Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mommy Friends

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.


Anonymous said...

I have the same trouble with mommy friends. In fact, most of my mommy friends were friends I had before I became a mommy and we went through becoming mommys together. I have people I know that are moms but I only have a select few that I would consider true friends.
It really is sad too because as mothers we should be banding together but play groups and mom clubs have turned into dog and pony shows :(
- Susie

Jessie V. said...

WOW, I so relate to this post. I am so hesitant to tell people certain things about Fiery for fear that they might think I'm showing her off, or trying to have the "high-need" baby so I get your sympathy and you really know how much of a hard core mom I am. I ABHOR the whole struggle with showing your kids off. At the same time I feel like people judge me when they look at her so I almost instinctivly defend anything that might be not "wanted" about her because of my stupid, stupid self confidence issues. OR I am worried about defending her "well, she's not really talking yet, but she did this and that early so blah, blah, blah, so as you see, she's not a stupid baby." GAH.

I love talking about mommy-ing... I find it hard not to do it and I feel bad for all my friends who aren't mommies because it's all I talk about. I just wish it was such a judgemental gore-fest.

jd said...

I would have to say that my friends then and now are not necessarily ones to whom I talked about mothering issues. Some of them WERE Moms...others were single....some were male. And these folks are still friends today. Becoming a mother gave me a new perspective on life, but it did not take away my times with the above mentioned friends for games, hanging out, having fun, etc. In fact, I continued to be a youth sponsor right up until the birth of my second (!!). We didn't try so hard back then to "do the right thing" in parenting...we just did what made the most sense. Many times we fit our kids into what we were doing rather than the other way around. We felt it made well-rounded kids and kept us sane as adults. I enjoyed being a Mom, playing with my kids, teaching them, etc., but I also enjoyed great times with friends and stayed involved in groups outside the realm of being a Mom. All this is not to say that "mothering" conversations are not important..they are...and I DID have many of those conversations. But I still had intellectual conversations...it's all about balance.

christianlady said...

I went through this. It's the "other mommy" syndrome. I learned how to ignore other mommies (not all are "other mommies"). If I said something and they gave advice, I had to learn to not care. I'm a pleaser, so that's hard. Now I'm a little militant in my way of doing things inside my little head, but I've also learned NOT to say anything.

What happened is my children grew a little, and when I found friends who had kids already five then I made great friends with people who did it differently. They had living, breathing kids who were on formula as a baby, I had living breathing kids who had breastfed. We could both see it had worked (though I beleive breast is best), and we really had no fear. I found friends who also knew ME for ME and how I do things. They accepted it, and though we might have not agreed, didn't feel the need to tell me how to. I also didn't feel the need to feel they'd shared advice when they told me how they did it. I am not sure how we got to that place. I do know having a child who is strong willed and finding another mother with this (first born boys are sometimes really mean to mommies)...and seeing we have different styles and still our boys were sassy and controlling...taught us both that sometimes it doesn't matter what you do. Kids turn out the way they turn out. We needed each other for support, and we might do it differently but we could at least learn from each other and try to help each other.

You are the momma of a unique child. What you do with your child is likely exactly what your child needs. And if not, kids are pretty strong most days, they adapt. You will do some things perfectly, and will do some things that your kid will end up making fun of you for in their older years...or at least getting frustrated for you for in their head. That's how it is. However, these judging mothers, they won't be around for this. They won't be there when you are in the emergency room, they won't be there when you are holding your older child who has hurt feelings.
But the good mommies that support you, you'll find likely only one or two in your life. They are awesome, and will listen to your crazy stories about how you handled some really strange thing and will not give you any trouble. I've found a FEW. Sadly one has moved away and we're both a little lost without each other...

Okay I've rambled on and on...probably didn't help much.

This post you've made is a great one because it is exactly what I can relate to.

Emily said...

The best solution, really, is to just make all your non-parent friends have kids so that you can all be mommies and daddes together.
While I don't make a lot of non-mainstream parenting choices, I tend to get booted from most mommy circles because my kid is different. I can't talk about when my kid learned to walk, because if I say he was 22 months I'm obviously looking for attention. I can't talk about picky eating or tantrums in the toy store - I would give anything to experience those same "normal mommy" problems. I find myself only able to make generic comments or to only interact with mommies of other "different" kids, none of whom have any more time than I do to develop real friendships.
If it weren't for my pre-mommy mommy friends I wouldn't have any mommy friends at all, and a good number of those have slowly faded out of my life because Noah's too hard to deal with. Seeing the cosequences of extreme prematurity can be pretty scary to people who are thinking of going through another pregnancy, I guess.
Hang in there! Being a mommy's a whole different world, and it's not always as easy as people lead you to believe.

Alana said...

I've found the same thing too, and what has worked for me is bonding with moms of older children. They are past all the stuff I'm going through so they're not dying to talk it through, but perfectly willing to give advice if I want to talk. They also a little more removed from their parenting choices so I find it easier to discuss with them objectively.

Erin said...

Hi Jule Ann,

I remember feeling how you're feeling. I was so thankful one of my closest friends gave birth the day after me - and almost 9 years later our boys are best friends. But a lot of other moms at the same stage as me seemed competitive.
My kids are in 1st and 3rd grade now, and I've found some great "mom-friends" over the years - it just takes time.
Hang in there, and just be yourself!

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