No one told me before I had kids just how strangely isolating the experience can be. I really thought that once my delivery was done I’d simply fall in love with my kid (I did but not right away) and every other issue in life would melt away. One of the hardest parts was when my husband was off at work and work events and I was at home, sometimes with my parents or in laws around and sometimes alone. I would go to the park and try to chat up other mommies but found it exhausting as most of the time it was a forced conversation.
Unfortunately I didn’t feel like I really connected to many of the friends around me anymore as they hadn’t yet had kids but more so because it seemed like they were not all that interested in mine and my new mommy life.
Furthermore no one told me how strangely daunting the experience of making new mom friends would be. I have come to realize it’s really not much different than trying to date.
You try to be on your best behavior. You dress up but not too much so you don’t look like you’re trying too hard. You wonder if you drink too much if they will think you are bad and yet if you don’t drink, they may think you are a prude. You don’t want to seem too eager, yet you want to show just the right amount of interest to score a second “momdate”. You wonder if it’s ok to suggest dinner or if you should play it cool and suggest coffee instead.
I remember going on a mommy date with someone in my neighborhood. On the surface it would appear we had much in common – we both liked trying out new restaurants, we had kids about the same age, we were from the same cultural background, and were both working moms, among other commonalities. But the playdates, and yes I made the mistake of going on a few of them were incredibly awkward; the conversation just wouldn’t flow, I couldn’t figure out if this fellow mommy was just quiet in general or if there was something I was doing that was putting her off. I pontificated: am I not being friendly enough and would then try harder to be friendly only to then wonder if I was being too friendly and thus scaring her. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get this person to converse back. We ended it off with her talking about how we should go out for dinner and I was totally confused thinking, did she actually enjoy that?
Interestingly, I had all the same thoughts when I went on the similarly torturous experience of dating in New York, constantly doubting myself, wondering if I was being too picky and if I should give that weirdo my mom tried to set me up with a chance.
However, what makes mom dating sometimes even harder than regular dating is that no one knows who is supposed to take the lead with the mom date planning and how to ask for a second mom date, whereas with men you know you can just sit back and let them do the chasing.
The other difficulty is the inevitable mommy mom comparison conversations where you trade notes on how you parent. You want to seem like you are a good mom but not a helicopter mom obsessed with your kids. You also avoid admitting just how much screen time you are really allowing in a given day and just how much help you truly are taking from your parents. And then you realize you are both so busy trying to impress each other that you’re often not actually having any fun.
One tends to think all we need in life is our immediate family, i.e. spouse and kids but the more HuffPost and Atlantic articles I read, the more I realize otherwise. Happiness seems to be a measure of the quality of relationships you have in life, and that includes relationships with friends and colleagues. And when you have to wonder whether someone actually likes you and truly is your friend, it probably means it’s not a good quality relationship and you are better off walking away, at least mentally and emotionally.
After several years of “play”dating I finally realized just like romance, there are no rules to making new mom friends post kids. I used to think I should only invest time in friendships with people who had kids our age. Now I realize they don’t even have to have kids, they just have to be people you genuinely connect with who seem to give a crap about you, which in turn means they will naturally give a crap about your kids.
I was fortunate enough to meet a few friends like this post motherhood. They didn’t seem to mind that I was a lame New Jersey mom, the antithesis to their hipster childless urban ways, yet they went out of their way to adjust plans so that I could be a part of them. One couple didn’t have kids but had a puppy so my daughter was plenty entertained playing with her, and we were able to spend many a Saturday evening over at their place.
So after some soul and soulmate searching, eventually I found enough solid mom friends and non-mom friends that I didn’t feel I was missing out on much anymore. It may take a long time and a lot of bad momdates but it is worth every minute to find your friends outside of your home life who you truly enjoy spending time with, and it makes you appreciate motherhood and your overall life that much more.