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My Mom Friends Are Taking Their Issues Out On Each Other

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mommy warsHere’s a scenario for you. Two mothers, both friends. One has a spare stair gate; the other needs one. They make the exchange, and then life sets in. They get busy. The lender gets pregnant again and asks for the stair gate back. The borrower, stressed with an impending move, neglects to reply. Her last act – whether intentional or unconscious – is to sell said stair gate in her moving sale. The lender reads about it in an online ad for the sale.

Needless to say, they’re no longer friends.

The example above might seem particularly harsh, but I’ve heard dozens like it. When you’re a mother, sometimes basic social skills slip through the cracks, and sometimes it’s nobody’s fault. All relationships take work: spouses, siblings, workmates, they all test you at some point. I’d argue that the relationships that take the most work and the most beating are  those between mothers.

Shaking your head? How many other close allies do you have who are battling exhaustion; struggling with various regimes to regain their pre-pregnancy bodies; trained in conversation skills by a toddler; working 18-hour days, whether in or out of the home or both; stretched for time and sanity; and undersexed? Even most marriages involve some variation on these themes.

Sure, moms provide one another with solace and empathy on the darkest days. But what about those days that happen to be dark for everyone?

The day I became a mom was the day my friendships with non-moms started to suffer: all of a sudden I couldn’t stay awake past nine, stopped smoking, curbed my drinking and lost all ability to string together a sentence. But at least there was one member present who could hold up their end of the bargain.

Mom-on-mom friendships have twice the handicap. At times you’re both grumpy, moaning about the kids, their father, their teachers, their friends. Maybe your kids are fighting. Maybe they’ve committed a crime with a permanent marker. Whatever the situation, inter-mom friendship is a risky proposition.

It probably took a dozen unanswered texts and cancelled playdates before I stopped taking it personally. Nobody would ask a juggler to put down his balls to take a call. But over the years there was more.

Moving house one time while a friend and her family were heading out of town, we were invited to spend the week at her home while we sorted out the new place. The week came to resemble a cruel practical joke. We broke everything: the shower, the toilet flusher, the dishwasher, the light pull. We spilled everything from orange juice to mochaccino on the pristine wool carpets. (Is it just me, or does everyone turn into a klutz when they’re someplace new?)

I thought I’d got it all out when a call came the day they arrived back home. She’d noticed it all (even before reading our note). She was cranky. Things weren’t the same for a while after that.

I’ve been guilty of borrowing things, too, and breaking or forgetting to return them. I’ve stepped on toes, literally and figuratively. I’ve been on both sides of the fence when a child is left out of a birthday or playdate. Or when one mom seems to be doing all the favors. Mommy brain may have made me do it, but mommy brain made the victims all the more tense.

And the kicker: if the friendship does survive all that, what do you do to celebrate? A playdate, where neither party has the chance to finish a sentence. Or, if you’re really lucky, you could share a bottle of wine and moan about your exhausted, undersexed lives.

(Photo: AlikeYou/Shutterstock)