Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Mother's Match.com -- by Laura Houston

My ad would read like this: "SAHM in lower west 70s seeks like-minded, liberal, smart, slightly crazy mother with adorable child 18-24 months old (preferably female) for play dates, cocktails, recipe and book exchanges. Must be nurturing but tough."

Everyone talks about the loneliness and alienation of motherhood, but motherhood presents three particular challenges when it comes to finding meaningful, mutual relationships: 1.) You have to bond with the “mother friend,” 2.) Your children have to get along, 3.) You have to bond with your friend’s child/children. All three of these planets must come into alignment in order for a rapport to successfully develop.

Here in New York City it’s not easy to connect with other moms. This is a Type-A city where everyone is always in a neurotic hurry and lives are full. After living here for a year, I was sure I would never find the right “one.” Or any “one” for that matter. Stuck in baby jail, it seemed impossible to meet the mom who is at once a careful, conscientious and casual parent. I had given up hope that I would meet a mom who got my sarcastic sense of humor and shared my loves of reading, gardening, food, and music.

Then it happened. It was just like in the movies. On one of the last nice days of fall when the sun barely had the energy to hover above the high rises that line Central Park West, I met them. Dave, the boys and I were in one of the open park spaces of Central Park, and my husband collected a big pile of leaves for Lyle and Wyatt. Suddenly this adorable little girl dressed in pink with a dog hat ran through the pile laughing deliriously. She was precious, and I lived vicariously through her joy. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to the mother ensconced in a sleeping bag coat hovering close by.

But then out of politeness I had to speak to the mom. The conversation was easy. As fate would have it, Nicole was also from the Northwest. British Columbia. What’s not to love about Canadians? They’re a fun-loving people with a great sense of humor and the ability to amuse themselves through the darkest of winters. How else do you explain the Gopher Hole Museum in Torrington, Alberta? It’s one of my favorite attractions. And my insta-friend acknowledged within minutes of our first meeting that you can’t get a good cup of coffee in this town. I felt the same way. We are Northwest coffee snobs.

We talked until the sky could barely hold on to the last light of autumn. My husband had wandered off with one of the twins, and I was half watching the other who kept falling down the hill with Sonia while I chatted with Nicole. When darkness descended, we exchanged phone numbers with the intention of having a play date.

We didn’t get together for a few weeks, but we exchanged texts of intent. Then the week before Christmas we ran into each other at another playground. I was so happy to see her again I hugged her. Then I hugged Sonia. Then I felt silly because my hugs were strong, intensive, airport hugs. Not really appropriate in New York for new acquaintances. Neither Nicole nor Sonia seemed to care. They just wanted to play. We talked again for another hour while our kids amused themselves in the bitter cold.

Then the play dates happened. The conversation between us never stopped although it was always interrupted. It was like dating only better because I didn’t have to worry about whether or not to have sex at the end. I only had to focus on scheduling another play date.

Ah. Now just a few weeks later it is as if we have been friends for years. I know the sordid details about her family. She knows about mine. We agree we are married to the best men ever and still they annoy the hell out of us. We love Pinot Noir, fresh foods, cooking, and she has three times referenced obscure novels that I have cherished since high school. Better still Nicole is a great mom. She adores her daughter. She finds time to balance the work (she is very successful at her career) with her motherhood. She’s practically everything I want to be, but there is no envy. Just appreciation.

Oh. And she brought me this special peanut butter that my boys will eat by the jar-full when I complained about their lack of appetite. So I gave her my precious Potage cookbook.

It’s a relief, really, to find someone who engages me so much. When my boys see Nicole, they hug her. They stand in front of her and chant their chant of joy, and they jump up and down. They fight for a position on her lap. It feels as if Nicole and I have been close friends for years. And she comes with a bonus: her daughter. I love Sonia. I think about that precious, precocious child often throughout my day, and sometimes I even have dreams about her. I miss her after two days.

Then there are the funny things that come with a new friendship. Nicole has a job. A big job. So I have to remind myself not to text her every five minutes or send pictures of Lyle covered in the peanut butter. When I’m out in the city, I sometimes see things Sonia or Nicole would love, and I want to buy them. But I don’t. I don’t because I am the mother of twins, I am too tired, and I don’t want to carry anything I don’t have to. Plus, it would be weird to do so.

But I know none of that matters. Regardless of our good fortune in life Nicole and I value people and not things. We know we will do better by our children to help them through the negotiations of hitting and biting, and teaching them to share things rather than just giving them things. And we’ll do better by each other to save our time and energy for conversations, support, humor, and play dates that last well into happy hour.

Good friends are everything to good mothers. They’re just so damn hard to find. I’m both ecstatic and relieved to have finally found a match.

5 Comments:

Blogger Andrea said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:50 AM  
Blogger Andrea said...

o well put! I went through the same thing here in Boston and even advertised on Facebook and meet-up for a stay-at-home, midlife mom-friend. I finally went back to our adoption agency and started a support group. It's been two years now and even though we started out with 8 sets of parents, there's one mom/son team that my daughter and I see consistently. It helps so much when there's friend close by who just seems to "get it". I really liked reading this!

4:52 AM  
Blogger Robin Gorman Newman said...

That is wonderful Laura. I can relate to your desire/quest for a mom companion and the appreciation for having found one. It's one of the main reasons I launched MotherhoodLater.com, because, I too, when my son was young, struggled with making mom friends. I often felt like I was back in high school wondering if I was liked. Were we compatible? Were our kids compatible, as you put it? And, yes, how did I feel about their child and the influence they could potentially have on mine? As the kids get older, that is a consideration as well. "Mother mating" is a challenging dynamic, but when it works, it works. Enjoy!

8:25 AM  
Blogger Cara Meyers said...

How could anyone NOT enjoy you!!

Seriously, though, when I was going through a really rough time with my son, a (now) close friend who lives across the street called me at 7am, crying one morning, to break the news that she had miscarried. I cried with her and spent the day.

A year later she was pregnant and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who was just as challenging as my son. We started to bond over the "difficulties" we shared as parents, and although our children are too far apart, age wise, to play together, we still depend on each other for emotional and physical support. And, yes, I've bought her daughter clothes when my friend was going through a financially difficult time. Later on, when she had a son, I gave her all of the clothes my son outgrew. And she has told me, there is no one she trusts more to watch her kids, even her parents, because I "get" them.

It is a joy to find such a special type of friend! And I'm so glad you found yours! We all need at least one in our lives!

8:54 AM  
Blogger kaycia said...

Brilliant, Laura. I feel this way as a 30-something without children. :(

1:28 PM  

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