I’ll never forget after my first son was born, I was graciously invited by another new mama to come with her to a playgroup for the babies. Great, I thought, what could go wrong, thought I.
The first time I attended the once a month group, it was October and we were supposed to bring our babies with their costume, which was adorable and super fun. There were probably 9 mamas and babies there plus myself and a girlfriend I invited and had known pre-babies. My pre-baby friend, Alexa’s daughter was only 2 months and while she probably wouldn’t “play” at least we’d be out of the house around a group of other grown ups. Sounds perfectly reasonable and fun! I decided to bring a bottle of wine as a hostess gift, and hey maybe we could open it and have a little? I may as well have shown up with a lit cigarette, carrying a toxic waste bag marked “RSV”. The hostess (not the mama who had invited me) acted so shocked I wasn’t sure if she knew that many adult humans consider wine a delicious treat to be enjoyed on occasion. My friend Alexa and I could tell right then we might not fit in with this group exactly.
I quickly located the mama who invited me and made sure I hadn’t just handed a bottle of wine to a recovering alcoholic. She assured me that she and the hostess had known one another for a while and the hostess actually used to love wine, but she’s breastfeeding, so that’s a big “no-no.” Oh boy. I too was breastfeeding and while I didn’t intend to slosh back a jug of Carlo Rossi, I was certain a glass wouldn’t prevent my son from attending MIT. (I mean let’s be honest, anything is possible, but I’m pretty sure my husband and my mixed DNA would take care of smashing that dream.)
Off to an amazing start, Alexa and I tried our hardest to join the “fun”. I put my boy down with the other kiddos on the rug, and struck up conversation with one of the mamas. Before I had finished my name she asked what percentile my son fell into? Ummm, well, ummm, like today? Or when he was born, errrrr? I could tell I really impressed this woman with my idiotic mumbling about maybe the 90th(?) or 50ish for one of them. When I finished rambling with a confident, “but he’s happy and growing, so we’re happy with that!” She was done talking to me.
Not to be discouraged, I went on to work my mommy-friend-making-magic on another mama. Her son was about a month younger than mine and they were sitting happily drooling over toys when the newest line of questioning began. She wanted to know when my son had first rolled over? First sat up independently? Was he eating solids? How about sleep? As I tried to answer these questions I realized she was asking so she could report all the stats on her little one. He was an extremely advanced baby. Slept like an angel in his crib all night, sat up independently at three days old, and had already been admitted to three Ivy League schools, all they had to do now was choose where the family should relocate!
It went on like this until it was time to dress the babies in their costumes and take a picture. Luckily, during the picture Alexa found me and we efficiently planned our exit. With much apologizing on our parts (we were both raised by Southerners and we apologize for everything) we excused ourselves, quickly buckled the babies in, and were out of there. On the drive back to my house, we exchanged war stories. Alexa told me she had no idea a group of women could be so singly focused on competing babies and holy shit is this just what it’s like now? We got back to my house, ordered in Chinese, had the dads stop on their way for a bottle of wine and enjoyed the night relaying the details of the weird alter world where we had spent the afternoon. Now, I don’t like to give up easily, so we decided we’d try again. Maybe it wasn’t as weird as it seemed. Brilliantly, I decided I’d host and I’d make snacks and have some bevvies, with or without booze, and while is was a “playdate” it was actually a mommy date – a time to talk about things other than four month sleep regressions and diaper rashes. So I set it up, invited all the mamas from the Halloween party, plus a few I’d met in other places, (I may have even purchased a brand new button down from Target) and threw myself on the mercy of the moms’ group.
It started out slowly, and appeared it was possibly going to be an epic disaster. A few of the very competitive mamas were there, the worst offender, however, couldn’t stay long, and her sidekick happened to have carpooled. So, there we found ourselves. Cold chardonnay, delicious Costco delicacies, drooling babies, and what was that sound? Laughter? We talked about how little sleep there was, how irritating our husbands were, the old, baby-free friends who we never saw anymore. And actually enjoyed ourselves.
A few months later, we tried to recreate the magic at Alexa’s house, but as with all things baby and new parenting, the good days are just as much a fluke as the bad. I did, however, learn a very valuable lesson: Don’t find sucky mommy friends who make you question bringing the baby to bed with you so you can finally f-ing sleep or lecture you on organic non-gmo baby foods and the effects of the wireless router in your house on baby’s brain development. Find good mama friends who get it. Find mama friends who know it may not be their way but it also isn’t their business. Who are happy to listen and laugh, who will let you cry when you want to pull your own hair out and are happy to watch both littles for you to finally get your hair done. Because while there may be scientists saying the wireless router in my house is bad for my baby’s brain development, there are days when Facebook is ALL I HAVE of the outside world and by God, not going crazy is just as important as the homemade applesauce from the apples you grew in your orchard, Marissa.