Photo courtesy of Erica Jackson Curran

I Suck At Being A "Mom Friend." And I’m OK With It.

by Erica Jackson Curran

I hear a lot about bonding between mom friends — the deep, heartfelt conversations over coffee and frantic late-night texts. I see pictures on Facebook of massive “mama tribes,” bosom buds since their buns were in the oven. But for me? That concept is as foreign as the idea of a full night’s sleep. I don't have a mom tribe, but honestly I'm fine with it.

When I was pregnant with my son, I thought the new friendships would blossom naturally. After all, this wild motherhood experience would surely give us something to bond over, right? I fantasized about having a big group of mom friends who would meet for weekly mimosa-fueled brunches while our children played contentedly in the next room. And yet time after time, I struggled to forge a meaningful connection with moms I met, and eventually my hopes for a tight group of mom friends fizzled right along with those new contacts.

It’s not that I haven’t tried. When my son was just a few months old and I was feeling particularly isolated, I even started a neighborhood mom’s group. I was shocked when over 100 moms joined, but few of them actually seemed interested or able to meet up. And when some of us did manage to coordinate our schedules, our conversations trailed off after we’d covered hot topics like sleep schedules and clogged milk ducts. Pretty soon I stopped trying to arrange meet-ups, and I felt disappointed yet relieved as the group went silent. Clearly I wasn’t the only mom struggling to find the time and energy needed to participate in a group.

I bail on plans when my son gets the sniffles. And when we do hang out, I’m often so frazzled from long days of juggling parenting, housework, and my flailing writing career that I can barely cobble together a sensible sentence.

More recently, I downloaded an app that’s essentially Tinder for moms. You scroll through photos and swipe up if you want to meet someone, swipe down if you want to skip them. You’re allowed to choose three icons to describe yourself, with options including “Hot Mess,” “Fashion Killa,” “Fluent in Emoji,” and “Beer Buddy.” I felt so awkward after accidentally swiping up on a mom that I deleted the app.

Despite my failed efforts, I have managed to collect a handful of mom friends — some new, and some I’ve known for years. The problem is, I leave their calls or texts unanswered for days, sometimes weeks. I bail on plans when my son gets the sniffles. And when we do hang out, I’m often so frazzled from long days of juggling parenting, housework, and my flailing writing career that I can barely cobble together a sensible sentence. I suck at being a mom friend.

Photo courtesy of Erica Jackson Curran

I suppose I can blame my son to some degree. When he was an infant, more often than not I was distracted by new mom worries and his squawks for milk. Now that he’s a toddler, play dates consist of about 52 half-finished conversations as I chase him from one end of the playground to another. The child wears me out in a way that makes me happier than I’ve ever been.

But sometimes I do need an hour or two away from him, and at those moments, all I want to do is aimlessly roam the aisles of Target with a coffee in hand, or watch a BBC drama where I actually need to listen to the dialogue, or stare at Instagram for a little bit too long. And when I do feel up for socializing, I often crave the company of those friends without kids who may or may not forget to ask about my son, who want to talk about anything but baby stuff.

Wine helps me be more outgoing, as much as I hate the wine mom stereotype. Just half a glass loosens me up enough to remember how to speak a language besides toddler. A full glass and I start to remember that I’m not just a mom. But the thing about wine? It also makes me very sleepy. And if I have more than one glass, the struggle becomes staying awake.

I wasn’t always terrible at carrying on a conversation. Before having my son, I could spend hours chatting with my lady friends. Over brunch, cocktails, or a reality TV marathon, we’d ramble on about our jobs, relationships, career goals, and gossip like we were filming our own version of Sex and the City: Underpaid Journalists Edition. But then some of us moved away, and some of us got pregnant, and conversations trickled down to sporadic emails and “miss you” texts. And that’s when I found myself navigating this confusing social realm of motherhood.

I know my mom friendships look different than some other women’s. I don’t have a mommy tribe, as cool as that concept sounds. And I’ll be the first to admit I’ve got room for improvement when it comes to maintaining the relationships I do have, because I know they’re important. But I’ve got enough mom guilt floating around that I’m not about to start lamenting my lack of my close female friendships. They’re still there — they just look a bit different at this point in my life. They’re kept afloat by texts we answer three days late, emoji-filled Instagram comments, and lightning-fast catch-up calls. I guess that’s just the language some of us speak right now.