When I was really young, my best friends were all girls. We played Barbies, rode bikes, roller skated, and did all of the things that little girls do, without having to give much thought to making our friendship work. By later elementary and middle school, my girl friendships got a bit more complicated. My “besties” were still girls, but the whole lot of us seemed doomed to endless fights and constant bickering. Social exclusion and relational aggression were not properly identified and labeled for us as “girl bullying” like they are today, so the constant rifts in our relationships were a source of great confusion, as well as sadness and frustration. By high school, I was tired of the girl drama and found myself enjoying the platonic friendships of guys so much more—my boy friends (not to be confused with boyfriends) were just so easy compared to girls.

For me, the pattern of forming closer bonds with boys continued until I became a Mom. Now, mind you, I had great girl friends all through college—friendships that I still treasure—but until Mommyhood, most close friendships with girls still seemed to take too much effort.

The common experience of being a Mom changed everything in my friendships. Aside from my husband who is truly my best friend, the people who know and understand me best nowadays are all fellow Mamas. They are the ladies I chat with at the playground, see in our mutual states of exhaustion and un-showered-ness at pre-school drop-off, commiserate with, wind down with, and share my best (and worst, believe me!) tales of parenthood.

What is it about Mama-friendships that creates such a powerful bond for women? Here are two of the things I love most about my fellow Mamas:

We Tell it Like It Is

One of the things I recall most vividly about the middle school years was that expressing anger was taboo. Though “being in a fight with so and so” in sixth grade seemed to be as in style as the collared, paisley shirts from The Limited (who’s with me here? Remember those?) no one ever dared actually tell someone in words when they were angry. This kind of honest self-expression was unacceptable—perhaps too un-ladylike. Instead, girls let their anger be known in passive aggressive ways, such as spreading rumors, excluding each other from parties, and faux whispering in the hallways. The sugarcoated hostility of middle school “frenemies” was nothing short of cruel.

The great thing about the craziness of Mommyhood is that my friends and I are too busy with our kids to bother with indirectness at this stage of our lives. My favorite Mamas are the ones with whom I know I can be honest and direct. I am no longer afraid of the consequences of turning down an invitation or giving my honest opinion. We all still take each others’ feelings into account, but we are no longer afraid to admit that we get angry with each other sometimes. Just as quickly as we can talk to each other about our honest feelings, we also get it off our chests and move on to the next common mis-adventure in parenting. I love that.

 

We Live in Glass Houses

Remember before you were a parent, and you used to hear a child screaming in a restaurant? Your automatic thought was something like, “I would never tolerate that if I were that little girl’s mother.” Flash forward a few years, and that over-tired, over-stimulated child is yours. Your diaper bag full of tricks is all used up and you’ve already done 20 laps around the outside of the restaurant. Your child is not sick and not in pain. She is just grumpy. All you want to do is finish the food you paid for . At your wits end, you just resign yourself to several minutes of her crying. So much for “I would never tolerate that…”

One of the things that makes Mama-friends so great is that we’ve all been there. And we all know how hard it is to be a parent. We also share in common both the Earth-moving love for our children and the hair-pulling grief that sometimes comes from raising them. I am safe with my Mama friends because we live in a shared glass-house universe.

 

 

This article was first posted on MomItForward.com on June 19, 2011

 

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