My children put me in situations with other moms all the time at the playground, school events and activities. Yet I can count on one hand the number of true blue mom friends I've met under these circumstances.
A mom friend is someone who just gets you and the experience of being a mother. She lives nearby making popovers and quick visits convenient, and her schedule aligns with yours for playdates. She always saves you a seat at soccer practice and knows how to listen without judgment.
It's a valuable friendship we covet because the relationship is a gateway into the world of adults, and that's more than just a nice thing to have. It's a necessity. Google “making mom friends" and see how many results pop up. If there are so many of us looking for more mom friends to share the mundane, maddening and marvelous moments of motherhood, then why is it so hard to actually make them?
A lot of times, the challenge is chalked up to the logistics involved in befriending a fellow mom, and this is valid. The practical reality of being out and about with kids—their distractions, interruptions, and schedules—make it tricky to get past casual conversations to form meaningful bonds. But this isn't the real reason it's hard.
It's tough to make mom friends because we're evaluating each other as moms first and women second.
I'm know I'm guilty of this. The relatively insignificant choices other mothers make every day for their kids serve as a filter through which I consciously and subconsciously sift potential friends, and this qualifier doesn't exist for other kinds of friendships.
I may smile and nod as I listen to a mom tell me how she only lets little Johnny eat homemade baby food, but, to myself, I'm rolling my eyes, thinking that a jar of peas won't kill the kid. Basically, I'm crossing this woman off my list of potential best buds.
I pay attention to these little things because I'm looking to feel safe, supported and protected from judgment when talking to another mom. I want her to understand what I'm experiencing, and when she does things very differently than I do, it's a turn off.
The thing is, many of my closest friends are, in fact, moms, but the difference between them and my new friends is that we met before we became mothers. Our relationship is based on more than the fact that our kids are the same age. Our history lets us tap into our multifaceted personalities and interests to discuss life matters beyond poopy diapers and the latest temper tantrum. It also lets us appreciate our various parenting approaches and overlook the differences.
We like each other's quirks and unique qualities, so we take each other's parenting styles in stride, too. We definitely don't discount one another because of them, but in the game of making new mom friends, these choices carry much more weight. Our approach to the nitty gritty of parenting has to align if we have a prayer of moving past the status of playground acquaintances to becoming good friends.
Here's the other reason I know that my mom friend lens is distorting my perspective. I met a woman under normal mom-friending circumstances and then had the opportunity to socialize with her in an adult-only setting. The second experience was so much more comfortable than the first. As moms, we had enough in common to keep a conversation going, but as women, over a glass of wine, we laughed a lot and got to know one another in a foundational way.
Being out of mom mode was the trick (and the wine probably helped). We still talked about our kids, but the conversation was so much different. It wasn't in the vein of venting about the struggles of daily life with small children. We never even talked about whether we puree baby food or buy it in a jar.
We chatted about upcoming vacation plans and shared really funny stories, and never felt the need to go through the cursory conversations that plague the beginning of the usual mom chats: “Oh! Your daughter's tall/small for her age!" “What preschool are you planning to go to?" “Is he taking one or two naps a day?" “When did she start sleeping through the night?" “Did you sign up for soccer on Saturdays or Sundays?"
I'd still like to talk about this day-to-day stuff, of course, but it's so much better when there's also a chance to hold a well-rounded conversation and take advantage of adult interaction. Making mom friends is hard because building any type of relationship takes time and effort, but some of us may be making it harder than it has to be.
So, while I don't have a secret way to make it easier to find true blue mom friends, I do think it starts by taking away the word “mom" and just looking for friends.