Sometimes I think moms need friends almost as much as they need sleep. Friends to assure us that we’re not crazy, not disqualified, and not ruining our kids. But between the carpool and the kitchen sink full of dishes AGAIN, between the spelling lists and potty training, between the cleats and the ballet shoes, it can feel impossible to find that friend willing to love you just as you are — crushed Cheerios, leftover makeup, and all.
But here’s the thing — I think that snagging ourselves a mom friend pretty much boils down to one thing: are we willing to stop pretending that we’re perfect? Because if you’re willing to cop to it, I promise the mom sitting across from you will be SO relieved to know she’s not the only one who constantly forgets to sign permission slips, send in a healthy snack, or volunteer for field trips, and you’ll be swapping parenting fails and phone numbers faster than you can say, “time out.”
So, if you’re hungry for mom friends, here are three practical ways that work pretty much every time:
1. Confess Your Parenting Fails
Nothing is lonelier than the inside of a mom’s head. It’s where you replay your worst parenting moments, beat yourself up with mom guilt, and imagine the conversations you’re going to have with your adult kids one day when they bring up that time you had to cancel being a chaperone to the zoo because of a last-minute work commitment. It can be crazy town up in a mother’s head.
The loneliest years of my life were my first two years as a mother and all I really wanted was just one other person to confess how hard this motherhood gig is. But no one did. It was awful. I felt like a constant failure.
It took me 10 more years and two more kids to learn the power of going first. To blurt out to another mom at the soccer sidelines how I managed to get the time wrong and brought the whole crew out at 7 a.m. in the middle of winter only to learn the game had been rescheduled for 11. Or the time I sent out my daughter’s first birthday invitations for the WRONG MONTH. Or left a diaper genie sitting outside my front door. For two full days. Go ahead, crack the door open on your nitty gritty and suddenly you have a conversation and a friendship that might actually go somewhere real.
2. Invite Another Mom Over BEFORE You’ve Cleaned Up
Parenting is exhausting. Pinterest makes it much, much worse. Some days (many days) it’s flat out IMPOSSIBLE to keep a house and children clean simultaneously. That’s just asking far too much at the beginning of the school year, when mama is also on work/homeschool/volunteer/professional deadlines. If you wait till your house and your life are perfect before you invite another mom over it’s never going to happen. Like ever.
Just open the door anyway. Let them feel the crunch of day-old Cheerios between their toes. And bear witness to your piles of laundry. I thought I would weep with joy and relief the first time I saw a new friend’s masses upon masses of dirty laundry. There’s no greater icebreaker than inviting another mother into your non-Pinterest perfect house. I promise.
3. Admit You Just Don’t Know
There are libraries of books to teach moms all the things we “should” know. All the things our mothers didn’t even realize they were expected to know. There are experts at every corner with very loud ideas and it’s exhausting. Give me a mom willing to admit she has no clue how to handle her five-year-old’s passionate opinions or her teenager’s sullen afternoons and I’ll give you a woman I’d be relieved to meet for lunch.
If I want to be lectured, critiqued, or bullet-pointed about the latest parenting technique, I only have to open my web browser or that book someone is recommending. But some days I don’t want advice. I want company. Company on a journey that at its heart is unpredictable, exhilarating, and some days just plain old scary. Give me the mom who will admit all the things she DOESN’T know and I’ll give you the woman who will make us all feel at home.
Hopefully over good coffee and a floor of stale breadcrumbs and random Legos.
~Lisa-Jo, fellow mom who doesn’t know a whole lot and author of Never Unfriended