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What surprised me about ‘mom friends’ after becoming a parent

In World
June 04, 2024

When I had my first child in 2010, I began a mommy and baby yoga class on the Upper West Side in New York City. All the women in the class, including me, were skittish and exhausted, and any real attempts at connection were drowned out by the cries of fussing newborns. Still, we tried to form bonds about the terrors and joys of caring for a cuddly newborn baby. If we got a word in without needing to breastfeed or take a crying baby outside during our meet-up at Le Pain Quotidian, it was considered a success. But when my son turned 1, our tight-knit group drifted apart, some moving out of the city, others no longer needing a shoulder to cry on. I never talked to those women again.

I figured that’s how mom friends would be: You would meet fantastic women at a certain point in time. You’d swap kid hacks, compare notes on sleep schedules or weaning babies off whatever they needed to be weaned from, and when the relationship ran its course, you’d move on. These would be a series of friends centered around convenience, rather than true connection. After all, they were mom friends! A punch line in an SNL skit, women sipping wine and sharing their woes in mom jeans. Women you went to when your kid was potty training or throwing a tantrum. They were not the friends you’d call when you were having a fight with your sister or dealing with a sexist coworker.

Mom friends didn’t count. Well, not in the way your closest friends from college did.

Then my son, Harper, started kindergarten, and I found myself in a world of working and stay-at-home moms; no matter how far we’ve come in redefining gender roles, school pickup remains utterly mom-centric. The upside: It made it easy to connect with new moms. Every day at school drop-off and pickup, I chatted with the same several women. We began planning lunch dates. We’d sneak in an exercise class if we were working at home. While trading lunchbox ideas at the playground after school, we’d trade our favorite lip gloss colors or places to get a good pedicure.

Brooke Lea Foster book cover. (Courtesy Brooke Lea Foster)

Brooke Lea Foster book cover. (Courtesy Brooke Lea Foster)

Years ticked by.

In February, my son, Harper, turned 14, and it dawned on me the other day that I’ve stuck with several of these “mom friends” for nearly a decade. In various combinations of women, we’ve celebrated birthdays and planned trips together. We formed a book club, toasted the New Year with our husbands and mingled at cocktail parties. We’ve griped about our partners and sometimes each other, and we shared our frustrations about the unfair burden we saddle in our families.

And yes, we talk about our kids, too. A lot.

But in our desire to have a stronger bond with our children, we’ve created a stronger bond with each other, too, and that is what has surprised me most. These women I once counted as mom friends are now my closest friends. They are women who happen to be moms and happen to be my friends, not singularly defined by the disparaging term “mom friend.” While shared circumstances might have thrust us together, it is not what keeps us friends today. It is time that binds us like a book. That is what I misunderstood early on about friends I met while chasing after toddlers in the park; they felt less important than childhood friends simply because there was less history between us. Over the years, that history developed naturally, and now there’s glue holding this newish group of friends together, too.

With my son beginning high school next year, the conversations have changed in my friend group. Talk of high school and college and the dangers of being a teenager with the entire world at your fingertips, thanks to the iPhone. Another conversation is emerging, too: Where will my friends and I be in the next several years? There’s the sense that after many years of close friendship, we may all scatter once more when our kids go away and graduate college. Some of us may stay in our community, some of us may not, and once again, we’ll be trying to figure out who we will stay in touch with.

Recently, four of us sat on my couch after a book club meeting and found ourselves expressing how grateful we were for each other, despite the uncertainty of the future. We decided that we all needed to focus on the here and now; we were still living in the same town, so why focus on things we couldn’t change?

A hush fell over the room. Each one of us registering the weight of friendships lost to life-changing plans. Then someone changed the subject, offering information about a new meditation class in town.

If I could go back and tell my younger self one thing about making friends, it would be this: Don’t discount those early mom friends. Yes, you will go through many women before you find the true ones. But when you do find a friend who’s special, hold on. Give the relationship time. Close friendships aren’t made overnight.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com

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