Raising Richmond: Being a good mom friend

Sure, it’s got kind of a goofy name, but the manner in which we approach the “mom friend” role can mean the difference between kid-centered friendships to which we don’t give a second thought once we leave the playground and deeper relationships we can rely on during those darker parenting days.

Since last June, I’ve watched1 10 of my friends become first-time mothers…and there are even more babies on the way later this year. This thrills me to no end because:

  2. I love being a mom friend.

I agree that “mom friend” is a pretty obnoxious term, but it’s kind of unavoidable in this context. I mean, how else would you describe someone who is a friend and a mother and/or someone who is a friend to a mother? And all goofy terms aside, the manner in which we approach the “mom friend” role can mean the difference between kid-centered friendships to which we don’t give a second thought once we leave the playground3 and deeper relationships we can rely on during those darker parenting days.

Let me back up a bit and clarify something: I’m not in any way saying I don’t also value my friendships with women who aren’t mothers (or people who aren’t parents). The thing is, when my son was first born, I was the only person in my circle of close friends with a baby. Being the only mother in a group of people who don’t use up disturbing amounts of brain space thinking about the last time someone else pooped/ate/slept/etc. can get pretty lonely.

Now that more and more of my friends are entering this phase of life, I want them to know that I’m here for them, that I want to help, and–more than anything else—that I understand. I’m also constantly reminded of the fact that no parent is an island. In order for us all to remain sane and feel successful (whatever that may mean) at this whole child-rearing gig, we need a network where the support flows freely…in all directions. Personally, I’m humbled by the love and support I’ve gotten from the mom friends that have come into my life over the last few years. On several occasions, they’ve been the difference between a day full of tears (mine, not my son’s…ok, maybe both…probably both) and a day spent thinking, “This is really, really hard, but I can do it.”

So, in honor of those relationships, here are a few thoughts I have on what helps create a healthy, supportive, mom (or parent-to-parent, really) friendship. Hopefully you’ll have a few to share as well.

No more Negative Nancys

We will all fail miserably at this because who wants to wallow in a pit of misery alone? Commiseration feels sooooo good sometimes (as seen here and here). However, I think there’s a slight (but important) distinction between being honest and open about how hard parenting can be and being a Debbie Downer McDoomsday–particularly when talking to new or soon-to-be-parents. We need to feel comfortable telling the truth, but let’s try to keep the “Ha! You just wait until the baby comes” comments to a minimum. And besides, while it isn’t rainbows and sunshine ALL the time, it is at least SOME of the time. Talk about those moments, too.

Accept help as often as you offer it

If a mom friend is having a tough time, we’re all pretty quick to offer to bring her a meal or take her kid for the morning…but most of us seem hesitant to let someone do the same for us. Do we think people don’t mean it when they offer? Are we afraid of looking vulnerable? I’m not sure. Either way, it’s high time we knock it off. Letting someone help you is a win-win. First of all, YOU GET HELP. Second of all, it’s my experience that once someone sees that you trust her enough to accept help from her, she’ll be more likely to accept it from you. As far as mom friendships go, someone has to break the ice when it comes to this sort of thing; it might as well be you, right? The next thing you know, all sorts of walls are coming down and you might even find yourselves out enjoying adult beverages together without a booster seat in sight.

Don’t keep score

On anything. At all. Not on babysitting favors, not on your kids’ milestones (especially when it comes to sleeping), nothing. For whatever reason, bringing children into the mix makes people super competitive, but I think we can all agree that parenting is hard enough without making a contest out of it. They’re your friends; you should be on the same team.4

Speak personally, not prescriptively

If–and only if–a friend asks for your advice,5 share what worked for you and avoid statements like “I just can’t believe people who…” or “If you would just do this XYZ, everything would be fine.” Remember: the last thing a struggling mother needs to hear is that she’s doing it wrong. If she wants to know more about your approach, she’ll ask. Also, what worked for your kid or your family might not work for someone else’s…or it might not line up with that family’s parenting philosophy. Just because she doesn’t follow your advice doesn’t mean she’s judging you (or that you have the right to judge her).

Love their kids

One of the most powerful ways you can care for your mom friends is to care for their children—and I don’t just mean with practical things (although that’s wonderful in and of itself). Get invested in who the kids are, what they like, what makes them tick. And most of all, tell them how awesome you think they are. Tell them often. They’re going to need to hear it coming from you once their parents become “AUGH SO LAME.”

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Have anything to add? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. I’d especially love for some fathers to fill us in on how the dad-to-dad dynamic compares to relationships between mothers.

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  1. Well, not watched-watched, but you know what I mean. 
  2. …and then give back. 
  3. I’m not suggesting here that you have to become the best of friends with every fellow parent you meet; those “playground” relationships have their place, too. Sometimes it’s nice just to have an easy chat with someone who also happens to be pushing his or her toddler on the swings. 
  4. You could call it “Team Let’s Just Try To Avoid Raising Serial Killers” or something. Quick, someone print that on a jersey! 
  5. They call it “assvice” for a reason. Just sayin’. 
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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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