We Are Both Right

Our Two Cents: New Mom, Old Friends

new mom friends

When old friends don't fit a new life, do you hang on or let go? ©Hilde Vanstraelen/stock.xchng

Dear Suzanne and Amanda:

With the exception of me, my closest friends from college are still very much single and unattached. And ever since I had my son in March, I feel left out.

I just can’t keep up with their nights out anymore and it seems like everything they do is a bad fit for me now. It’s not that I expect them to hang out in my living room for late night feedings. At the same time I can’t gear up for a weekly bar crawl either, nor would I consider that time well spent away from my baby.

If they would just do dinner or something easy I would be happy to join them once and a while for two hours and feel connected. I still consider them friends but I feel like we’re living on opposite poles.

What do you think? Have we grown too far apart, or is there still a way to find some common ground?

–New Mom, Old Friends

Suzanne: I can understand why you don’t want to give up on these friends so easily. They’re your girls — the ones who probably saw you through lots of ups and downs, relationship dramas, road trips, apartments, etc. But the reality is that sometimes friends just grow apart, for reasons exactly like you explained. You are at different stages of life and the pieces just don’t fit. No matter how hard you try.

That’s not to say that you have to put a permanent end to these friendships. But maybe you just let them cool off for a while, staying in touch as much as you can but skipping the socializing. Then maybe some day, if you find yourself on more even ground (either they are less footloose and fancy free and/or you are more available for an occasional night on the town), you can pick up where you left off. For the time being, it would be good for you to branch out and find other new moms in your area who might turn into friends someday too.

Without knowing if you are in your 20s or 30s, I can’t say if you will take my word for it that this plan can work. But I have enough years and experience behind me to know that friendships (good friendships) can take a chill for ten years or longer and fall right back into place, like time stood still.

At the least, don’t feel like you have to confront your friends or beg them to accommodate you. Maybe the best thing you can do is let them continue at their pace, until you find a time when you see an opening to jump back on board.

Amanda: It’s an interesting phenomena — at least it was for me. As soon as I saw that first double line on the pregnancy test I suddenly became a homebody (not that I was this huge partier to begin with), content to sit on the couch and watch television. And once my son was actually born, I became even more interested in what was going on inside my house rather than outside of it.

I think this was partly because of all of my friends, I was the first one to have a child. If there were plans made, no one necessarily knew how to accommodate me and my son — myself included. Not only was I not yet comfortable nursing in public (I used to go into another room), I wasn’t confident in my abilities as a mom — not that my childless friends would have known any better, but any time my son would cry or spit up or do something that babies do I’d become super self-conscious that everyone would think I was totally clueless (and let’s face it, I was!).

Suzanne is right though, despite my self-imposed banishment, in time, when I got more comfortable being a mom and my friends caught up by having babies of their own, the playing field became level again and our friendships were renewed and stronger than ever.

Still, it sounds like you are missing your friends right now, if not the method in which they have fun. So be proactive. Instead of waiting for them to come up with plans that will accommodate you and your new little one, invite them over or out to dinner on your terms. Bring up the elephant in the room, acknowledging that while your socializing habits have changed, you’d still like to see them once in a while. Chances are if you miss them, they miss you too!

And in the meantime, start looking for other friends who are on the same plane as you family-wise. Check out your local library or community center to see if there are any programs for young children (many start from birth) where the moms are also encouraged to forge friendships. You could also try looking for online birth clubs — I know both Suzanne and I have made quite a few mommy friendships that originated through message boards.

Having fellow mommy friends will give you an important support group — these are people who understand how it is entirely possible that you haven’t brushed your hair or teeth since Wednesday and will completely understand your obsession with the contents and color of your son’s diaper and what they could possibly mean.

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How did your friendships change when you had kids? What advice would you offer New Mom?

Got a question that needs answering twice? Send an e-mail to advice@wearebothright.com.

Our Two Cents: Is It Worth Saying Something to the Pregnant Mom Drinking (and Smoking)?

parenting advice

Cheers... or not. If a pregnant woman decides to drink or smoke, is it an open forum for comments? ©Jim Reilly/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne,

Usually I’m the type of person who keeps my opinions to myself, but last night while out with a group of mom friends I saw something that I wish I had spoke up about.

There’s a woman in our group of friends who is about four months pregnant. I’m not especially close with her, but I do see her when our extended circle of friends gets together every few weeks. Most of the time we take the kids to the park or meet up for lunch, but sometimes we’ll do a girls’ night out at a restaurant, etc.

Well last night we went out to dinner to celebrate two birthdays in the group and a few of the women ordered cocktails or beer — including this pregnant woman. Now I’m all for making your own decisions and obviously you would have to be living under a rock to know that drinking while pregnant is risky. But the kicker is that later on she went outside for a smoke!

When I got over my disbelief, I kept going back and forth in my mind over whether or not I should say anything. None of the other women seemed to bat an eyelash. Then again, maybe they were feeling the same hesitance as me. Should I have spoken up?

–Busting at the Seams

Amanda: In a word, no. I’m going to go ahead and assume that your friend has a brain with working cells. I’m going to assume that she has seen or heard at least one of the million news reports that says smoking while pregnant is a big no-no. And despite all of the information existing out there, study upon study upon study, news reports, PSAs and everything else, she still chose to light up. She knows the risks, she knows it’s selfish. Nothing you are going to say will change that.

If she were a closer friend I might consider talking to her at a different time, a few days after the fact, but not in an accusatory tone. I think I’d just come out and ask her if she was still actively smoking and see where the conversation went. But that’s it. I know it’s tempting, but I don’t think this is your place to play pregnancy police. And while I appreciate your concern for your friend’s unborn child, this is a matter for her. She’s a big girl, she knows what she is doing.

As for the drinking, I need a little more info before offering advice, although it would probably be along the lines of what I said above. I’m one that thinks it’s OK to have a glass of wine on occasion while pregnant. Now, you don’t say how many drinks she had or what exactly it was she was drinking (was it possible she had virgin versions of her cocktails?), so I’m going to stay out of it.

As should you.

Suzanne: It sounds like you are not the type of person who feels the need to weigh in on what’s in the grocery cart of the person ahead of you on line (and suggest that rice cakes are a healthier alternative to potato chips). Just the fact that you made it through the night without saying anything shows that you are aware of the consequences and the most likely outcome of sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong.

That said, I can feel your anxiety over this particular situation. First, there’s an unborn child who doesn’t have a say in what is going into his/her fragile body. Secondly, you probably can’t fathom why a woman carrying life would buck best practice and put her baby at risk.

And yet, for all the same reasons Amanda suggests, you might as well forget about saying anything. She is not committing a crime that is punishable or reportable to law enforcement. And no matter how gentle, subtle, or well-worded your input, it’s not likely to be the lightbulb that’s going to make this mom put out her cigarette or pass on a drink.

Our species is stubborn. We don’t like unsolicited advice. No matter how well meaning. And you were probably thinking a few steps ahead to what this woman would say when you pointed out the obvious.

So let it be. She’s going to have to make many more decisions in her child’s life in the years to come. And she will have the final say. As hard as it may be, all you can do is focus on giving the best to any children under your care and just hope for the best as far as everyone else is concerned.

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What do you think? Would you have spoken up?

If you have a question that needs two opinions, send an e-mail to advice@wearebothright.com.

Consider Me a Teetotaler (At Least on Playdates)

Gözde Otman/stock.xchng

Cocktails and playdates? Hmm, not sure I see the need.

Sure kids are noisy, especially when they’re running around with other banshees their size, so a little distraction is always welcome. And of course moms are entitled to some fun too. Who’s going to notice if you down a glass (or two) of pinot in the backyard of a friend?

But drinking on playdates seems, well, a little immature. Sort of like sneaking a beer out of the garage fridge as a teenager. Like getting away with something that you know is somewhat taboo. But maybe that’s what adds to the allure — for some.

Like the mom who proudly shared that she and a group of neighborhood friends carried plastic cups filled with wine during trick-or-treating rounds. What started as their inside joke had turned into a bragging right. I withheld judgment (at least in terms of what came out of my mouth), but I was less than impressed. At least no one was driving home. Still, what’s the point?

And that’s where I get stuck every time. I don’t see how the two things mix. Like beer and vodka, there’s no reason to pair playdates and drinking.

Call me a fun-hater. Teetotaler. Stuck-up. It’s true that I was the one in high school and college who always volunteered to be the designated driver. I just couldn’t let anything happen to the friends around me, so I kept a tight grip on my sense of control. Just like I do now with my kids, and the situations they’re in.

That’s as close as I can get to explaining why the idea of drinking on a playdate isn’t my cup of tea.

Obviously, for some people it is. Otherwise there wouldn’t be phrases like “Whine and Wine” and “Tots and Tonic” whose only purpose I can see is to make a mommy group invitation sound more appealing.

At the same time (as I’m getting my name crossed off of playdate lists everywhere), I’m not above drinking socially (which I will do, even at parties where the kids are present). Amanda is right when she reminds me that I was the one who handed her the first wine cooler she drank in college, or hooked her on sangria during a night on the town weeks before my wedding.

But on the mid-day playdate? I’ll take a glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade instead, thank you very much.

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Amanda’s been caught on a playdate with a drink — and you’ll never guess who cut them off.

Taking a Pass on the Mommy Playgroup

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Watching my children play and playing with them is a joy. Having to socialize around that, not so much.

I will admit that I have been slow on the uptake with modern day parenting protocol. Playdates, playgroups — it’s all so formal and orchestrated. Whatever happened to the days when you would run up to your mom on the corner at school at dismissal time, and ask if your best friend could come over and play?

It was all so spontaneous — and unlabeled.

Now we have to schedule “playdates” and abide by the playdate rule book of bringing an approved snack and inviting mom in for coffee on the first few dates.

To me, playgroups just sound like a quota on playdates, which is why I have remained uninitiated. I didn’t do the sorority thing in college, and yet was far from a loner. Instead, my friends and I came up with our own harebrained schemes that were unscripted (like scaling buildings, for instance) but without a pledge sister telling us what was expected. I guess it’s the same reason why I have avoided the structure and intimacy that playgroups seem to command.

With our family’s schedule, and a full-time job outside of the home, I probably wouldn’t be a very dependable playgroup friend anyway. I can barely find time to sleep, let alone coordinate my schedule with a dozen other women on a regular basis. I feel guilty enough that I don’t get to see my friends of 20 or 30 years as often as we would like because of everyone’s hectic schedules as the kids get older.

Lately though, I have been hearing more about the playgroups that my longtime friends belong to which started out as mommy and baby groups and have matured into deeper friendships as the children got older. It sounds nice — the girls’ weekends away, the joint trick-or-treating trips, holiday cookie swaps.

I wonder though, at some point does it become more about the moms than the children? What if your child doesn’t like the other “friends” in the group? What happens when they go to different schools and make new friends? Do they still have to be pulled back into that playgroup because that’s where your friends are? Or do you ditch the “play” aspect of it, and just meet as moms?

Things change, and my opinion on this might too, if I happen upon a group someday that naturally comes together. Maybe it will be different if I find myself bonding with other moms at L.’s weekend football games or at S.’s preschool. But in the meantime, I won’t be going out looking for a mommy playgroup to join and instead spend the time playing with L. and S. — and maybe even letting them have more playdates.

Playgroups Give Mommy a Social Life Too!

I should say up front that I used to think that playgroups were kind of lame. Unnecessary and formal, I rolled my eyes at the minivan suburban-ness that they seemed to represent.

And then I joined one without even realizing it, and now I don’t know what I would do without this amazing group of women who I’m so glad are my friends.

(Oh, and my daughter likes it too!)

(Also, I now drive a minivan, but that’s a post for another day.)

It was started about four years ago by a group of moms from my daughter A.’s preschool. You know how it is — day in and day out you are standing in line with the same people, exchanging smiles and pleasantries while you wait for your children to be done with school. Finally one day, one of the moms took the initiative and posted a sign that invited all the parents and caregivers and children in the class to meet at a local fast food restaurant that also had an indoor playground.

There was a lot of, “Are you going to go?” “I’m not sure if I want to go,” chatter amongst those in the group who were friendlier with one another, but wouldn’t you know it, on the designated afternoon over a dozen kids and their moms (and one or two dads and grandmas if I’m remembering right) showed up to eat and play and have a good time.

We haven’t looked back. Not only did the kids get along amazingly but so did the moms. And now, after a few informal get-togethers after that first time at McDonald’s, we wound up today as a group of eleven friends (moms to ten girls and one boy) who have grown to depend and count on one another for stuff little and big. And what’s great is, it’s not just the moms and daughters, but the dads and siblings too.

We’ve had a few additions over the years with other parents that some of us have “invited in” (and amazingly, no subtractions), but for the most part we’ve remained a solid core (we all shudder at the word “clique” although honestly, that’s probably what we are).

© hortongrou/svilen001/stock.xchng

© hortongrou/svilen001/stock.xchng

In the beginning the aim was simple — a regular playgroup for the kids. We’d meet once a week, either at someone’s home or if the weather was nice, a local park or beach. Everyone brought something to eat to share, but the rule was you weren’t allowed to go to the store to buy something. We did our best to be a “cheap” “no pressure” group so your contribution to the meal had to be from whatever was in your pantry. Which made for some interesting lunches, but hey — no one ever complained.

Playgroup soon morphed, and we now also have a “book club” (read: the not read the book, wine and snacks club) for the mommies and a Girl Scout troop for the girls (sorry Kenny!). We babysit one another’s children and go on vacation (and mommy weekends) with our families. We stand together when someone is having a crisis and celebrate through the good stuff. We throw birthday parties and baby showers and march in parades. We’ve seen each other at our best and our worst and yet we still marvel at how amazingly lucky we all are to have found each other. Sure, there have been differences, but in the end it always works out.

About two years ago, when my daughter started kindergarten, privately I wondered if we would last. Despite living in close proximity to one another, the majority of the girls would attend school in one school district while three (and count my daughter in this minority) of the children were in another. And with all the girls in second grade, regular playgroup meetings are a (sad) thing of the past. At such a young age, how could these friendships sustain?

As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Sure, A. doesn’t see all the girls on the playground every day, but when she does — Brownie meetings and birthday parties and playdates — it’s like they are all four years old once again, happily squealing and hugging one another like sisters.

My youngest son S., will turn 18 months old next week. I’m looking forward to finding a playgroup that suits us — a few neighbors and friends with young children have actually been discussing forming one. It’s something I’m excited about.

But for the record, if this playgroup also ends up having a book club, I’m going to have to insist that everyone read the book (although we can also serve wine and snacks).