When my kids were babies, I had tons of mom friends. I could recite their names like a list: Becky and Christy and Stephanie and Sophia, Rebecca and Jackie and Catherine, another Jackie, Elizabeth, Katie, Darcy, Rachael. Moms I’d met in my birthing class, moms I’d met while teaching babywearing, moms I could always call for a playdate or some downtime or a park date. We always had something to talk about: babies and toddlers, milestones and sleep schedules.
But our kids aged. Some of the friends moved. Others drifted. Most drifted. I never saw my mom friends anymore. These were women I shared Thanksgivings with, women who laughed and laughed when my son dug up their dead cat. But now, we live in the same city, but we never see each other. We don’t call. We don’t text.
Anne Helena talks about this in Motherwell Magazine. Her baby mom BFFs have turned into once-every-six-month friends, even the one who lives two miles away. She says she’s been replaced, not by another friend, but by a “to-do list,” and she’s not okay with it. She needs friends who know what matters. She needs, in other words, people who aren’t mom friends. She needs people whose friendship isn’t predicated on the shared experience of small people.
When I look back on those friendships, they were so necessary at the time. I needed a village. I still need a village, of course — but the needs of that village have shifted now that I have a better handle on parenting. I don’t need so much help with the other little people aspect of my life. I need more help with the me part of me. I don’t need mom friends to talk about my kids. I need friends who help me cultivate myself and my interests, who care about me as a person, not me as a mother.
There’s an important difference there. All my mom friends, for example, were hippie attachment parents. So was I. Shocking. We reinforced each others’ choices and helped each other through some tough times. Now that stuff doesn’t matter anymore, and we’re adrift. I couldn’t tell you which of them listens to what music. I don’t know their favorite TV shows. I don’t know where and if some of them went to college, and what they majored in.
We need different things from different people at different times. When I was a new mom, I needed mom friends. But the drift was probably inevitable as our kids got older.
I cultivate different friendships now. They’re much fewer in number. Many are male. They are emphatically not mom friends — we hardly talk about my kids, though they like them and say hello to them, and one or two of them have close friendships with them (one in fact has a daughter of his own, though he’s not a “mom friend”). These friendships build me up, not my parenting. They feed my needs, not the reassurance that I’m doing okay at this mom thing.
We talk about different things, these friends and me. First, I sought them out. Some I knew before kids, and I made a conscious effort to rekindle those friendships and remember what made them important before I got so busy with my mom friends. Luckily, we remembered pretty fast, and I found myself hanging out in my friend’s garage, taking him with me to get a tattoo, drinking beer and watching mutually loved TV while we talked about … stuff. Important stuff. Stuff that isn’t my kids.
I have friends who care about politics. None of my mom friends ever cared about politics, and it sort of made me bonkers, but I needed them to care about my baby’s sleep schedule, so I overlooked it. When you’re desperate for breastfeeding advice, you’ll overlook a multitude of sins. That’s not to devalue those friendships at that time in my life. But now that I don’t need breastfeeding advice … I need something else.
I have friends I met on the internet, friends I can talk to about the things that matter in my life: TV shows I like, writing, things I’m passionate about. My BFFs who I talk to on a regular basis? A buddy from high school who lives 700 miles away, and a hilarious, reclusive dude from Indiana who I can’t go a day without spending at least half an hour talking to on the phone (never about my kids).
These people, unlike my mom friends, know who I am, not who my kids are. And when I went missing from the world for a few days, they noticed. They checked up on me. They messaged one of my BFFs (“Hey, haven’t seen her around the past few days. Is she okay?”). My other BFF knew what was up, and was desperate to call but understood I didn’t want to talk. She noticed and she understood.
My old mom friends see me too infrequently to understand so many things. They don’t know who I am anymore.
Seasons in our lives change. We need different things from different people at different times. When I was a new mom, I needed mom friends. But the drift was probably inevitable as our kids got older. We can make a conscious decision: we can try to limp along, find out what we have in common other than our kids — and maybe we do have plenty in common, and we can maintain those friendships. Or we can seek out new friends, friends who feed our souls, who prioritize us, not our kids.
I’m grateful for my non-“mom friends.” Sure, I say hi to the other moms at the playground. We chat and we talk about our kids. But they aren’t my life anymore. I need friends who see me, not them.
Thank god I’ve found them.