I’m a Mr. Mom,” says the driver. I’m loading my two small sons into a complimentary shuttle after leaving our minivan at the car dealership for some work.
“How old are your kids?” I ask. “We’re not sure how old she is,” he says. “My wife rescued her after she got hit by a car outside our house.”
“What?” “Yeah,” he continues. “We even have her using the cat’s litter box.”
After further questioning, the driver proceeds to tell me how he and his wife saved a raccoon and now consider her their daughter.
The sad thing is I just had a better conversation with “Mr. Mom” than I have had with one of my closest friends lately. The problem? She is everything I used to be: single, carefree, fun, interesting, and most of all, kidless.
Why is it that once a woman has a baby, it becomes virtually impossible to maintain close friendships with non-mommies—regardless of how close the relationship was before?
First of all, my kidless friend does not include “showering” on her to-do list. Her clothes are clean, wrinkle-free and do not smell like spit-up. She enjoys going to the bathroom in privacy and does not consider a trip to Target the highlight of a day.
When she invites me to go out with her, I find myself saying things I never imagined would come out of my mouth: “I can only meet you for lunch if the baby takes a good morning nap, but not if he sleeps too long because then it will be too late for the afternoon nap, and if they fall asleep in the car, I’m toast. Plus I’ll need to nurse before I leave, so basically, never mind.”
She has been so patient with me. I promised myself I wouldn’t be one of those crazy-annoying moms who only blabs about her kids. Guess what? I’ve morphed. When I’m not bragging about them (“He’s pooping on the potty!”) I’m complaining about them (“He’s flipping over in his sleep and crying until I turn him back over!”). Who could blame my friend for getting off the phone as quickly as possible? For calling less and less?
When I share my dilemma with my husband, he offers a heroic suggestion. “Go out with her tonight,” he says as he catches our 3-year-old diving from the stairs. “I’ll stay with the boys.” But how can I leave the boys (wild), him (hungry), the house (disaster)? Maybe the thing that scares me the most, though, is that I don’t know how my friend and I will connect anymore.
“Scan the paper quick so you have something to talk about besides the boys,” my husband suggests. So I do. I shower, put on a non-nursing bra, get dressed and meet her at our favorite restaurant.
Tragically, I manage to turn every tidbit of news I read into something about my boys. Gas prices are up means I really need to get comfortable nursing in public because driving home every two hours is a waste. Or, forget about the presidential candidates’ platforms—I want to know how their wives managed to keep it together when their kids were little?
After eating, we make our way to the bar. My friend orders two dirty martinis on the rocks. “Your favorite, remember?” she asks as we clink glasses. I take a sip and almost spit it out. “No,” I shiver. “I don’t remember.” She laughs.
When we ask for our check, the bartender smiles and says, “The gentlemen across the bar offered to buy your drinks.”
My cheeks burn. “Let’s just say ‘Hi,’” my friend says, pulling me toward them. She introduces us and starts to chitchat. “What do you do?” one guy asks. “I’m a mom,” I blurt.
Imagine my shock when my friend tells the men, “She’s the best mom, too—I’m so proud of her.”
I hug her goodnight and promise to see her again soon. When I get back home, I can almost ignore the crusty mac-n-cheese pot in the sink, the smell of burnt popcorn and diaper pail as I tiptoe up the steps. Receiving a rave job review has lifted me. And guess what? At playgroup the next morning, I actually have something to talk about besides the boys.
Kate Dopirak (katedopirak.com) is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband and two sons.