By Stephanie Ila Silver-Silberstein
Marie: Tell me I’ll never have to be out there again.
Jess: You’ll never have to be out there again.
I remember when my husband and I unintentionally uttered these exact same words to each other; years after “When Harry Met Sally” stopped playing in theatres. But my husband was wrong. I would have to be out there again… and so will each and every woman – the minute she becomes a mom.
Making new mommy friends is, not surprisingly, a whole lot easier than searching for “the One”. But the process does feel vaguely similar. I remember how optimistic I was upon entering Lamaze class when I was pregnant with my first. My best friend from college, Jenny, had met her best mommy friend in Lamaze. “When Jenny Met Karen”: it was apparently ‘friend at first sight’. They clicked. Their husbands clicked. They had their babies within 2 days of each other and lived within 2 blocks of each other. Jenny had a boy and Karen had a girl. They swapped hand-me-downs when they each had the opposite gender 2.5 years later. They spent virtually everyday together, walked their Bugaboos side by side and basically had a daily standing playdate that could have lasted through 2 meals and a nap, if not longer. I felt certain the same would happen for me.
But it didn’t. Though I’m Facebook friends with one of the 2 other moms from my Lamaze class, the relationship never went beyond writing, “Congratulations!” on her wall when her status update included pics of her newborn. Don’t get me wrong. I met plenty of new moms once I ventured out of my apartment when my son was 3-months-old, and I’m happy to report that despite my moving out of the city 2 years ago, a few of them are still very close friends of mine today. But the search for ‘my Karen’ continues.
Every mommy and me class that my son and I attended was like a Saturday night at Bowery Bar circa 2002. I’d scope out the scene for potential soul mates. My friends would encourage me with lines like, “you just have to put yourself out there” and “they’re probably just as nervous as you are.” After a few shy glances back and forth and some eavesdropping for a good opportunity to enter the conversation, I would eventually get up the nerve to utter some lame icebreaker. But instead of a guy at a bar asking me to ‘help him get the bartender’s attention’ or if ‘this was the line to the bathroom,’ it was me asking the target mom where she got her daughter’s adorable outfit. We’d play a round of six degrees of separation by listing our hometowns as well as any camps and schools we attended and eventually figure out who we knew in common. If there was any chemistry, and assuming the instructor wasn’t demanding the moms’ strict attention on Gymbo the Clown for 45 minutes straight, we’d exchange ‘digits’ by the end of class. I would leave the mommy and me class du jour with a huge sense of accomplishment. Quality time with my baby and a potential new mommy friend.
But that feeling didn’t always last. All of a sudden, I was thrust back into my mid-twenties when I’d wait for a guy to call me or listen to his voicemail message twenty times in an effort to decipher his meaning. Like a scene from “Swingers”, I’d wonder how many days I should wait before planning a second playdate. Excuses like “Tommy naps at that time,” or “I have my babysitter that day,” started to sound like the female equivalent of “I’m so sorry, but I’m going on a business trip tomorrow.” Was it me? Was the Karen-Jenny dynamic some sort of urban legend I concocted in my delusional head, or did these women really not have as much time to kill as I did? I’d monitor my comfort level with my new mommy friends by the amount of time I’d spend spell-checking my emails or deciding on the perfect dish to bring to the next book club meeting. And to load on even more pressure, after a few months, I’d attempt the double date and cross my fingers that our husbands got along as well as we did. Maybe we’d even meet at the beach when our summer weekends at the shore coincided. My new mommy friendships were finally growing deeper.
But never that deep. It’d be a year into these friendships, and I’d realize how little these moms actually knew about me. The funny anecdotes that I’d divulge about myself on the 1st or 2nd date when I was single, never seemed to come up in between conversations about naptime and breastfeeding. It was understandable. First-time, not to mention 2nd and 3rd time moms have a limitless supply of questions (and complaints) about parenting as well as countless funny stories about their adorable kids to share. And you could never quite shake off the feeling that your new friend was secretly searching the MLS listings for houses in the suburbs in hopes of moving out of the city before the preschool application process began (even I’m guilty of that). As a result, my hilarious prom night fiasco or what celebrity I kissed or my ‘famous’ one line on “All My Children” never made the cut on the list of discussion topics – especially when my child was throwing mac and cheese across the restaurant. Not that this was such a bad thing. After all, I had my bridesmaids to remember that stuff (or graciously forget). The new mommy friends who I met that first year of my son’s life served a different, yet equally important purpose. Brought together by time, place and common circumstance, new mommy friends are there to make this crazy new world of parenting a lot less lonely and a lot more fun. I may only still be close with a few of them today, but all of them hold a very special place in my heart.
Now that I live in the suburbs, in a town I will most likely raise my children in, making new mommy friends feels a little more urgent – like the stakes are somehow higher now. The reality that I could be making lifelong friends, not only for myself but for my children as well, feels a whole lot more significant than when I just needed to kill some time before the dinner/bath/stories/bedtime routine. I still find myself competing with nap schedules, nanny schedules, after-school classes and sibling schedules when planning those much-needed playdates. But I’m happy to realize that I have still managed to develop some wonderful friendships with women I see being friends with for a very long time, if not forever. Have I met my Karen yet? Maybe. But my kids are young. And only a lucky few can develop friendships like that in one trimester.
It’s September now, and the school year is beginning. It’s that time of year when friendships can form, grow or change significantly. We may not have a school cafeteria to navigate or a Homecoming dance to plan, but when it comes to making friends, the same certainly holds true for the moms as well. More often than not, our best friends from High School, camp and college live in other towns or have children of different ages who go to different schools. And while we have our husbands and our kids to keep us smiling and to remind us of what’s truly important, there’s still a very real need for the consistent, everyday friendship that only another mom can offer. Here’s hoping that this September, every mom walks into her child’s back-to-school night and finds ‘her Karen’ or maybe even a few Karens, and that she’s ready to grab that much needed cup of coffee with you.