I have trouble making friends with other parents. There, I said it. As hard as it is to admit, the truth is that I have struggled throughout my seven years as a parent to make appropriate “mom friends.” And now that my children are getting older, it is getting increasingly challenging to initiate and maintain these parent friendships.
It wasn’t supposed to be this hard. When my children first entered elementary school, I was excited. It was time for them to make friends; friends they would see on a consistent basis who they would then schedule play dates with. In this idyllic life, I envisioned myself becoming best buddies with the parents of my kids’ newfound friends. Sadly, like most things in life, this is not how things turned out.
In my adult life, I am very picky about who I become friends with. I like to have a connection with the person. We don’t have to be exactly the same or even have common interests necessarily, but I need to feel like I understand the way their mind works. My good friends appreciate me, and I appreciate them. Unfortunately, I have found that simply having children doesn’t guarantee you’ll have much in common with other parents. In fact, I have actually found it more difficult to make friends as a parent than I did as a single person. My inability to find similar connections with my parental peers left me feeling lonely, like an outsider.
Apparently, I am not alone. There are other people out there who feel my pain and find making friends with other parents frustrating. This is particularly the case with regard to developing solid “mommy” friendships.
Part of the problem is that the very thing that is supposed to pull us together may actually push us farther apart. It’s pretty awkward when you’re at another parent’s house and she’s allowing her child to draw on the walls. (This actually happened to me once. That mom and I did not exactly become best friends.)
I used to long for the friendships of my college years, those deep connections where you could discuss anything with your friends. My inability to find similar connections with my parental peers left me feeling lonely, like an outsider.
I was a neurotic mother in search of more neurotic mothers. But all I could find were perfectionists, crunchy granola moms, laissez-faire moms, and the worst (for my own sensibilities): the academically stringent moms. Welcome to parenting in Brooklyn. I once had a play date where I sat on the couch while the other mom drank a glass of wine and talked about her vacation to the Caribbean. Meanwhile, the closest my kids or I have ever gotten to the Caribbean is Coney Island.
Eventually I realized that I had two options: I could continue to feel like a pigeon in a land full of peacocks, or I could adjust my expectations. Maybe I didn’t have to be best buddies with these parents. My children could have valuable relationships without my involvement.
Shortly after I had this realization, I was sitting on the couch, listening to another mother talk about her latest real estate broker listing. I smiled politely because I honestly couldn’t think of anything else to do. But then it dawned on me: as long as my son wasn’t not bashing her son over the head with his latest Lego creation, it was okay if I didn’t understand or even relate to this woman. What an incredible sense of relief.
Ultimately, I know certain things about myself: I am anxious, I am weird, I am creative, I am funny, and I am just me. And I’m finally learning to be okay with that—even if it means that my daughter’s best friend’s mother won’t be inviting me over for brunch anytime soon.