One of my best friends from high school came over the other morning. She’s a mom, too, to an adorable fifteen-month old. We spent a few hours watching our kids scatter toys across the living room and catching up on what’s been going in our lives for the past year.
Yes, year. We figured out the last time that we saw each other was right before she went back to work after her maternity leave. So it had been a while. Her son was an entirely different creature, walking now instead of barely having head control. She was different, too, more settled in her new home and dealing with an entirely different childcare situation.
We still talked like old friends, though. Even though we’d lost touch for a number of years after high school. Even though most of our contact over the past year had been through Facebook. We still segued into conversations about life and dreams and hopes and fears.
We talked about things we worried about with our kids.
We talked about issues with our husbands and our parents.
We talked about our difficulty making mom friends.
“I get nervous approaching new people on the playground,” she confided.
“I’m scared of opening up to people,” I said, then laughed. She did, too.
Because it really was funny. On my blog, I bare my soul about my past struggles with an eating disorder and anxiety. I talk about times I don’t feel good enough and discuss the joys and fears of parenting. I make myself be vulnerable, because after a decade of hiding behind my issues, I’ve found that revealing them to the world makes me stronger.
When I write, I’m not looking someone in the eye, though. I’m not looking a stranger in the eye. I have a keyboard and a screen and the “publish” button as intermediaries. My heart isn’t bared to the world before me. It’s floating out in cyberspace somewhere.
I have mom friends. I’m in a playgroup for my younger daughter and can always find someone that I recognize at the playground. I friend people and like their pictures and make small talk with the best of them.
That’s generally where it stops, though. We talk about sleep schedules and potty training. We talk about poop and first words and where our kids go for preschool. We talk about the best place to go to get Santa pictures and how much sleep we got the night before.
Then we say goodbye after an hour. Because life gets in the way. Like with my old friend, time gets in the way.
Fear gets in the way.
We flit in and out of each others’ lives like acquaintances at a cocktail party, stopping just long enough to compliment a fancy dress or a particularly elaborate hairstyle.
I don’t call them when I’m still upset about a fight I had with my husband.
I don’t call them when I get so anxious about something so ridiculously stupid that I start obsessing over things that don’t mater.
I don’t tell them that sometimes I’m afraid that I’m messing everything up.
I don’t listen to them tell the same things to me.
Maybe they would, if I opened up more. Because blogging about my struggles and fears is one thing, but talking about them is another thing entirely.
Talking face to face is different. It forces a blog post, one with a beginning and an end, to become a conversation. To become a potential judgment and a potential rejection.
I do have friends that I can talk to about serious stuff. About me stuff. They’re old friends, though, people who knew me when I was growing up. Or they’re new friends, but ones I met online, where I can be myself fully in a way that I sometimes can’t be in person.
Life is different after college, when your potential new best friend isn’t a dorm room or an intro class away. When your future husband is on the intramural soccer team with you or across the room at the party your RA is throwing.
In the same way, life is different after kids, when your life shrinks down to a bubble comprised of the office and the playground, the grocery store and storytime.
The universe doesn’t force new friends upon you so it’s up to you to make some.
It’s up to you to date.
That’s where it gets scary for me. Because I haven’t done much dating. I was sick for a good part of college, and obsessing about food and calories nonstop realllllly put a damper on my dating life, never mind my desire for anything besides controlling my body. I had two casual boyfriends in high school, then met my husband six years later.
I don’t necessarily want a whirlwind love affair, but I do want to play the field. I want to open up to someone in person and share my hopes and fears. I want to invite people over for dates. Not just playdates, but “mommy” dates.
I want to brave and vulnerable, not just online but in real life, too.
I want a relationship. And instead of breaking up when I meet someone new, I want us to stay involved. I want to tell you all those things I used to be afraid to share.
I want to make time for you, to push fear out of the way so mommy friends can become real friends.
“Hi, I’m Jen. Would you like to go out sometime?”