It wasn’t an immediate thing. It evolved gradually, at its cautious pace. A polite smile here. Eye-contact there. Each morning, seeing you in the lobby, made me more curious about you: about your life, your family, just really who you are outside of this building. I noticed that you got a hair-cut. Maybe highlights too? It looks pretty. I noticed you don’t wear your wedding ring. Why? I kind of want to get a drink with you. I could never. You’d think I’m a stalker.
Wait a second. . . I know what I’ll say. . .gulp. . . I’m going to ask her. . . for a playdate.
I have my childhood friends, my college friends, my old work friends and now, . . . my Pre-School mom friends, my PSMFs.
I’ll call it the Little Years. Those long, long days when 8:00 am feels like 10:00pm and the minutes drag and the days repeat and repeat and . . .BAM! A year goes by. How the hell did that happen? How’d my baby get so big? Oh, how I miss the days he was so teeny-tiny. Insert single tear emoji.
My memory of the Little Years feels like this: Labor & Delivery -> a lot of crying (like everyone)-> Preschool Years. Of course, there were a lot of pictures taken, naps in weird locations (stopped at red lights, pedicure chairs, during sex with the husband, etc.) and birthing other children too. . . but it’s all just such a damn blur.
The vetting process for finding a PSMF during the Little Years is not extensive. Do our kids get along? (This helps, but is not required). Are our kids the same sex? (Actually, nope, not important.) Do you seem relatively normal, yet also appear to be a bit of a disaster? Okay cool. This could work.
The desperation during the Little Years stems from a yearning for adult conversation and commiseration of the female plight. That desperation is so pathetic that any woman who doesn’t throw tantrums, shit her pants, or bite your nipples off is pretty much fair game for friendship recruitment.
A stay-at-home-mom sending her first to pre-school is like letting a caged animal into the wild. She steps slowly and carefully, overwhelmed by the possibilities and freedoms ahead.
I registered for preschool anxious for a few hours of peace a week. Although not even looking, I found friendships that I had no idea how badly I needed.
Below are nine facts about PSMFs.
1.They get it. Like truly get it. Not all moms are created equal in their perception of motherhood stages. A mom with an infant might predict that the pre-school years will be much easier with clean little people, weaned from the breast, dressed hip in GapKids, and able to communicate their needs. However, a mom with older kids might reminisce longingly upon those years, thinking of a time when her kids were adorable, didn’t talk back and made her the center of their world. PSMFs? Oh, they get it. They know EXACTLY what your life is like right now. And it ain’t pretty.
2. Nothing from your past matters. I don’t collect resumes when meeting new friends, so I don’t give a damn if you were Ivy League or GED, just be real. Just say one real thing about how hard motherhood is, and you’ll have my attention. The unspoken side-effects of motherhood do not discriminate against class, race or education. We are all delirious with exhaustion. We all lost our tempers recently at a little person who didn’t deserve it. We all don’t have enough sex with our husbands. We all miss a little piece of the women we once were.
3. You expose what you want. Since nothing in your past matters, these new friends only need to know what information you choose to divulge. Pyromaniac? They don’t need to know. Criminal record? They don’t need to know. Tenth marriage? They don’t need to know. If there’s anything blazingly wrong with you, they’ll figure it out on their own and run the hell away.
4. They inspire you without realizing it. Motherhood is fraught with uncertainty and the constant fear that you’re fucking up. You always feel like if you made little changes that life will improve, but you don’t know what to change. Then you get in their car and it’s neat, it’s vacuumed, it doesn’t smell gross and you think I can do that. You’re at their house and their kid grabs an apple BY CHOICE and then heads to the fridge to a healthy food chart and he makes a big checkmark and you think I can do that. Her kid just freaking lost his shit and even you want to scream at him, but she squats down to his level and in the most soothing voice you’ve ever heard says, “I know, I know. Honey it’s okay. Let’s just calm down. Shhh. Shhh. I love you. . . “ and blah, blah, but also I can do that. The husband calls and she is totally un-sarcastic and polite and you think I can do that.
5. They keep your pebbles in place. You’re finding your tribe, and while you’re not as close and weird as sister wives, you trust them. But what’s more important, you can count on them. Motherhood is like filling a jar with pebbles and vigorously shaking it; that’s the responsibilities in your head bouncing around with no sense of place or priority, and no prediction when the pebbles will settle. Dropping off your kids with a PSMF allows you to bang out some errands, attend a doctor appointment, or just take a goddamn nap to procrastinate real-life a little longer. No matter what your reason for needing help, they get it and will happily watch the kids. And you’re happy to watch theirs too.
6. Cherry pick personal details. I loved all the moms I met during our family’s four years at the preschool, but there are five that inspired this piece. We came from different towns, questionable backgrounds (see #3) and even different races and religions. Although I was able to be myself with all of them, I was deliberate in choosing with whom I’d share certain personal information. This one is atheist, so I can confess to her that our kids are interfaith, but we haven’t really chosen a religion and probably won’t. This one is frigging nuts, so I can share my experience with various sex toys. This one wants a nose-piercing? Count me in. I’ll get new ink too. This one is health obsessed, so I won’t scarf down and entire bag of chips when she’s around, maybe like half. This one is oddly innocent and says things like, “Oh gosh,” so I’ll find vulgar pictures and text her them at random hours to put some bad in her bones.
7. Every before-children story will sound exotic. There is a certain look in a mother’s eye when she’s telling a story of her life before kids. It’s a look like trying to recall a part in a movie with a character whose life she envies. It’s a look like she’s telling a story about a stranger, or fictitious character. She’s using words that she never really uses because it’s been so long since her past life was cared about that she wants to dress it up special. Even as the words are leaving her mouth, she cannot believe she is talking about yourself. She sounds so interesting. One moms’ night out, a PSMF said she had worked for the New York Post. I spit out my drink and fainted. I can’t handle so much exotic.
8. Preserving these friendships will take effort. PSMF friendships can be fleeting. The Little Years is just a pocket of time, it goes by fast and before you know it, you’re all going in different directions, being separated by life’s demands. The kids aren’t invited to each other’s birthday parties anymore because they have new friends, and quite frankly might not even remember the pre-school days. Maintaining a PSMF requires more effort than addressing a Christmas card once a year. Plans need to be made—and kept. Maintenance requires more than a flaky, “We should get together soon.”
9. They will always remind you of such a precious time in your life. Oh, the kids seemed so big at the time with their oversized backpacks that went from their necks to their knees, eager to share their new knowledge (usually in song). But they were just babies who smelled like glue and Goldfish crackers. I look back and struggle to remember exactly what my kids were like during those years, but I’ll never forget my PSMFs. They are my unsung heroes of that pocket of motherhood. I don’t know how we’ll fare with maintaining our friendships, but I will always look back at those years so grateful to have found my (temporary) tribe.
My Pre-School Mom Friends. . . They were there to kill time on days it felt like bedtime would never come. They were always there to cheers to birthdays, during a decade when adult birthdays are often passed over. You meet some interesting characters on your journey through motherhood; but so far, my PSMFs are my favorite characters in the book.