give Jess money for a tutu and plop my butt in Kara’s minivan early one morning. We made it to the start line with enough time for group photos and a port-a-potty pit stop, before making our way to the start line, which was full of mosquitoes and mud.

What happened next was magical.

The race was so far from our usual routine, so far from any reality we’d ever experienced together, that we forgot about our go-to personas. I learned a lot about these women, and I bet they learned a lot about me, too. It was a form of play – something we encourage in our kids, but forgot about for ourselves. Jessie fearlessly led the group through a muddy field full of cow poop and probably snakes. Kara was more ballsy than I anticipated, taking on obstacles I bypassed for fear of crotch injuries and death.

After crossing the finish line, my heart felt full. Was it the endorphins? Was I less antisocial than I thought? Was it the freedom of doing something without my kids in tow? Or was it perhaps, the realization that I could still laugh until I was almost peeing my pants?

I think it was probably a combo of all these things. But what really stood out to me was this: Before kids, my friendships were built on doing things that had an element of adventure, and gave me a chance to show my true, quirky, self. After having kids, I became a little more concerned about safety — physically, yes, but also, safety within social groups.

I forgot that to deepen relationships, sometimes you have to show a more vulnerable side of yourself. The side that’s a risk: like when I yelled “LOG ROLL,” clapped my hands over my head, and rolled through a pit of mud under low-hanging caution tape. Mosquitoes rose from the ground and the voice in my head said, “but your white shirt!” In that moment, my friends caught a glimpse of my true self – the goofy side of me who doesn’t show herself as much as she used to. And I caught a glimpse too.

Look, I’m not actually saying you and your mom friends should go do a mud run. I don’t know you like that. You especially shouldn’t do one if you live in Florida (like us), where the mud field can be full of snakes, alligators, and cow dung. What I am saying is that your group of mom friends is special because it’s full of people you wouldn’t necessarily have chosen. They’ll expose you to different parenting styles, new recipes, hilarious mom-fail stories, different religions, family structures, and beliefs. They’re the group that’ll teach you there isn’t just one right way to parent, or live. They’ll be the people who can make you laugh about the latest illness that took down your entire family, and who will understand, deeply, what it means to be a parent in this day and age.

And if you want to elevate your relationship with this group of phenomenal people (who sometimes drive you up a wall), do something crazy together. Go camping, axe throwing, mud-running, mountain climbing — anything that takes you outside of your comfort zone. The pee-in-your-pants moments of laughter don’t occur when you present just part of yourself. They occur when you take risks, when you try something new, when you aren’t guarded. These are your people, and they deserve to see you as your full self — not just your mom self. And so do you.

Laura Onstot writes to maintain her sanity after transitioning from a career as a research nurse to stay-at-home motherhood. In her spare time, she can be found sleeping on the couch while she lets her kids binge-watch TV. She blogs at Nomad’s Land, or you can follow her on Twitter @LauraOnstot.