When I was a part of the working world, I had a built in community of coworkers who at the very least didn't scream at me if I gave them the wrong color cereal bowl. Some of them even discussed topics of shared interest with me, such as drinking alcohol, eating and cooking food, and being tired. A small group of them became good friends that I spent lunch hours, weekends and even a few vacations with. So when I got home at night my human interaction quota was generally full. In the evenings my husband and I would usually go to the gym or just relax together. Life was good.
Fast forward a few years, and I spend the majority of my waking hours (and hours I wish I wasn't awake) with a toddler and non-verbal baby. In the evening, my spouse and I are in a race against time to try and feed, bathe and get our children to sleep before we collapse with exhaustion. Life is beautiful, but hard.
This is not a recipe for a healthy, sane human being. My husband cannot bear the burden of being my sole source of adult contact (I need to talk a LOT). The only way I am able to survive what might otherwise be considered a form of solitary confinement is to aggressively recruit a group of moms to be my new coworkers. Very aggressively.
This is no easy task. Not only do I have to find moms whose kids are relatively the same age as mine, generally share my parenting style and aren't completely over-scheduled already, but we also have to at least sort of get along. Its an added bonus if they aren't perfectly put together every time I see them, because that just makes me feel like a slob.
Sometimes these chance meetings are pure serendipity, like when I met a mom at the mall who had just moved from my small hometown in Illinois and had really cute hair (you can bet I didn't leave without getting her digits). In another case, our kids just played so well together at the park (no toddler brawls!) we decided we should probably get together again. Or my friend who wasn't my friend until we realized through Facebook that we both like to curse and defiantly wear leggings as pants every day.
I've heard that finding other mom friends is a lot like trying to pick up a date. I would agree with that, although I can't say I used to sulk around local parks looking to pick up guys (maybe I should have?). But it is like dating in that it highlights your insecurities and anxieties, and if you aren't successful at it you will likely feel very lonely. (Why didn't the mom I met at the grocery store ever call me about grabbing coffee? Am I not pretty enough? Do I need to buy more Lululemon?)
Play dates are not a frivolous luxury where we drink coffee and bitch about our husbands (okay sometimes they are but that's only if the kids aren't trying to kill each other and someone remembers to make coffee). Many days the anticipation of a play date is the only reason I do the dishes, or put on mascara, or get anyone dressed (including myself). For my kids, its the chance to practice sharing, empathy, compromise and conflict resolution. And it makes doing something exhausting and stressful like going to the zoo or a museum when you are outnumbered by children exponentially more enjoyable. These women are in the trenches of parenthood with me when otherwise I might be sitting alone in my house, most likely with unacceptably greasy hair.
And even though I have to work a lot harder to meet my adult-interaction quota these days, I'm so thankful I have a job where I get to pick such kick-ass women to be my coworkers.