I’m Keeping My Mom Friends

 

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This afternoon I got a message from Christa in the always-open Google Talk window that she, Meg, and I use for site development conversations and general mom-related kvetching:

“Not exactly what we want the msg to be but The Week is not a bad backlink for the site! http://theweek.com/article/index/273919/why-i-dont-want-mom-friends

With a teaser like that, of course I clicked through. Here’s what stood out:

“But it’s only mom friends that I think need to be avoided — not all friends. The problem with mom friends is that they’re yet another manifestation of a bad idea: that motherhood is such an all-consuming experience that it merits its own category in everything.”

 

“The problem is that when we become moms we are led to believe that there is some group project called motherhood and it is super important and it is up to all of us mothers to work on it together. Alas, internecine battles inevitably erupt, but instead of chalking it up to individual differences, tensions arise because motherhood, sacred and eternal, is at stake.”

 

“Motherhood needn’t be something we do with other moms. For many of us, there’s a spouse or partner who can help us endure the highs and lows without any judgment or mommy juice.”

Not surprisingly, she also threw in a juicy quote from the recent New York Times opinion piece, “Our ‘Mommy’ Problem.”

And so, with pieces like these added to the perpetual pushback against the Pinterest moms and the slacker moms, the attachment moms and the disciplinarian moms, the breastfeeding moms and the bottle feeding moms, the homeschoolers, the public schoolers, the working moms and the stay-at-home moms, it really feels like we’re closing in on the final front of the mommy battle. Now you can be judged to be a lousy mom because you have the audacity to want friends who are also moms. Mon dieu!

Am I the only one here who thinks this is absurd?

Okay, here’s my take (and obviously, I’m biased – after all, look what I built – but hear me out):

I think that Ms. Strauss and Ms. Havrilesky got the order wrong. My mom friends are friends first, but they are more special to me because they are mothers. Yes, I have other friends, including childfree by choice friends, friends who wanted to have kids but couldn’t, and friends who may yet have kids but haven’t reached that life stage yet. I love those friends. But I won’t subject my kid-free friends to my tales of dinnertime toddler projectile vomiting or the way I used an old Bob Marley song to trick my kid out of having a tantrum. Yes, I have a wonderful partner who co-parents beautifully. But I can’t exactly go to him when I need to complain about how he didn’t do the dishes again on a day when the kids were climbing all over me all day. Yes, I have wonderful family and pseudofamily members whose ears I can bend after a tough day. But I’m not the sort of person who can let loose with a filthy stream of profanity while talking to my mother-in-law about my preschooler’s latest foray into the world of tactical hypochondria. I have all of these friends, but none of them can give me what I get from my mom friends:

  • Safety in Numbers: No, I do not think that the world is a significantly more dangerous place than when I was a kid. But I do remember what it was like to be a teenage girl, and I definitely know that my friends and their parents knew more about my social life than my own parents did, and boy were there times when it would have been nice if a friend’s mom called my mom and said, “hey, did you know that Julia’s boyfriend is a drug dealer?” But you know what? My mom didn’t have any mom friends. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll have moms who are close enough with me and my daughters to let me know when they are getting into something dangerous that they won’t want to tell me about themselves.
  • An opportunity to vent without judgment: Look. I’m going to be straight with you here – sometimes kids are just jerks. And if you don’t believe me, either your kids are grown up and long out of the house, or your little one has not yet reached the phase of unstoppable boundary testing that plagues the preschool and kindergarten set. For that matter, sometimes co-parents are just jerks. And if I tell my kid-free friends about my feelings of frustration with the jerk times, you know what I hear? “See, and that’s why I’m never having kids,” “Why don’t you just get couples therapy?” “Jeez, ease up, they’re just kids!” You know what I hear when I air this dirty laundry with my mom friends? “Oh man, Johnny did the exact same thing at that age, I thought I was going to strangle him!” “When we had that issue, I felt like I was going crazy until I found this super helpful blog.” “PUT YOUR FELLA ON THE PHONE, I’LL TELL HIM TO DO THE DISHES MYSELF!!” The difference? My mom friends know that I still love my kids enough to jump in front of a bus for them. They know how hard parenting can be on a marriage. They know that the bad days aren’t signs of failure.
  • A safe place to admit my fears and failures: In addition to being a mom, I am also desperately and profoundly human. The humanity part means that I make mistakes. The motherhood part means that, sometimes, those mistakes have significant negative impacts on people who I love more than anything. Sometimes, I even know that I messed up, but I have no idea what the scope or nature of the consequences are going to be. This scares the bejeezus out of me. Am I setting the stage for future romantic difficulties when I fight with my husband in front of my kids? Do I yell too much? The littles pushed my buttons too hard today, and I blew my top and said unkind things…what do I do now? And please don’t come back at me, as an acquaintance did once, with, “that sounds like lousy parenting,” or, “they are going to be screwed up regardless of what you do, so you might as well move on,” as kid-free friends have said more times than I can count.
  • Honest advice: My mom friends are the first ones to tell me when I am slipping back into the major depression that I’ve had my whole life. They are the first ones to tell me if my preschooler seems out-of-sorts or chronically misbehaves at school. My mom friends coach me through tough stretches in my relationship (and don’t charge $150/50 minutes!). My mom friends even tell me, “Julia…you’re being a jerk, and you need a break.”

So yes, perhaps it’s true that “motherhood needn’t been something that we do with other moms,” but I, for one, am glad as hell that I am not doing this alone.

Pass the mommy juice!

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