Friends and Mothers

Here’s a fact about me that people find offensive: I’m not a dog person. I don’t hate dogs, exactly, but I really don’t like them all that much. Cats, too. I’m just not that into domestic pets.

Here’s another fact: I love babies. Adore them. Could look at pictures of the little tykes (especially the chubby ones) all day long.

This post is about the latter, but I mention the dog thing because for some reason people find it unbelievable that I could simultaneously love kiddies and not love animals. They are not the same thing, people! One is human, the other is… a dog! So I just want to point out that being someone who does not love dogs does not make me the devil because, well, I love babies. And that makes me warm and fuzzy.

But anyway. The first of my close friends to have a baby has a four month old. At 27 (kind of late, perhaps), I became a person with mom friends.

When I started my search, I believed in a huge divide between the mommies of the world and me, a non-mom. The reason I was Struggles McGee when it came to friends, I thought, was that I was at the in-between stage: too old to hang with the college kids, too not-ready for Mommy & Me. I figured anyone with a baby made insta-BFFs at Gymboree or Baby Yoga classes. And, as this logic went, I could never be friends with a mom because that wasn’t a life stage I was ready for. And when you’re at a completely different place in life, the bonding thing can be tough.

I was wrong.

Apparently, moms have trouble making friends too. That friend with the baby? Well, she’s the first one. None of our close pals have kids yet, so she has no one to bond with about breastfeeding and sleepless nights. Of course her friends love visiting her and the baby, but they (I’d say we, but said friend is in NYC so I’m kind of irrelevant here) have day jobs. She’s at home with the little one all day, craving adult conversation. She joined a Mommy & Me pilates class, but told me the other moms go to lose weight, while she’s there to make friends. So far unsuccessfully.

I recently found the blog of a 23-year-old mom-to-be. In a recent post, she wrote poignantly about the isolation of pregnancy. “I listen to my friends talk about their lives, about the parties, the fear of graduating from college, the cat and mouse of dating, the altogether unattached nature of their existence and as my belly grows so does the distance between us.” I’m sure that sense of loneliness is different for women as they get older, but I wonder if this is how my own pal felt.

Here’s the other big shocker: I’ve made a great new mom friend. BFF material for sure. And she’s not just a regular mom… she’s a mom of twins! And they are awesome. I sort of want to keep them. Now that I’ve met her, I can’t remember exactly why I was so wary of befriending a mom in the first place. I guess I figured parenthood, or my lack of it, would be a giant disconnect. “Mommyhood” was something grown-ups did, and I still felt like a kid. Turns out we can meet in the middle. I think.

Do you think motherhood impacts friendship? For the non-moms out there: Do you think it’s harder to befriend mothers? Does the vastly different priority list make it hard to stay close to old friends who are new moms? And mamas, do you find it easier to make friends as a mother, or harder? Once you have a baby, is it all about mommy friends? Is it hard to connect to non-moms? Lots of questions, I know. Feeling curious today…

36 Comments

Filed under The Search

36 responses to “Friends and Mothers

  1. I think that friendships do suffer when one of you have a baby.

    The reason is that you really dont have as much in common anymore. It is a tough period unless your close friend gets pregnant at the same time.

  2. For the record, I was never a dog person. Never had one, just wasn’t into them. My bf convinced me to get ours and I love him to death, but it’s like Miranda in SATC – she joked that she didn’t love children, only HERS! I think it’s okay to not be into dogs.

    Being friends with moms is hard, especially as I seek out new connections. I’ve joined a book club full of moms who’ve known each other for a long time and let me tell you, the conversation ALWAYS ends up being about their kids. I love kids, love theirs – but it can get to be a bit much.

    XO
    Lenore

  3. Lisa Z

    I have two friends that just gave birth within a few weeks of each other. Babies are definitely not my thing right now. I am eager for a dog and I already have an overweight cat. As the only childless (middle) sister of a clan of three sisters, (6 nieces and nephews from the other two), I always feel like I am not part of the mommy club, often with glee or sympathy, depending on the situation, never with yearning, (yet).

    Congratulations to my friends Ximena and Cyndi on their arrival of their beautiful girls though! The world needs more women.

  4. I’m going to respectfully disagree that, for me, a dog isn’t “just” a dog. Many people, including me, will tell you that their dog is like a member of the family.

    Anyway. I think it’s totally possible to be friends with someone who has kids even if you don’t. One of my close friends is the mother of an adorable 2 year old, but she still gets out to see her friends just as much as she did before she got pregnant. Seriously, she’s got one of the busiest social calendars I’ve ever seen, and despite the fact that she lives in the suburbs and I live in the city, I see her way more often than most of my kid-free city-dwelling friends. Having kids *can* get in the way of friendship, but it doesn’t have to.

    It’s too bad that your friend in NYC isn’t able to find other friends with kids just yet. I imagine being a new mom can be tough, especially if you don’t have someone to relate to your new experiences with. It’s funny, when I was new to Chicago I remember complaining to my mom about how I hadn’t made any friends here yet, and her response was “You’re going to hate me for saying this, but you’d probably have an easier time if you had kids.” It’s true for her, since most of her lifelong friends are fellow moms that she met in our neighborhood or through play groups, ballet classes, little league, etc.

    I live in a very family-oriented neighborhood, and I notice that all of our neighbors with kids hang out pretty much everyday, but since we don’t have kids, we barely get a polite hello from most of the neighbors. It sucks too, since I love kids and would like to be friends with my neighbors, but I guess these parents agree that people with kids can’t be friends with people without kids.

    • I’ve definitely learned that you’re right, kids CAN get in the way of old friendships but don’t have to. When I met my new friend with the twins, I was so amazed, and flattered, that she was able to make time for dinner or brunch with just me, but she told me how much she valued her adult time and really tried for balance. AND she’s a full-time assistant principal. It’s not like she’s got all the free time in the world. Another friend, though, told me she uses having a kid as an excuse to not have to go out and be social… so it definitely seems to depend on the person, though since I don’t have kids I can’t really judge. It does seem to be a divider though, even when it doesn’t have to be.

  5. Most of the moms that I am friends w/ became moms over the course of our friendship… so I haven’t exactly be-friended a mom. But I think the whole concept of whether being a mom changes a friendship is interesting – and very timely for me because my 2 best friends are both pregnant and they are due a day apart… I am extremely happy for them and so excited to be a faux-auntie, and I am hopeful that even though our lives are becoming even more different, our friendships will not change. I know they are fundamentallly the same fabulous girls, so I am sure they won’t…

  6. PS – I am not a dog person either… I don’t tell many people because they look at me as if I am a social misfit. We did not grow up with dogs in our house, and only had outdoor dogs when I was very young.

    And I am also a baby/kid lover. I adore my nephews and jump at any opportunity to hold someone’s baby.

  7. Ana

    I’ve been on both sides of this during the past couple of years, and the struggles are the same.
    While having a baby may make for a conversation topic with other moms, just because someone is also a mother doesn’t mean you have ANYTHING else in common. And while it may be difficult to bridge friendships with differing views on several other topics, I have found that nothing is more divisive than parenting choices…it is literally a minefield. As a new mom, I do appreciate having other mothers to go to for sympathy and advice—thankfully a lot of my friends were already mothers. But I also do value (A LOT) adult time, and my own relationships with even my childless friends. While I can’t make it to every happy hour or outing now, I still try to make time; after the insane blur of the first 3 months its become doable. Also, I work. More than full time. Mommy and Me or Baby Yoga/Pilates, what-have-you are not geared towards the working mother usually. Even if something were scheduled on a weekend, I am loathe to give up time with my husband and other friends to join a group of mommies that likely are NOT there to make friends with strangers.

  8. As another non-mom, I occasionally feel like moms don’t really want to be friends with me.

    While I’m talking about shopping sprees, work drama (what, here? Never!), happy hours and shoes, they are dealing with things that, ya know, have more substance. They have more responsibilities and certainly a different perspective on priorities. Doesn’t mean we CAN’T be friends, but it does feel like some moms think of this childless lifestyle as frivolous. Well, more frivolous than theirs, at least. And the big lifestyle difference makes it harder to find that common ground.

    • I used to work in an environment that really felt like the moms and non-moms were at war. The working non-moms resented the moms leaving at 5 on the dot, the moms resented the non-moms’ resentment. It does feel like there is a constant judgy thing going on between the two sides–each poo-pooing the stuff the other deems important. And it does seem to leak into the friendship debate…

      • Emily

        Ugh, that resentment is so awful! I’m a (relatively – 10 mo.) new mom and I have to work full time. As such, it’s really important that I leave work on time so that I can get home to my son. I still get all my work done just as well as I did before being a mother, but I am certainly treated differently. I have no problem logging into work at night after my son’s asleep if I have something that still needs to get done, but I don’t get credit for that. People seem to assume that because I’m physically at the office less, I’m working less, even though my quantity and quality of work is the same. (And I’m still at the office at least 40hrs/wk!) It’s infuriating! And surprisingly, women are the worst culprit. The men in the office don’t blink an eye if I have to leave work and dial in later. But the women! Resentment, gossip, insinuations that I’m no longer useful…it’s awful.

  9. I am pretty adamantly childfree — kids of my own are just not my thing. I wouldn’t rule out starting a friendship with a mom just because she’s a mom, but it often seems like they are ruling out friendships with me!

    I recently met up with a potential friend who has kids, and she seemed shocked that I’d never wanted to have babies of my own. “Really? You NEVER considered being a mom? NEVER?” No, never!… well, OK, maybe when I was 6 or so. It got kind of awkward because I started feeling like I had to defend my choice not to reproduce — like it made me selfish or a non-nurturing person or something.

    I haven’t gotten this sort of reaction from every mom I know, but it happens sometimes. I live in a major city — you’d think that not having kids wouldn’t be so strange.

  10. Elizabeth

    I don’t get the pets thing, either, and everyone I know is very into their pet(s). I like playing with other people’s dogs, but that’s about it. If a creature will never be able to hold a conversation, I’m less than invested. New humans, on the other hand, are my favorite thing in the world.

    I only have one mom friend so far, but we’ve been friends for a long time. And I was surprised and happy to find out that she didn’t change into a different person, at all. (Well, she does say mushy heartfelt things rarely now instead of never.) I think maybe it helps if you’re truly excited for your friend’s baby, and are with her in spirit through the journey of trying to conceive, pregnancy, and watching the kid get cute and say funny things. I may not be in exactly the same place in life as her, but that just means I get to watch & learn! (Also, she has a group of mom friends that were all set up by the hospital where they gave birth. So I think she gets all of her social needs met by separate groups of people, which is probably a pretty healthy approach to friendship in general.)

  11. Rachel, I am not a dog person either. I don’t like talking about them. That being said, I have some good friends who love their dogs and I can respect that, but for me, a lifestyle with any pet would just complicate things even more.

    I actually welcome conversations with my friends who don’t have babies. I’ve found that with most mommy friends, all they want to talk about is their son or daughter. I feel like there is much more to discuss than everyone’s respective children. I get a little bored hearing about food and sleep schedules. The conversations I share with my non-mommy friends are a welcome change.

    Great topic once again. . . I can’t wait for your book!

  12. There are a couple Moms I have tried to befriend. As a non-Mom with no mom friends, I found it a little difficult. And the reason was because I didn’t know how to ask her to hang out or do things in a way that worked for her. I don’t know her schedule or her child’s schedule. I want to be sensitive to her lifestyle so I was timid about suggesting drinks or lunch or whatever. I didn’t want her to think I didn’t “get it” or wasn’t sympathetic to her needs. Sigh. We are still figuring it out.

  13. I’m a relatively new mom (can I say that with a 9 month old?), and I think it comes down to: it depends on the person and the circumstances. I’m in a weird place where I would welcome ANY local friendships, mom or non. But because I’m a mom, non-mom’s are wary, and because I’m a working mom in an area that has lots of stay-at-home moms, I don’t fit into the other moms’ schedules. But if I made friends with one or the other, I would temper my conversations/actions accordingly.
    I think we all bring our own stereotypes/assumptions to this particular party–we think that moms only want to talk to other moms, or that non-moms won’t have anything in common with moms, or that there’s no way to make schedules work between the two, or…what have you. But really, it just breaks down to the basics again–if you find someone you’re compatible with, you find ways to make it work, and the rest is just details.

  14. Pam

    As a mom (single mom, part time mom… whatever) I can say that of my close friends BEFORE I had kids, not ONE of them are still close. Having been the first one married, the first one to have kids, and the first one to stop doing the “it’s-all-about-me-and-only-me” thing that most of my friends were in in their 20s (and 30s) meant that I wasn’t potential friend material to them anymore. I was still the same person, but I could no longer drop everything and go out to a bar or party. I had to worry about a budget (and a controlling husband) so I couldn’t just go shopping. My social life stopped dead as soon as I announced my first pregnancy… and I have felt isolated ever since.
    The problem with finding other mommy friends has been that, as a single mother, I don’t have a partner at home (or family support) a great deal of the time to allow me to go out without the kids all that often.
    The few friends I have left are single non-parents… but I would like friends who are more family and kid friendly. The fact that I have kids makes it a BIT harder to go OUT and do things alone, but it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate being invited or thought about. Having a friend who was willing to come by for a meal or coffee, or go out and hang out in the park? I am more than willing to be flexible (especially since I only have my kids 50% of the time with my joint custody situation) — as long as the person only wants to be my friend when my kids are out of the picture…

  15. Pam

    Oops… that last part should say “as long as the person DOESN’T only want to be my friend when the kids are out of the picture”!
    I do have one friend (childless by choice) who DETESTS kids and seems to only want to talk to me or go for coffee when she knows there is 0% chance my children are anywhere around me. That really hurts, because I love my children and I want to be accepted as a person AND a mother.

  16. I have really mixed and strong feelings about this one. As a 36-year old, I have a lot of friends who are already parents. I have found that some of them (and some of them who I consider besties) began distancing themselves from me when they had children and I did not. As if I couldn’t appreciate their plight or relate to them now that they had offspring. I love kids and felt very hurt when I noticed this change.

    I have heard of a similar phenomenon when single people watch their friends couple off and exclude them from dinner parties and whatnot, since they are not attached.

    As an outsider from these experiences, I’d say it always drove me crazy that people just made assumptions about our compatibility once a variable changed. The thing is, I treasure the diversity in my friendships. I can learn and grow as a person when I surround myself with people from different walks of life. I welcome with open arms all kinds of situations and try not to be quick to judge. I think we could all learn from our contemporaries, regardless of what stage of life they’re in.

  17. Alisa

    Ditto to Ginger. I feel very in-between as a working mom. I can’t really bond time-wise with SAHM’s because they plan things while I’m working. It’s hard to cultivate new friendships with non-moms because I can’t go to a spontaneous happy hour or salsa dancing on Friday night. And other working moms? Well what free time we have is generally spent with the babies and husbands we don’t see. I do think having a baby has brought me closer to a few friends that I had before that had kids. It’s like now that I have a baby, they are more interested in being friends with me. I CAN be friends with a non-mom, absolutely, it just takes more planning. Big sigh. Just writing that makes me sad. My BFF’s that DON’T live near me all have babies my age so if we could all just live in the same town again, my problems would be solved! Interesting post, as usual.

  18. I love this discussion. I don’t have anything valuable to add (since I don’t have children or any close friends who do), but I hope that when my BFFs have kids I am involved in their changing lives rather than shut out simply because I’ve made a different choice.

    Lots to think about!

  19. Lilu

    Well I can relate to all of you ladies, and my point of view as a married child-free, pre-school teacher I get the chance to interact with mommy friends and single friends and what I can say is, “every stage in life is different” when you are single you talk about work traveling, shopping, boys, diets… etc when you are in a relationship you kind of divide you time between the bf and your friends but you always talk about “him” or “we do” “we will” “we like”, when you get married is a bit more complicate it you think about the future what to do, where to start, then you buy the house, responsibilities get tougher and single life becomes a bit silly under your eyes, you start realizing this whole other married world and looking back you start to realize you wasted so much time thinking about boys and what does it mean if he does this or that??”, or should I spend the summer in here there or in Ibiza, what time is “last call” for drinks there??…., I mean we all been there but the problem relies on what happens when you step on the next stage of life and your friends stay behind?, I personally feel I still need to be in both now and one thing I do is to see my single girlfriends every couple of weeks or so for cocktails we talk about everything from shopping to boys to traveling and more and we always have a great time I do not talk about my husband unless someone asks and for my mommy friends (I have two) once a month I babysit their kids so they can have a date night with their husbands, they will so appreciated! at the same time you became their kids favorite “aunt” also my husband gets a little baby training, my mommy friends and I always schedule brunch to hang out and talk about the husbands, remodeling the house, things you can do to spice up the marriage, cooking recipes etc whenever we can and they always make time for our “dates”, the truths is as time goes by we need different things while hanging out with your single girlfriends is fun once in a while, you are going to find your self having more in common with your married and mommy friends regardless if you are planning to have a baby or not, change is part of life and we can embrace it or fight it but at the end no 50yr old woman I know wants to dance until dawn in Ibiza wearing 4inch heels so keep the friends you really cherish close because they will be with you for a long time.

  20. I have mom friends and non-mom friends. Really, the only difference between the two is that non-mom friends are typically easier to get together with, and our conversations are interrupted less often. But none of my mom-friends are people who I used to see every day, which is good, because I’m certain that wouldn’t be happening any more.

    For example, today I met a friend with an 11-month-old for lunch. She lives about an hour away, so we don’t get together all that often. She suggested a place to eat that is baby-friendly. No problem. Most of the time, we could converse normally. Some of the time, the baby was fussy. It’s OK. I think she was more self-conscious about the conversation not flowing right than I was. I’ve seen parents ignore their kids in favor of who they’re talking with, and most of the time, I don’t think that’s a good plan…

  21. A co-worker of mine who just went on maternity leave (she had her first baby 6 weeks ago) came into the office today for lunch. She said she’s enjoying being away from the office, but she is literally craving adult conversation. So she joined a Mommy & Me group and said, “They’re all SO boring! All they do is talk about their kids.” So have heart…maybe lots of moms would love to have a non-mom friend so they can talk about non-mom things.

  22. Great post. As women, aren’t we always just analyzing things to bits?! Ha. If we really think about it–we need friends of all sorts to bring out all the parts of ourselves. It’s important that we have friends with children as well as those without. I would say that my mama friends are more understanding when it comes to constant interuptions or having to cancel something–and my non-mama friends give me a little relief in that I enjoy talking about what’s going on in HER life instead of mine (also, then, makes me appreciate not being in the dating world anymore…eek! It’s a leper-colony out there! Ha, just kidding. Sort of.) Either way, we learn from them, they learn from us–and we’re all better in the end!

  23. Ashley

    Having a baby is a life-changing event. I was the first of my friends to have a baby and it definitely changed the nature of the relationships. I had this incredible thing that took my entire focus — and they quickly got bored with my baby stories. On the flip-side, I got bored with their “all-about-me” attitude.

    Most of them now have babies of their own, and I have enjoyed reconnecting with each one. We are closer now than we ever were before.

    Great topic…..one that has been on my mind lately, too.

  24. *pokes head in* Just wanted to clarify. For me, the issue has been mostly that when you are the married, pregnant friend and none of your friends have kids or want to have kids anytime soon, they start distancing themselves, at least in my experience. I am that 23 year old mother to be who was quoted in the original post. I graduated from college last year, got married, started graduate school in the spring and baby number one is due in August. I’ve always been a little bit on the outside because while most of my college friends are still unattached I have been with my now husband since just before starting college. My friends are just now getting to the point where they are attempting to sort of plan their lives out to some extent, which is great but we just don’t have a lot in common and when you are 33 weeks pregnant no one is inviting you out to the club. I realize that some people will drift back into my life after the baby comes and I can actually have a margarita but its lonely to be the first one taking this giant leap into parenthood and realize that no one I know can even relate to the situation.

  25. YES. Becoming a mom has been the loneliest and most isolating experience of my adult life. I know part of it is because I became a stay-at-home mom after a decade of career life, but I find it’s hard to make connections with other moms because there just aren’t a whole lot of other SAHMs that have the same interests as me. My career friends who are moms keep asking me when I’m going back to work, and I don’t want to bore my non-mom friends with all the mommy life details.

    But then again, sometimes I wonder: Isn’t life just kind of isolating in general? Wouldn’t most people, when they get deep and dirty honest, admit that it’s just hard to connect in a genuine way in this crazy fast, always moving, individualistic world?

  26. I think it’s been easier to make friends post-baby. Motherhood levels the playing field in a weird way and it’s more unifying than any other life experience, in a way. Being newly married isn’t the same for everyone, but being a new parent seems to be. Babies are predictably similar in the early weeks of their lives, which means that we moms have a lot in common. And kids give you a reason to just HANG OUT and not DO anything. You don’t have to “get coffee” or “grab dinner” when you have kids — you can just get together, sans a planned activity. Which, I’ve found, means you end up hanging out for longer than you would have had you met for brunch.

    As for my friendships with non-moms, I would have expected those friendships to suffer after I entered Life with a Newborn… but miraculously, they haven’t. My closest friend these days is a college friend who’s not married and doesn’t have kids. I think the fact that our lives are so different now gives us a greater variety of things to talk about. We now can offer each other vastly different perspectives, because we’re in different places in our lives. It’s refreshing. And super cool.

    Btw, I am voting that the mom of twins wins the BFF race. 🙂

  27. These are great questions, and I had as much fun reading the comments as I did reading your post. I am having a lot of trouble making meaningful friendships with both moms and non-moms. I have a two-year-old and one on the way, and I find a lot of the other moms really do only talk about their kids. I definitely crave a friend who can talk about more than that, whether she has kids or not! I’ve made lots of acquaintances through mom & me classes, but no real friends. I think in my case it speaks a lot to your most recent post about needing to reach out to people 3x as much because I’m not from this area and most people here already have their social networks. I need to put more effort into building my own. Thanks for making me think!

  28. It’s definately harder as a mom to make friends either with non-mom or other mom for that matter. Why? Because the child get in the way! (sorry, my darling daughter, but you do). Like as I’m writing this comment, my daughter is riding my back and had just fall off; there’s goes my concentration. It’s hardest to makes friend when you are a stay at home mom also.

    I know that some moms take about their kids on and on but the topic can act as icebreaker with other moms. But, underneath it, I’m sure we want to talk about other topics as well.

    So, I hoped the non-moms will make more effort to befriend the moms as the moms get often distracted by their kids and not because they don’t want friends.

  29. Christina

    As a single woman, I prefer other singles for friendship as I have found that mom friends are pretty boring because they seem like they can talk about nothing but their kids and husbands.

  30. Katherine

    Having had my first child late last year (and being the first amongst my group of friends to have children) I can definitely say that motherhood changes friendships.

    I have found myself being edited out of lots of group activities. Or when I am invited it’s the half-hearted “you can come if you want but you probably don’t want to with the baby and all.”

    I make a huge effort to not be “that mom” who discusses my child non-stop but lately I feel I am not allowed to mention him at all. *sigh*

    So, I have embarked on a mission to find cool mom friends. In fact it lead me to this web site (which I am quite thankful for, btw!)

  31. Kristine

    I love to entertain at home – host dinner parties, movie nights, etc. But I feel like I always need to kick everyone out of the house to do so. I prefer to stay in rather than always going out to the bar / restaurant (too noisy, too expensive, too uncomfortable). What are some inexpensive, creative ways to get a small group together that’s also made for great conversation? Would love your ideas.

  32. Pingback: You’re All a Bunch of Animals « MWF Seeking BFF

  33. Pingback: Baby Talk « MWF Seeking BFF

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