Face it: it’s hard being a mom without mom friends. Without friends, you’re alone, you’re adrift, you’re that sad town with population: one. We didn’t evolve to parent in a vacuum, and the psychological toll it takes can be brutal.
We need friends to get us through it, someone to bring us soup when we’re sick. Someone to give us a date night. Someone, at the bare root of it, to tell us we’re okay, we’re doing a good job, we’re not messing up these munchkins God or the universe or the great cosmic something entrusted us with. We’re people who need people.
Yet we all know it’s hard to make and keep friends in adulthood, especially once we’re past the wide-eyed, deep-deprived baby years. I know it as well as anyone. But there’s a few tricks to it, and I’m guilty of screwing them up. You’re guilty of screwing them up. We’re all guilty of screwing them up, mostly because we live in this big busy world that tells us we have to be constantly doing shit with and for our kids, and if we’re not, we’re terrible fucking mothers.
Lay that aside, mama. Here’s how to find and keep friends:
1. You have to leave the house and find real people.
No, your internet friends do not count unless they can possibly watch your kids in the real world. Your birth club might be nice, might offer great support and be a wonderful virtual village, but you need the kind of face time that doesn’t involve an interface designed by Steve Jobs. Unless you live in the middle of nowhere, there should be a lot of possibilities: the local library, school drop-offs and pick-ups, social clubs. Don’t discount people older or younger; shared interests are more important than age. Join a knitting circle or a crocheting club. Take an art class. Do something that isn’t sitting at home with your kids. Make time for yourself to meet people, with or without kids in tow.
2. Friendship means making time.
It means going up to a mom or other person that you like, a mom you see at drop-off or playdates or the library or whatever, and say to her, “Hey. Want to get coffee/come over/get lunch while our kids alternately drool on things and shriek?” Go for a hike if you’re scared your house is messy. Meet at a park if your kids are boisterous. If she says something like, “Yeah, we should do that,” pin her ass down. Make a date. Make a time. Whip out that planner and say, “I’m free on Tuesday. How about you?”
3. Then don’t fucking flake.
How many times do you make plans with someone and then find yourself flaking out at the last minute? A kid pukes in the morning, and yes, it’s because you know he ate half a pound of licorice but better safe than sorry, right? Or her kid has a sniffle. Or no one can find their shoes. Or it’s just easier to bail than it is to get up, get dressed, and get your ass out the door. We get it. It’s hard to get you and your kids ready, much less presentable.
But good friendships, old friendships, whither and die because of flaking. Because we always think, Well, I can see her next week. And then we don’t, because we flake out again. Don’t flake. Be the girl who shows up for her friends. If you have to, make a standing once-a-week date. Then keep it.
4. Being a friend means doing shit.
It means making space in your life for another person. And that’s a bigger proposition than it sounds. We all bitch about how we don’t have enough friends. But when it gets down to brass tacks, how many of us really want more friends? Having a good friend means picking up the phone when they call. It means checking up on them when they haven’t called in a few days. It means that when your friend is sick, you don’t make your kids take Purell showers, you take an afternoon to make her a casserole or two. It means that when you see she’s at the end of her rope, you offer to give her a date night, even when you’d rather have one yourself. It’s a lot like having family in that way: friends mean obligations. Obligations can get messy. They’re worth it, but they’re messy. And you’ve got to make room for them.
5. Being a friend means opening up to each other.
It means seeing each other’s houses in both cleanliness and mess. It means helping each other in sickness and in health. It means telling her about your weird relationship with your mom and listening to hers. It also means listening without thinking about what you’re going to say next, then remembering what she said at a later date. Like, remembering the name of her ex-boyfriend with the biker tattoos, or how she moved from Alabama, not Arkansas, when she was 10 years old.
6. Being a friend means doing random nice shit, even if you’re not that type of person.
It means shouting down objections and cleaning someone’s bathroom when they’re laid up postpartum. It means calling her on the way over to her house and asking if she wants anything at Starbucks. When you stand up to get more coffee, ask if she wants some, too. Small, random gifts — mugs, dumb cards, just because gifts — really make people feel special. Be that person who thinks of someone else.
7. But the scariest part: being a friend means putting yourself out there to get burned.
Yeah, it’s frightening as hell. You risk trying and finding out the other person isn’t someone you’d like to be friends with at all. You risk, worst of all, getting rejected. It can feel like middle-school dating: Do you like me? Check yes or no. But as long as you try to be genuinely kind, you apologize for egregious social lapses, and you’re not afraid to be who you really are, people are mostly accepting. Mostly. You might want to be self-deprecating about your cookie jar collection, or save that creepy room full of antique dolls for the third playdate or so. But seriously, as long as you aren’t ashamed of who you are, other people won’t be either. And if they are, fuck ‘em.
8. Being a friend means trying.
Look: you’ll always be that mom without a village unless you put yourself out there. It’s hard work. It’s scary work. And it’s no fun when this mom doesn’t have time to get together, and that friend works too much to see you regularly. And that person turned out to be super gossipy, and that person super-selfish. But honestly, you don’t know if someone is a potential friend unless you take the time to get to know them.
You can do this.
You have to believe in yourself. You have to believe that you’re worthy of friendship, that your friends are out there. You might find them in places you wouldn’t think to look. You might have to open your field to include people you wouldn’t necessarily think of. But those people are there. In a world full of loneliness, most of us yearn for real connection with each other. Look for that loneliness you feel reflected in other people’s eyes. It’s there, I promise. You can do this, no matter how battered and broken you feel. You can do this. Make time. Give yourself this gift. You deserve it.
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