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

37 comments:

  1. Thanks for the post! You just described my life....over and over again. I'm a military wife whose husband was transferred to Asia when I was 3 months pregnant with our first child. Man, I had quite a list of ways I tried to find a friend. Luckily I finally found one and was never more grateful in my life. But it was an extremely lonely road. Then we moved! Started over. Nine months later, we had a baby and immediately moved again (with a 2 year old and 3 week old). Tried my long list of possible ways to make friends, during an extremely lonely time (husband deployed weeks after we moved to this new part of the country....so me with 2 y.o., newborn, no family, no friends, and no husband). Good times. Finally found a couple of friends. But yes, 2.5 years after getting to this locale, I had a baby and we moved when he was 2 weeks old! Woohoo! So here I am now, 8 months into this new spot, still working on finding those mommy-friends.
    Just wanted you to know how much we military moms can relate to your post!!!

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  2. Louise....you sneaky mommy stalker. I'm impressed by the number of hilarious ways you were left blown off and lonely and yet persevered. Early mommyhood is a dark and lonely place without a Heather. You need a real in the trenches friend on days when there's both poop and breast milk on your shirt (and you feel no need to change because it will just happen again), you haven't showered and all your bottoms produce a muffin top. Not to mention your kid only sleeps while moving while everyone else seems to have the baby who just calmly decides to go to sleep for 12 hours at 7pm while you need to use Ferber. Why is Ferber such a dirty word???? WTF. The sanctimonious snitches are enough to kill off any last ray of hope a new momma desperately needs. So for all the moms who have really needed some friendship, consolation and pep talks that it must get better, I'd also like to drop kick Gwen in the taco and school her on her obnoxious ways (even though I would be way too timid to do so in public). Perhaps as a public service message we should send Gwen your message. Why do I suspect that dear old Gwen didn't even have that good of a job to begin with???
    Good work, Kate! So glad you found Louise and that it didn't come about through another stalking attempt.

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  3. Louise I had the exact same play group experience. Except one very cool mommy swooped in and saved us all from power drunk mommy. Now the cool mommy is one of closest friends.

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  4. Good to know that Gwen's are everywhere. My personal Gwen made me feel like I just wasn't cool enough to have mom friends. Of course, she has now been booted from her leadership role like all crazy despots should be. Sorry you had to suffer that, but AWESOME letter and congrats on finding Heather.

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  5. huh. so that's how you make mommy friends... i still haven't managed it, and with an 8 year old son and 2 year old daughter, i'm incredibly lonely for kindred spirit time. (in my defense, we've moved 7 times in the last 7 years...) actually that's why i'm here in blog-land... all my mommy friends were met on an online playgroup, and live scattered across the US. i loved this post... thanks for sharing. it definitely struck a chord in me. and i love your wording. being lonely definitely DOES suck goat balls and monkey balls. :D oh, and "kick you in the taco" made me LOL. you're awesome.

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  6. @LikeFamily: Your base should have a resource. Or you can click on this:
    http://www.military.com/spouse/fs

    Look for the child service links at the bottom left of the page. Good luck.

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  7. We moved when I was pregnant and for some reason I had the deluded notion that if I showed up at pregnant-lady/new-mommy things(birthing class, prenatal yoga, La Leche League), the friends would just come. Of course, I learned that this isn't the case, as so many of you have also realized.
    Instead, I found some of my best mommyfriends in random places, i.e. weight watchers, a book club (with a rule of no self-help books). My theory is that you find the mommyfriends when you are least expecting to. Although mommy-ing is a common denominator, it doesn't mean you will automatically become BFF. I've been lucky and now have a pretty solid group of mommyfriends but I attribute that to connecting with ladies for a dual purpose...food and kids or books and kids.
    Thanks for the post!

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  8. LOVE THIS! We were in the same situation, new city, new baby, no family or friends. Blows goats and sucks monkey balls! hee hee

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  9. We relocated back to our "hometown" a little over a year ago. I have lots of friends from elementary, middle and high school here. While even though we still talk and keep in touch (mainly through the magic of Facebook) we don't "hang out" and do stuff. There are a couple of gals that I do see on a semi-regular basis, but since we homeschool... and their kids go to "regular school" it gets complicated. One of the problems is that my oldest is almost 13 years old... a lot of my friends have only started having kids in the last couple years. We've all grown and changed over the years that we lived away.

    I miss my friends in our old town.... I met them at storytime, the park and when our kids were in preschool. Our kids grew up together for 8 years. My younger kids have friends that they have been playing with since infancy. We keep in touch with them (we only moved an hour away) and I talk to my best friend, also a Tiffany, a couple of times a day. She is the Kate to my Lydia, or the Lydia to my Kate.... we both posess qualities of both. :) I'm still looking for that type of friend here....

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  10. It's been four years... I'm still looking for my lydia... sigh... I have taken all kinds of mad routes... I have a couple playdate mommies... and they keep me sane for the time being.

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  11. I'm pretty bad at making new mommy friends--not so much for lack of opportunity but for lack of execution. There's a tentative "dance" of trying to share with someone new what things you care about & why you're special without bragging or sounding pompous--all the while making sure they get enough time to tell you what they care about and why they're special. Couple this "tango" with trying to keep an eye on a roving, toy-snatching toddler and my tango ends up feeling like a break dance battle with several instances of having to leave the dance floor. It really halts the flow and momentum of connecting with another adult. And my memory is not what it once was so the next time I see that lovely lady I'm trying to become friends with, I may very well ask her the same questions about things I should already know (retain) about her. It makes me seem like I'm not listening and that's just not the case. Making mommy friends is something I truly hope to get better at.

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  12. My daughter is five and I still have no mommy friends. I'm to crunchy for mainstream mommy groups and no where near crunchy enough for attachment parenting groups.

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  13. I made my mommy friends at a local mom/baby happy hour. It's a good way to weed out Gwens. They don't take their babies to bars.

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  14. Oh, I can so relate to this post. Thank you Guru Louise!

    I live in a medium-sized midwestern city and I found to my dismay that most of my work friends that were having children at the same time as me were going back to work. That promoted me to status of 'leper' for planning to be a stay at home mom. Amazingly, I'm still casual friends with these working mommies. I did not judge their decisions even though I felt the snitch-y stares and answered the barrage of annoying questions "So when are you going back to work?" at every happy hour.

    Finding friends that relate to your new mommy status (without pity) is a challenge. I tried online groups, found my Gwen, and after being openly snubbed at a dinner-making party, I vowed never to return.

    I tried another online group and had the good fortune of meeting mom-most-likely-to-be-in-a-grunge-rock-band who accepted me (without tattoos) as I was, sleep deprived and needy. This group was overall a better fit than the first one. I didn't find my Kate/Lydia, but I did survive early motherhood.

    My advice to those looking for mom friends is to stay true to yourself. Don't hang out in a gourmet grocery store if the only food you cook is boxed mac & cheese. Don't go to mommy-and-me events unless you're willing to put yourself out there, muffin top and all.

    And if you are in a group of moms, be kind to others. (that includes dads!) Don't be snitch-y or catty talking about moms that are always late to a playdate or popped a pacifier in their baby's mouth when she started crying. Don't brag that your child sleeps through the night at 6 weeks old when another mom has dark circles under her eyes and a child older than 6 months.

    Nobody is a perfect mommy, no matter how much they try to be (or lie). We all have those days. The person you're judging could be facing some major life trauma and you might turn away a forever friend.

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  15. Love it...i've done each of those things as well.... and unfortunately I was even the "Gwen"...although I'd like to believe i wasn't as snitchy...let's hope LOL

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  16. Love it! This is pretty much the most accurate characterization of new mommy 'adjustment' I've ever heard. Thank goodness for mommies like Louise - not only for being the normal, honest, 'rea'l mommy but for putting it out there. Awesome. Being able to share the trials and tribulations of this crazy new lifestyle with one another is what hopefully keeps us from turning into Gwens. Sigh...if only those stalker moments I seem to have (don't we all?) could turn into funny little anecdotes. Rock on Louise.

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  17. I am now a grandma and I still remember the day I watched a moving truck pull up to the house next door and a nice woman about my age pulled behind it on the driveway and proceeded to unbuckle a baby from the car seat that looked about my babies age. Thirty years later and six kids between us that have grown up and moved out and she is still my friend. And by the way, our "Gwen", (yes, that type existed in the eighties) lives in their childhood basement.

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  18. you obviously don't understand AP. it's not that we "never, ever took a break from looking completely and utterly thrilled about being a mom" it's about what good for the child not _just_ the mom.

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  19. This is hilarious and so true...love it!!!

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  20. I hear that one way to meet potential mommy friends is to get your husband to make friends with other daddies... My sister's best friend tried "stalking" every other stroller-toting mother in the neighborhood for a while, with similar results to Louise. Then her husband made friends with one of the other dads in the neighborhood and suddenly they were being invited to all sorts of social things because the other mothers were excited that the guys were hanging out together.

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  21. I've always resented those gregarious, too perfect moms who just exude chipperness. It is nice to know that there are other normal moms who are dead tired, feel lonely, and haven't memorized Dr Sears. Thanks for letting us know we're not alone.

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  22. Thanks for a great article...so very true.

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  23. Thanks for adding Guru Louise's deliciously edgy bulls-eye voice to Mommyland Rants. So fun and revealing of a core experience of early parenthood. Pediatricians should have your blog in their motherhood survival resources kit.

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  24. Awesome article! It's nice to know that I'm not the only mommy in the world that feels alone, even surrounded by my 2 kids!

    After my first son was born, I went back to work part time. I hated every second of the work part, but enjoyed the social time I got there. After my 2nd son was born I decided to stay home full time. Best decision ever. And I don't regret it...but it's easy to feel alone. Especially for me, we live in the country so no opportunities to stalk other stroller pushing mommies!! My kids are now 3 1/2 and 1 1/2 and I'm STILL struggling with finding a mommy friend. I have many friends. Some don't have kids at all and don't understand. And it's no offense to them, you just don't "get" what it's like to be a mom until you are a mom. And the few friends I have that are moms either work or are busy being the "perfect" mom. It's exhausting.

    We put our son into preschool this year and I'm hoping that will be a chance for me to meet other moms. I also tried a local group at our church. I had tried the group before and the moms I sat with were so snobby. This time it was much better. Everyone seemed super nice and welcoming. I may not have found my go-to-girl yet, but it's nice to be out there trying at least.

    Thanks for posting this! It's nice to know that there are really good mommy friends out there, it just takes time to find a forever friend!

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  25. I found that the best mommy-friends for me were the people whom I had things in common with OUTSIDE OF OUR KIDS. If they were fun, non-judgemental, shared my caffeine addiction and didn't care about the mess, then I knew they were for me. Having kids of similar ages just made it even yummier.

    Nowadays, our kids are a little older and more independent, my mommy friends and I STILL have things to discuss since we had so much in common to begin with. Of course, we also get to share gripes about pre-teens and teens, too. Believe me, it never ends....

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  26. When my boys (now teenagers) were born I was lucky enough to live in an artificial neighborhood on an Air Force base. I say "artificial" because our spouses were all pretty much the same rank, we were all similar in age and although our parenting styles were diverse, there were lots of stay at home mommies. We moved when my guys were 13 months and 2 1/2 yrs. Really hard to make new mommy friends the 18 months we were at our next assignment. But with the next move we had preschool!! Preschool was great because I met some fantastic moms and we could have a great time hanign out--with or without our kids!

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  27. Love it! Wish I could find my Heather...

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  28. How very true, trying to find mommy friends it tough! especially when you really need them.

    It is refreshing to know that there are other moms out there that have trouble finding friends. I always feel like I am the only one who is on the search.

    I will say the mommy friends that I do have are the best a mom could ask for, but as a previous poster said, they come when least expecting!

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  29. You all are making me act like I have mental illness or something this morning.

    I'm tweeting everything out that you've got here. IT"s hilarious!

    This is solid gold.

    Sorry, but I cannot believe I havent' found you.
    I love you. I love you.

    I need to laugh so badly, or I'll go back and hide my head under the covers.

    You guys rock it, you really do.

    Thank you.

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  30. I'm a working mom - single to boot - try working in a friendship with THAT situation! I literally have none locally. Acquaintances yes. Some borderline friendships but since I work, they are hard to cultivate/maintain. Therefore my bets source of kindred spirits has been my online moms group. We've been together 15 years as of next month and even though none are in my city, they are my sisters - my rocks - my lifelines to sanity whenever I need them.

    I love your letter to Gwen!!!

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  31. Louise, you rock! I LOL'd several times. (The yoga graphic is priceless and I want to share it with the world. :) ) I am impressed at the lengths you went to to find friends and your honesty about your experiences there. Takes guts to admit to stalking someone. :) Cheers to you -thanks for sharing your story. Hope to catch you on here again soon!

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  32. WOW!! Keep writing.

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  33. "Round house kick you in the taco" Love that . By the way I just randomly found this and love it, I have been with the same moms group for over a year and I really hate it !! I am having the hardest time making a real friend . I have realized mom friends are not real friends. I really feel like I am that weird awkward mom no one wants to talk to ever. Is it the way I look? Is it just me ? I am not the most outgoing person and I am not very good at starting conversation. I have seen the same moms at a lot of these playgroups/outings etc. I am a social retard I guess. I am sick of feeling lonely, awkward and weird at these playgroups. I just don't fit in . My interests are just too different to these other moms . I feel like giving up. My son is the only reason I suffer through these playgroups. I can't wait until I can send him to preschool . Then it will be bye bye playgroup.

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  34. I know I am late to the party, but I found this blog a few months ago. I have been reading from the first post on up. Anyhow my comment is why dosen't my husband get it? I guess he will never understand the becoming a SAHM was the hardest thing for me to do. I am a social butterfly, I need people that don't require a change of pants every hr. I need the give and take of a real conversation. I know that we all love our kids, but none of my friends have kids my age or live close to me. When I found out my bf from MI was having a kid I thought about moving up there so I could have a friend. Of corse we would have no place to live or money, but the thought of a real honest friend almost made me uproot my family that in its self would be worth more then gold! Alas I am here in Mommyland waiting for baby to wake, so my day of "how big is the baby?" and changing poopie pants can begin.

    Good luck to all! I will find a friend, even if I have to start taking spanish classes just so I can speak to someone. (our neighborhood is mainly spanish speaking!)

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  35. You just wrote exactly how I've been feeling inside for years. I moved from up north to this southern town where everyone has their friends since childhood and isn't interested in adding you. I have made friends here and there, but they have all turned out to be fair weather friends not the real kind I left back home. No one really wants to get past the initial how are you doing, oh great! nonsense. I just can't be syrupy and fake enough for people (sorry I"m form up north) I still after 6 years feel alone other than a few friends who are too busy to hang out much. While my situation still isn't fantastic, it makes me feel much better to know someone else knows how I feel.

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  36. I am so glad to read your post!
    This is very very very very helpful post for me!
    Thanks a lot for sharing your real experience in publicly!
    All of this is a very important aspect of raising a child, just as important as that of your baby!
    Again Thanks!
    :)

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