Once upon a time, I grew up in a small neighborhood where my parents were friends with our neighbors – actual friends, not just acquaintances.
We’d have cookouts and sit on each other’s back porches for hours. I babysat their kids. They told my mom I was shaving my legs and introduced me to pot stickers with soy sauce. I figured that my little brother (who couldn’t have been more than 7 at the time) would marry their daughter, a precocious 5-year-old that made him a bit crazy.
Then they moved away, and things were never really the same. Still though, I have those few years burned into my memory and hold them up as a shining example of what friendships should look like as a parent.
I blame them for giving me unrealistic parent friendship expectations.
As a mother myself now, I realize that making parent friends is really freaking hard. And, even if we remove the husbands from the equation, I think we can all agree that trying to make mom friends is the worst.
So why is that? Why is it so difficult for neighbors to take the next step? Why can’t we move on from waving high to one another as we drive down the street to sharing some Mu Shu Pork around a table?
I believe it starts with the moms and I’ve noticed it’s a lot like dating.
(Side note: I was horrible at dating. Just ask the three mom friends that have known me since I’ve been 12/13. They will all tell you I always picked the worst people, fell too hard and too fast and ended up heartbroken.)
Applying this same approach to making mom friends is the best way to look at it. You both have to be interested in being friends and feel a connection.
It can help if your children are friend’s but sometimes that’s just added pressure too. It’s like when you hung out with a group of people in high school and everyone was expected to pair up. The group is now your children.
You really have to want it to take the next step and go out together without the kids. And when you introduce the husbands, that’s when you know it’s the real deal.
Sometimes I’m really nervous to introduce my husband to people too. He is a solid introvert and has no desire to step outside his comfort zone to meet people. He doesn’t believe he needs friends. He has one friend he used to work with whom he sees once a year, a friend a few towns over that we haven’t seen in 6 years that he used to play soccer with and a friend in Texas who he met while playing video games. Those are the only real relationships he bothers to keep up, if you could even call it that.
I, on the other hand, am in extroverted introvert. I don’t require a lot of people to be happy but I do need “my people,” a group of people I am close to that I can make a fool out of myself in front of without fear of judgement. I can muster a bit of sparkle in a large group but generally I prefer to twinkle from the sidelines. I’m a wallflower at its finest, but I crave having additional wallflowers to spend time with.
With these simple facts in mind, I’m the one that always has to take the leap to find friends. Since I’m not exactly a shining beacon of fun and excitement, I’m not sure I’m the best representative, but I’m all we’ve got.
Just like dating, I don’t really have high standards. I just want to be able to wear no make-up around you, eat food you won’t make me feel guilty about and feel comfortable enough to wear yoga pants that might show an underwear line or two. If you want to do the same, I’m good.
I haven’t really been successful yet in finding my people. I thought when my daughter went to school I would meet some mom friends – and I have made some acquaintances – but we’re still in the text only phase of these relationships.
As I mentioned I have three mom friends in this state that have known me since I before I really hit puberty. We don’t live close enough, or have kids on compatible schedules, to hang out on a regular basis. However, they’ve all seen me naked at various ages throughout my life so I feel comfortable admitting that we’re in long-term, committed friendships. They’re cool with my mom bod, adult acne and decaying sense of style and I’m cool with their’s too.
So, while I had visions of having these perfect, parent friends who live around the corner, maybe I’m just a little too awkward to make a real friend in forced social situations. Maybe I should just be happy with my handful of true, lifetime friends and just stop looking for more.
Or maybe I should just let it happen naturally. That’s what they always say when looking for Mr. Right, right?