Two videos have gone viral this week, and both address basically the same thing: how difficult it can be to find your social footing as a mom.
In one video, two Texas women turned Echosmith's "Cool Kids" into a parody about feeling excluded or inferior when you're around other mamas. Sample lyrics: "I see them talking in the car line/ With their J. Crew style./ They all have fancy haircuts/ Haven't done mine in a while..." In the second video, produced by the formula manufacturer Similac, groups of parents hurl stereotypes, barbed comments and judgments (lots and lots of judgments) at each other. (To wit: "Oh, disposable diapers? Apparently we don't care about the environment.")
Sure, the videos are a little over the top—good satire usually is—but I'd be lying if I said they didn't hit home. Who among us hasn't felt like the odd mama out at the playground, like the lone soul with the greasy hair, chaotic diaper bag, and fussy baby who still won't sleep through the night? Who hasn't felt the burning glare from friends, family, and strangers, all of whom have an opinion about the way we parent and aren't afraid to tell us? It's maddening, inescapable, and requires a thicker skin and braver face than we can sometimes summon.
For me, the first year of my son's life was the toughest. I had decided to quit my job and go freelance so I could be home to raise him, which sounds fine in theory but in reality meant that I had to rebuild my entire day-to-day social circle. And let me tell you, it was tough—and not without its share of pitfalls. Here are the four biggest things that surprised me most about striking up friendships with other parents.
You'll feel like the new kid. Ready to be whisked back to the dreaded first day at a new school? Just head to the nearest playground and try to break into the crowd of moms who all seem to know each other and have no interest in letting a newcomer into the group. It's a lot like attempting to befriend the cool crowd, except here the inner circle boasts organic DIY homemade baby food instead of great hair. I was floored at how difficult it was to approach other parents, much less keep them talking for any length of time. And to make matters worse, those early days were exactly when I most needed the adult interaction. After all, I could only have so many one-sided conversations about the weather with my babbling baby.
It's easier to make friends with people who share your parenting style. Variety is the spice of life, especially when it comes to your circle of friends. That is, unless that circle involves parents. Then, chances are you're going to (unconsciously or not) seek out whomever shares your core values. I discovered that where I stood on issues like sleep training, diet, discipline, and potty training heavily influenced who I hung with at the playground. It wasn't so much that I liked the group think, but it did help to surround myself with other people who approached parenting the same way I was. I was more comfortable bouncing ideas off of them and picking their brains for solutions that worked with their kid.
You realize how judgy you are. For all the flack we give outsiders for hating on us, I realized that we parents do our fair share of dishing out criticism, too. I've caught myself tsk-tsking a dear friend who sometimes lets her toddler guzzle ginger ale straight from a two-liter bottle. Or smirking at the so-called "power moms" who zoom by me with their jogging strollers, Spandex pants, and strapped-on pedometers. Yep, just because you gave birth doesn't mean you stop having opinions. Of course, on the flip side, raising a child also teaches you every day just how fallible you are—and why you should start cutting other people some slack. As my mom friend Meredith likes to say about questionable choices other parents make, "That's not my thing, but I'm OK with however you want to roll."
You'll divulge a lot to each other. Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte may have had their sex talk-fueled brunches, but you haven't lived until you've spent an entire playdate talking about poop. Or spit-up. Or cracked nipples. Parenthood is all-consuming, so naturally when you do find your mom or dad friends, you're more than eager to discuss all the burning issues of your day. And honestly? It's weirdly refreshing to be able to throw around words like "diarrhea" or "slimy mucus" and no one bats an eye.
But I want to hear from you: Have you had a tough time making mom friends? What has the experience been like for you? What advice would you give a new mom who's trying to find her social footing?
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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up.Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+
Image of two moms courtesy of Shutterstock