Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Finding friends as an adult

Every day of the last three weeks has been above par for me. I've had fun, met new people, got to spend some quality time with J over each weekend and have generally been so busy every weekday that I felt my life with Ava was finally finding a balance where she and I were both satisfied. Her, with the stimulation of being on the go and around sights, sounds, colors and people; me, with building friendships, (finally) finding some time to write, and getting things done in and outside of the home.

Then yesterday happened.

If we're going black and white here, it wasn't the most terrible day of my life, but it was definitely a lighter shade of gray. For someone who's tried to paint every day white, it was a downer to say the least.

It started off fine. I woke up before Ava and got myself makeup-ed and ready, excited to meet up with some moms from a mother's group I attend once a week. A few of us planned to meet earlier than the group to have coffee and hang out. Caffeine? Prospective friends I can commiserate with about this whole baby thing? Count me in. I looked forward to getting to know these girls a little better since our meetup group was so big that it was hard to get to know anyone on an individual basis.

So Ava and I went, and it wasn't bad per se, but it wasn't that great either. Maybe I just have high expectations for forging close friendships relatively fast with people, I don't know. But sitting there at the Starbucks in Target with our pow-wow of strollers, I tried in vain to jump into the conversation whenever I could, being my perky self and asking questions with a genuine interest because I do want to get to know these women. But part of the way through I started to realize that no one was really including me in their conversations and no one was asking me any questions -- were they not interested in getting to know me? -- so I watched as they spoke with one other and suddenly I felt excluded and very alone. The last time I felt this way was during my freshman year of high school, when I was one of the last picked for phys. ed. dodgeball (the stereotype exists for a reason). Since that fateful day in Mr. Warmerdam's sixth period P.E. class, I've grown prettier, more confident and a hell of a lot more cool. Or so I thought. But then at Target yesterday that familiar feeling resurfaced.

That feeling, then, made me painfully aware that I was sitting at a Target Starbucks. I always wondered what type of person would ever spend time at a Target Starbucks, usually seen looking dejected and alone with a a coffee and personal pan pizza from the adjoining food counter, and now I knew -- that person was me. The one who doesn't really fit in to her surroundings, but still tries like mad to because having a baby is isolating enough and she just wants to find some like-minded friends, God damn it.

And maybe that's the problem. Maybe I'm trying too hard to force all of this. I so want to have best friends going through what I'm going through that the process isn't happening as organically as a Candace Bushnell novel.

I belong to two mom groups, both of which herald mommy members that couldn't be more different. Let's call these Mommy Group A and Mommy Group B.

Mommy Group A is all career-driven, first-time moms who are eager to return to the professional lives they had before baby. They love their new babies but are happy to complain about breastfeeding, the lack of adult conversation in their new lives, and how they can't wait to go back to work so that baby rearing is no longer their sole function. They unanimously hate cooking, cleaning and anything domestic that has to do with being June Cleaver 2.0. I have this in common with them, but within the group I'm the only stay-at-home mom -- a fact that makes me look like an outsider.

Mommy Group B, on the other hand, is made up of all stay-at-home moms, so of course there's not much talk in this group of "going back to work," nor is there any desire to work ever again. Mommy Group B heralds Martha Stewart-type living, and members keep recipe books, enjoy cooking and crafting, and like playing house. In this group, one mom's idea of living on the edge is wearing a lavender cardigan. I can say for certain that I'm no Martha Stewart, nor do I have any desire to be. Still, the moms in both groups are pleasant and nice, there's no competition (at least I don't feel any) between women. That usual cattiness that comes from female groups (a la Real Housewives) doesn't exist in either.

So these are my two groups and while I may have some things in common with members of both (I hate cooking and cleaning, but I am a stay-at-home mom), I don't quite fit in with either. I feel like I'm somewhere in between, which makes some days better than others.

One day I'll think that I've made headway with a mom or two and the next day I'll feel like I'm right back at square one. What gives? The worst thing of all is that I feel like I'm back in grade school trying to find my group of friends, and all the same rules of the play yard still apply. It's like that scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding when Toula, as a young girl, sits alone at the next table over from the popular girls. She happily opens her lunchbox and before she can take a bite of her mousaka, which she tells the popular girls it is, they shriek "Moose Caca!!!" and laugh at how weird she is. All right, so maybe my situation isn't this dire, but to a degree the exclusion I feel sometimes feels like this.

I'm sure the moms I hung out with yesterday have no idea I'm feeling any of this. I smile and nod and politely enter the conversation here and there, but on the inside I'm thinking "Why can't I just find my people?" I don't want to always be politically correct or bond over breastfeeding stories. I just want to click with a few first-time moms around my age that don't feel the need to discuss babies (or baby-related things) 24/7. Maybe this is just my attempt to feel normal again, back before I had Ava. I did have an identity and life before her, and while she's a great addition, I don't want to pretend that part of me before her never existed.

But, to find mom friends, I feel myself pretending to be someone else. I'm suppressing that perky, hyper part of me to come off as more subdued and collected. I normally have an unusual giddiness about certain things, but lately I've felt like I've tamped down my outward enthusiasm so as not to come off as overbearing and "too much."

And I hate it. It's like I've become some boring, monotonous version of myself just to try and get in good with some of these moms. It's not me and I'm sick of it. I don't want to pretend anymore that I enjoy receiving copies of Good Housekeeping and Parenting Magazine from other moms. I live with a baby; I don't need to read about what it's like. And I hate Good Housekeeping -- do I really look like the type of girl that reads Good Housekeeping?  I loathe how ugly some baby essentials are, like vibrating chairs, swings and "play mats" and I hate how these things make my house look. I abhor breastfeeding, and yes, maybe I like having a bottle of wine or two with my husband after we put Ava to bed. Shoot me.

Why should I feel like any of this is weird or irresponsible to admit just because other moms have sworn off wine and caffeine entirely because of breastfeeding? No, I don't want your copy of Good Housekeeping, but I'll take your copy of Vogue if you have one. Oh wait, you don't. Because you're busy reading about how to properly bake your own croutons while I just want to live vicariously through Kate Moss in Paris.

That's what I need to find: Non-PC moms who see the humor in all this stuff we're supposed to "love" about motherhood. Moms who are honest about everything we're all going through. I dropped the "D" word (depression) a few days ago, and my entire group got quiet and said that none of them experienced any of that after having their bundles of joy. I call bullshit. Maybe they aren't ready to be honest with themselves, let alone me, but I find it highly unlikely that in a group of five moms, only one (me) has experienced any postpartum depression.

I've found that finding new mom friends is a lot like blind dating -- so why should I treat this any differently? Not every man is a perfect fit and neither is every mom. This isn't commentary on me or the choices I've made as a woman, it's simply an issue of compatibility. At 30, if I was thrust back into the dating scene, I wouldn't waste my time with every man, trying desperately to find someone who I'd work with. So why am I doing that now with these new friend candidates? I like some more than others, so instead of trying to make it work with all of them, I'm going to spend time getting to know the good ones while keeping an eye out for new, outside prospects.


Nadia said...

I know the feel :-/
What is it with these cliquey moms? Not that they are being mean or rude... just not open or fun. Its like they all take life way to seriously. They only talk about their kids & raising them because they 1) don't have anything in common or 2) don't have anything more interesting to discuss.

Maybe the problem is that when you have little kids you probably haven't seen any movies, been to concerts, traveled (without said kid), or done too much interesting grown-up stuff. Last week I went to our super-awesome botanic garden and ended up spending the entire time at the kids section watching the kiddo climb the tree fort.

The one thing I can say I was unprepared for with having a kid was the loneliness of not having adult friend contact. I am around my husband and his parents all the time and they are great, but not having a go-to girlfriend nearby sucks.

Karin said...

Mommy Group A sounds like your best bet. You are passionate about your career too -- you just happen to get to work from home while doing it!

I am encouraging my current friends to get pregnant so I don't need to make new "mom friends." I'm kind of serious.

Btw, you were right. Week 3 is much better than week 1 (at least in some ways). Now to prepare when my husband goes back to work in 3 weeks and I am really doing it all on my own.

Lauren said...

I think that kids or no kids, it's harder to make new friends as an adult. Maybe we have more defined and varied interests? That's too bad that you aren't connecting with the "mom groups". What about your before-kids friends? Even if they don't have kids yet, I bet they'd be more interested than you'd think to hang out. Girls night in after the kiddos go to sleep can be fun.

Good luck.

Amber said...

wait, what the f**k? moms swear off alcohol while breastfeeding? no. 10 months is enough and i will kill someone for my bottle of red after i deliver a baby. that is all.

making friends as an adult sucks. two of my "best friends" and i have pretty much had falling outs this year and i'm realizing just how difficult it is to find other best friends at this age.

hopefully you can click with the few that you said seem more normal. i hate when women put up a front and act like their lives are perfect in front of other women. isn't it the imperfectness is what women can bond over? anyways, good luck with your mom friends!!

Unknown said...

Thank you for this. I'm not a mom (and I don't intend to be one anytime soon!), but I hate how some women just morph into these odd, sappy, monolithic versions of themselves after they have birth. Every experience in life is not all good, all the time, and I think it is totally okay to admit that!

I hope you find some fun friends that read Vogue! Good Housekeeping is so blah.

Finicky Cat said...

It's good to hear from so many of you that making friends as adults is often, to use a nicer word than the one I want, difficult. I kinda thought it was just me...

Wanna get them *really* shocked? I return to wine with dinner after the end of the first-trimester... Just a little, and not every dinner, but - hey! Who wants to berate me first?

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