I’ve always been the type of girl that never lacked in the ‘girl friends’ category. I had always found that making friends with women was effortless and deemed myself a ‘girl’s girl’ a very long time ago. Sure, I had lost some friends or cut friends out of my life for various reasons, but overall I never lacked or struggled in the friend category; until I became a mom. I knew that motherhood would present it’s own challenges, but I was never prepared for the complete change in dynamic that would occur when it came to courting and maintaining friendships. I compare having mom friends as an adult to playing chess with Bobby Fisher. Having friends is so extremely important not only as a mother but as a woman, so why was this task so daunting as a mom? You would think with all the play-groups, workout classes, or kid’s school activities, that there would be endless situations where you could meet a potential new friend. Don’t get me wrong, you can and will meet new women at all of these things, but finding your new best friend amongst these women can be like trying to find your abs after having babies; pretty difficult for most of us!
Being a military wife brings an entire new dimension of stress when it comes to courting mom friends. You see, my very best friends all lived in back home in Alaska, and although we communicate regularly, they were not here to join me and my kids at the park or to babysit last minute when I needed it. By the time I left Virginia to move to San Diego, I had to unfortunately leave behind the solid pack of mom friends that took me several years to build. When we moved to San Diego, I was starting from scratch in the friend category although I did have one really good friend here from Virginia, but she didn’t have any kids (we still hangout all the time anyways). I knew the time would be coming that I was going to have to force myself out of my shell and start courting some mom friends. Not really knowing where to start, I joined a Crossfit gym because I knew that it would be likely that I would meet some friends there and in fact, most of my current mom friends are the ladies I met at my gym! My point is, although I do have a decent little group of friends here in San Diego that took me three years to cultivate, I haven’t touched on the dozens of mom friends I have courted that didn’t make the cut.
When it comes to courting friends, we all have to take our personality and quirks into consideration and be aware of how we are perceived and come across. The reason for this is that first impressions make a big impact on the likelihood of a second, third, and fourth mom date. I know I can be bossy and can talk too much so I really have to throttle it back a bit to not scare off a potential friend. If you think of it, making mom friends is very similar to dating! Speaking of knowing your personality and how you come across, you also need to know what your ‘swipe left’ traits are (things you dislike about another). Example, I can not and will not befriend a clingy chick. I have a busy life and a husband who travels a lot and I need a friend who understands my lifestyle and isn’t texting me for a play date every single day. A friend who isn’t going to be snarky when I say I am spending time with my husband and kids over the weekend because that is a rare occasion in itself. I have met dozens of women who I would have a good first mom date with and next thing you know, I am getting daily texts about hanging out or worse- a snarky text that they saw a picture of me at the park on Facebook and I didn’t invite them (gasp!). These were the women who would get insulted if I hung out with another friend and I just can not deal with that type of drama. We are all adults and have different friends and different family dynamics and I will not feel obligated to invite my clingy friend to absolutely every single thing that I do.
Then there are the women who are the one-uppers and dream killers. In the beginning, the conversation with these women seem like you two have a lot in common and by the end of the conversation, you’re looking at each other saying ‘did we just become best friends? Yup!’ Fast forward past the initial courting phase and the conversation has emerged from ‘me too’ to a constant one-up battle. I have had many ‘friends’ do this and I had to phase them out because I simply have never felt compelled to compete with my friends (because I sincerely hope we all make it). I couldn’t stand the fact that every time I spoke, they had to come back with something better or pick out something that was wrong with what I was doing. I found that some of the women who fell into this category had a common theme– that whenever I had good news or was talking about my dreams they would come in, pull their pants down, and take a giant theoretical shit all over whatever I was talking about. They would poke holes in my ideas (which can be beneficial for business plans, but bitch don’t kill my vibe!), they would one-up everything I said, or just flat out be snarky and pessimistic about whatever I was talking about. This battle for superiority was something I didn’t want to participate in so what do you think happened? These women can also really hurt you when you are struggling with personal or family issues and need a listening ear. True friendships are not always selfies and #squadgoals posts on Instagram. True friendship is messy because real life is messy. I remember struggling very hard in my marriage and enduring some pretty painful situations with my immediate family; I was simply going through a depressive episode. My ‘best friend’ at the time would act like I was wasting her time venting about these issues or would dismiss my feelings, or worse, not answer at all. There is a fine line with being there for someone and being a complete asshole about what they’re going through- just to be clear. True friends will be there for you regardless of how many times you call crying on the phone or how often you bitch about the same problems (a true friend would also put their friend in check when it comes to that). True friends will match your excitement and be genuinely happy for you while fake friends will put you and your ambitions down, either directly or indirectly. Toss those ‘friends’ overboard as they are the ones drilling holes in your boat while you’re not looking!
What do you do if your kids have a best friend but you know off the bat that you two won’t become BFFs anytime soon? I have come across this multiple times; our kids play great but every second of adult conversation is about the kids and I need more than that in a friendship. I need to confide in someone when my marriage is struggling, I need someone to motivate me to be the best version of myself. I have grown to understand that we all should be more selfish with our time and I just can’t intentionally give my time away to people that I have a hard time trying to converse with. If the conversation is 100% about kids and it’s forced small talk about anything else, keep it moving. The two of you have nothing in common, no common interests or dreams, you just happen to have kids that have become good friends and sometimes that is ok. How do you navigate this without offending the other mom and potentially ruining the friendship your kids have created? I don’t know the right answer to that but don’t try to rock the boat too hard. When we first moved here, I had met a woman who had a daughter my daughter’s age and they were in the same class at preschool. They immediately became best friends and constantly asked for play dates with the other. The other mom was very nice but I knew off the bat that we were not going to be best friends. We had absolutely nothing in common, she was extremely religious (no offense or judgement, I am just not super religious), she didn’t take care of herself at all (again no judgement but I place self-care on the top of my priority list), she was a total pessimist, and her personality was just not one that I was going to mesh with successfully. I think we both knew that we were very, very different from the other and neither one of us made a real effort to do things that involved both parents. I would come get her daughter for a play date and vice versa and we spared each other the forced, awkward interactions that would have to take place if we were both there. I would say we had a successful ‘were not going to be friends but our kid’s love each other’ dynamic, however, most people are not as fortunate. I have been in situations on the flip side of this too, the situation where my daughter wanted to hang out with a certain kid but their mom gave off very bad vibes so their friendship remained within the school walls; and thats ok too!
I always say to trust your gut because energy doesn’t lie. When I get bad vibes, it is 100% due to me picking up what they are putting down; my gut has never failed me in this sense! I have pushed past the bad vibes to be nice and friendly to another mom, only to be proven right in the sense that I should have steered clear. Breaking up with a friend who no longer serves you or who doesn’t have your back can be very difficult. I recently had to go through this with someone I have been friends with for many years and it has been tough to say the least. This person let a lack of communication drive her to completely backstab me, slander me, and ruin a sister-like friendship that many women hope to have. Would I forgive her? I am not sure. We had a really special friendship but when you get completely betrayed, the chances of salvaging it are very slim to none. If you are struggling with having mom friends don’t worry, you are amongst probably millions of other moms who deal with this same dilemma. My point is, don’t give up. You never know where you could meet your next new buddy. When it is the right friendship, it will be effortless and easy- just how all friendships should be! If you only have a few friends and are clinging to your current shitty ones, you need to cut the ties and remain confident that you will find new friends. How often have you bitched to your spouse about friendship troubles or have been in a bad mood because of the weirdness that comes along with courting mom friends? Probably a lot! Value your time AND energy and don’t allow external people (outside of your children) to drain your energy. Life is meant to be lived joyously so you need to get the knife and cut the chord with the ‘friends’ who are weighing you down, draining your energy, and causing you stress.
I think it is extremely healthy to do an inventory of what characteristics you posses as a friend. Are you that clingy girl or the debbie downer? If so, recognize, acknowledge, and learn to let go of those behaviors that are possibly scaring potential friends away. Take a walk in someone else’s shoes and be aware of how you come off to other people and how they perceive you. I had to acknowledge many years ago that I have a dominating personality and was usually the one dictating plans and controlling everything on top of talking way too much and going through bouts of negativity. Once I became aware of this, I changed (yes it’s that easy). I started to relinquish control, would tell my girls to make plans without my input, and started to listen more than I talked. When I was going through a tough time, I would have my healthy vent session but would then let it go unless it was totally necessary to bring up again. Check yourself and your contributions as a friend and see if there are ways that you can improve!
I made a decision a long time ago to always put MY mental health first in order for me to be the best version of myself. When I am the best me, my children benefit, my husband benefits, and every part of my life benefits. Part of putting your mental health first is implementing self-care which isn’t always spa days or manicures. Self-care comes in many forms and one of those forms is being selfish with who you spend your time with. I refuse to give my time or energy to anyone who doesn’t contribute to my life in a positive manner or that drains my energy. I promise that the right friend will come along and if you are struggling with this, start putting yourself out there more on top of doing the inventory I just referred to. What is your passion? Perhaps find a class or outlet for that passion, even if it is once a month. The likelihood of finding a compatible friend is high because you are already in a place where you have a common interest besides kids. One of the best friends that I made here in San Diego, I met at my Crossfit gym. Yes we both have kids and it didn’t hurt that our daughters are best buds, but we genuinely love each other and have a great friendship as a result of our common interests and matching energy. I don’t think there is a match.com-like website for courting mom friends (perhaps I should create one?) so in the meantime, you are going to have to put yourself out there if you need more mom friends in your life. Perhaps we should create mom-friend compatibility checklists to present to our potential new friends? Remember to be kind, be welcoming, be humble, and be unapologetically YOU when it comes to courting mom friends. Lastly, remember to never stop trying to improve yourself when it comes to who you are as a friend!