The Mother of All Friendship: A Theory

Over the weekend Matt and I went to St. Louis to visit close friends who just had their first baby. A baby who, and I might be biased, could perhaps be one of the cutest in the world. (Once upon a time someone told me that I couldn’t be a baby person because, and I quote, “you don’t like dogs.” Um, what?? They are actually different species of being, FYI.)

So anyway, I was telling this mom-friend of mine that I’m intrigued by what happens to friend-making when you have kids, because I’ve gotten mixed reports. I’ve heard from a number of readers that as soon as you have kids, the friendship floodgates open. Suddenly there are other moms, with similarly aged kids, just waiting to hang out. You can set up playdates and watch your kids fight over who gets to bite the eyeball off the Elmo doll while you catch up over coffee.

Then there are the moms who, when I’ve complained about how hard it is to find a gal to talk Desperate Housewives with  (because apparently I’m the only one still watching it), will say, “Believe me, it only gets worse when you have kids.” These moms tell me that when life becomes a blur of children, work, spouse, errands, and—if you are so lucky—sleep, friend-making is the first to go. These women also admit that there seems to be a mommy clique to which they haven’t been given the golden key.

The conclusion I’ve come to, and this is based on purely anecdotal, self-reported evidence, is that the difference comes down to working in the home versus out of the home. The mothers who have made new friends are largely stay-at-home moms. They take their kids to music class, then swim class, then gymboree. It’s at these classes where they meet other mothers with whom they subsequently form playgroups of their own. The other faction—the mothers who say it’s even harder now to make friends–seems to largely work outside the house. They’re away from the kids all day, and when they come home they hang with their brood, have dinner, read a story, go to sleep and repeat it all the next day. With that schedule, it’s harder to meet your new BFF.

I’m not trying to launch a mommy war. I’m not even a mother, so my theory could be totally off-base (and please do tell me below if it is). But this is what I’ve observed, and it definitely makes me wonder what my motherhood experience will be like. If all goes according to plan (ha!), I plan to still work from home when I have kids. So I would be a hybrid: Staying at home, but still tied to a computer for much of the day. I’d have a more flexible schedule than a traditional 9-to-5er, but less time for classes or groups than a traditional stay-at-home mom. It’s curious.

To those of you who are mothers, what say you? Does my theory have any merit? What’s your experience been? And where will I fall, one day?

MWF Seeking BFF is out next week! If you are in the holiday, friendshipy spirit, you can:

Pre-order the book (friendship bracelets to all who do! Just email me your address)
Read the introduction and first chapter
Watch the trailer
Follow me on Facebook or Twitter

Thank you!




Filed under The Search

15 responses to “The Mother of All Friendship: A Theory

  1. Laurie Lee

    Just got this video in my email and thought it would be appreciated here. So funny and true! As the mom of a 18 yr old and 15 yr old, I can say this kinda stuff never ends!

  2. I’m a stay-at-home Mom and am having a hard time meeting new friends. The Moms I like have kids that don’t enjoy playing with my kids. And there’s no time to go on friend-dates. It’s a little better with preschool- you’re seeing the same Moms every day…

  3. I can’t speak to the SAHM part, but for someone who works outside the house (and has stuff on the side once I get home), having a kid makes friend-making 100x harder, for sure.

  4. Joanna

    Totally agree with this post. I’m a mother of 3 and work full-time. I have no time (and sometimes no desire) to sit and catch up with friends. I have approximately 3.5 hours with my kids after work before they go to bed and my weekends are all theirs. It was definitely alot easier to keep up with my friends when I was a stay at home mom.

  5. I am a mom that has found it harder to find friends. I have lived here for a number of years, my friends are now graduating college and moving away. I am in desperate need of new girlfriends. I think that you hit the nail on the head with this one. I think that there is a huge divide in the mom world between the stay-at-home’s and the out of the home workers. and even more so within those groups with those of us who are single and married. Wow… who would have thought that making friends could be so difficult??

  6. I think the real mom-friend-making starts when they go to school. I’ve met some nice moms in the classes I take with my kids (yes, swim, music, and gym!!), but they’re not BFF material. Part of me has to wonder…have we met all BFF-material friends by the time we’re 30? Oh, and I’m a work-at-home mom (best of both worlds!)…as I think you know 🙂

  7. I take care of our daughter full-time, and I find it hard to make friends. Just having motherhood in common doesn’t make for friendship, just like having work in common doesn’t make for friendship either.

    Two other points about why it’s hard to make friends as a mom: it’s hard to carry on an adult conversation at play groups/ play dates after the little ones are mobile; and some mom groups have a competitive/ cliquey edge.

  8. I think making friends after kids is much harder. I mentioned before (although don’t expect you to remember) that I made tons of infertile friends in our support group. It changed totally once we started having kids.

    I still wanted to have the friends but not everyone prioritised the friendships so a lot have fell by the wayside. Very sad but I block it out (!) because I was/ am very hurt.

  9. Anonymous

    Somewhat off topic: Rachel, I still watch ‘Desperate Housewives’, too, and lament that there is no one with whom to discuss it!

  10. BeeBee

    SAHM (and sometimes a WAHM freelancer) here. My BFF lives halfway across the country but I have some good local friends. I, too, found instant neighborhood playgroup friends when my first child was born. The moms are all different personalities, but we make it work. We have grown closer as our babies have grown up and started elementary school — and now instead of playgroup, there are endless PTA meetings and school events we work on together. Also, I agree that when your kids start school, you have a whole new pool of potential friends, including WOHMs. I don’t pressure my WOHM friends to get together after school or weekends; I just catch up with them when I see them at school or even at the grocery store. Even though I stay at home, my evenings and weekends are precious family time, too.

  11. CaliforniaGirl

    You definitely are on to something. I am a married mother of two who recently relocated to Chicago from my native land, California. In the past I have had no problems making and keeping friends but it was easier in California. Here, in Chicago, it has been hard to make new friends. Mostly because I am too busy and don’t put in enough effort. But I’m also reluctant. How does an adult woman (married with kids) make friends? Needless to say, I can’t wait to read MWF Seeking BFF.

  12. Claire

    I’m the mom of a 3 year old, working full-time in a typical cubicle. I have always worked and met my local friends mainly at work or school. Keeping in touch with friends is challenging on my mom schedule. I use facebook and text/IM messages for day-to-day chatting, but make an effort to schedule lunches. I have standing lunch “appointments” on my calendar once a month for each of 3 good friends I don’t want to lose. They are doing the same balancing act so they understand. I usually take on the planning Mom friends come out of the woodwork as soon as your tummy starts showing

    • Claire

      Oops, hit the Post button too soon! Bottom line, making friends and keeping them is never easy, doing so as a parent takes more planning ahead and compromise – but the kids are great conversation starters! 😉

  13. Heidi

    I’m halfway through your book and googled your blog hoping you had wrote on this topic. As a mom of a 3yo who works 70-hour weeks from home, I’ve learned to make due as far as my social needs. I can’t afford to be picky. This means chatting up neighbors, check out ladies, coworkers, moms/dads at swimming / gymnastics / ballet classes, anyone. The thing that strikes me from your book is that you have the luxury of being choosey about who you hang out with. Most parents of young kids that I know are so tired they often don’t even seem to have the energy to have a conversation! Plus a lot of moms of kids under 3 act deaf and blind to everyone but their kid. They aren’t being rude necessarily — you really do have to keep a close eye on them at all times. I remember one time getting into a conversation with a neighbor when she pointed out my daughter was drinking from a puddle in the cul de sac directly behind my feet. And not in a “aren’t kids silly” way but in a “how can you not have eyes in back of your head” way.

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