You've Got To Have Friends

I recently read an article in New York Magazine about a website called Long story short: Urbanbaby is a parenting resource which is mainly used by New York mothers as a forum to chat/complain about everything from their cheating husbands to how much money they make (or don’t) to where they can find a good housekeeper to who they can bribe to get their kids into kindergarten. The women chat anonymously, and the things that they reveal to perfect strangers at two in the morning are, even to the most jaded person like myself, shocking. Someone sent me the article, thinking that it might inspire an opinion about the state of motherhood in America’s cities, but it didn’t. All it did was make me kind of sad, because I couldn’t help but wonder a) why these people are awake at two in the morning, and b) where their friends are.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the state of friendship in America. A new study by researchers at Duke and the University of Arizona has gotten some attention in The New York Times, among other newspapers, for its finding that, on average, most adults only have two people they can talk to about the most pressing issues in their lives. And, in most cases, those two people are family members, usually a spouse and one other. Talk about sad. I mean, I love my husband, and he’s certainly my best friend, but he’s not who I want to talk to about how I snapped at my kids because I’m getting my period, or how I still spend entire days stricken with guilt over the fact that I didn’t breastfeed longer. He would listen, and I’m sure he would nod his head and pretend that he has even the slightest clue what I’m talking about, but we would both know that he’s just indulging me. If I called up one of my girlfriends, however, and told the exact same stories, we could be on the phone for hours. Hours. Not that these are the most pressing issues in my life, mind you, but they certainly feel that way sometimes. Especially when I’m getting my period.

I find that as a mother, I value my friendships more now than at any other time in my life. Really, when else do you encounter so many daily challenges, so many unanswerable questions, so many judgment calls, so many ‘am I the only one who feels this way’ moments as you do when you have children? And who else but your friends can you call to bounce these things off of? Your husband? Please. Your mother? Well, maybe for some, but we’re not all that lucky.

And I’m not just talking about the mothers of my kids’ friends. I’m talking about my real, decades-old friends, who I loved before I had kids and who I love even more now. Even my friends who don’t have children are more important to me than ever: who else can provide you with a reality check as to whether you are becoming one of those moms you said you would never become? It’s not like I hang out with my friends on a daily, or even a weekly basis. I’m talking about a dinner here, a coffee there, a phone call on the drive to gymnastics class, an e-mail when I’m having a writer’s block. But I always feel better after I talk to them, even if we talk about nothing but Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. When I connect with my friends, I always feel just slightly more like myself, and less like the crazed, chicken-without-a-head that I usually resemble.