I'm always on the lookout for a new friend. Call it a byproduct of my outgoing and hopelessly optimistic personality, but I love connecting with new people and bringing more individuals into my inner circle. That's not always easy to do when you're a mom, though, and sometimes mom friends cause more stress than they're worth. Hell, I have far more kid-free friends than I do friends who are parents, and I have to say that it's for a slew of very legitimate reasons.
That's not to say that a mom friend can't be an absolute gem of a human being, not to mention an invaluable lifeline. The few mom friends I have are goddesses, and I know my experience as a mom of two boys would be lesser if they weren't in my life. But in my time as a mom I have also had mom friends come and go that caused a lot — and I mean a lot — of stress. From passive aggressively discussing my birth plans to offering unsolicited advice that was in no way helpful, to then growing resentful when I didn't take that advice as if I was undermining their parenting choices, navigating friendships when you're both simultaneously parenting can be overwhelming and, in the end, sometimes just not worth it.
So if you're feeling stressed out by a mom friend, know that you're not alone. Relationships are tricky, parenthood is even trickier, and sometimes all that trickiness can manifest itself into a ton of stress and in the following ways:
There's An Unspoken Competition, Even If You Don't Want There To Be
You don't talk about it, or acknowledge it, and you certainly don't try to facilitate it, but it's there: this unspoken "parenting competition" we're all inadvertently engaged in. It's like once you push out a baby you're thrust into this race with ever other parent and you're all running against each other and towards a finish line that doesn't actually exist. Which parent had the kid who crawled first? Which parent had the kid who potty trained first? Which kid is going into kindergarten armed with the ability to read? Who was able to have a drug-free birth and who had a C-section?
This palpable sense of competition is exhausting, even if you don't actively encourage or engage in it.
It's Easy For Everyone To Lose Perspective
Look, when you're trying to keep other humans beings alive it's easy to lose sight of the "big picture" things and focus solely on you, your experiences, and your responsibilities. But when a group of parents are all living in their own little bubbles, it's easy for everyone to lose perspective and think whatever it is they're experience at the moment is the most stressful, most time-consuming, most difficult experience known to parents the world over. And that can be disheartening: instead of us all being "in it together," we're essentially telling everyone else that whatever they're going through isn't as bad as what we are enduring at any given moment.
I try not to compare my kids to other kids, I really do, but it's difficult not to. And I try not to compare my abilities and choices as a parent to the choices and abilities of other parents, but, again, that's really damn hard to avoid. When we're all going through parenthood at the same time we need a point of reference, and we often try to locate that point by looking at the parents around us and measuring their successes against ours. And I don't know about you, but that doesn't always make me feel that great.
All The Unsolicited Advice
People without kids are pretty quick to give advice about parenting, to be sure, and that's a special kind of annoying since they objectively have no idea what they're talking about. But parents can end up giving other parents advice that was never asked for, too, and it's usually when they see another parent going through something they've already experienced. This is often well-intentioned, to be sure, but what works for one parent doesn't necessarily work for another, so often times this unsolicited advice can just make things worse.
No One Is *Really* Available To Babysit
Shout-out to all my kid-free friends who are so willing to babysit my two boys. This isn't an outright knock on my parent friends, of course. I mean, because I have two kids I'm not jumping at the bit to watch their children, either. But when a parent has their own kids to worry about, chances are they're not really up for watching yours, too.
Getting Together Involves Far Too Many Moving Parts
Do the kids like each other? If they do like each other, are they getting along at that particular day? What are your kids' extracurricular activity schedule look like? What about their kids? Who has a nap schedule that can't be altered? Who is going to be the one traveling with children?
See what I'm talking about? Even a quick "get together" often involves a lot of moving parts and complex planning that can just be exhausting and stressful.
They Still Don't *Really* Get Where You're Coming From
While the idea that we're "all in this together" sounds nice and can be comforting, it isn't entirely true. Like, at all. Parenting isn't a "one size fits all" thing, and there is such a wide variety of experiences within the parenting sphere that can make motherhood look entirely different from one person to the next. So we aren't really "all in this together," and just because I'm a mom and someone else is a mom doesn't mean we're going to understand one another or see eye-to-eye.
If Something Works For Them They're Going To Assume It Must Work For You, Too
This is just a flaw in every parent, in my opinion. I know I'm insanely guilty of assuming what works for me and my children is going to work for my parenting friend who is wondering how to deal with, say, a sleep regression. And that's just hardly ever the case. But when we make this assumption it can end up making all parents involved feel isolated and alone, like they're either doing something wrong or what they've experienced isn't the "norm."
The Inevitable Judgement
It's human nature, my friends, and although I think the best of us try not to judge other parents, we fail and let the worst parts of ourselves take the proverbial wheel. And when that judgment comes from our parenting friends it can feel extra-personal. It's easy to let the judgment of kid-free people roll off your shoulders because, like, what do they know, right? But when a mom friend is silently judging you it feels downright cruel, even if it's not intentional or coming from a place of malice.
But the "bad" associated with mom friendships doesn't always outweigh the good. Personally, I think you have to find your people in order for these types of friendships to be rewarding, and that can take some time. But when you do you know that you'll have someone you can turn to who might not understand exactly what you're experiencing as a mom, but can understand better than most. And that person is invaluable.