Not long after I gave birth and became a mother, other women with kids were quick to tell me I needed to seek out, befriend, and surround myself with mom friends. Seasoned parents warned me that I'd have a difficult time connecting with women who weren’t mothers now that I had a baby of my own, solely because they couldn’t possibly understand how tired or overwhelmed I was, or needed I was by a tiny, constantly pooping, and all-together exhausting little human. Even at the hospital, right before securing my newborn into his carseat and taking him home, my nurses and doctors passed me pamphlets about mom groups in and around Seattle, WA (where we live) so I could find support and “be understood” by women who knew what it was like to be a mother. But I refused to join a moms' group, and I still won't.
There are moms' groups in Seattle that are go-to favorites of my friends with kids. They're a way to connect with local women who also have children. Right after my son was born, I searched groups in my area and found more than my fair share of options. Groups like these offer mentoring, leadership, honest conversation, teaching, creative activities, and childcare for a multitude of mothers around the country.
And it didn’t take long for me to realize these types of communities were definitely not for me.
It’s not that I’m against learning from other mothers or against bouncing ideas off of each other and talking about what's worked and what hasn't (because I am) and it's not that I don't value the friendships I've made with other women who have kids (because I do), but after having my son I was in search of friends who would give me something outside of my child, who would remind me that motherhood wasn't the only characteristic that defined me. After I gave birth to my son, I wanted to be reminded of the fact that my entire life was and is about more than my ability to procreate, birth, and raise another human being.
Sure, my friends without kids may have a difficult time completely understanding what life is like with a child, but I value their friendships now more than ever. Not only have they been there for me from the beginning — from partying to parenthood and every moment in between — but they constantly remind me of who I was and who I still am, sans kid and sans parenting responsibilities.
It's obviously unfair to assume that the only topics at these types of meetings are about babies and bottles and blown-out diapers. So many women I've met and befriended are members of moms' groups, and they tell me constantly how thankful they are for the opportunity to connect to other women, form long-lasting friendships, and be supported in all aspects of their lives — not just motherhood. I have no doubt that they all offer women more than just an hour to talk baby, but as I read over the information and did additional research, I knew that even though moms' groups could probably offer me more, I wasn't interested in finding out what that was.
Sure, my friends without kids may have a difficult time completely understanding what life is like with a child, but I value their friendships now more than ever. Not only have they been there for me from the beginning — from partying to parenthood and every moment in between — but they constantly remind me of who I was and who I still am, sans kid and sans parenting responsibilities. They’re my connection to reality, my foot in the earth, a reminder that my life isn’t just about the awesome thing my kid did or the small number of hours I've slept or how mind-numbingly difficult potty training is. They help me see things beyond myself and my kid and my new life as a working mother.
My friends without kids are there to tell me they love me, support me, and absolutely do not judge me. I don't have to worry about glossing over the ugly side of parenting to make it seem prettier. I don't worry about having my parenting choices sliced and dissected at every turn.
My kid-less friends are my supportive reminder that women are not, and should not be, divided by their reproductive choices. At times, I've felt forced into an "us vs. them" choice, with mothers on one side and non-mothers on the other. But my friends who either haven't had children yet, or have made the choice not to have them, often give me perspective and guidance and advice that another mother simply can't. Our lives are all about perspective, and theirs is just as vitals as anyone else's. Whether it's me calling them frustrated, desperate to vent about my son's latest tantrum, or it's me headed over with a bottle of wine, desperate for human interaction that doesn't involve diapers, my friends without kids are there to tell me they love me, support me, and absolutely do not judge me. I don't have to worry about glossing over the ugly side of parenting to make it seem prettier. I don't worry about having my parenting choices sliced and dissected at every turn. To cut them out of my life, or rely on them less, simply because I had a baby and they didn't, is to deny myself important, loving, caring and vital relationships.
I never imagined motherhood as a journey that was solely about my child. I didn't picture myself talking about him — and only him — from the day he was born until the end of time. And perhaps most importantly, I didn't want to put my parenting and my mothering on stage, free to be judged. Even though I know not every parent is rude or condescending or so steadfast in their own beliefs that they refuse to see that other choices work for other mothers, I was still wary of making friendships based solely around my child and everything that comes with him.
I've never felt like I'm missing out on making a connection with other mothers. I already have a group — some close, some far away, and some I've met and befriended on the Internet — who are supportive, won't judge me, and just as honest about motherhood as I am.
Plus, I have some fantastic mom friends already. Whether they've been my friend for years and procreated around the same time I did (or sooner), or I met them organically through friends of friends, through work, or even at the grocery store, the friendships I have with other women with kids are precious, sacred, and important to me. I've never felt like I'm missing out on making a connection with other mothers. I already have a group — some close, some far away, and some I've met and befriended on the Internet — who are supportive, won't judge me, and just as honest about motherhood as I am. There's no subtle jabs, no underlying tones of jealousy, no palpable feelings of an unspoken competition. Instead there's camaraderie and understanding and, honestly, that's all I ever wanted. It's never been about being against moms' groups. It's just that I have found mine already, and I'm happy with that.
I've heard horror stories about moms' groups, and how friends have told me how, sometimes, mom-on-mom judgment and shame grows roots and fosters in meetings and visits. Because of that, I've never felt the need to seek one out. Of course I don't shame any woman who's met and made life-long friends this way. That's her choice, and I think that's wonderful. It just didn't work for me. Being a mother — hell, being a woman — is hard enough, and in my infinitely more vulnerable state as a new mom (who is always oh, so tired and completely overwhelmed), I didn't want to take the chance of finding myself in one of those rare groups that are more hurtful than helpful. For me, personally, that feeling of forcing a friendship in the name of motherhood could never compare to meeting someone and genuinely wanting to be around them.