By Lisa Barr
A few weeks ago I was fighting a traffic ticket in traffic court. I haven't had a ticket in years -- and I was nervous. I drove there (why are traffic courts always in the most remote locations and at the worst times, during the day). Anyway, I was early, and waited (and waited).
A woman in the court house bathroom came up to me, and said, "Hey, great boots." I responded, "Hey, thanks." We then had a discussion of boots (my hands-down fave fashion accessory), and I gave her the name of the store and directions to get there. It was all very girlie, and I made my first "traffic court" friend.
My case was called, and I looked across the room -- and guess who was my prosecutor -- you got it -- my new BFF. The ticket was dismissed, and I truly believe the "boots bonding" may have had a little something to do with it. And it got me thinking ... Over the years, handing out compliments about shoes, clothes, jewelry, hair -- have been my way to meet and connect with women. Even Moms need a "pick-up" line to meet other Moms.
Especially when you are the New Mom on the Block.
Several years ago, after I remarried, my husband and newly-blended family moved from one town to another -- my daughters entered their new elementary school in third and first grades respectively. I had missed out on pre-school Mommy bonding, and the beginnings of elementary school Getting-To-Know-You's (when everyone is in the same boat). In other words, I came to town WITHOUT a group, or a friend.
Drop-off was fine. But picking up from school was tough. I would wait on the sidelines alone for my daughters. All the mommy groups had been formed and they were locked in various small circles. I would hear airborne commentary about their days, and making plans. I would spend those 15 minutes desperately trying to look busy. I had my five best "history friends" -- but everyone lived out of town, or not locally. I pretended that my solo-ship didn't bother me -- but inside, it did. I was now a Stay-At-Home Mommy -- having left my full-time position at a newspaper to freelance from home, and build my new family.
By nature, I'm very social -- but Girls being Girls, Women being Women -- I knew making new friends at (then) almost-40 was going to be a tough nut to crack.
How do I do this? How do I break into the suburban clique-dom? I knew no one was just going to let me in because I was nice.
I had no other choice but to start "dating."
Dating Moms is suburban-speak for making new friends, and it usually comes with a catch: You become dependent on YOUR kids to break the ice for you.
It's an odd concept -- banking on your 9 year old to help you make friends. But it all comes down to developing Mommy Friends through their friends. I began to make play-dates for my girls, and little by little, Moms got to know me. But the process was slow, and I was lonely.
I was a bit scared to make the first move -- not wanting to be rejected. So when the moment came and a certain Mom asked me for coffee, it honestly felt like the hottest guy in high school had just asked me out.
I know it all sounds so silly, but at that time -- everything was so new -- my home, my family, our kids blending, new school, new lifestyle -- everything was still in its wrapper -- and I was vulnerable.
So a simple coffee date with a potential new friend felt like a life-changer.
One coffee led to lunch, lunch led to being invited to meet her group of friends, eventually a couples dinner, and the big score after several months -- I was invited to a Girls Night Out.
But "Dating" in suburbia requires more than just meeting Moms. It also requires getting involved in the school -- taking initiative. So I became the Great Books "teacher" once a week, I volunteered on field trips, and headed the Valentine's Day party, among other "connectors."
"Dating" to make new (real) friends took almost three years of searching, I kid you not, until I found my women -- those who I could call on and have coffee or lunch, laugh, go for a walk, a workout, text splices of life, save me a seat at various school functions -- and also go out as couples.
And then comes the tricky part.
If your Mommy friendships are solely based on the fact that your kids are close friends -- it can be shaky ground. Many women I know discuss tough scenarios when their kid have "moved on" to another group of friends -- and their Mommy friendships begin to fall apart. This "co-dependency" is exposed, and your kid's action causes a "pink elephant" to enter your relationship.
We've all been on both sides of that coin -- my kid stops being friends with yours/or your kid stops being friends with mine. If this happens, there is only one solution to weather that storm:
Don't pretend the kids' dwindling friendship does not affect yours. Talk about it, tackle it, and discuss with your friend/s how you can rise above this.
One woman I know says, "I've learned the hard way, and I keep my distance from my kids' friends' parents ... Not only that, I focus only on those women who have the opposite sex kid as mine in the same class. Truthfully, I cannot deal with the drama."
We all deal with the drama, I told her. You can't hide from it. Moms in the 'burbs have a lot going on -- juggling carpools, activities, kids' demands, house, hubby, work, projects, bar mitzvahs, sweet 16s, birthday parties, church, synagogue, perhaps caregiving to their own parents -- Mom bonding becomes not only precious time, but also a lifeline of support.
Most Mommy friendships are hard to come by -- and I believe it's worth it to make them work.
Here's the advice I tell my daughters... and perhaps, it trickles UPWARD: If you find a few good friends who you can trust, with whom you feel good about yourself, with whom you can laugh and share your secrets, who give you good advice and who tell you which dress actually DOES look prettier -- hold on to them with two hands.
The mark of true friends -- new and old -- is not the good times when all your ducks are in a row, but how you move past a conflict if say your 'duckling' should happen to go rogue.
The key and (the lock) to sustaining Mommy Friendships is to take them out of the "Mommy" Zone (based on the kids) -- and really get to know each other as women (based on You) -- and then those friendships will stand up on their very own.
Lisa Barr is the editor of GIRLilla Warfare: A Mom's Guide to Surviving the Suburban Jungle (www.girlillawarfare.com) and the author of "Fugitive Colors" (historical supsense, available on Amazon).