Ever notice how shopping for a new “mom-friend” echoes a scene straight out of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? One is “too hot,” while another is “too cold.” The hunt can be taxing as you search for the mom who is “just right.” Just when you think you may have found her, the big bad wolf comes and whisks her away. Becoming a mom adds a whole new layer to the friendship dilemma. Now, you must consider compatibility with another mom’s kids and parenting style on top of compatibility with the mom. As a special needs parent, this problem is only amplified as more obstacles stand in the way of finding our perfect “mom-mate.” Yet, the isolation of caring for special needs makes us crave that relationship even more. I don’t know about you, but in my search for the perfect match, I tend to generally find that there are 5 types of mom-friends:
Friend One: “Perfect Penny”
Oh, “Perfect Penny”…..if there was ever a mom friend who irks me like nobody’s business, it’s Penny. She’s the one who is the Mary freaking Poppins of everything. “Practically perfect in every way,” she will one-up you in every area of life imaginable. I just love how when she invites you and your kids over to her gigantic pristine home, the sunlight freshly glistening off her beautifully mopped marble floors, she hides her face in embarrassment and explains “Oh, I’m so sorry about the mess.”
Then, you confide in her and pour out your heart about your kids’ learning disabilities and their struggles in school. She listens thoughtfully and responds: “Hmmm, I wouldn’t know about that. My kids are in the Young Harvard program, you see. I suppose I do know how you feel, though. Little Johnny got his first A minus this year. Would you care to try this salmon and goat cheese crostini I just happened to whip up before you arrived? I’ve really let myself go lately, so I mustn’t eat them. I’m up to a size 2 now.”
Friend Two: “Laid Back Lynda”
After hanging out with Perfect Penny for awhile, you are quite relieved when you find “Laid Back Lynda.” At first, it is refreshing to encounter a mom friend who doesn’t fret about appearances or a clean house. But soon, you begin to realize that her laid back style may be a little….err….too laid back. While sipping on the herbal tea she offered you at the door (and pondering exactly what kind of “herbs” are actually in there…) your kids begin to fight over a toy. You are flabbergasted as her kid grabs yours by the hair and body slams her on the floor. You come to your child’s rescue and attempt to break up the fight, to which Lynda sighs and gestures nonchalantly. “Oh, I really don’t get in the middle of these things. Let’s just let them work it out,” she says.
Friend Three: “Bossy Betty”
Next, you meet “Bossy Betty.” Things are going smoothly, and you feel hopeful. But, they go downhill fast as you realize Betty always has to be in control. She picks the venue, the activity and the time for every playdate or occasion. The agenda must also ensue on her terms. Every conversation or activity is scrutinized. Gasp! The snacks aren’t organic. The juice boxes have too much sugar. The hand sanitizer carries too many toxins. That pool is too crowded. That toy is not educational.
After she finally agrees to a play date with the kids at your house, they arrive in time to encounter your kids happily engaged on their electronic devices. “Hey, Johnny, you want to play Minecraft?” your kid excitedly asks their friend. Betty immediately intercedes. “Oh, no, we don’t do online games.” “Oh. Well, how about if we watch a movie?” your kid offers. “No movies, either. We don’t do screen time in general. It causes delays in cognitive functioning and encourages unhealthy behaviors and inactivity.” You blink and politely ask (through gritted teeth) “what would you like the kids to play instead?” Betty thinks for a moment, then smiles energetically. “Why don’t they read a book together? Won’t that be so fun?” At this point, your child whispers in your ear: “Mom, when are they leaving?”
Friend Four: “Maxed Out Mary”
At last, you think you’ve finally found her! She’s the one! She’s the perfect balance of casual vigilance. She compromises and accepts you for who you are. Your kids play together beautifully. No wrestling matches or brawls. You hit it off immediately and your heart skips a beat. Never mind that you’ve been interrupted by her influx of phone calls and text messages twenty times in just the last hour. You can look past this minor inconvenience for the amazing new gem you have found.
That is until you try to schedule the next play date. Her calendar is so full, she can’t meet again until December. You try to work around this, convinced that you have found your mom-friend soulmate. But, as the day of your kid’s birthday party arrives, Mary and her kid’s seats remain empty. Their previous party ran too late and she sends her regards. You agree to reschedule a follow up play-date, only to find yourself ditched again. You sit with your child alone at the park, contemplating if Mary will ever show up. Date after date pass with unpredictability, always a gamble if she will come through. And sadly, you realize that Maxed Out Mary is just not going to work out.
Friend Five: “Just Right Judith”
Just when you are ready to give up and have conceded to a social life comprised of your 4 cats, she appears out of nowhere! Like a beacon in the night, she is there, dawning her yoga pants and oversized tee, her hair gracefully thrown into a mom bun. Her t-shirt reads “Coffee Aboard the Hot Mess Express,” and you try to caution yourself not to fall in love. When your son asks hers if he likes Minecraft, she enthusiastically responds “Oh, yes, Petey loves Minecraft. You should totally come over and play Minecraft together sometime.” You struggle to respond, breathless with hope, still hesitant to believe this can be real. “That would be great. We’d love to get together. You’re welcome to come play at our house, as well,” you reply. “Sure, whatever works best for you. We’re flexible and we have most weekdays free. I’m Judith, by the way.” In that moment, you hear the floodgates of heaven open and you just know. This is it. The moment you’ve waited for. You have finally found the one! Not too hot and not too cold. Not too perfect and not too laid back. Not too bossy and not too maxed out.
Girls, if you are lucky enough to find your “Judith,” never let her go! Embrace that friendship and honor it as sacred. Never take for granted your “just right.”
“A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” -Proverbs 27:9