I’ve done my fair share of moving in the last decade…and with each new city comes the process of finding your community, your people. William James wrote: “Wherever you are, it is your friends who make your world.” How true. I’ve made five moves in the last 10 years and in each of these “worlds”, I’ve been fortunate to scoop up a handful of lifelong friends. What is so wonderful about this is that I have true, dear friends that really “get me” in almost every corner of the country now. These women (and a few really great dudes as well) are my family. As one of those rare “singletons,” I look to these friends as brothers and sisters. I’ve known some of them since grade school and others only a few short years, but I know I will be in touch with all of these people for life…and not just in a shiny, happy Facebook kind of way.
What is not so great about having your best friends scattered across the map is that they are not here for the everyday. So in a new city, to really make it “my world,” I need to pick up those few gems that will really make Nashville home. Now I know it takes time to establish genuine relationships, but crafting them is not a passive affair. It takes effort, initiation, perseverance, kinetic energy. Not only does the friendship need to be set in motion, but it then needs to be fueled until it reaches that level of permanence when you know that this person is no longer just an acquaintance, a co-worker, a mutual friend of a friend, or a neighbor. She or he is one of those few that will help you plant roots and then continue to be a constant gardener when the time comes to transplant yet again.
So my meandering mini-memoir of my friendships here brings me to what I really want to scrutinize: mom dating. What makes this move to Nashville and quest for real friendship different is that I am now a mom. I’ve been doing some thinking about why this process is so different. I mean I haven’t really changed that much since little Ev came into the world, have I? Sure my priorities have shifted some, but besides the fact that daily showers and changing out of exercise clothes have become optional…I’m still the same at the core.
But I’m discovering that finding these mom friends is really important. It’s not that I no longer share anything in common with my friends without kids…(in fact, talking with them is often a refreshing snap back to the parts of my identity before motherhood)…but it’s that these friends without kids don’t necessarily care to hear about the way Everett took his morning nap with his butt pointed straight up in the air or how he rolled across my bed three times while we were reading “The Sneetches” that afternoon or how he continuously tries to flip onto his belly while I am feeding him a bottle. Or maybe they do care about these pedestrian pleasures, but their faces don’t light up in knowing approval like other moms’ faces do ready to share their own tales of the extraordinary mundane and ready to put any maternal anxieties you have to rest because “Hey, my kiddo did that weird thing too!”
So in my quest to find my true friends here…and to tap into this mom network, I have joined a few playgroups and flirt shamelessly with anyone who travels with stroller. I smile, start with the first pick-up line, “How old is your little one?” and hope that this could be the beginning of something magical.
I’ve met some great women here so far, though I have to say it is more difficult than I anticipated to really get to know these other moms beyond the surface. I think that is because our natural tendency is to talk only about our children and our roles as mothers. Occasionally a conversation will hearken back to a previous career, but any true divulgence of self is usually glossed over to make room for what now fulfills and fills our days…our babies. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I do find myself trying to look underneath the mommy hats to see what has been temporarily tucked away.
Of course another cause of this roadblock to true connection is that any conversation that occurs at a playgroup or on a “mom date” is destined to be incredibly fragmented. Just when you are really getting into a good discussion, perhaps moving from the concrete joys of brightly-colored onsies and deciphering baby babble…and diving into abstractions like hopes, dreams, fears…you are met with “Oh–no baby put that boat down. It does not belong to us!” or “Mommy-I have to peeeee!” At any given moment, you really only have one eye, one ear, and 1/4 of your brain cells devoted to the other adult in the room. And that is how it should be, no doubt–but it does make the process of getting to really know a person different. Not bad…just different.
There are a few gals I have “mom crushes” on, because there is something I see in both their parenting style and in the wisps that fly out from beneath their mommy hats that I connect with. I know with patience, time, and a few more dates, I will begin to carve out “my world” here from the new, beautiful people I have met. And chances are good that these mom friendships will have exceptional depth, because of the common thread we share–that amazement, frustration, exhaustion, exhilaration…and most of all love that comes from raising a child. Until then, I will keep the kinetic energy going…emailing about second dates (after waiting at least 24 hours so I don’t seem too desperate) and continuing to burrow my transplanted roots into this new world until at last it is truly mine.