I was that person – that cool girl who wanted to be a mom but not a “Mom.” I wanted a baby, absolutely, but I didn’t want to end up going to Mom groups and having Mom meet-ups and sitting in circles talking about the challenges of breastfeeding and teething. I didn’t understand why my friends stressed the importance of their other Mom friends. It felt not only boring, but exclusionary as well; and hunting for new Mom friends felt weird and contrived. What did Mom friends have to offer that our friends without kids didn’t? As it turned out, I didn't know what I was in for.

I got my first Mom friend by accident. I had just given birth to my daughter a month earlier, and my amazing and persistent friend invited me to her apartment for coffee – my first social encounter after hiding in my apartment for four weeks. While there, she shared the exciting news that she was also expecting a baby in 6 months! And just like that, my previous friend was all of a sudden a Mom friend. I was surprised by my own instant feeling of relief. The coffee date I expected to take only a few minutes instead lasted hours, during which my newborn screamed, nursed, pooped, barfed, and slept. But somehow all of my previous anxiety about dealing with a new baby in the presence of others had disappeared.

On my walk home, I reviewed the afternoon and tried to pinpoint this odd feeling of freedom. And the more I pondered, the more I realized that my earlier ideas about Mom friends had been skewed. It's not that you necessarily sit around talking about breastfeeding and sleep cycles, although sure, that can happen. But you can also discuss work, politics, art, relationships, the best cocktail bar in Brooklyn, your latest Netflix obsession… in short, whatever you used to talk about, with an extra dose of shared experience and understanding.

Over the last several months, I’ve come to realize that the importance of Mom friends is that they don’t care that every sentence or story may be interrupted at any moment by crying. They don’t get annoyed when you have to get up mid-conversation and start bouncing your little one, or that your speech is peppered with random baby talk. And they certainly don’t blink an eye when you reveal a little too much of yourself while breastfeeding. They’re also endlessly forgiving when you’re late or have to cancel a date at the last minute because your little bundle of joy is sick, screaming, sleeping, or you just can’t manage to put on pants today. You don’t have to worry about them judging the pile of dishes in your sink or the suspicious stain on your shirt. And you can pretty much count on a hug and a coffee (or something stronger) when you have that inevitable breakdown.

Mom friends are also the secret resource that will save you hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars by lending all manner of clothes, shoes, strollers, bassinets, baby carriers and offering tips on the best take out, babysitters, daycares, child-friendly cafes, and other mom-hacks.

I understand now that Mom friends are exactly like my other friends who can offer understanding and targeted advice – like the friend who runs triathlons and offered me training tips, or the friend who I always go to for style advice. Turns out, Mom friends are just FRIENDS! And the label I once shunned, I now embrace whole heartedly… because you need someone in your life who commiserates with the telltale stains on your shirt and laughs knowingly at the gummy bear stuck to your jeans.

Heather Jones is a curator, independent culture and lifestyle writer, and Co-founder and Editor of the online arts journal CAS. She currently lives and works between New York City and Stavanger, Norway.