I Was Told There Would Be Mom Friends
“Don’t worry,” they said. “You’ll meet new people when you have a baby.”
There were a lot of reasons to have a baby. A warm thing to cuddle sounded nice. I liked the idea of giving my existence meaning through caring unconditionally about someone else. I also liked the prospect of not having time for the vain and stupid thoughts that preoccupied me most of the time. Like, No, sorry, brain, you may not fixate on the fact your voice cracked while you were pitching a story for seven weeks straight, you have a child to keep alive! Then there was the fact I knew I wanted a baby. That was a big check in the pro-baby column. And somewhere in the hot air balloon of my head, swimming around with all the other thoughts, was this: If I have a baby, I will make new friends.
I really, really wanted to make some new friends. Nobody told me, when I decided to leave my nice little New York life and my perfect group of lifelong pals for a job in Los Angeles six years ago, that it might not be possible to make new friends as a verging-on-middle-aged person. Sure, that’s probably an exaggeration, but only a slight one. It is so fucking hard. Especially past the age of 30. When you’re young, you take the ease with which incredible friendships just appear in your life for granted. They’re like the floor mats the car dealer throws in for free. And then you get old and can’t possibly fathom how you ever got to a stage where you and another human being spent Friday nights ordering boneless buffalo wings and shaving each other’s bikini line in the first place. That kind of intimacy feels impossible to forge on friend dates with friends of friends of cousins of friends that feel like job interviews and end after an hour because the lady is texting her husband the whole time anyway. Also, when you buy a car this time around, the mats are not thrown in for free. They are $450.
When I complained about this to people — my sister, my mom, my lifelong friends — I heard the same thing over and over: “Don’t worry, you’ll meet new people when you have a baby.” It was like a vaginal Field of Dreams promise — if you have one, they will come. It made sense to me. Strong bonds are formed in situations where people are thrown together in chaos and trauma. New babies equal chaos and trauma. I started envisioning Mommy and Me classes as a utopian friend buffet, the college dorm for one’s 30s, where I’d find endless cool single moms who were tired and funny and wanted to have a glass of wine and complain good-naturedly about our blessed lives while our respective spawn banged on things. TV shows promised me these meet-cutes. And maybe they really do happen. But one year into motherhood, I still have no idea because the pandemic spectacularly spoiled my friendship goals. There are no Mommy and Me classes to go to (and don’t even suggest a Zoom class, I won’t hear it). For a long time, there were no playgrounds open, either.
I started envisioning Mommy and Me classes as a utopian friend buffet, the college dorm for one’s 30s, where I’d find endless cool single moms who were tired and funny and wanted to have a glass of wine and complain good-naturedly about our blessed lives while our respective spawn banged on things.
Still, some opportunities presented themselves. Like the other woman in my neighborhood who pushes around a stroller. After a few months of eyeing each other, we worked up the nerve to introduce ourselves. It’s finally happening, I told my real friends, who, thanks to the pandemic, were more available than ever to FaceTime.
A few weeks after that, my new mom friend and I finally arranged to take a walk. It was… fine? We talked about sleep and solid food and poop. After five blocks my daughter started wailing and we couldn’t hear each other anymore — or at least I couldn’t focus enough to be a good conversationalist. I had to turn around and go home. We tried to get another hang on the books, but scheduling a trip to the duck pond felt like an SAT logic problem: If Child A sleeps from 9 to 11 a.m. and then again from 2 to 4 p.m., and Child B sleeps from 8 to 10 a.m. and then again from 3 to 5 p.m., and the moms of both Child A and Child B work during the day... Eventually, we gave up. A few days ago, I saw her walking down my block, laughing with a different blonde lady with a stroller. I’d been replaced.
I’m willing to admit I may have let my expectations of a new crop of pals, gifted to me after childbirth like a push present, get the best of me. It’s hard to find people you gel with in the first place, and mom friends require a four-way chemistry (lady to lady, baby to baby), which seems pretty hard to attain even in non-pandemic times. Maybe when the world opens back up, I’ll work up the nerve to sidle up to a cool-looking lady by the jungle gym. Or let my daughter catch croup crawling around a poorly disinfected playmat with 10,000 other babies while I try to pick up chicks in a Mommy and Me class. But I’m not going to force it. That’s partly because I’ve never felt more appreciation for my already friends. The childless ones have endured long walks with a screaming baby and even pretended to enjoy it. The long-distance ones have whispered with me for an hour over FaceTime while the baby napped. They’re still only a babysitter hire or a call away. That feels good enough to me.