The Cult of Mom Friends

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My husband and I lived in our South Charlotte neighborhood for about a year before we had any meaningful interaction with our neighbors. Then one weekend, I showed up to the pool sporting 38 weeks of pregnancy. Suddenly I was the new neighbor to meet.

When you enter motherhood, you’re instantly baptized into a cult, or mafia family. Having a new baby placed in your arms is your ceremonial oath, and once you’re in, there’s no getting out.

You must embrace your new kin in the mommy cult. No matter how many pals you had pre-kids, the ones that remain childless will start to fall away. Sure, you’ll still count each other as friends, but the hang time will face a sharp decline.

Like it or not, you’ve changed. And after the obligatory visits to ooh and ahh over the new baby, the unencumbered don’t want to be cumbered by your kid and its cries, demands, and needs. They don’t want to hear about their every milestone or diaper explosion. They don’t want to work around naptimes and feeding schedules, nor wait for you to pack up the oversized first-time mom diaper bag, car seat, and stroller when it’s time to leave. Your new baby is not the newest addition to your “squad.” It’s your former squad’s recommitment to birth control. They’ll never say this to you directly; in fact, they’ll act quite the opposite—not because they want to spare your feelings and be supportive, but because they worry what being annoyed about a baby says about them. All the while, they’re inching their way toward the door like they’re exiting a dry company holiday party.

This is where the other moms come in. They’re trapped/enwrapped in the same prison/daydream as you are and are eager to embrace other victims/converts. Notice the contrasting nouns? These are important distinctions in finding your new mom friends.

No matter their type, all mom friends will embrace the new member with their own special brand of support, reassurance, pity, and advice. Afterall, cults survive and thrive off new recruits. Once you bank a few consecutive nights of sleep and begin to come up for air, you’ll need to decide which type of mom friend you identify with most. Here are some options:

Inappropriate Mom. She seems blithely unaware that she’s meant to set an example and raise her children. Inappropriate Mom will gossip, curse, and have adult-only conversations with you as her kids tug on her shirt for more candy or to fix the iPad; requests she will grant without missing a beat on her rant about what she heard about the school principal. Unlike moms of generations past, she neither hears nor sees her child until another parent is forced to bring her child’s misdeeds to her attention. Even then, she’ll find more issue with the other parent than her kid. She will scream and curse at the refs at the kids’ sporting events, where she will always have a full Yeti and a backup cooler to get her through the game. You’ll see that same Yeti at the pool, trick-or-treating, kids’ birthday parties, and occasionally at school pick-up. As your children get older, her kids will either bully yours or be a bad influence on them. Inappropriate Mom likely hosted the basement booze parties in high school, because her mom was too busy gossiping in the kitchen to know what her kids were doing, as this type of Mom is typically generationally created.

Overprotective Organic Mom. You’re most apt to find her at the local parks and playgrounds where she’s content to spend hours at a time. She’s never flustered and always well equipped with Trader Joe’s snacks or dried fruit that she and the kids dehydrated themselves. If you choose to jointly take your kids to do an activity, block off the entire day. This mom has no sense of urgency, no to-do list, and blows where the wind takes her. She’s “waiting” to get her children immunized until she has more information and believes essential oils can cure or prevent any disease. Overprotective Organic Mom has never left her children with a babysitter and hasn’t been alone with her husband since the children were born. This includes their bed, where she happily co-sleeps with her whole family. If you invite her kids over to play, count on her coming along. While she’s there she’ll tell you about all the recent information she’s learned about how basically everything in your pantry is highly dangerous to kids’ development. Because her kids never have screen time, her child will become a mesmerized zombie in front of your TV and your child will be bored.

Picture Perfect Mom. This mom’s kids look photo-ready at a moment’s notice. And that’s strategic because Picture Perfect Mom believes that if you didn’t get photos, it didn’t happen. “It” can be a holiday or a simple bike ride. Every moment with her children is captured, curated, filtered, and shared across her many social media platforms. This mom’s must-have village of support includes a professional photographer and hair and makeup team that come to the house. Her children’s birthday parties will be themed, storyboarded, branded with logos and pantone guides, and will be the best day of your child’s life. Her Christmas card will look like a stock photo and she’ll regularly go live on her social feeds and giggle about how she looks “terrible” while flawlessly filtered. Picture Perfect Mom says hashtags out loud and has mugs, T-shirts, and bags with cliched text like “But first, coffee” or “Namaste in bed.” If you post a photo of her or her children without her approval, expect a phone call.

Should Be Mom. She is in a constant struggle between missing her old self and the pressure to be a good mom. She lives in a dance of should-be guilt and longing that never feels rectified. If she works, she feels like a terrible mom. If she stays at home, she feels unfulfilled and fears waking up one day and wondering what became of her life. Her kids drive her crazy and this makes her feel like both a prisoner and a bad person. She’s constantly trying to find the joy in the little moments, and beats herself up for how often she fails to do so. The best part of her day is after everyone in her family goes to bed and she can take a nibble off a Delta 8, watch The Real Housewives, and shop online. She’s accepted Kidz Bop Kidz as the balance between her real self and her mom self, but there’s 90s rap playing in her earpods. Other Should Be Moms are her lifeline, and once or twice a year she’ll go out with them and get uncharacteristically wild drunk and be hungover for two weeks. She’ll be kind to Picture Perfect, Overprotective Organic, and Inappropriate Mom, who will all count Should Be Mom as a friend, but she can only take them in small doses.

While we will all gravitate to certain moms more than others, each one adds value to our lives. Inappropriate Mom will help us loosen up or, at worst, show us what not to do when we’re unsure. Overprotective Organic Mom will help us look more closely at what we feed our children and absolve some guilt if they skip a bath every now and then. Picture Perfect Mom will occasionally motivate us to put a little more effort into our appearance and remind us of the importance of capturing memories. Should Be Mom will help us feel less alone and remind us that if you care to fret over whether you’re a good parent or not, you already are.

Over the course of human history, the one thing that hasn’t changed about motherhood is that it’s a game of survival. And though we all have our own method of staying sane and keeping our kids alive, we’re never far from a fellow stroller-pusher who’s engaging in the battle the best way she knows how. Give her a friendly nod. And maybe even a gummy.