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Thursday, February 6, 2014

An Open Letter to Every Future Mom I’ll Ever Meet

      Hi future fellow mom. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Debra. We’ve just met at some kid function. Maybe it was while waiting at the sidelines at an extracurricular activity or during a PTA event at school. Perhaps we struck up a conversation in the pediatrician’s waiting room. Or maybe we exchanged a few bits of dialogue in the frozen aisles of the grocery store buying dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets. In any event, I thought I would give you a bit of a heads-up about myself before we dive into anything that even closely resembles a female friendship. You see, I am a bit strange. I wanted to give you fair warning so that there are no surprises.

      Allow me to explain. Some women come into motherhood and assimilate into their new friendships with fellow moms quite naturally. For them, maybe there is no thought behind the process at all. These are the women who had a big group of friends during childhood, who were able to juggle their cheerleading and yearbook and student council responsibilities with their weekend partying. They had boyfriends and actual school spirit. They joined sororities and made quick friends with their college roommate and posed for pictures at parties with their arms around fellow girls. They delightfully planned their weddings with gaggles of friends and included them all as bridesmaids. They laughed together in limousines to celebrate someone’s bachelorette party. They like wine and hug each other hello and goodbye even when they’ll see each other in a week. And when these women have their babies, they walk into the scary, shaky world of parenting together, hooking elbows and embracing a new female bond together.

      You see, the deal is that I wasn’t one of those girls. In fact, I was quite the opposite. The kind of teenager reminiscent of mid-90’s indie flicks about loser teenagers. I rolled my eyes at school spirit and scribbled away in my poetry notebook and tried to get by with as little social interaction as possible. Sure, I had friends, but not without the awkwardness and anxiety that came with being a sullen teenage girl trying to maintain said friendships. Over time, I realized I got along much better with guys. There seemed to be no drama, no social butterflies, no pressure to make total sense all the time. They didn’t care about how you did your hair or how many friends you actually had. Guys were more cynical, sarcastic, dark, and quiet. And amazingly, I happened to fall in love with one of them. I married him and had his baby.

      When I had my son, there was nothing more I wanted to do than make stay-at-home motherhood a full time career and make a great life for the two of us during the week. I was so excited to take my very curious baby to all the storytimes and library infant classes and programs and see that there were others like me – new moms who were strung out and befuddled at how grueling parenthood could be. Like any new mom, I just sought solace. And when I encountered fellow moms, perhaps I occasionally got a little too excited. I joined multiple playdate groups and attended everything, and introduced myself eagerly and naively. And maybe my social shortcomings manifested in ways I didn’t realize until it was too late. There have been times I didn’t realize I said something too bluntly. Perhaps the times I was being spacey and in my own head made other moms misinterpret me for being rude. I had wanted to be a mother more than anything, but I wasn’t prepared for the social game that often follows.

      Before I became a parent, I would have never thought about how being around fellow moms can unfortunately be so like high school sometimes. There are cliques, judgment, gossip, silent assessments and the sizing up of others. But in order to entertain and socialize our children, we all need to be around other moms and form friendships, regardless of our comfort level with that task. A mom who may walk a little off the beaten path, or is an oddball in one way or another may be talked about, excluded, not invited, defriended. Someone we thought we’ve bonded with can become a stranger all too soon. I guess that’s true for all moms. But in spite of all this, there is hope for us weirdos. There is hope for all of us. For every mom that can’t relate to you, there is one out there that can. There are great women who will accept you for who you are, who have enough of a sense of humor to know when you are being sarcastic and when you’re not, who aren’t too sensitive, who don’t mind if you have opposite tastes and dissimilar interests, who can engage in conversation with you even if you seeing things totally differently. There are hundreds of fellow moms who like you just the way you are, and who are happy to talk about the joys and hardships of parenthood with someone else and not let personality quirks and social idiosyncrasies get in the way.

      So, fellow mom I’ve just met – you can’t say I didn’t warn you. If you see me again, you’ll know I may not be exactly like you. I am a loner yet extremely talkative at once, a strange and confusing combination. I can be very uptight. When I get really passionate about something, I can’t stop talking. I’d rather sit on the couch with my husband watching some independent movie that nobody’s ever heard of than going out for a“Girl’s Night.” Sometimes I don’t think before speaking and I don’t make much sense. We won’t like the same musicians or actors. I like solitude and fear social gatherings. I may not always agree with you. I have a really hard time with small talk but I am happy to discuss the heavy stuff all day. I don’t fluff the truth or lie. I have no concept of what’s popular or trendy. I hate talking on the phone. Sometimes I may appear distant. Like I said – I’m a little strange.

      But if we do become friends, what you’ll also get is someone who will always be loyal and honest. I’ll bake you muffins when you’ve just had surgery and I’ll sit with you for hours at Starbucks to let you vent about a big problem. I’ll offer a different perspective on things. I’ll give you advice if you ask for it. I’ll always be willing to let your kids come play at our house and make a mess. I’ll offer to babysit. I’ll make you laugh. I’ll remember everything you tell me. I won’t judge or be catty. I’ll write you heartfelt thank you emails or letters when you’ve been a good friend and fellow mom. Because - we’re all in this crazy parenting thing together, and maybe we’re all a little weird to begin with. And we’ll be better moms for trying to get to know each other, no matter how different we all are.

Yours Truly,