Making Friends

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Let’s face it–making friends is hard. And making friends as a stay-at-home-mom is even harder. It’s not that I didn’t have friends before Mouse came along. I have friends! I have a best friend…who lives 400 miles away, despite my most fervent efforts to get her to move into the house on the next block that’s been for sale for months. I have local friends too. They have jobs.

They also don’t have children. Which isn’t so much of a problem, except for the parts where it’s a problem. You often hear child-free people say things like, “We used to be good friends but I don’t want to hear all about Bobby’s poop or Janie’s 6-month checkup weight percentile. Why does that suddenly become all women talk about when they have kids?” Well, I have a kid now, and here’s the answer: we don’t have anything else to talk about. Chances are really good I didn’t see that movie that just opened. No, I didn’t catch last night’s episode of [insert tv show]. I’d love to read a book but those few precious hours my kid is sleeping, I’m doing glamorous things like shaving my legs for the first time in two weeks. That restaurant sounds fabulous! Hey, did you know they make chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs? Dinosaurs! Isn’t that great? Hello? Hello?

Which brings me back to my first point: making friends is hard. I’ve realized that most friend-making happens by proximity. Being in high school together, for example, or college. Or sharing a workplace. But as a SAHM, your child or children are your workplace. And that movie that just opened? They haven’t seen it either. So how to SAHM’s meet other SAHM’s? Excellent question.

I met some more moms through groups, but I will admit, it was very tough for me. Not because I didn’t meet nice moms. They were all very nice, sweet moms. It’s just that getting out and meeting other moms brought up so many issues and insecurities of mine it was paralyzing for several months. I’m normally an outgoing, social person, but for weeks I lamented on my therapist’s couch about how lonely and isolated I felt (definition of therapist: a really good friend you only get to see for an hour a week whom your insurance may or may not pay for). So what was the problem?

As a first-time mom, I was completely unsure and insecure about being a mother. And being a Gen X mom made it even worse. I had a career and a job for fun afterwards. I was the expert. Everyone came to me for advice. I could solve all kinds of problems other people had.  I was well-respected, appreciated, and valued. I worked hard over a number of years to be in that role of esteem, and I’d grown used to it. But here I was as a new mom. I felt like a high schooler starting out her first minimum-wage job. Except that this job was really, really important because it involved a helpless baby. What if I screwed up???

And worse–what if other moms saw me screw up? Me–the expert? HA! What are other moms going to think as they watch me struggle trying to open a door and get a stroller through it at the same time–something every other mother seems to be able to do with ease? What are they going to say if I spend 20 minutes in the bathroom changing my son’s outfit because he poo-sploded everywhere and I can’t get the snaps lined up on the clean sleeper? I knew on some level that nobody would understand my ineptitude better than a group of other moms, but I still had a very long and very vocal negative tape in my head:

You can’t get a stroller through the door? Every mother can do that simple task!
Diaper rash = Mommy FAIL!!!
A good mom should be able to get out of the house in fewer than 30 minutes.
I’m obviously completely deficient if my child cries in a public place and I can’t make him stop.
What kind of mother forgets to bring a freakin’ bottle with her???
Motherhood: You’re doin’ it wrong.

I was convinced that if other people saw my ineptitude, then all of those negative things in my head would be in their heads too, leading to the inevitable outcome: Shelby is a Bad Mommy, and it’s too bad, because her kid’s pretty cute.

So there I was with my insecurities and fear of judgment or embarrassing myself, and all those other mothers who knew more than I did? Well, most of them are younger than me. Me–the older, wiser expert. Asking a person over a decade my junior for advice that I really felt like I should somehow know. It felt…weird.

And I also had a hard time connecting with a lot of other moms. I spent 7 years in college and graduate school, and I was meeting moms who had 2 kids in the amount of time it took me to get through school, not to mention the decade following. It was really isolating, feeling like my life experiences were so different from the other moms I was meeting that there was really very little we could talk about. I liked having a life. I liked being really important to people other than my husband and my child. I was embarrassed that at this advanced age where I pretty much had everything else figured out, there was a whole gigantic thing in life–motherhood–that I knew nothing about.

Add to that the traveling we did and that I severly injured my knee, needed major reconstructive surgery, and spent 2 months completely out of commission for rehab, and at the end of my son’s first year I felt like I only had a small handful of other mothers I felt comfortable around–mothers who had experiences similar to mine. That was when I started to get active in the group that ended up starting this blog. It’s not that I’ve cut off ties with the other moms I met. They’re some great people. I just feel so much less embarrassed and insecure around my Gen X moms.

So making friends? My advice is to put yourself out there first and foremost, and second, try to find moms who have similar life experiences to yours. That second part is the key. When you have similar experiences, you have more to talk about, and it much easier to open up and not feel like people think you’re an idiot. Whether it’s through, another mom’s group, library storytime, or whatever–just start feeling people out and being authentic, and keep looking for moms who you don’t feel awkward around. They’re out there–I promise! It’s working pretty well for me so far!

The Scrivener