Among the tools and tricks I’ve discovered to make motherhood easier, the most helpful are my girlfriends. That wasn’t always the case, however. When I chose to leave my editing job at a Fortune 500 company to stay home with my first baby, I had exactly zero friends between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily. My local girlfriends were working moms, and my former coworkers were too busy to chat during my long days at home with the baby. There was no one to go for walks with or to pop in for coffee. Those first few months were lonely and uncertain.
Seeing my struggle, my mother gave me an article she’d clipped from the Morris News Bee about the MOMS Club of Morris Plains, NJ. MOMS Club stands for “Mothers Offering Mothers Support”. It’s that and so much more. The article promised playgroups, holiday parties, field trips, and women to talk with about our common experience as at-home moms – all while our husbands and working friends were at the office. I joined immediately and was rewarded with advice, friendship, and yes, coffee and baked goods! Weekly, and sometimes even daily, moms from the club would open their homes to each other for playgroups and book discussions; we’d meet at parks for stroller walks; we’d go out for dinner on occasion. I was part of a fun, supportive group, and I felt much better.
As I settled into being an at-home mom, I craved a closer connection. My BFF was still on the management track at work, married, but without children. We rarely spoke, and saw each other even less. So I decided to put myself out there and find a new girlfriend.
First there was Helen. Her children were a little older than mine and she had the mothering gig down pat. We had a lot in common and our conversations went beyond our children. I called her on days when the baby refused to nap and she invited me over. Her girls entertained my son. We baked and talked. Then I got the news that her husband was taking a job out of state. Jason (age 2) and I were devastated. They moved away right before my second child was born, never meeting her, but leaving us a huge box of clothes and shoes for the baby and a present for Jason to open when his sister was born.
Next there was Jill. Our children were the same ages, almost to the day. We bonded over every frustrating and joyful step in their development. We laughed our way through diaper blowouts at the mall, meltdowns at Gymboree, and fights with our husbands. I introduced her to my parents. It was bliss. And then Jill’s husband also got transferred out of state.
I met Girlfriend #3 at the gym. Our kids played together in the daycare while we sweated through Spin classes. She was smart and nice, and we signed our kids up for story time at the library together. Over the next 10 weeks, our children squealed with delight each time they saw each other. GF #3 and I, however, quickly ran out of things to talk about. A mutual desire to shed baby weight and same age children, it turns out, do not always equal compatibility.
Enter Melanie. She was, quite simply, awesome. But our children despised each other. If she recognizes herself in this article, she may beg to differ, but her kids were just evil to my kids. They were bossy, they didn’t share, and they screeched like maniacs. My kids would cry when I told them Mel and her kids were coming over. I had to let them go.
At this point, my husband began making fun of the rate at which I was going through friends. He wondered if I was doing something wrong and offered to help analyze if I’d give him a play-by-play. When I explained it’s not easy to find someone I like whose kids like mine, he declared that “women are nuts”.
I am happy to report that I kept at it, though, and my indefatigable search for girlfriends finally paid off – nearly five years later! I have a wonderful circle of friends with whom I can share anything. Sometimes it feels like we’re straight out of Sex and the City, minus the fabulous wardrobe. More than half of these women are friends I met in the MOMS Club. And as far as I know, none of their husbands is going to take a job far away anytime soon. Our children even get along most of the time. But that’s just icing on the cake. I have girlfriends I can go to for parenting, medical and marriage advice. We compare notes on teachers, summer camps, and hair salons. They know when to listen, when to prod, and when to march my butt to the nearest treadmill. They send greeting cards on the most obscure holidays and text messages after doctors’ appointments. I don’t have to put makeup on or even shower when we get together, although I’m sure they prefer when I do. And they always know when it’s time to brew some tea, or open some wine. I am always happy when I can do the same for them. I’m sure that my last year of motherhood has been my best so far in part because my children are 4 and 6, and having them both in school and fully conversational is much easier. But I am also sure that my girlfriends have made all the difference.
If you’re new to the area or to motherhood and could use an ally, contact the MOMS Club of Morris Plains or Morristown Area. If you're from another town, go to MOMS Club International to find your local MOMS Club. Or, invite a mom to join you for coffee after your next Music Together class. You can always talk about the children to break the ice. Also check out discussion and support groups for new moms at places like The Postpartum Place in Chatham or Morristown Memorial Hospital to find moms in the same boat. Mommy friends might not always work out or be a perfect fit, but don’t give up… the rewards are immeasurable.