I've never cared much for making new friends. I have always been a bit of a lone wolf, preferred solo activities such as running, reading and writing -- the latter of which I've made into my career -- and often recoiled at social engagements where the only conversation was inane small talk.
Of course I have friends, and they are awesome. Perhaps this is why I don't actively seek out new ones. The friends I hold dear have been in my life for a while. They know my flaws and my favorite things, and we already have a lot in common.
When I became pregnant, I understood the importance of finding a support network of women going through the same things as me. Taking on the job of motherhood for the first time is, at times, like a practical joke that everyone but you is in on. You need to know other women are going through the same ridiculous shit as you are if only to know that you haven't completely lost your mind.
I was lucky that some of my close friends were new moms or expecting about the same time as me. I enrolled in parenting classes and prenatal yoga and formed new friendships with a few spectacular women not because we all sported bumps of varying sizes but because they are awesome ladies. We got to know each other as individuals, and wanted to be in each other's company to talk about marathons, immigration law, relationships and designer hand bags, not (yet) cloth diapers, blistering nipples or postpartum depression. When the time came to discuss those things, we could lean on each other in a way only true friends can: With an understanding of the person that became a mother.
A year after I had my son, I moved to a new city, transitioned from working full-time to working part-time from home and caring for a baby. My social circle went from vibrant to non-existent. I was faced with the task of making "mommy friends," or so everyone said I was.
Making friends with other parents is hard and awkward for so many reasons. But mostly it's because we're no longer promoting ourselves out in the world, but acting as an agent to our kids. We don't make small talk about current events or a common interest, but instead talk in mind-numbing detail about our children's every act, want and need.
I recently complimented a mom in my son's gym class on her stylish blouse. She didn't say thanks or tell me where she got it. Instead, she quickly rolled down the sleeve to show me the booger she just wiped off her child's nose.
Other times, you get moms quick to promote their method of parenting but seemingly deaf to yours. Immediate friendship veto. Then there are those who just say dumb crap. For example, my son jumped out of his crib at 18 months and broke his arm. He sported a tiny, red cast for four months. The surprised/sad faces, extra stickers and balloons I could take. But exchanges like this (which were common), did not make me want to run out and meet new parent friends:
Random Mom: Omigod, what happened?
Me: He jumped out of his crib.
Random Mom: You really should transition him to a toddler bed.
This is the type of absent-minded commentary that can start a street fight.
Another problem with making new mom friends is that we're just not that into... anyone but our child. I'm not talking about helicopter or attachment parenting extremes here. I mean basic, day-to-day attention and care that is necessary for raising, protecting and teaching a new person how to live in this world.
When I take my son out, my focus is on him. I'm encouraging the patience that I hope will one day come while he squiggles through a toddler story time. I'm running around the playground structures as he courageously stumbles through them, building his confidence and scaring the crap out of me. I'm handing him a paintbrush, a bucket of blocks or a pile of leaves, and standing back to bask in the imagination of a child. I'm teaching him about crossing streets, eating ice cream from a cone, and blowing kisses to dogs and cats, rather than lunging at them. I'm listening to him, trying to keep him from getting hurt, giving him "magic kisses" when he does, and trying to assure him that he will always be loved, supported and protected.
My attention, focus and energy are spoken for. And, frankly, I have no intention of changing this. New friendships will never knock my child from the top of my priority list. Here's why I'm not worried about it: As my son gets older I will have bits and pieces of more time. He will go to school, I will regularly interact with other parents there, and we will have opportunities to discuss more than the adorable macaroni cards we got for Mother's Day -- or the boogers stuck to them.
I may not have the wine confessionals and concert dates I once enjoyed with my local friendship circle, but my true blues are still in my life, just a phone call, text or video chat away. No, it's not the same. I miss the physical connections big time. And lord knows I could use more time away from my beloved babe being Heather rather than Mama. But when it comes to something as important as friendship, I won't sacrifice quality for quantity.
Originally published on the author's website, feministmommy.com
Follow Heather Wood Rudúlph on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hwrudulph