Suburban Snapshots

Another View From the World of
the Suburban Mom

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I just replied to a text from a friend inviting me over for dinner because she knows my kid didn't sleep last night, ended up in my bed, and kept me awake for four hours. Another was checking in because I also kept said child home from school "sick" when I was too exhausted to fight off her whines and pleading this morning. "Is Anna feeling okay?" As a matter of fact, she's fine. I'm about to fall face-first into my own lap and am currently debating whether I should have a cup of tea and risk ruining tonight's sleep for the sake of being coherent when my husband walks through the door in half an hour.

Unlike the author of the discouraging article about suburban motherhood and friendships I just finished reading, I didn't move to the suburbs after we started our family. I moved to the suburbs when my husband dragged me here after he'd grown tired of dealing with Boston traffic and the college students surrounding our condo who regularly used our car as an extension of the sidewalk. Our daughter was a belated and unexpected housewarming gift.

At first I was just a woman looking for friendship. I was freelancing and drove to gigs in Boston almost weekly and I'd squeeze in lunch or coffee with friends. Our neighborhood then was populated mostly by retirees — wonderful people who welcomed us and then went about home improvements and visits from the grandkids. The people our age seemed to all have babies or were expecting. I visited my sister in Maine a lot.

Once Anna arrived I set about finding friends like it was my job. There was a local moms group that I joined, screwed up the time of my first meeting, showed up as everyone else was leaving, and then accidentally flung my sucked-out shrimp tail down a member's cleavage when I finally did make it to a dinner event a few weeks later. I felt neither unwelcome nor a sense of instant camaraderie. I took it for what it was: a group of moms who were somewhat familiar with one another, who had a decent amount of disposable income, and happened to live in the same geographic region. I went in knowing that just like love, real friendships tend to just kind of happen. At 34 I knew what I wanted in a friend and I knew I'd be incredibly lucky to find it at what amounted to a mom dating event.

That night we had a private room and a guided beer tasting. I got the shrimp throwing out of the way early to break the ice and had lovely conversations with the women seated nearest. It was enough for me to get a feel for the community and I left with an idea of which of the moms were most my type. A month later my dues lapsed and I didn't attend any more nights out.

Ultimately, it wasn't the moms group where I made the very real friendships I am so grateful to have now. It was offering an acquaintance a ride to the repair shop, it was posting some maternity clothes on Freecycle, it was volunteering to help with the neighborhood block party and accepting an impromptu invitation to a lesbian dance club. There was no formal admission to an established group or monthly dues or even solid plans.

Making friends is as much about you as it is about the people you seek out. You decide how invested you want to be and how hard you want to chase it, you cultivate the type of friends you need and avoid the ones you don't, you decide whether or not having someone to grab coffee with is worth navigating cliquey, political bullshit. Maybe it's a difference in location or median income, but I either haven't encountered the kinds of cliques the Boston Magazine article is based on, or maybe I've been too busy making friends to notice.

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