If You Never Say F@#K We Can’t Be Friends

I don’t care about mud, and puddle jumping, sand from the sandbox tracked onto my hardwood floors, ruined clothes, squabbles over toys, crumbs on the floor or frosting on my leather couch. I don’t care if your kid is having a bad day and is acting like it. I don’t care if your kid refuses to eat what I’m serving for lunch. I don’t care that your three-year-old won’t leave my house without kicking and screaming.

I just don’t care.

I do care about not having a life that’s my own. I care about finishing sentences without the interruption of screaming preschoolers, or worse, parents easily distracted by over-parenting. I want to talk to you, to finish a thought, or hell, a story. I want you to be able to finish a thought. I want to get to know you, not your kids. I’m sorry but I don’t. I want the kids to get to know one another, to like each other, but I want to like you. I don’t want to hear about the clothes you just got on sale at Baby Gap, or about the swim lesson your son’s in or how much he loves to read. I want to know what TV shows you watch, what music you listen to in the car when you’re alone, and where you grew up. I want to know what you were like in high school or that really funny story of college drunkenness. That story you used to tell at parties before you had kids, before.

I want to know about before, because frankly I know what you do now.

And if you must talk about your kids, I want to have a real conversation about how you view motherhood. Not how much you love your kids or how blessed you feel to have them. I mean, sure, we’ll talk about that, but I want to know how you really feel about the loss (or discovery) of identity that comes with motherhood.

Let’s talk about the metamorphosis.

Let’s be honest and pretend like we didn’t just meet each other. I want to see your house dirty. Don’t worry about those dishes still in the sink from breakfast. I want to see the room where you sleep. Let’s face it, as adults we’re rarely close enough with a friend to show them the master bedroom, bed unmade, dirty laundry on the floor, plethora of water glasses on the nightstand. And I want to hear you swear, sure you can say it under your breath so the kids don’t hear, but at some point I’m going to need to hear you say fuck.

If you never say fuck we can’t be friends.

If you never complain we can’t be friends. I’m not a negative person and I want to take joy in your joy, but I’m honest about my existence. I like honesty about the human condition. Honest conversations are my religion. So go on, ignore the kids for a second and ask me anything.

Anything, I’ll tell you.

Because I’m really getting sick of the polite ‘Mom-friendship.’ You know the one I mean. We meet at the park for a playdate. We talk about our kids while drinking Starbucks. Our conversation is constantly interrupted by some child needing to be rescued off the tall slide, or needing to be pushed on a swing. It’s irrelevant anyhow because we’re never really talking about anything of importance. I mean really, are we? We talk about the kids, always the kids. I know all about your kids, your pregnancy, your birth, the reason behind their names, but I couldn’t tell you where you went to college or what your middle name is, and I’ve known you for over a year. We can make it through several playdates before I even find out how you met your spouse, or what you did before you had kids.

Maybe this is just part of getting older. Close friendships are harder and harder to find because they take years to cultivate. I just don’t have that kind of time anymore. As it turns out children are pretty damn time consuming. And just because we have children the same age doesn’t mean we’re going to have anything else in common. This is what’s so damn hard about making mom friends. So many of us keep it polite. We keep it nice and clean and censored to avoid judgment, because we’re human. Humans judge each other, and as it turns out mothers are the worst offenders.

I promise not to judge you.

So please, let’s just cut the shit and expedite this process. Where were you when you had your first period? Lost your virginity? Where did you grow up and what did your parents do for a living? What kind of music did you listen to in high school? Why did you fall in love with your spouse?

Maybe I’ll make a friendship questionnaire. If I like your answers you’ll be awarded half of a gold plated “Best Friends” necklace. I’m going to need the side that reads “Be Fri.” You can have “St Ends.” That’s just how I roll.

For Some of Us Working is the Luxury

I’m very fortunate but at times I feel discontent. Hell, for the last couple years or so. I’m discontented with a society that doesn’t value mothers. Sometimes I’m discontented with the man who works hard to give me more than I ever thought we could have. He works and works, but there are days when the working kind of feels like an escape from the drudgery of being at home with small children. Sometimes I wish for that escape. I know it is fleeting and beautiful in all its sticky floor, booger faced, antibiotic administering, snuggly bliss. Parenting is filled with clichés my friends, but damn, time accelerates when you have children. Time travel and parenting are interchangeable for me.

Time travel isn’t always satisfying.

My life is far more than I ever imagined I’d have, in the domestic sense. In the individual sense I thought I’d have more career success by now. I stay home with my kids. But don’t get confused and use the phrase “get to.” It’s not that I “get to” stay home with my kids. For some of us working is the luxury. Now that my first born is nearly four many of my mom-friends have returned to work or graduate school. Lately I find myself trying to hang onto those early days of Gymboree classes, zoo trips, and play dates in the park, but it’s gone. My son and all his friends are in preschool now.

I take my second child to a new baby class. No one talks to us. We don’t make friends. They are all new moms, obsessively talking about teething, sleep schedules and word counts. They sense I’m past it all. Maybe it’s me, I’m not seeking them out like I did the first time around. My sister-in-law returns to work. She posts a picture of her work desk. I tell her I’m jealous. She tells me, “You should go back!” I sit there feeling like I’m repeating senior year while all my friends have gone off to college.

My sister-in-law is an engineer. Before kids I was a hairstylist. There’s a bit of an income gap there. If I returned to work I would make just enough to pay for childcare. And this is what no one talks about.

Screw the Mommy Wars. That shit’s not real.

I’ve never met a working mother who looks down on stay-at-home-moms and vice versa. Maybe I’m just lucky. Maybe I don’t come in contact with too many assholes, but for the most part I don’t live in a world where grown women openly criticize each other. I’ve never heard the cliché, “You stay home? That must be nice” I have heard, “Oh, I stayed home for eighteen months with my first baby. I have no idea how I did that for so long.” I guess I’m fortunate that the mothers I know are supportive. We’re all just doing what’s best for our own families.

Going to work isn’t easy when you have little ones at home. It’s busy as hell and exhausting, and you still come home to laundry, dishes, and babies that need bathing. But we all have to agree that working gives you an identity outside of your home. You’re not just a mom. You’re an engineer or a doctor, a teacher, an artist etc. It gives you more vocabulary with which to define your existence.

Sure, some of us longed to be mommies since childhood and reveled in our promotion to mother. Some women are 100% fulfilled by motherhood, and that is a beautiful thing. Truly, a beautiful thing and I will always believe that society should view motherhood as a legitimate and important profession. Mothers all over the world are doing incredibly important work. (Some of them are raising the doctors that will take care of you when you’re in a nursing home. Think about that for a minute.) But some of us need a little more of ourselves, well, to ourselves. I still need to be me.

Me walking down the street by myself without a diaper bag on my shoulder. Me talking to a client, or giving a lecture, or publishing an article, or writing a novel, or laughing over a stiff drink while swearing like a sailor. As a wise friend once told me about being a mother,

“It’s amazing how much I miss myself sometimes.”

Because that’s the thing, right?

Identity.

Because when a man becomes a father he’s still a man, he just has kids now. The kids are just an accessory to his identity as a man. He can still be sexy. He can still work a lot. No one asks him who’s watching his kids when he’s on a business trip. When a woman becomes a mom the world views her differently. She’s supposed to act like someone’s mother. And if she’s sexy she’s not sexy, she’s a MILF because she’ll always be a mom first and foremost.

Don’t get me wrong, I celebrate my Mom Status. It will always be my favorite title. I was overjoyed to join that club. I’ll tell my birth stories to anyone who will listen. My children have given me a joy for which I’m immensely grateful. Every night I snuggle a little boy that looks just like me. A boy that’s still young enough to want me around. I get to nurse a baby girl that is glorious in her angelic perfection. I smell her still sweet toddler breath, inhale the smell of her hair and feel her warm wiggly body next to mine. I stand in awe of their healthy development and know how damn lucky I am. My children are my world. They’re just not all of me. I existed before them. One day they will grow up and move away. I will have to exist again without them. When that day comes I want to know who I am.

And Then I Met a Woman in a Bar

This winter my husband and I took a vacation to Napa, without our kids.

It was amazing.

But first let me begin here:

 

I was thrown headlong into a most awful winter. My son was in his first year of preschool and with it came one fever after another. “Is this normal?” I asked the doctor in exasperation. She assured me it was, and that children in their first year of preschool usually suffer through twelve to sixteen illnesses. Sixteen! It was too cold for the kids to play outside, and they were too sick to be around friends. Escaping to the gym was also out. Not only were they contagious but the gym daycare was surely a petri dish of more viruses. My memories of last winter are of long days inside, administering doses of liquid Motrin and Tylenol, and whining. Lots and lots of whining. The TV was turned on, a lot.

It seemed as if the winter would never end.

I had watched other friends with small children go on romantic getaways and a rage began to brew inside me. Nearly four years of parenting and we had never had a break. I was happy for my friends, but as a friend once texted me while visiting her parents, “I was drowning in no help and wanting to punch everyone in the face.” I was angry. Angry that we didn’t have a support system that would willingly take our two small children for several days at a time, let alone overnight. Angry at a culture that doesn’t rally to help parents of small children. Angry that a trip without kids is usually viewed as selfish, as opposed to a healthy way to keep the spark in a marriage alive.

And then our nanny returned.

She had moved away, but she was back. As the kids grew more and more comfortable with her again we slowly realized that we could take some time away. We were just going to have to pay for it.

Worth. Every. Penny.

You see, at the time I didn’t really like my husband. Did I love him? Yes. Did I appreciate all he does for our family? Yes. But I realized when he was home I found his presence annoying about 80% of the time. I felt like he didn’t help enough, and when he did he had no idea what he was doing and therefore only made things worse. My feelings resulted in far too much eye rolling and loud sighing.

He didn’t deserve any of it.

Through tears I told him how very much I loved him. I told him how proud I was of him. And then I told him I didn’t enjoy him, well, like ever. Luckily we have the kind of relationship where we “get each other” and he wasn’t insulted. He was my best buddy for twelve years before we became parents. I adored his company. I remember one day (before we had kids) I went to the liquor store by myself to get some wine and the cashier said, “Where’s your old man? You two are always together.”

I told him I wanted to be pals again. He said that we were, and reminded me we were just “plugging through these years with small children.” I agreed, but lamented that I was afraid by the time we had time alone again we’d look at each other and be two very different people.

So Napa.

At the end of our trip we found ourselves wandering the deserted streets of the plaza in Sonoma. The weekend crowd had left and we were having that realization that happens at the end of a trip, maybe we should have left yesterday. We ended up in a bar that we would find out was the local dive. There are no dive bars in wine country but this was Sonoma’s. We played pool, we chatted up the locals, and when a woman at the bar attempted to hit on my husband he brought her back over to our table. It turned out she was a forty-one year old editor for reality shows. She had driven up to Sonoma from LA, alone, and in need of a mental break. She told me about how she’d frozen her eggs at thirty-eight, how she’d begun traveling alone for the first time in her life, and how she’d thrown in the towel last year and finally bought a house alone. She asked my opinion on whether she should go it alone and just have a baby. And she shared some pretty sage advice about men learned over the course of all her years dating. Mainly that they need more praise than women do.

It was the kind of brutally honest conversation you can only have with a stranger you know you’ll never see again.

There were parts of her life I envied and vice versa. And then she said something so simple. Even months later her words still flicker through my mind. She looked over at my husband standing at the bar, drinking too much, playing a dice game with some old men and said, “You’re lucky you know. You don’t have to babysit him. You’d be amazed how many men don’t socialize well.”

This had never occurred to me.

All the many years when we were younger his constant need to be around other people drove me crazy. I dream of seeing other lands. He dreams of talking to as many different people as he can. I want a passport filled with countries, he wants one filled with people. I mean, sure, I can shoot the shit with the best of them but I don’t have that drive to be with other people. As a nurse once said to me while she bandaged his sprained ankle, “He’s a lot of fun, isn’t he?” That he is. That he is.

My guy, he’s still a good time.

A couple days later we found ourselves holding hands in the airport. Headed home. Enjoying one another like old friends.