By Lisa Barr
I ran into Starbucks early this morning in my yoga pants and a ratty t-shirt that I’d slept in, hoping I wouldn’t see anyone I know, when a woman stopped me in the parking lot, and said, “Hey, you look really cute today.”
“What?” I said. “I haven’t even showered yet. But thank you—so sweet. You made my morning.”
I returned the favor on the way out, when a 20-something woman held the door open for me and the three coffees that I was bringing home. “Love the dress,” I said.
“Ohmygod—thank you.” She smiled, blushed slightly.
Women complimenting Women. It’s a thing, and damn, it feels good—the giving and the receiving. Let’s take this a step further—women NEED women—especially Moms. The giving and the receiving is sometimes the only thing that gets you through your crazy, mind-numbing day.
Women need to hear good things about themselves from other women. Spread that love, my friends. Yes, Karma’s a bitch, but she also deserves to be complimented when she’s being kind.
Most recently, I heard of a fabulous new app called Peanut, developed by Michelle Kennedy, a savvy entrepreneur based in London. It works just like Tinder does for dating (but without the porn pics) by enabling Moms to connect with nearby Mommys to make friends (“You have a four year old and a two year-old and love Greek food? So do I—let’s meet!”), giving Swipe Right a whole new meaning. Their motto, which I LOVE, is “Meet as Mamas, Connect as Women.” This concept absolutely rocks because meeting other mothers can be so hard, especially when you’re new in town or stuck in the house with a newborn, which can be so incredibly isolating. In fact, I found Kennedy on-line, and told her that her new app is a game-changer for Moms and truly a gift to women. We became Facebook friends and she invited me to her launch in Chicago.
Moms dating Moms … it’s not just a feel-good, it truly is a feel-better.
I write in the world of Moms and all I can tell you is that while we love being mothers, there’s also a tremendous amount of daily self-doubt. Am I doing this right? Did I just put my kid into therapy for the next 10 years? Do I bring that biology book to School that he left on the kitchen table? Do I bring the glasses to school that she forgot in the backseat of my car? All the parenting books say NO, let them learn and next time they won’t forget—and yet … (For the record, I’m a Parenting Book “Glamour Don’t”. I ALWAYS brought the forgotten book and the glasses to school.).
So Moms need other Moms just to vent, to laugh, to compare, to share, to cry, to complain—to say, “Hey, I messed up” and to hear back: Me too (the two most reassuring words ever). Most vulnerable of all Moms are those who happen to be New Mom on the Block.
Years ago, after I remarried, my husband and our newly-blended family moved from one town to another. Our daughters entered their new elementary school in third grade, first grade and kindergarten respectively. I had missed out on pre-school Mommy bonding, and the beginnings of elementary school Getting-To-Know-You’s (when everyone is in the same boat). In other words, I came to town WITHOUT a group or a friend.
Drop-off was fine. But picking up from school was awful, and I dreaded it every single day. I would wait on the sidelines alone for my daughters. All the Mommy Groups had been formed and locked in various cliques–meaning, I was locked out. I would hear airborne commentary about their days, and making plans and playdates. I would spend those 15 unbearable minutes desperately trying to look busy. I had my five best history friends, but they all lived out of town. I pretended that my solo-ship didn’t bother me — but inside, it did. I was now a Stay-At-Home Mommy, having left my full-time position at a newspaper to freelance from home, and build my new family.
By nature, I’m very social, but Girls being Girls, Women being Women — I knew making new friends at (then) almost-40 was going to be a tough nut to crack.
How do I do this? How do I break into the suburban clique-dom? I knew no one was just going to let me in just because I was nice.
I had no other choice but to start “dating.”
Dating Moms is code for making new friends and it usually comes with a catch: You become dependent on YOUR kids to break the ice for you.
It’s an odd concept — banking on your nine year old to help you make friends. But it all comes down to developing Mommy Friends through their friends. I began to make playdates for my girls, and little by little, Moms got to know me. But the process was slow and lonely.
I was also a bit tentative to make the first move, not wanting to be rejected. So when the moment came and a certain Mom asked me for coffee, it honestly felt like the hottest guy in high school had just asked me out.
I know it all sounds so silly, but at that time everything was so new, my turf so green — new home, new family, new school, new lifestyle — everything was still in its wrapper and I was vulnerable. So a simple coffee date with a potential new friend who “asked me out” felt like Christmas.
One coffee led to lunch, lunch led to being invited to meet her group of friends, eventually a couples dinner, and the big score after several months — I was invited to a Girls Night Out.
But “dating” in suburbia requires more than just meeting Moms. It also requires getting involved in the school — taking initiative. I became the Great Books “teacher” once a week, I volunteered on field trips, and headed the Valentine’s Day party, among other “connectors.”
“Dating” to make new (real) friends took almost THREE years of searching, I kid you not, until I found my women — those who I could call on and have coffee or lunch, share inside jokes, go for a walk, a workout, text splices of life, save me a seat at various school functions — and also go out as couples.
And then of course there’s the tricky part.
If your Mommy friendships are solely based on the fact that your kids are close friends, it can be shaky ground. Many women I know discuss tough scenarios when their kid has “moved on” to a different group of friends and then their Mommy friendships begin to fall apart. This “co-dependency” is exposed, and your kid’s action causes a “pink elephant” to land on your relationship.
We’ve all been on both sides of that coin — my kid stops being friends with yours/your kid stops being friends with mine. If this happens, there is only one solution to weather that storm:
Don’t pretend the kids’ dwindling friendship does not affect yours. Talk about it, tackle it, and discuss with your friend how you can rise above this.
One woman I know says, “I’ve learned the hard way, and I keep my distance from my kids’ friends’ parents. Not only that, I focus only on those Moms who have the opposite sex kid as mine. Truthfully, I cannot deal with the drama.”
And yet we all deal with the drama, I told her. You can’t hide from it or prevent it. Moms have a lot going on — carpools, activities, kids’ demands, house/errands, hubby, work, projects, bar mitzvahs, birthday parties, church, synagogue, volunteer work, doctors appointments, tutors — while trying to squeeze in self-care and perhaps caregiving to their own parents — Mom bonding becomes not only precious time, but also a lifeline of support.
Here’s the advice I tell my daughters, and perhaps, it trickles UPWARD: If you find a few good friends who you can trust, with whom you feel good about yourself, with whom you can laugh and share your secrets, who give you good advice and tell you which dress actually DOES look better — hold on to them with an open heart and both hands.
The mark of true friends — both old and new — is not the good times when all your ducks are in a row, but how you move past a conflict if say your ‘duckling’ should happen to go rogue.
The key and (the lock) to sustaining Mommy Friendships is to take them OUT of the “Mommy” Zone (based on the kids) and really get to know each other as women (based on You and Her). And then those friendships, I promise, will stand up on their very own.
Lisa Barr is the editor and creator of GIRLilla Warfare (www.girlillawarfare.com) and the author of the award-winning novel, FUGITIVE COLORS.