One day last week when I picked up my daughter from preschool, I asked her who she played with.
“Nobody,” she answered, which is the same response she gives on most days. I asked her why, and like always, she said, “I already have a friend.”
One good friend – a little girl she’s known for a couple of years and feels really comfortable around – is all she wants. And at three years old, it’s okay for her to feel that way. I just hope that as she gets older, and especially before becoming a mom, she discovers the joy and necessity in having multiple friends.
I want her to know about the different friends she’ll have in all walks of life, and that even though those friends will come and go, each of them will be there at the exact right time. I hope she’s lucky enough to find the six friends – or groups of friends – that I couldn’t have gotten by without.
The childhood friend
This is the one that knew you before you became a mom, and who understands where you came from and who you really are. She knows how much you loved your first pet, who your first crush was, how you felt about your own mom, and why it hurt so much when your brothers moved away. She grew up hearing you talk about who you wanted to be when you got older, and whether you became that person or not, she supports you. Because your ultimate happiness has always been what’s important to her.
You can still laugh about the time she snuck you into her room even after her mom said no sleepovers. You can still crack each other up by saying the one word that always grossed you out. She can laugh at you about who you picked to be your first kiss, and you can laugh right back.
As moms, you can discuss all the ridiculous things your kids want, because “we never had that when we were kids.” And when things with husbands and kids get rough, the best therapy that either of you have is to make fun of the things you used to take so seriously – when life was nothing but simple.
The veteran mom
When you have your first baby, this is the one who gets you past the “Oh, shit” moments. She knows what color the poop should be. She’ll tell you that no, you don’t have to rush to the ER if he sleeps through a feeding. She can reassure you that at some point, every new mom feels like the most helpless, clueless person on the planet. She can also promise you that this will get easier, and you’ll actually miss these days (even though at times it’s the last thing you can believe).
Even when your children are a little older, the mom who had kids years ahead of you has invaluable insight: How a marriage can survive when you and your husband are doing nothing but cleaning up puke and wiping butts; that it’s possible (and okay) to love your kids to pieces but sometimes to not like them; and that as much as you want to focus on yourself and your friendships and in starting your career again, that it all just naturally happens when your kids get older and choose to hang out with their friends instead of you. The mom whose kid is “too cool” now will remind you to hold onto and hug your kids as long as they’ll let you.
The fellow new mom
Let’s face it: Misery loves company. So when you bring that baby home and have no idea what the hell you’re doing, it helps to have someone else around who’s clueless too. She understands if you’re 45 minutes late because you were cleaning up a blowout, or that the little rascal decided his belly wasn’t actually full when he stopped nursing 20 minutes before you needed to leave the house.
You can sit together smelling sour and greasy and discuss who’s gone the longest without a shower. No discussion is off the table. You can talk about how much it hurt to push, and how much it hurts to poop. Will sex ever feel good again? Man, you’re tired after getting up fourteen times last night (and how on Earth did your husband sleep through it all?).
Maybe she’ll stay home from work and you’ll go back, or vice-versa. But for now, while the rest of the world keeps moving, you can marvel at these amazing little creatures that you each made, and agree that this is a pretty cool job to have at the moment.
The preschool mom
If you’re a stay-at-home mom, it’s a sweet thing when your kids start enjoying playing with other kids. Yes, you’ve been lucky to be able to work on crafts and color and sing ABC’s, but if you’ve been home with your kids for a few years, you know each day – each hour- is not all peaches and cream. So when the time comes for them to go to preschool, play dates after school are not only for the little ones.
While the kids run around at the park, you can talk about what you used to do for a living before you became a mom – allowing you to say out loud that you do have skills other than making kick-ass star-shaped PBJ’s. You can talk about husbands, and often, you end up feeling a lot better about yours after hearing about the one who’s NEVER wiped a butt.
When someone invites you over, it does wonders on your self-esteem to see other laundry piles and sticky counters. When you hear another mom yell, you realize that maybe you’re not the monster you thought you were. And when she pours a glass of wine at noon and offers you one, you know you’ve found a best friend for years to come.
The sports mom
Getting your kids into activities is not just a fun thing to do to keep them active. Nope. It’s a way to make sure that YOUR scheduling skills rule. And when you have multiple kids in multiple sports, without mom friends, you’re sure to lose your mind.
She’s someone fun to talk to while you watch your kids play ball. If you’re lucky, the concession stand sells beer and so you can mark “drinks with friends” off your to-do list, since at this stage that’s about the only time you’ll get them. She’s also the one to call when Kid A has practice starting 20 minutes before Kid B’s game, and your husband has a late business dinner. She’ll tell you when fundraisers are due. What field you’re supposed to be on. What night the coach switched practice to. What color socks you’re supposed to buy.
And she’ll never make you feel like a total moron, because she’ll need you the next week for all the same reasons.
Maybe she’s a mom to someone, but that’s not the reason you’re connected. You know her because of a skill or a hobby or a job that has nothing to do with your kids. It’s just about you. Because you weren’t always a mom. You’re not ONLY a mom.
And so when you’re working out together, it’s just about how strong you are. When you’re at work, it’s just about how your boss is making you feel. When you’re reading the same book, it’s just about what each of you are taking away from it. When you’re starting a new career, she simply motivates and believes in you and makes you feel like you can conquer the world.
Because feeling good about yourself, and having friends who make you feel like you rock, makes you a happier, better mom.