43.5 million moms – that’s the number of mothers between the ages of 15 and 50 according to the 2014 census – yet finding mom friends can feel like an impossible feat.
I was living in New York City when I had my son. And I loved my life there. After years in Chicago, I had moved to Brooklyn in my late 20s and fell in love with it all. The energy, the opportunities, the people, cultures, bars, restaurants, parks – even the subway. I had never felt more like myself while still figuring out much of myself.
When I moved there, having kids wasn’t on my mind – it wasn’t even a distant thought. I was single and focused on my career. Over the years I began to form this new normal that felt just right. So when the years passed and I met my now-husband, and we had my son, I found myself bouncing between my old life and new life. The ins and outs were colliding instead of merging between the two, and while I loved this new chapter it was hard to mourn the previous one.
I had never thought much about how having kids would change me or my relationship with NY and my daily routines. Not in an arrogant and self-centered way – just in that you-don’t-know-until-you-know kind of way.
And when it came to friends, I had spent years in NY curating my favorites. And across the crowd, none had kids. Truth be told, only one of my coworker friends had any kids – and outside of her, my friend groups seemed to be playing the much, much longer game. Maybe it was NY, where people seem to have children later in life, but whatever the reason, overnight I became a mom with few other mom friends.
So I joined groups and downloaded apps, but it felt more like forced first dates than a place to form genuine friendships. You fill out profiles saying what you’re interested in: Wine, Sports, Adventure, Travel. You add all of your kids and their respective ages: 6-month- old boy. You include your location and if you work or stay at home: Manhattan, Upper East Side, Working mom.
And then you begin the search. Swiping and browsing profiles of other moms. Basing all of your would we be friends off of a batch of photos and a brief bio. And then you wait to see if any connections happen.
You post in the mom groups and no one responds – is it that your question was so pathetic or is it the algorithm and no one saw it…you don’t know so you post less because you feel silly.
You go to the meet-ups and you make small talk while trying to chase your kids around but it’s often impossible because of the chaos. You leave barely remembering anyone’s name.
You try and chat with the other moms at daycare pickup but everyone is exhausted and your son is melting down by the toy trains because he doesn’t want to put his coat on and you’re looking over your shoulder at the street because you’re illegally parked so really any convos have to be four seconds long so you can get to your car before it’s towed.
And hey, I’m not saying these paths don’t work for people. Surely many moms have found forever friendships in these ways. But it didn’t work for me. It wasn’t working for me. During an already exhausting day of work and a baby and my friends without kids and my husband and our home life – it felt like a lot of extra work to go on a first-time friend date only to be left awkwardly staring into my coffee because we really didn’t have much in common and the small talk ran dry.
Was it me? Had I gotten lazy when it came to making an effort in an area I consider really important in life: being social and making real connections. Was it NY? Was it my bio?
Then we moved back to Chicago and I was surrounded by my old friends again, who also happened to have kids, and it was confirmed: we all had a hard time finding mom friends. We’d all moved to different neighborhoods or suburbs within and around the city and we all had similar stories.
I’m told it gets easier once your kids become school-aged. Maybe it’s a numbers game and the odds only increase as you weed through some awkward meet ‘n greets at the park. But maybe it’s also that until we take down the walls and feel OK being vulnerable around each other as parents, that the true friendships can’t form.
We should feel comfortable saying I need help, I missed school signup, I’m depressed, I’m scared, I’m so tired, I laughed so hard I peed to our mom friends, and not feel like we’ve somehow failed. OR, not feel like we need a bottle of wine to muster up the courage to share.
There’s so much pressure to Mom correctly that when we meet new parents we often put on our best faces and talk about the preschool we just got our kids into, or how quickly they started talking, walking, scoring the winning goal. And that’s great. We all want to be proud of the kids we raise – but it can also feel like a lot to always be on.
Is meeting mom friends hard because you love your kids so much and you believe you’re doing it all right and so unless someone has the same roadmap as you, you don’t quite mix? I’m genuinely curious. I know I personally feel more comfortable around my friends who have a similar parenting style – but I’m not sure if that’s because when I’m around someone who Moms so completely different than me that it makes me a little insecure and then I begin to question if I’m doing it wrong.
It sounds a little strange to say that last part out loud, which makes me think I need to. That it’s likely true. That maybe saying it out loud and to more people will open new doors and new friendships.
So here’s to being OK with being a little uncomfortable and giving less of a damn about what anyone thinks.