There is no question that as mothers, we get by with the help of our friends. Call it our modern day tribe or the family we’ve chosen – these women are akin to caffeine and carbohydrates in the first few years of motherhood. But as maternity leave fades into the distance and our toddlers form annoyingly rich social lives and activity schedules, is it just me who finds it near impossible to find the time to nurture these friendships?
With that in mind, I’ve always been slightly envious – if a little dubious – of women who say that key to their sanity is a weekly dinner with their girlfriends. Where do these women find the time each week? When do they see their husbands? Who scrapes their children’s discarded food off the floor? Don’t they have mothers and grandfathers and in-laws to entertain? Who does the night time karate class? When will they catch up on season two of the Handmaid’s Tale? Don’t they have all-too-frequent team building evenings that seem to be designed purely for those with a penchant for indoor bowling and house wine? Perhaps things will change when my children are older and less dependent, but for now, the thought of finding a spare evening each week – and making it out of the house with pants that don’t have an elastic waist – fills me with anxiety. All that said, my friends, are among the most important people in my life. It’s just that since having babies, my expectations have changed. In this particular life phase, here’s my definitive list of what makes for a beautiful friendship.
An ability to dart through conversations
When you’re a mother, the ability to finish a conversation becomes relatively impossible. I’m going to blame this on interruptions from children, but I have a sneaking suspicion it could really be due to our fried brains. The ability to jump from kids’ birthday parties to the mental load, to the Net-A-Porter sale, to raising feminist sons and back again – without ever fully completing one of these topics – is a must.
Raw and unfiltered honesty, and a lack of judgement
A true friend understands when you announce your intentions to leave your child at the nearest garage sale. Free of charge. She can also complain about her husband over text for the duration of a Queer Eye episode without you batting an eyelid when you see him at the next birthday party. In my opinion, there’s something slightly disconcerting about a mother whose children are always, “so wonderful!” and husband is, “doing so well!” Sure, for many of us, the kids are generally wonderful and the husband is generally well. But true friends are there to hear about the highest peaks and the lowest valleys. Of course, I want to hear that your children are well, but I also want to hear that they drank water out of the dog’s bowl for the third time today. When we stand side by side in our struggles and our joys, this forms the fabric of a meaningful friendship.
Low text message expectations…
A good friend will provide a full life update over text, not receive a reply, and then message again two weeks later about the best way to scoop poo out of the bath. No one is precious. It’s simply a common understanding that we’re in each other’s thoughts – regardless of how forthcoming the text replies are.
… But lightning speed responses when they’re required
While replies may not be regular, we know when they’re important. In those instances, they’re instantaneous. See above crisis regarding poo and the bath. Mother friends understand this requires immediacy.
You recognise her value
The times together may be few and far between – and often take place around birthday parties involving too much sugar and not enough wine – but when they happen, they’re special. A hug, a nod of understanding, and a conversation that shows that she considers your children like her own. It proves she’s invaluable.
Mama friends, you mean the world. On that note, I think I have a few life updates to respond to.
Image by Julie Adams.