It’s an interesting thing, this motherhood.
You’re always busy, but it still feels like nothing gets done. You’re trying so hard, but still always feel like you’re falling short. You’re constantly cleaning, but your house is always a mess. There are too many people around all the time, but you still feel alone.
My son recently turned three, making me reflect on my life as a mother. For the first couple years of my son’s life, I was drowning as a first-time working mom, never being able to keep up with the changing needs of my baby, barely holding it together, and just thankful every day that it didn’t involve a disaster. I was living in survival mode.
But this year, he became more independent, can communicate his needs, and is not perennially sick (I never thought that would happen!). I found myself coming up for some air.
When I found my bearings, I immediately looked around for my friends. No, they weren’t missing the past two years, but perhaps I was too busy to notice the changes in our group dynamics.
I have a small group of friends, and I am the only one who is a mother. In my absence, my friends were meeting for dinners and going for bike rides and backpacking trips without me. They knew more about each other’s lives while I was caught up arranging nannies and doctor’s appointments. Our chats became infrequent, and honestly, I felt disconnected from my friends who were going about their lives without a needy toddler calling all the shots. They started a separate group chat without me, perhaps out of kindness and to spare me the FOMO of childless life experiences.
Plans for meeting friends always had to be screened and put through multiple checkpoints of childcare, sickness, and travel feasibility. When we hang out, it is hard to convey how precariously I live my adult life after my son goes to bed. Those couple of hours past 9 p.m. is when I get to sit down and clear my mental load.
When they are talking and catching up during dinner time and cocktail hour, I usually tend to my son and wait for bedtime. By the time I get time to unravel, their cup is already full. Despite how much my friends love me and my son, it sometimes feels like I am a misfit.
This brings me to the realization that popular wisdom warned me about in early postpartum (but perhaps I was too naïve to accept). I need mom friends.
A unicorn mom friend is someone who not only shares the experience of being a mother but also has a kid of a similar age. She lives nearby, making popovers and quick visits possible, and our schedules align for play dates. Ideally, our partners also get along to make hanging out pleasant.
The Internet is full of ways to find our “mom tribe” with support groups, playschools, neighborhood events, and Facebook groups, to name just a few. But what no one has explained to me yet is how I, almost at the age of 40, am supposed to meet complete strangers and let them into my life. How are we supposed to overcome the awkwardness of having nothing in common except being tormented by our little toddlers?
Small talk has never been my strong suit! I guess you could call me an introvert. Plus, I have my personality, outlook toward life, values, and virtues. And I expect most people my age to have that. How are we expected to bypass all that to hang out because our kids are the same age?
Yet, I wish I did. I wish I had a “mom friend” who would get me. We wouldn’t just talk about potty training and playschools. We would also talk about our lives, careers, aspirations, and deep-seated fears about this wild ride of motherhood. We would discuss our unique take on politics and feminism (ok, maybe only after a few drinks). We would tell each other stories about our past boyfriends and the foolishness of our young years. After our kids go to bed, we would sit with a glass of wine to discuss our interests, arts, travel, poetry, or dance.
But of course, we would also incessantly talk about our kids. As moms, motherhood is woven into our personality. Our kids are our world. But the important thing is that our other worlds won’t disappear. I would love to find a mom friend to share this journey of overwhelm and amazement, who is also trying to figure out how to juggle all her worlds at once.