Monday, October 11, 2010

SGW: How to (Not) Make Mommy Friends...Or, Stalking is BAD

In honor of Columbus Day, we present to you Guru Louise. Kate discovered her on one of her many trips she takes for work. [Editor's Note: No, Guru Louise doesn't work in a tattoo parlor. She probably appreciates that I clear that up right now. - Kate] She acquired the Guru title when she kinda creepily predicted all the changes that happened over the past two weeks. And she gets the Columbus Day honor because she too went out into the world to discover something. Columbus wanted to go to India for riches and wound up in America. Oops. Guru Louise wanted to make some new mom friends and wound up in the Play Group from Hell. We totally think she deserves a ship. And her own holiday. Possibly a hat.

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When I was six months pregnant with my first baby, my husband was transferred to a big city for work. Though I mean no disrespect for this city, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to give up my job and leave our family, friends, and picture-perfect rural house to move to a tiny rented apartment in a city where people thought rabid raccoons in the local park counted as wildlife.

I had plenty of girlfriends from high school and college who lived in the city but none of them were married or planning a family…and I realized pretty quickly that they didn’t get what it was like to be pregnant. (My first clue came when they invited me out for a late night of sushi followed bar-hopping and clubbing. Um, no.) They were “Sex in the City” and I was “Leave It To Beaver”, but with a really sucky, knocked up, cantankerous June Cleaver.

Fast forward to 6 weeks postpartum. I was exhausted and lonely. SO lonely. The only advantage of our move was that we could now *barely* afford for me to be a stay-at-home mom…but, holy schmidt, that meant I was I alone all day. Sorry, baby, you don’t count until you can converse with me about The Real Housewives of NJ. Or at least not fall asleep while I talk to you. I tried emailing my old friends but I’m pretty sure they stopped reading after the 34th email in a row that read, "Hi. I’m tired.”

I realized I needed Mommy Friends. But how, after squeezing a baby out, enduring weeks of bleeding nips, and suffering countless sleepless nights, was I supposed to summon the energy to make new friends? Put on a dazzling smile? I could barely put on a clean shirt each day. Have any of you been to this part of Mommyland before? It’s called Lonesome-ville and it blows goats.

I knew I needed just one good mommy friend—someone who would understand my vomit-stained shirts and be empathetic when my baby decided to party all night long in her crib to what I can only assume was a loop of ‘Copacabana’ in her head. (That one was for you, Kate.) So I tried the following friend-finding tactics, in chronological order:

  • Stalking. Yes, I tried this. I’m not proud. Within weeks of my baby’s arrival, I spotted a mom on my street who was always trekking with her baby in one of those cool backpacks that makes it look like you’re a freakin’ Sherpa with a bag full of cool survival supplies and—oh wow, there’s a baby in here, too! Bonus! For days I would see her breeze out of her apartment building with the baby cargo and I’d think, “We could TOTALLY be friends, right?” I imagined the two of us meeting at Starbucks and drinking icy coffee drinks while we chatted about what awesome moms we are. Our babies would coo in unison from their respective carrying devices and stare at us adoringly. So one day I got my baby all ready to leave the house and then I waited. I. Just. Waited. I’m not kidding---my baby sat in her stroller with her coat on for over an hour until I saw this woman leave her apartment and then I high-tailed it outside and chased her down the street. “HiI’mLouisethisismybabyshe’s7weeksoldhowoldisyourbabyIsawthatyouliveacrossthestreetfromme (big breath) That’sareallycoolbackpackisthereroomtoshovesnacksintheretoo?theyshouldreallygiveitacoffeeholster.” She paused, gave me an extremely tense smile, and crossed the street. And I mean she speed-walked-JAYWALKED across the street, dodging city traffic. Strike One.
  • Baby and Mommy Yoga. After suffering my stalking humiliation, I realized that the cold-call was not the way to go. I needed to seek refuge in a place where people were actually expecting to make friends. So one Friday afternoon I squeezed into my pre-baby yoga pants (choosing to ignore the muffin top in the mirror) and hauled my baby over to the local yoga studio to get my OMMM on with some other moms and babies. Except, of course, that what Baby and Mommy Yoga really entails is paying $25 to sit in a room that smells like patchouli while half the babies scream their faces off and the other half try to nap, fail, and then, yep, start screaming their faces off. (My baby was in the latter camp.) There was one baby there who was totally tranquil and seemed to enjoy having her legs twisted into pretzel knots until she let out the world’s largest wet fart. Huh.
Confusingly, the other moms in the class seemed to possess a supernatural serenity and an ability to completely tune out the chaos around them. Who were these women and what were they on? After the class, I bundled up my baby and listened to the moms talk about cloth diapering and baby-wearing and co-sleeping…and then I realized these were Nature Moms. Don’t get me wrong—I like to wear my baby and I’m all about breastfeeding…but something about these hardcore attachment-parenting women just didn’t jive with me. Maybe it was the fact that they never, ever took a break from looking completely and utterly thrilled about being a mom whereas I was actually ecstaticly content when my baby went to sleep without me in her own bed at 6:30pm. These women were not my people. They were awesome, just not my thing. I quietly slipped out of the yoga studio and my baby and I spent the following Friday afternoon in our apartment, eating and napping. Still alone. Strike two. 
  • The Mom’s Group. By the time my baby was six months old I was getting really desperate…so desperate I joined the dreaded community Mom’s Group. Every community seems to have one of these online-driven groups run by the ex-head cheerleader/student body president/power-hungry career woman-turned SAHM who: Just wants everyone to meet at organized playgroups! And get along! And have fun! Under my direct supervision and according to my regulations! Yayayayayay! Sigh. In our community the head of the Mom’s Group is a woman named Gwen. If I wrote a movie script to tell this story, the part of Gwen would hands-down be played by a peppy Kim Jong Il. Her list of autocratic directives included such gems as:
  1. “No kids at playgroups who are sick or recently were sick or look like they might be getting sick.” (OK, so I guess I won’t be seeing you from October-April. Awesome.)
  2. "No incomplete online profiles” (Good lord, why do you need my email, house phone, cell phone, child’s birthday, date of last dental check-up, etc? Are you going to ruin my credit if I don’t show up to a playgroup?)
  3. “All events should be void of ‘Mama-Drama’”.
That last one had me rolling for months since Gwen was the Queen of the Perfect Mommies and her impromptu parenting lectures are now legendary for causing waves among the group. Over the course of my brief five month membership in Gwen’s exclusive mom’s club I received impromptu lessons that could have been titled:
  • Why Letting Your Child Fuss for More Than 5 minutes at Night Makes Me an Emotionally Unavailable Parent
  • Why Any Amount of TV Will Rot Your Child’s Brain
  • Why Casting Your Child Off to Daycare/Preschool Prior to Kindergarten is Just Plain Wrong
  • Why and How Her Child is Beyond Gifted and Talented.
After the second or third lecture Gwen became my arch nemesis for obvious reasons, though she never knew it. Because she was the head of the group and since I was still desperate for friends I felt I had to make nice with the enemy. But now that time has passed and I’m out of the group I’d just like to take this opportunity to say--


So I did eventually make my Mommy Friends. At my second or third Mom’s Group playgroup there was a mom named Heather whose son is the same age as my daughter. I was instantly drawn to her because she was humbly gathering advice from everyone on how to get her 8 month-old to sleep through the night. Her face was distressed and I could hear her voice catching in her throat as she talked to me about how she just didn’t know what to do anymore. Her son would only nap in a moving stroller and he wasn’t sleeping at night for more than two hours at a time. She was just.so.tired. So we started talking and the questions came rolling out of her. Was I getting any sleep? Was my baby teething, too? How long was I going to breastfeed? Did I miss being at work? Was it supposed to be this hard? I felt like she had climbed in my head and was sorting through all the crazy. Ah, a kindred spirit!

Even today, a couple years and another baby later, she is my go-to playmate, coffee colleague and advisor for all major parenting struggles. I pretty much hit the jackpot with Heather because not only is she all kinds of awesome, she had already made two other kick-ass mommy friends so I got three sane friends by only meeting one. At long last I found the Kate to my Lydia, or the Lydia to my Kate, and this job has been less of a struggle ever since. (Stop getting all misty, you two…)

And wouldn’t you know it…I made my mommy friend in a fairly organic way! We met, we shared a look of desperation, and we started a friendship free of judgment. No stalking, no overpriced classes, and no Mama Drama, for real.

Now if I could just work on that clean shirt thing…


(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2010

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