Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Mommy Friendship

When I joined our playgroup many moons ago, I immediately formed opinions of each mommy, as I think anyone in a group situation tends to do. "Cool", "quiet," "a little strange," "not my type." While the woman I immediately pegged as most "like me" is probably still my closest friend of the group, the women I had immediately dismissed as "not like me" have turned out to be all one could ask for from a mommy friend and more.

I have found that what I look for in a mommy friendship is rather different that what I look for in a "normal" friendship. When my kids aren't involved, I look for someone intellectual, someone who likes good food and good wine, someone who reads the New York Times and devours books. Many of my mommy friends like that, and while I truly enjoy their company, they are not necessarily top of my list of people to call spur of the moment when the kids and I are looking for companionship to pass the hours until bedtime.

Instead, I call the mommies who hang out in track suits and sweats, who don't care if I have showered in two days or not; the mommies who are happy to have my kids tracking dirt through their homes and have an endless supply of juice boxes and kid snacks. The mommies who admit that their children eat nothing but mac and cheese despite their best efforts to serve them vegetables and fish, and who laugh when my son announces that he doesn't like their carpet or sympathize when I have to drag my daughter out of their house kicking and screaming because she wants one more minute. For the seventh time.

I call the mommies that I don't have to clean for, and the mommies who see a deal on soy milk and drop a case of it off on my doorstep on the way to preschool. The mommies who call a few days after I reveal that C is having a hard time in school to find out how he (and I) are doing and offer to take both kids while I have a conference with the teachers. While these women may not look like me, they intuitively understand the intricacies of parenting, and know that despite outward appearances, I really am doing my best.

After C was born my mother admitted that all of the women I remember as her closet friends from childhood would never have been her choice of friends had their kids not been the same age and had they not been equally desperate for friends and support. As I didn't quite get what she was saying, I shrugged off her advice and spent the first few years of mommyhood trying to find women just like me. And I spent those first few years of mommyhood pretty damn lonely, as who I thought I was as a mommy and who I really turned out to be are two totally different people. While I rarely exit my house in sweats, and my kids do in fact eat vegetables with abandon, I am in fact the type of mommy who welcomes dirt and could care less if my child takes foreign language lessons at age three.

So while the women I hang out with at 4 or 5 in the afternoon may not be the women I would have hung out with pre-children, or the women I had imagined myself passing time with when C was first born, they are the women I chose to call when I need companionship. I appreciate the fact that they turn a blind eye to the dried peas wedged into the cracks of my kitchen floor, and that they accept my children's temper tantrums for what they are, age appropriate behavior. While it has taken me four years to figure out who I am as a mommy, these women had it figured out long ago. And I am infinitely grateful that they continued to invite us into their lives and homes until I found my mommy self.