Happily married mother of two seeks semi-intelligent, literate, female friend, for the occasional daytime cup of coffee, conversation, and listening ear. Must not be offended by Jesus, alcohol, nor cursing. Participation in one or more of the above preferred but not required. Someone who cannot remember what life was like before children need not apply.
In the same way that singles have an ever increasingly difficult job of meeting other singles as they push their 30’s, moms have an ever increasingly difficult job of meeting friends period. We’re working with far too many external factors for the job to be simple. Put aside basic scheduling issues; misaligned schedules cancel out at least 75% of the potential candidates anyway.
For those whose lives synchronize with mine both geographically and hourly, I conduct a potential friendship preliminary assessment.
Round one begins with a simple check-list which goes a little something like this:
- Does she seem normal?
- Are her kids brats?
- Is her husband moderately cool?
Anyone who passes the first two questions makes it on to round two, which is attempt to become mom-friends. This means we schedule kid-friendly activities between the hours of 9am and 12pm and look forward to an hour or two of adult conversation a couple days a week. If this seems to be working out for a few weeks, the possibility of becoming “couple friends” (round 3) naturally arises. At this point, a family dinner is scheduled at one or the other’s house, and fingers are crossed that the husbands hit it off well enough to put up with each other a couple times a month. While it seems fairly straightforward, such a scenario in reality is a rarity. You would be amazed by the number of women who do not even make it past question number one.
Before anyone makes it the three rounds of the friendship assessment however, the opportunity for actually interacting with another mom in the first place must exist. Luckily, very similar to eHarmony or Match Dot Com, the Internet now contains entire networks dedicated to the bringing together of said lonely mothers. These are websites with mommy advice columns, personal pages for friendship connection, games, and discussion forums. Some bring together local women and require address checks to be members. Others are national or international and connect moms across the globe at all sorts of ungodly hours.
Who joins these websites, you ask? Well, I imagine it is the same kind of people who join any discussion forum type of website. It starts with time, boredom, a sincere question about a parenting related topic, or general curiosity.
Most of the moms are of the stay-at-home variety, though I am certain it does not matter what kind of mother a woman is, she can find a group of people on the Internet who share her interests and beliefs. She increases her odds greatly in the mommy networks, however, if she is pro- breastfeeding and baby-wearing, anti- vaccinating and crying it out, and really excited by poop discussions, why-my-child-is-the-greatest-in-the-world-bragging, and the occasional husband bashing.
I first joined a couple of these networks when I was still a “working mother” as a means of getting some advice about daycare, but was hooked by the vast amount of deal sharing and hand-me-down furniture giveaways. It became clear fairly quickly, however, that both my grammar skills and lack of attention to parenting detail would forever keep me slightly on the outskirts of most discussion topics, and eventually I found myself logging on once a day to beat my high score in Mahjong and nothing more.
In addition to Internet-driven mom networks, I’ve put myself out there at the many community offered programs, for moms with kids too young for school: story time at the library, story time at Barnes and Noble, various women’s church groups, cookies and balloons at the grocery store, parks, indoor playgrounds at McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A, and pre-school. At one time in my life, I was even a member of a gym. You would think that by the sheer number of outlets at my disposal I would have tons of mom friends. You would be wrong.
Moving around so much in the past 5 years certainly hasn’t made things easier, and I am fully aware of the fact that friendships take time. Need I remind you of the 9am-12pm window? If I could just hand select about 6 women from my life who have ended up scattered across four US time-zones and replant them all in Winston-Salem, NC, I would. At least these women would understand the identity crisis brought about by my decision not to go back to work this year, which I imagine feels about the same as a mid-life crisis. I often believe what the 80’s did for women’s liberation was ultimately counterproductive to my social peace of mind. I wonder if all the coolest women in the world have been sucked in to the corporate life, and are all successfully balancing working, wife-ing, and mothering. I don’t wonder, actually. I know. I did it once. And I liked it.
On the other hand, I cannot deny that a very powerful something inside me had been compelling me during those years to embrace staying home with my children if it ever became financially feasible. When John and I realized that my teacher salary would be just enough to pay daycare for two children, we decided it wasn’t worth the free health care in the end. (I’m not denying that rethinking this has come up, several times, recently.)
I love my children. And I do not completely hate stay-at-home-mom land. But only because I’m willing to do what is necessary for everyone’s sanity, and this, only because I believe I’m doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing right now. And if what is necessary is heavy drinking the minute John walks in the door every night, well, that’s okay. I’ve earned it. This is me: embracing.