Having a baby, and especially being a stay-at-home mom (part-time, full-time, short- or long-term…), does interesting things to your social life.
For example, to leave the house to meet up with a friend, I USED to breezily grab my purse, car keys and a pair of sunglasses.
NOW, assuming my son is with me – I leave the house, with no less than the following:
My diaper bag, stocked with diapers, wipes, snacks, extra clothes, sunscreen, sanitizer, toys, books, changing mat, and – if I’m really on my game – a bib/plastic spoon/placemat in case we end up eating out (of course I usually don’t have these things and we usually just come home with REALLY dirty clothes…).
PLUS – my own wallet, keys, water, etc…. – basically a scaled-down version of normal purse contents.
I keep a stroller, waterproof blanket and baby carrier in the car, and often need one of the three while we’re out. If going to beach, add towels and sand toys. Picnic? Add food, ice packs, napkins, drinks…
Earlier this week I met up with a friend from my original PEPS group (two years strong!) and we had a rather lengthy zoo/park/lunch outing with our boys. Picture: all of the above accessories plus the two-seater wagon with umbrella that my friend hauled along. Bless her heart.
Pre-kids, I used to look at moms out in public juggling strollers, diaper bags, groceries, wagons, umbrellas, etc… and cringe at how COMPLETELY CHAOTIC it ALWAYS LOOKED.
Well, that’s me now. Cringe away….
The great thing is, you find FRIENDS who can be chaotic with you, and thus make you feel somewhat normal and together. PEPS has been a great resource for this.
For example, at our lunch date with our two 2-year-old boys, let’s just say I don’t think we were the favorite table amongst staff and fellow patrons. There was bubble-blowing, competitive gleeful shrieking, ketchup smeared all over shirts, condiment-covered menus and more food on the floor than on the table. But you know what? We were in the same boat, our boys were having a blast, and it was actually, refreshingly, FUN. And I tipped well (this is mandatory).
Granted, this wasn’t Canlis (this place had a train table). Honestly, I would do it again tomorrow.
My PEPS group and other moms I’ve met or reconnected with who live nearby with kids Anderson’s age have become an invaluable component of my social network over the last two years. What I’ve learned is that the general common denominator of being a mom has led me to connect with a more diverse group of women than I think I otherwise might have chosen as friends. I think this inevitably happens through the dynamic of a PEPS group alone.
My fellow mom friends and I don’t necessarily like the same music, find the same qualities attractive in men, watch the same TV shows, or shop at the same grocery stores. Sometimes more personal similarities line up than others, and that’s icing on the cake! But other times, just sharing the experience of having ketchup-stained children is enough to bond you for the day.
I’ve come to understand as I grow older, mature as a parent, and navigate the world of adult friendships, a few important things:
1) No one friend has to be your everything. I’ve given up the notion that I need ONE, BEST friend to fulfill ALL my friendship needs. On Monday, I might hang out with a friend who loves to go to all the same parks as me, can carry on good conversations about marriage and family, but can’t stand my country music and would never wear my clothes. That’s OK! That weekend I might have brunch with a child-less friend who helps me get back in touch with what makes me ME, aside from being a mom and stimulates me with conversations on topics I spent much more time absorbing pre-parenthood – those friends can be just as needed as the occasional child-free brunch! I’ve enjoyed the challenge of learning about different ways of life from friends who I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen (and who may not have chosen me!) were it not for having kids in common. I think it’s made me a more open-minded and well-rounded person and friend.
2) Friendship should be mutual, but try not to take it personally when it’s not. I think we’ve all had friends or potential friends who have pursued us more than we’ve pursued them, and vice versa. I’m not advocating strict score-keeping on numbers of phone calls and social invitations here, but I’ve learned that in healthy, growing friendships, both people respect each other’s time, WANT to make time for each other, and reciprocate such feelings and communication. If you find yourself repeatedly being neglected by or cancelled on by someone you’re making an effort to become better friends with, it may be time to move on to people who DO want to make time to be a part of your life. Try not to take it personally – simply have enough respect for yourself and your time to focus your efforts on the people who DO want to make you a priority. You’ll be happier.
3) Though shalt not subsist on kids’ menus alone. As great as it is to bond with your girlfriends while chasing toddlers through children’s museums and eating their cold chicken fingers, it is also nice to make time once in a while to connect just as grown-ups. One way I have done this is by initiating a monthly book club with an eclectic mix of (mostly) mom friends. One evening a month we meet at someone’s home, pour some wine, snack on Trader Joe’s appetizers and talk about whatever non-parenting (!!!) book we all just read, and all the tangents that conversation inevitably leads to. I think we all leave feeling energized, closer as friends, and restored in our non-parent identities. Of course a book club is just one of many excuses to get together sans kids – I have also met up with mom friends for Paint Nite, double dates and karaoke with our husbands (just to remind myself you can still be cringe-worthy WITHOUT all the kid gear) and spa days. I mean, really – who needs to be talked into these things (with the possible exception of karaoke)?
There is truly no part of your identity left unchanged by the addition of a child to your life. Your friendship needs are no exception. For me, becoming a parent has made me more confident in myself and what I have to offer as a friend, and BUSIER, and thus less willing to invest time in friendships that have run their course or just aren’t going anywhere. I’ve been selective, but also open-minded in who I choose to spend time with, and let down my guard with. One lesson I’ve learned over and over in life is that many of the best friends are the biggest surprises.
About the Author
Seattle native Beth Morris is a PEPS Newborn Group Leader, writer for this blog and her own (writeasrainblog.com) and stay-at-home mom to Anderson. She enjoys salty margaritas and can sing a mean Shania Twain karaoke cover (definitely in that order), and wishes life were more like the TV show Friday Night Lights.
another great and true piece Beth!