I was sitting on a blanket on the grass in a park, watching my 11-month-old son shove chunks of bread into his mouth as pesto dripped down his double chin.
It was unseasonably warm and sunny and beautiful and I was achingly lonely.
I had been a mother for less than a year. I was living in a new neighborhood where I didn’t know anyone. I’d returned to work a few months earlier, but only remotely.
More chunks of soggy bread, soft enough for two mere teeth to gnaw. I snapped a photo on my iPhone, then a few more. So many photos.
Out of the corner of my eye I sensed someone hovering. I looked and saw a woman. She was holding a baby. I avoided direct eye contact but could see her child was slightly younger than mine, with tan skin and big doll eyes.
To my surprise, the woman introduced herself. She seemed nervous, or was I imagining that? She crouched down near our blanket and I slid over, not sure if I was inviting her to sit or putting space between us given the deadly virus that had begun circulating the globe only months earlier. I quickly crumbled the oil-soaked sandwich paper. Then I did that thing I hate but do anyway where I speak in a baby voice, as though I’m talking for my child, and said hello to her little girl. She did the same. We exchanged phone numbers.
Over the next few months, we developed a friendship. It was a friendship out of utility and convenience, but a friendship nonetheless. When Santa Claus came to our neighborhood, we bundled up our babies and waved at the twinkling float that passed. When there was a meet-and-greet with the Easter Bunny, we booked the same time slot. We shared recommendations for pediatricians, walkable restaurants that were kid-friendly, reviews we’d heard of nearby child care centers. Without even realizing it, my loneliness lifted, like a fog clearing. I began to feel human again.
I have always had a solid group of close friends. Many of them are mothers, and they were wonderful sources of inspiration and advice throughout pregnancy and beyond. I thought that was more than enough support. I didn’t need “mom friends,” relationships with women that revolve entirely around our children — I was cooler than that, right?
I didn't need 'mom friends,' relationships with women that revolve entirely around our children — I was cooler than that, right?
But when I had a kid, none of my friends lived in my exact neighborhood and had a baby around the same time when I did. And maybe it was hormones or maybe it was the pandemic, but it turned out that that was exactly what I needed — someone who could be at my doorstep in minutes and go for a walk with me. Someone whose child was the same age as mine and thus game for discussing all the weird newborn and postpartum stuff that I suspected everyone else was sick of hearing, but they weren’t, because they were going through the same exact thing at the same exact time.
We didn’t need to be best friends or know each other’s darkest secrets. We didn’t even need to know each other’s last names or where we worked. (Oddly, many of those questions, which a past version of me would have considered important, simply never came up.) We just needed to like each other enough to go to the park once a week and carry surface-level conversations that, despite what they may have lacked in depth, were an integral part of helping me feel like a whole person again.
The next year, I moved out of town. Aside from a sporadic text message or the occasional chat via Instagram, my friendship with my first “mom friend” has mostly faded. But in our new city, I’ve already made several new mom friends — at swim class, the playground, some of them even through a local networking app.
Some people might find the term “mom friend” itself offensive — like “work friend,” as though suggesting that we never would have clicked had the circumstances been different. But is there anything wrong with that? I think there’s something beautiful in acknowledging the shared experience that’s brought us together. I treasure these friendships while at the same time accepting that they may be fleeting (or maybe not!).
That day in the park, I never would have gone up to another person — mom or otherwise — and introduced myself. I’m a New Yorker, an introvert, an I-can-do-it-myself type. But I do often think about that moment and feel deep gratitude that someone else took that chance on me, and I like to think I’ve since become more open.
My "mom friends" may not be my closest confidantes, but they have done something no one else could do in filling a great void during a specific chapter of my life. They helped me find the joy in parenting a baby and gave me someone to go along with on the ride, and that I will never forget.