Several years ago, I was at my local library when a woman about
my age approached me. She looked familiar but I couldn't place her.
"Kelly James!" she said. I still had no clue.
"It's Hannelore." I was amazed. She and I were roommates and
close friends in college and afterwards but had lost touch for
years. It turns out we'd been leading parallel lives. We lived 20
minutes apart. We'd both had careers before deciding to run our own
businesses. She'd married a German guy; I'd married a Norwegian. I
had a son, Ryan, who was 2; her little boy, Ethan, had just turned
Quick tips for fast friends
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We quickly fell back into a routine of phone calls and
get-togethers-only this time, instead of drinking beer and flirting
with guys at our favorite college hangout, we were drinking coffee
in our living rooms, helping our kids learn to share. She and I
still share similar senses of humors, political views and reading
tastes and our frequent "play dates" are fun for both me and
I never needed good friends more than when I became a mom.
As a health writer, I knew that studies prove people with the
greatest number of social relationships report better health and
overall well-being than those with fewer buddies. I knew firsthand,
too, that no matter how much I love my husband, there's no
substitute for a long relaxed Saturday lunch with one of my closest
pals. But when my son was born, I forgot about everyone but him for
Finally I realized how much I needed my friends-moms or not-to
keep me sane, civil and truly happy.
The power of pals
"Friends are a source of comfort, fun and information," says
sociologist Jan Yager, author of several books on friendship
including Friendshifts: The Power of Friendship and How it Shapes
Our Lives (Hannacroix Creek, 1999, www.drjanyager.com). "By having friends, you
diffuse being over-dependent on your spouse for all your emotional
needs. And you also relate to peers in a way you can't relate to
your children who are, especially when they are younger, dependent
children who need you in the caregiver role. Friends can provide
nurturance to a parent."
Laura Krieter of Lombard remembers being the first of her
friends to have kids. "I was a bit of an oddity to them-still am!,"
says Krieter, whose kids are now 17, 12 and 10. "While I didn't
spend as much time with friends in the baby days, I did keep
contact. ... After I became a mom, my friends continued to play the
'playmate' role. This was extremely important for me because in the
early days, my husband worked about 100 hours a week. Sometimes I
just needed a break and they were always happy to oblige."
Filling out your Friend
Friends come and go, but I believe there are five friends every
mom should have.
Angie's one of my personal "Same-Stage Moms," a parent
whose kids are the same age (or close) and are dealing with the
same issues you are.
real moms said!
She's up on the latest swine flu scare, the cleanest Chuck E.
Cheese and the best place for preschool clothing bargains. My
friend Katie is a nurse and a font of information on everything
from rashes to restaurants; it's no wonder I have her landline and
cell numbers memorized.
2. The "Voice of
She's already seen it, done it, got the T-shirt. I've known
Sharon for almost a decade, and watched her children grow from tots
to teens. Sharon now has something I lack-perspective. When I'm
wrung out after a day of meltdowns, I call Sharon. She has advice
that comes with experience ("No, Kelly, he will not need therapy
because you told him you wanted to run far, far away"), and reminds
me to appreciate this stage of his life.
Remember who you were before you became a parent? This friend
does. My buddy Jill and I are both writers by trade and get
together regularly to talk and laugh about work, love, life, you
name it. Our relationship feeds my role as someone who is more than
simply "Ryan's mommy."
"The Opposite Mom"
One friend of mine - let's call her Susan - is a
lot more permissive with her daughter than I am with Ryan. I've
wondered whether she gives in too much and too easily, but that's
her decision, not mine. Spending time with her does make me take a
closer look at how I parent, rather than acting out of habit.
"Sometimes it takes seeing the behavior of others to shine a
light on one's own behavior," agrees Yager. "The approaches of
other parents can be a learning opportunity as the mom decides she
wants to emulate, replicate or completely avoid doing things the
way others are doing."
As your baby grows, you help her learn how to interact with
other children so she'll be able to make and keep friends. Don't
neglect your own need for buddies as well-they'll help make you a
happier, more grounded parent.
"Having friends is an important part of any healthy life," says
Krieter. "Every parent I know is busy, but if you don't take some
time to nurture your own friendships, you put your mental health at
risk. Yes, we all love our children. But sometimes you just need
comfortable adult company."
Kelly James-Enger is a freelancer and mom who lives in
Downers Grove with her husband, son and golden retriever.
Kelly James-Enger is a former lawyer, a mom of two and a freelance writer.
See more of Kelly's stories here.
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