Mother's Day celebrates motherhood---as well as children, flowers, candy, and greeting cards. But there's a seedy side to everything---and motherhood is a known friendship-killer. Motherhood challenges female friendships for a variety of reasons:
• You are a mother, and your BFF isn't one and wants to be one. Her fertility problems are making her extremely frustrated, depressed, and angry at you.
• Your BFF is a merry mother of six and you have no desire to even be a mother of one. When you're together, she never stops talking about her brood.
• You and your BFF both have children but they are at different ages or stages (And one of hers is a biter).
• You and your BFF have vastly different views on child-rearing. You're permissive and believe in letting kids be kids. She believes in turning children into little adults.
• Your children and/or spouse don't get along with your BFF's children and/or spouse. When her son punched yours in the nose, her husband said your son provoked him.
• On a practical level, all other things being equal, you have less discretionary time for friendships than high-school or college-age women, married women without children, and older women. With all your responsibilities, you barely have time to shower.
• You are a mother-martyr who places the needs of your children and family above your own social needs.
• You have fewer opportunities to meet new friends than you did when you were younger and more care-free---you only go to noisy, active places with children where it's hard to have heart-to-heart conversations.
At different times of our lives, there are real shifts in the number and nature of our female friendships. Living in a dorm, you may have been surrounded by a circle of close female friends. For one or more of the reasons mentioned above, motherhood is one of those times when you might have more than your share of problems making or maintaining female friendships.
Many of us spend so much time juggling our roles as daughters, wives, workers, caregivers, and mothers that we wake up one morning and suddenly realize we have a serious friendship deficit! We think: If only there was someone we could call---or have coffee with---who could understand the gaping hole it has left.
This Mother's Day, give yourself a little gift that no one else would ever think of. Jot down an appointment on your calendar to have lunch with a friend, or to have a girls night out. It's the equivalent of putting on your own oxygen mask first.
Taking small steps to build female friendships enhances our own physical and emotional well-being, and makes us better mothers in the long-run.
Irene S. Levine is a freelance journalist and author who blogs about female friendships at HuffPo and www.fracturedfriendships.com. She is a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and is working on a book about female friendships, The Myth of Best Friends Forever, which will be published by Overlook Press.