Not so very long ago, I lived a life that drew very clear lines between its many parts. There was the work section of life and the married section of life, the weekend section of life and the girlfriends section of life. They were all lived out in a distinct order, like, coffee Sarah chatted with the barista before walking through the city and turning into kick-butt at work Sarah. Later happy hour Sarah would meander to meet up with her girlfriends before heading home to be wife Sarah in a cozy little apartment. A day’s distinct order didn’t necessarily dictate what the next day would look like, but I didn’t have to put that much thought into it.
These days, I still wear many hats, yet somehow they all blend together under one or two general titles. I feel like a frantic mess on even my most ordered of days, and rather than waiting in anticipation for an adventure, it seems that any venture outside the norm requires meticulous planning far in advance. So much so, that most evenings, I wind up with my butt planted on the couch from 8 p.m. on, and God bless the inventor of Netflix.
What is there to be said for the social life of a mom? Well, that it’s potentially non-existent, for one; and that what little of it does miraculously materialize, requires a certain sort of finesse.
And that’s for lots of reasons.
I figure the first basic component of a mom’s social life, is her mom friends. If you’ve been enjoying the Presidential campaigns, you should just peek into the life of a mom interacting with her mom friends. That’s some real politics right there, and a system of operations, hierarchies, and customs that I’m not sure anyone ever really understands or masters.
Of course, like most relationships in anyone’s life, the mom friends do meet certain needs. We all need friendly faces to endure, just for example, a morning at the playground. Perhaps a warm smile might transform into a commiseration about little sleep, and then you realize, thank the heavens, you’re not the only person on earth slowly going crazy. Eventually, you find that you see the same friendly faces, maybe have more than one of those venting sessions, and this is how you establish your mom friends. To break into the various genres of mom friends is, I think actually, part professional science and part pure dumb luck. There’s no better tactic than simply to treat it like lunch hour through the first week of high school, and try sitting at one table one day and another table the next. Eventually, you find your tribe, the people who keep the same nap time hours, who don’t raise their eyebrows at your every parenting move, and who maybe even have something in common with you outside of your children’s ages. Best of luck in this painstaking trial-and-error process.
To really dedicate yourself to something requires intentional effort, and a social life is no different. If you want to experience the parts of yourself that fall outside the title of “MOM,” then you’re going to have to work at it. So the second component of a mom’s social life is what she puts into it.
For me, this begins with my husband. He is my very best friend, my most cherished relationship, and I’m not going to let that disintegrate just because we have kids now. We make it a point to get out at least once a month, heavily relying on the goodness of friends who are making the same point in their marriages. What’s that mean? Babysitting swap! Of course, one night a month hardly makes for a sustainable level of intimacy, and therefore the efforts must continue outside of a single date night. We will often put the girls to bed before cooking ourselves a meal to share. Sometimes we’ll play games. Sometimes we’ll declare a Tuesday a “movie night” just because and split a bar of chocolate. It might not be much, but it’s the intentionality that counts.
Naturally, it’s intentionality that counts with girlfriends as well. I try to step outside of the house at least one night a week—sometimes it’s for a class where I interact with like-minded folks; sometimes it’s to meet the neighborhood girls at the wine bar; sometimes it’s to travel to a different borough entirely to spend time with friends from that former phase of life. Whatever it is, making it happen can be tricky. It does require planning in advance. Sometimes it requires slipping out the door even though my kids aren’t happy about it. And it definitely requires the support of my husband (but thankfully I’ve been intentionally nurturing that relationship, so he’s game).
Mothers must come to realize that there are parts of them that still live outside of the family unit. We are the nuclei, the glue of the family, and it can be difficult to remember that we can only continue to hold it all together if we are strong, refreshed, energized. Beyond maintaining relationships, I know that having a social life, no matter how hard I have to work at it, is good for my health and the health of my family.
As my girls have grown older and we’ve almost totally left the toddler phase, I’ve come to consider one other facet of a mother’s social life: My kids. Guys, these girls are super fun and funny. On Tuesdays, I have them both home from school, so we try to keep Tuesdays to ourselves and find some fabulous adventure. It has been so thrilling to watch my munchkins grow into people with jokes and ideas and observations about their world. Beyond just being awed as their mother, I enjoy their company. And I love the thought that I’m raising daughters that can have a friendship with each other—and with me.
It’s a new way of thinking about my social life, really. But then, isn’t that part of being a mother? Reorganizing and restructuring because you’ve earned a new title that will be one of the most important. I will never be able to draw clear lines in my life again, but why would I want to? I want a life where all the lines are worth blurring so that I can experience the fullness of all my relationships, exactly where I am. So maybe dates with my husband are spent on the couch, and likely time with girlfriends is found only sparsely. Certainly most of the days’ hours are spent with two tiny little people—but to know them as I do will absolutely be the greatest pleasure of my life.