As I recently wrote about, my family and I moved back home to Rhode Island at the beginning of September. Prior to moving, we had lived together in New Hampshire for almost six years; my husband for 10 since he went to college up there. In New Hampshire, we had carved out a place for ourselves and our son, we had a social circle, we knew the ins and outs of life. We felt comfortable there. Most importantly for me, I had a group of other new moms, many of whom stay home with their babies that were always up for walks or beach days or venting about blowouts and mama guilt.
When we made the momentous decision to move, my husband and I sat down and made an extensive pros and cons list. At the top of my con list was having to leave behind my community of moms; we both knew it was the biggest hurdle I’d have to get over to be happy here. I pictured long days in the house with no one around to meet up with, completely isolated and lonely. I envisioned fantastic meltdowns after a rough day with a cranky baby, culminating with me screaming, “Why the f$*k did we move here?!” (to be fair, that’s only happened once so far.) And some days, that picture is 100% accurate. But slowly, we’ve been getting out, signing up for classes and starting to rebuild a network of other moms and babies.
In our mommy and me swim class, there’s one other mom I particularly connect with whose son is about the same age as mine. We chat during the classes while the boys splash and kick and we sing them songs about camels having humps and turtles blowing bubbles. As we talk, I’m struck by the realization that finding new mom friends bears a striking resemblance to dating.
I consider myself to be a pretty social, outgoing person, but befriending other moms can be insanely daunting. As one of my NH mom friends put it, “It’s like middle school all over again.” Sometimes when I sit in these mommy and me classes, in my head, I’m still 12 years old, staring shyly at a boy I like in homeroom, trying to get up the courage to ask him out on a date (by date I mean my dad drives us to the movies and we awkwardly bump noses when he attempts to kiss me with tongue.)
I can sense that many of the other moms feel the same way, as we take turns asking those awkward, get-to-know-you questions that precede dating. In this case though, it’s not “What’s your name, baby?” or “You come to this bar often?” it’s, “What’s your baby’s name?” and, “You come to storytime often?” Like a prospective date, we’re trying to feel each other out, asking more than the actual questions imply. What we’re really trying to find out is, “Are you a crazy helicopter mom?” “Will your kid shove my kid’s face in the dirt when we’re not looking?” “Do you feed your child chewed up food from your own mouth like Alicia Silverstone?” If they answer no to all of these questions, then maybe you move on to a “play date,” where you can get to know each other better. That’s the time when you look for the real red flags that preclude a second date (Hmmm, her kid is pooping in the backyard and wiping with a leaf) and find out if you’re on the same page with this whole parenting thing.
Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out. I’ve been to several moms groups that I couldn’t wait to leave because the moms were uptight or judgmental or just plain mental. I have some friends who won’t go to moms groups at all because of the clique factor. All in all, finding mom friends who share roughly the same parenting philosophy and are actually fun to socialize with is akin to searching out a date who has all the most important non-negotiables on your list.
For me, I found those friends in New Hampshire and I’m a little gun-shy of trying to find that again here. When I chat with my New Hampshire mom friends on the phone, I hear myself glossing over the details of the outings we’ve been on and the classes we’ve attended, not wanting them to know I’m cheating on them with other moms. “No, I haven’t met anyone special yet,” I assure them.
But I suppose a girl’s gotta play the field, right? At some point, we have to start seeing other people. It’s really what’s best for everyone. Maybe next week I’ll get the courage to slip my number to that other mom at the pool and ask her out on playdate 🙂