I haven’t dated anyone since 2006. Thoughts swirl around and around my head like a carousel: What’s my pickup line? Do I have any interests? I can’t remember having any. Did I shower this morning–sniff–nope. Scanning the area, I spot a promising candidate sitting near the drinking fountain: we’re around the same age, we’re both alone, we have similar taste in clothing, and is that a book I see on the bench? Moving slowly so as not to arouse suspicion, I approach, warily eyeing my competition–this one is mine! Territory marked, I perch on the edge of the wooden seat and wait the appropriate length of time before making my move.
Stay cool and play it safe, don’t seem too desperate, “How old?”
“Going on three and a half. What about yours?”
“Just turned three a few weeks ago.” The conversation stalls, I always get stuck here. Should I get a little more personal? Not sensing annoyance, I decide to risk it. “Do you live around here?”
“Yes, we’re a few streets over. Do you?”
“Same. We come here often.” So far, so good. “What’s her name?”
“Pretty! Mine’s named Cadence.” Ok, ice broken. Leaning back against the bench, I feel a little more at ease. We sit, watching the subjects of our conversation alternate between digging in the sandbox and eyeing each other suspiciously. You will be friends. You will be friends. You will be friends, I communicate to my daughter Jedi-mind-trick style as she hits her new “friend” with a plastic shovel. Figure it out kids. Mommy needs this.
You don’t know desperation until you find yourself hysterically laughing while simultaneously ugly-crying. Parenting is like that; you often find yourself between fulfillment, love, and happiness and completely losing your shit with frustration, anger, and isolation. Moments like when your toddler says, “I want apple” and you lovingly peel an organic apple and cut it into tiny, non-chokable pieces for your offspring, who then, instead of thanking you for providing nourishment, throws said tiny pieces all over the kitchen with all the fury of a tornado because she wanted the peel on today correspond with her saying, “I wuv Mom” in her sweet little voice and you love her so much but also hate her a little bit too. What are you supposed to do with such intense, conflicting emotions when drinking is socially unacceptable?
Enter “Mom Friends,” those shell-shocked, bleary-eyed, three-day-old-yoga-pant wearing individuals that can usually be found haunting your neighborhood sidewalks, parks, coffee shops, and playgrounds at 7am. These fellow stay-at-home-moms offer adult interaction, playdate possibilities, intelligent conversation and, perhaps most importantly, empathy. They understand how monotonous daily life can be, how isolating. They won’t judge you for leaving the house in a yogurt and God-knows-what-else-stained T-shirt, soggy cheerios stuck to the seat of your pants, with unwashed hair and dark circles under your bloodshot eyes. They’ve all been there. Contrary to your husband or the person in the check-out line behind you at the Whole Foods, these fellow combatants will listen to toddler war-stories all day long:
“Yesterday, Jack broke every single one of his crayons and threw them into the toilet.”
“I found a bag of frozen chicken nuggets in my closet.”
“Clara watched three hours of TV because it was raining and I ran out of activities. And snacks. And motivation.”
“I started to read Finn his bedtime story and discovered that at some point he had smeared poop all over its pages. I read it anyways.”
Mom Friends are necessary in retaining what little shred of sanity you have left, in sympathizing with you when you’re awake at one am for the third night in a row, covered in vomit, thinking holy-shit-why-did-I-want-this-make-it-stop. Such friends are necessary, but elusive–as mythical as unicorns. Finding them is a lot like dating; you’ll have a lot of awkward conversations, unsuccessful playdates, and conflicting parenting styles until you find “the one.”
I sneak a peek at the book laying on the bench between us, David Sedaris’ Naked.
Similar interests, check. “Have you read his other work?”
After discussing Sedaris’ comic genius, we move on to other important topics such as our favorite brands of wine (quantity over quality–Barefoot and Sutter Farms all the way), our children’s height/weight percentile rankings (hers: 60th, mine: 99th), and the general cluelessness of our husbands (staying home isn’t all roses, pal).
I am almost giddy with excitement. Could she be the one I’ve been searching for? Instead of locking myself in my bedroom during the inevitable 4 o’clock toddler meltdown, scrolling through the STFU Parents blog and Huff Post’s “Funniest Parenting” tweets while quietly crying, I could text her: SAVE ME! And she’d reply, ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER THE TERRIBLE TWOS. Calm down. Don’t scare her off.
“Do you stay home with Antonia?” Translation: are you also lonely and afraid you’ll go insane if you have to read “Potty Time for Elmo” one more time? “Maybe we can get together for a playdate?”
Is it sad when I’m surprised she actually gives me her number? After the exchange, I clutch my cell phone like a lifeline. Is tomorrow too soon to call? Maybe I should follow the three-day rule, keep her guessing.
“Mom, Mom, Mama, Mommy, Ma, MOM,” Cadence is repetitively hitting me and yelling, willing me to pay attention to the disgusting old band-aid she pulled out of the sandbox like some kind of pathetic buried treasure. In the confusion of the resulting hand-sanitizer-tussle, my possible new Mom Friend left, saying something about her daughter being “hangry.”
I never asked her name! Quickly tapping out a text message while wrestling my screaming toddler into the MacLaren, I apologize.
“No, we are NOT eating ice-cream for lunch, Cadence.” Stop thrashing around you tiny demon. Beep, beep. My phone alerts me to a new message,
“My name is Kate and it’s not your fault, toddlers are a**holes.”
Yep, she’s definitely the one.
Emily Oman, 2016.