I’ve been a mom for seven years, I have two kids, and I still haven’t learned how to make mom friends. I am not quite sure why that is. I have other deep connections in my life. I’m lucky enough to be married to a person who truly understands me, is a full partner in parenting and life, and makes me laugh every single day. I have a best friend I’ve known since third grade who can finish my sentences. I have a wonderful family. I even have some incredible online friendships that I hope to turn into in-person friendships one day. But I can’t seem to make mom friends.
I’m not flying completely solo in this motherhood gig. There are several local moms I get along well with and can trust. Some I see often and others rarely, but I know that if I were in need of help, I could call one of these moms and they would help me, just as I would do for them. I truly appreciate these moms in my life and I don’t take these relationships for granted. At this point you may be thinking, THOSE ARE YOUR MOM FRIENDS. And you may be right. These moms are my friends, after all. They are wonderful people and I’m so happy to have them in my life. Maybe my expectations are too high. Maybe this is what adult friendships look like after parenthood.
If so, adult friendship after parenthood sucks. I want more than that. I want the type of friendship that means calling someone up on a Saturday afternoon and getting together to do something that day, not scheduling a playdate for three weeks later. I want the type of friendship that means seeing each other regularly enough that our spouses are friends and our kids are comfortable around each other. I want a real friendship without endless loops of, “we should get together soon.” I want deeper connections that go beyond the mundane struggles of daily life with kids. I want the kind of friendship that involves laughing together, crying together, traveling together, and not feeling the need to clean your house before your friend comes over.
I am sure I am part of the problem. As an introvert who is terrible at small talk, I will never be the life of the party. I have fun with people I know well, but it takes a long time for me to get there. I don’t make new friends easily. I’m selective about who I open up to. I am terrible at “putting myself out there.” I click with relatively few people. I text in complete sentences. I might be too quick to write people off.
I also believe part of the problem is the way we’ve structured modern parenthood. So many of us are isolated in our own homes facing the same problem: lonely parents and lonely kids. We can’t send our kids outside to roam the neighborhood with other kids anymore; instead, we are busy driving them to lessons and playdates in our precious free time. We have little time and opportunity to cultivate friendships with other families. If we do manage to get together with other parents, we are almost guaranteed to have our conversations interrupted every five minutes by a kid needing a snack, a band-aid, or a trip to the potty. We rarely have a chance to go deep even if we are emotionally brave enough to do so.
We also isolate ourselves by turning away from other parents and families because we judge them or fear their judgment. We back away because their rules on screen time are too strict or too lax; because they only feed their kids organic food or their kids eat too much junk food; because they are too tough on their kids or too lenient with them. A little more acceptance of the fact that many different parenting styles result in healthy, competent adults probably wouldn’t kill us.
I’m sure some people out there have adult friendships completely figured out. I don’t. I also don’t think that I am completely alone in being alone. I believe the lack of deep connections is our generation’s version of the “problem that has no name.” Our generation has come a long way since women in the 1950s and 60s who too often felt deeply unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives as housewives. That doesn’t describe us. We’ve built careers. We’ve redefined stay-at-home parenthood. We’re not deeply unhappy anymore, but we are lonely. When it comes to friendships in the era of modern parenthood, this can’t be all there is.