I have a confession to make. I'm having a really hard time making friends with other moms. It's not for lack of trying. I join playgroups, I join online meetup groups, I make walking dates and playdates. But here I am, over a year into motherhood, and I can count the number of other moms that I would call "friends" on one hand. With several fingers left over.
I guess I imagined that becoming a mom would fling me headfirst into the mommy world, and I would miraculously fit in. But it didn't, and I don't. I get together with other moms, and I find my normally ebullient self shutting down, and slipping into outside observer mode.
It's hard to talk to other moms. We have this one, enormous thing in common. Parenthood. And it's a rather enormous field of subjects, so we can occupy ourselves for hours simply on that one topic. But that may be the only thing we have in common. And "mommy-talk" really gets to me after a while. If we talk about the good things, it comes across as bragging. If we talk about the bad things, we open ourselves up to unsolicited advice, or, worse yet, that also comes across as bragging. Sometimes I feel like parenting becomes a competition, one way or the other. Whose child started walking the earliest? Who got the least sleep last night?
And it's almost impossible to talk about parenting choices with other moms. I've made a fair number of "alternative" parenting choices so far, and I'm sure there will be more to come. Babywearing, cosleeping, gentle discipline, cloth diapering, baby-led weaning, extended breastfeeding, selective vaccinations. And I honestly enjoy discussing these types of issues, and the thought processes that go into making these types of decisions. But it's almost impossible to have those kinds of discussions with moms who have stuck to the more "mainstream" choices. I actually talk about breastfeeding more with my single, male friends than I do with other moms. I suppose because other moms are too close to the issue. It's hard to have a stimulating intellectual discussion about something that you are in the middle of living. When you're too close to something, "I chose not to do X because..." sounds an awful lot like "You are a bad person because you do X." It's a bit easier if you manage to find a mom who agrees with you on something. You state your view, with enormous relief, because you can't say it to anyone else, and she responds, with equal relief, because she's been dying to say the same thing. But it's not a conversation that goes anywhere. You vent, you agree, the end.
I go through phases where I just want to give up entirely on making mom friends. I usually enjoy myself more with my pre-mom friends. Talking about the rest of the broad spectrum of non-parenting-related subject matter. Playing games. Hanging out. But as much as I enjoy myself with my non-mom friends, there is this enormous part of my experience that they don't understand first-hand. Becoming a parent redefined me, redefined my world-view, redefined my priorities. Other moms can understand that, and that's an immensely valuable connection to make. Being friends with other moms is important for precisely the same reason that it's hard: motherhood is so close to our hearts.
Please don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to say that I know how mommy relationships should be, and all those other mommies out there are doing it wrong. It's more the opposite, actually. From my "outside observer" stance, it seems like mommy friendships are genuinely working for other people. I feel like a kindergartner who got bumped up to high school math because she knew how to do polynomial equations. I feel like I don't belong here. I just want to go back to my play-dough.
On the bright side, there are one or two other kindergartners that have been bumped up as well, and we can build play-dough pizzas together while solving those polynomials. And it seems like there are a few high school students who, against all odds, like play-dough too. And even though I know I'm taking the analogy too far, it's not all bad. Confusing as all get out, but not all bad.