“Mommy friends” are coveted milestone in motherhood — yet a fraught one. As Rebecca Eckler and Maria Guido have independently voiced, being an “old mom” can be awkward once all your previous mom friends have older kids and are kicking back tequila shots. Conversely, if you’re one of the first ones in your friend group to welcome a baby, you may find that your childless counterparts are also kicking back tequila shots while you timidly ask if BYOB means “bring your own baby.” But whether you’re a 19-year-old mom, a 29-year-old mom, or a 39-year-old mom, making mom friends is compared to dating for a reason. And that’s because all the various dynamics over parenting ideologies, mommy stigmas, and childrearing techniques can make for very hit or miss chemistry.
So while I encourage all the ladies (and gentlemen) of the Mommyish community to keep keepin’ on for mommy companions, my best advice to you is to not seek out friends with kids at all. Just seek out friends (some of whom may happen to have kids), and for the following reasons.
1. They will judge you faster than you can say “baby formula”
Even if you guys swear up and down over your matching Sophies that you will never harbor any mommy judgement, they totally will. One day — while you are at the park, while you are at playgroup, while you pick your kid up from school — they will have a fleeting moment of parental judgement. They may promise to never vocalize it to you (so decide how you feel about that), but it’s definitely there behind the trembling of their eyebrow and, “Oh, it’s fiiiiiine.”
(photo: Conor O’Dea)
2. Having matching parenting ideologies isn’t a match made in heaven
So you’ve decided mid-pregnancy that you’re going to be an AP parent? A Ferber gal? A “Cry It Out” couple? And you research out various baby and mommy groups according to your preferred parenting tactic? While this approach is great in theory, there will most likely come a moment where you, as a fully capable parent, decide well maybe baby-wearing isn’t for your family after all. Or maybe you won’t be able to commit to hardcore ferberizing your kids like you planned. Or maybe sleep training will look pretty tempting after a few months. Infants have a distinct way of changing what kind of parent you thought you’d like to be. And the very LAST thing you need as you reroute your parenting ideologies are some snarky ladies with resting bitchface giving you the eye roll because you’ve decided not to breastfeed.
(photo: Jennifer Laycock)
3. Your kids may not like each other just because you do — and that will be awkward
Just because you and your new-found mommy companion are “Orange Is The New Black” watching soul mates doesn’t mean that your spawn will be having an arranged marriage. While your new blobs of JELLO (also known as newborns) may delight in wobbling next to one another on blankets in the park, don’t depend on these little ones to keep your flame a burning. Remember when your parents forced you to play with that brat up the street just because she and your mom were in book club together or something? Remember how awful that kid was? And remember when you went to your mom and she was like “lalalalalalal! I don’t hear you because she is the only person who I can stand in this town!” Well, your kid might grow up to be you and your friend’s kid that awful brat who does weird stuff like eat paper towels and spit them out on you. Your friendship over J. Courtney Sullivan novels, original Netflix series, or DIY crafting doesn’t have to be contingent on your children mirroring your bromance. In fact, it might be all the better for you if it isn’t.
4. One day one of your kids will do something really wrong to the other, and it won’t go over well
This is major parenting moment for you and a memorable one for your kid. But what it won’t be great for is your precious mommy friendship. You know how many sob stories I get in my e-mail inbox about mommy friendships getting completely dashed because someone’s kid bit the other one? Or smacked the other one? Or stole something from the other one? If your friendship predates your uterine contractions, this probably isn’t a deal breaker. But if you’ve just joined a new playgroup and your 5-year-old throws a rock into the face of the one kid of the one lady you can kind of stand, consider that budding friendship most likely over.
(photo: Corey Ann)
5. One day you will get into an epic fight about your parenting
These annoyances are usually small but erode a friendship over time. It starts with something very minute, like how your friend always lets her daughter interrupt your conversations and doesn’t bother correcting her. Or always buys her a toy when she starts whining in the checkout line. Or who admits to doing her homework on occasion. Fast forward a few years and your mommy friend’s daughter is an entitled princess who talks back when you tell her to buckle her seat belt. All of a sudden you’re on your cell phone ranting about all those cataloged parenting faults from years before and it’s no wonder little Quinoa turned out that way and oh, shit, she just hung up on you.
6. At some point, they’ll probably want you to confirm their parenting choices
Parenting in America is very insecure business. Because we don’t have things like proper maternity leave, paternity leave or affordable childcare in our country, that leaves a lot of different variables for how people are going to effectively swing parenthood, especially early parenthood. This breeds infectious insecurity among mothers and fathers. With so much anxiety surrounding how we raise our children, there is often the need to prove that you’re doing it the “right” way, a concept that is effectively challenged when your neighbor decides that being a SAHM is best for her while you’re hitting up the daycare 20 hours a week. This is the root of every mommy wars BS daytime talk show segment ever, which also unfortunately trickles down into interpersonal parenting circles. Of course many parents seek out mothers and fathers who share their own “experience” of parenthood, whether that be working motherhood, being a SAHD, SAHM, or a part-time worker. But they’re also seeking out others to constantly affirm their own decisions in their path to raise humans. And your own hypothetical mommy friends are no exception.
7. They will most likely start giving you crappy marriage/partnership advice
If your marriage starts going south, or rather teetering towards the South Pole, really the last people you want to be reaching out to are the playground mommies who already think you’re better than them because you show up in work clothes. While your childless or older mom friends may not appear sensitive — or even knowledgeable — on the impacts a new baby can have on a partnership, your new-found mom friends are probably not the gold standard of knowledge either. They’re most likely weathering the same storm of changes and can only offer up their own stories of near D word drama. That can be comforting, but it’s certainly not innately helpful. If you can afford it, seek out a therapist or a counselor. The nice lady with the red-headed twins is an expert in finance and perhaps her own marriage. Realistically, she doesn’t know anything about yours.
(photo: LZ Creations)
8. They will deem themselves know-it-alls on your uterus
Hang out with the same group of mommies every Friday for 24 months and all of sudden they’ll be discouraging you for going for that third coveted baby. Why? Well, because one of them had a friend who had a friend who tried for a baby at your age and she had three miscarriages and eventually a baby with Downs. HELPFUL. Seriously, save these conversations for you and your doctor and your partner. Swapping conception and fertility stories with the mommy group is all good and fun but they aren’t anymore an authority on your own body than the mailman is. Just smile. Nod. And remind yourself that this is just a playgroup. It’s just a playgroup. It’s just a playgroup.