When You’re a Mom – and Your Friends Aren’t
Suddenly I didn’t seem close to my buddies anymore.
Once there was a time when I had no children – and neither did many of my friends. Our lunch dates and nights out were planned around our work schedules rather than a breastfeeding regimen. We talked about boyfriends and husbands, the movies we’d seen, outrageous coworkers, anything but diapers and Sesame Street.
I was also involved in community theater. At cast parties with my fellow non-mom actresses and backstage techies, we’d stay well past midnight. Why not? We didn’t have to get up early to pour a bowl of Rice Krispies.
All that changed when I had my first baby. Instantly, I became Shana-the-Mom, leaping in one bound to the other side of the chasm that separates the parent from the non-parent. And I soon found out that the chasm was really, really wide.
Talk all you want about the conflict between at-home and working moms, but at least they have one thing in common. No matter how a mother spends her day, she still knows what it’s like to feed a 2-month-old before dawn, fidget in a pediatrician’s waiting room, search for a missing toy or gush over a crayoned masterpiece.
Once you step to the mom side of the chasm, your priorities, schedules and identity center on your children – and that’s an experience that women without children can never fully understand. They can sympathize, but they’re always standing on the other side.
I didn’t realize that when I had my son – but then, I didn’t realize much of anything at the time. Exhausted and hormonal in those early months, I wondered if I’d ever get the hang of this baby thing. I craved friendship and support, but being with my non-mom friends didn’t seem quite enough anymore. They were wonderful about sending gifts and checking in, but our conversations weren’t what they used to be. I edited myself, not wanting to bore them with baby talk or say something dismissive like, “Oh, you’ll understand when you have kids.”
When I went to lunches with friends who didn’t have kids or took a temp gig in an office with single coworkers, how could I tell them that I wasn’t enjoying my sandwich because my stomach was roiling with separation anxiety? That I was so incompetent at diapering that the baby was soaking through his onesies three times in an hour? That trying to entertain a 5-month-old can be just plain boring?
I didn’t have the heart or the energy to go to community-theater auditions, so the shows went on without me. New members joined the group. Going to performances was like visiting high school after graduation and listening to the undergrads talk about proms and classes that weren’t part of my life anymore.