It kind of feels like dating, but how does one mom let another mom know she’s available?
I spotted her from about 20 feet away, a vision in black Doc Martens, faded black jeans and an old concert tee. A head of messy curls was covered by a black baseball cap, and even though her eyes were hiding behind a pair of Ray-Bans, I could tell they were kind. I felt drawn to her and decided we needed to meet. No, I’m not looking for a girlfriend, nor am I looking for a life partner. I’m not even hoping for a date out of this, but I am on the prowl, all right. Most days you can find me cruising around my neighborhood on the hunt for a mom friend.
This woman, let’s call her Cool Mom, was totally my type: she looked around my age and she was alone. Sure, those might be low standards but these days that’s all it really took. So there I was, watching Cool Mom kick a ball around with her son, waiting for my opportunity. Finally, the ball rolled over to my daughter who picked it up, wanting to play. While the kids negotiated over who would hold it, I decided to break the ice.
I smiled and said “How old is he?”
“16 months,” she replied. And then she added, “She can play with the ball, we’re actually heading to the swings.”
My heart sank as I watched Cool Mom walk away, holding her son’s hand. I couldn’t help but feel rejected. In the past 18 months since my daughter was born I have come to the conclusion that making mom friends is a lot like dating.
I began to wonder about the rules of making mom friends. Were they similar to the rules of dating? Don’t come on too strong, rely on your gut, look for a spark, don’t seem desperate, put yourself out there. But putting myself out there and communicating my availability remains a big mystery. In the world of dating the signals that you are single and ready to mingle are simple (though archaic): lipstick, a slighty-sexy outfit, flirty eyes, and a bare ring finger. None of these do me any good in my quest for a mom friend, though. So how does one mom let another mom know they’re available?
So far I’ve relied on smiling, being friendly, and pushing myself to start conversations when I might not have otherwise. It can be exhausting and I often get discouraged, but I keep reminding myself of what I’ve read on all the motherhood-themed Instagram accounts I follow: I need a community (no matter how small) of other moms to spend time with. Sure, I have a supportive and hands-on husband, a few great long-time friends, and a close-knit family, but if I’ve learned anything from my on-the-ground experience in the past 18 months, it’s that no one can truly relate to what I’m going through except other mothers with young children. Being a mom to a toddler can sometimes feel like hi-stress combat, and who better to understand that feeling than a fellow soldier, fighting the daily fight? I’ve realized in order to ensure mental and emotional survival I need to find my battle mates, my troop, my platoon.
A few days later at a different park I spotted the outfit before I noticed the mom. A classic striped tee tucked into black skinny jeans, topped off with a pair of crisp white platform Supergas. As a recovering fashion editor I often choose my prey based on what she’s wearing, and I assumed the person wearing this outfit was someone I could vibe with. I took a closer look. French Mom had the type of short bob haircut that looked like she didn’t ever have to brush it for it to look good, and she wasn’t wearing a stitch of makeup. I noticed her little blond daughter was also wearing a striped tee as was the newborn-ish baby in her arms. I normally don’t go for mommy-and-me-dressing, but this, I had to admit, was done to perfection. Lastly, I noticed we had the same camo print tote bag and I took it as a sign, so I looked for my in. Put yourself out there, I reminded myself and took a deep breath. I slowly and casually (always casually) led my daughter over to where French Mom was perched.
I heard her ask her daughter, “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?”
The daughter grabbed a monkey bar and without hesitation said, “Paris!” Here was my in. I pounced.
“Smart kid,” I say. “I’d want to go to Paris, too.”
French Mom laughed and somehow we start talking. She told me her daughter has the same leggings as my daughter, and I told her I have the same tote bag as her. We smiled and continued some small talk. Just as things were picking up my daughter lost interest and wandered to the other side of the playground. I reluctantly followed her and then looked back to see French Mom packing up her things and wrangling her mini-me to leave. I knew I had lost my chance.
But it’s funny how things work out sometimes. Like when your husband suggests early one Saturday morning, on a whim, to take a family walk to a park that’s further away than the park you usually walk to. You barely tame your bedhead, haphazardly throw on some clothes, and skip brushing your teeth — you’re still working on your first cup of coffee and you can’t imagine you’ll have to talk to anyone other than said husband at this ungodly hour. And suddenly there you are at the park, morning breath and all, when your dog runs up to a little girl and her mom actually starts talking to you. She makes the first move, doesn’t seem to notice the bedhead or morning breath, and you instantly feel at ease. Is that a spark? You notice her hair is the perfect mix of messy and wavy, and her jeans have a slight flare. She’s wearing a floaty floral top and doesn’t flinch when your daughter starts pulling at the long-hanging tassels. Boho Mom was not only friendly and engaging, but it seemed she was the one putting herself out there. I catch a glimpse of our daughters holding hands in the distance. Next thing I knew she was putting her number in my phone, suggesting we meet for a playdate.
I have to admit, just like in dating, it felt good to be the one being pursued. It felt good that I didn’t have to make the first move. It felt good that she asked me for my number first. And I also have to admit that, just like in dating, it’s all about that indescribable spark. Without it you’re just two moms standing next to each other at the playground watching your kids steal each others toys.
So is Boho Mom the mom of my dreams? Could she be my perfect mom match? It’s too soon to tell, but since that first morning in the park we’ve had two playdates and a third is on the calendar. I think her and I might have a future together…or at least fight a few battles side by side for a little while.