When you have a baby, there are certain things you expect: sleepless nights, moments of wide-eyed amazement (yours and the baby’s), hours of paranoia, an extra five pounds of what appears to be dough glued to your waist, and, in all likelihood, the desire to, at some point, have another one. (Aren’t you amazed that, even after a shitty pregnancy or an evening with a screechy newborn vomiting in your lap, you’ve already found yourself wondering: “So… when can I have another one?” You sick, sick weirdo.)
That’s what you expect when you’re expecting.
What you don’t expect is that, shortly after having a baby, you’re gonna be on the prowl.
No, hot mama, you’re not ditching your man to go cruise for some boytoy.
You’ve got bigger goals.
You, my dear, are cruising the preschool parking lot for moms.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Once upon a time you trolled bars, websites, and friends of friends looking for guys until you met your special one. But now? You have a much, much harder goal.
You’re going mommy-dating. And a good woman is really hard to find these days.
Mommy-dating is a leisure activity that I hadn’t anticipated either time I was pregnant. But yet somehow, shortly after popping a watermelon out of my vagina, the instinct was there: I’ve got to meet someone. Someone nice. Someone funny. Someone smart. Someone real. Someone with whom I would actually choose to be friends—not just someone I’m friends with because we both have babies. Someone who will laugh with me at the absurdities of parenthood and cry with me—or at least let me cry on her— over the things that are too hard, too terrifying, too overwhelming. Someone who will help heal the bone-crushing loneliness that inevitably comes at one point or another with having a newborn, no matter how cute that little mush-face is.
I remember very clearly the first moment I realized I needed a mom friend when Lila was born. She was sixteen days old; the nurse had just left, and I was feeling beyond lonely. Even now, three years later, I can still recall with razor-sharp clarity the sound of my husband closing our apartment door behind him at 8:01 as he left for the day for work. I’d look at Lila. She’d look at me. I’d say, half-ironically, “Who’s ready to have a great day?” She’d look back at me blankly. I’d look at her blankly. I’d look at the clock: 8:02.
Holy. Shit. What kind of people can do this flying solo all day long? Once upon a time, I used to judge the nannies hanging out in gangs at the parks on the Upper East Side. I used to look at them with such derision, pitying the poor parents who had hired these women to sit on a park bench and talk to each other while the un-nurtured babies stared emptily out into the abyss.
But man oh man, did I get it once I had Lila. When you have a new baby, you NEED someone to talk to, because, let’s face it, you can only narrate your day for the baby’s well-being for so long before you feel like it’s time to lock yourself up in an insane asylum. (Said in extremely irritating “Motherese” voice: “Is Mommy going to put the dishes away? Yes, Mommy is! Is Mommy going to walk across the room to pick up that piece of lint on the floor? Yes, Mommy is! Is Mommy thinking about slamming her head against a wall because she feels she has entirely sacrificed her own intellectual well-being and adult mental capacity by spending the day by narrating the minutiae of her life to an uninterested baby? Yes, Mommy is! Does Mommy feel guilty about having that thought just now? Yes, Mommy does!”).
And thus, Mommy-dating is born from any thinking woman’s need to talk to someone—anyone—other than a baby all day.
When I had Lila, I hightailed it to a new moms class at the 92nd Street Y in New York, thinking this would be the place where I could meet “the one”. I also attended a breastfeeding class (which is basically what porn looks like gone horribly, horribly awry). While I met only one nice mommy whom I legitimately liked/still like at these venues, I mostly sat on the ground with Lila in my arms thinking, “Who are these people and why are they talking about hiring a professional to come in and sleep-train their baby?” I also recall thinking, “That woman who says her three-week-old sleeps through the night is a liar, and I’m going to trip her on the way out.” And of course, “Why does that woman have a Louis Vuitton diaper bag?” I would routinely glance at my sad little diaper bag, lamenting already the ways in which my baby was living a life of hard-knocks compared to the well-heeled upper class of infant society. Occasionally, I also had disparaging thoughts about the other babies, which was cruel, but given that a woman in the hospital had openly commented that Lila “looked like a monkey” on the day she was born, I felt I had earned my sinfully delicious schadenfreude. That and the fact that at that particular moment in time, Lila had such bad cradle cap and baby exzema that the poor kid legitimately looked like the crypt keeper. And yes, I liked throwing rocks even though I too lived in a glass house.
With Eliana, the need for mommy friends is less urgent. Both of my sisters have three children; one of these children is only two days older than Eliana. And there are still the remaining mommy friends from Lila’s infantdom; many of these women are on the same “track” as I am, and in spacing their children three years apart, they too have their second child who is Eliana’s age to go with their parallel three-year-old.
But still. Like an online dating addict, I find myself gravitating back to mommy-get-togethers. Searching for someone special. Someone who gets it. Someone who gets me. Someone whom I can call and say, “Does your kid make spit bubbles for fifteen minutes at a time and then shove her whole fist in her mouth?” and then have them say, “Yes.” I have some of these women in my life already, and I am grateful for them beyond words. But still…I keep looking.
This past Tuesday there was a get-together for parents (read: mothers) of children in Lila’s class. As I got ready, I realized there was something seriously fucked up about all of this: why was I putting on more makeup for these women than I did for Husband when we went out? Why was I pouring myself into a pair of Joe’s jeans instead of going out in my crappy, dirty cords? Why was I wearing perfume?
I got to the bar, giddy with the feeling that I would not be in Baby World for at least 2 hours. The other moms were well groomed, too; it was clear upon arrival that no one had errant noodles or stickers stuck to their pants, which is really a quality I admire in women. It shows self-respect. Additionally, they had all been able to make it to the get-together, which meant that a. they too were looking for a good time (get your mind out of the gutter—that’s not what I meant) and b. their husbands were taking care of the kids, which is another quality I look for in a woman: a woman who isn’t going to be the martyr.
The lights were low. The ambience was good. The cocktails were flowing (for those of us who weren’t nursing…sigh). And boy, did it feel good to just sit at a table with some smart women talking about our toddlers’ crushes on one another.
At the end of the night, I got some new Facebook friends. I made some tentative playdates. I promised myself I wouldn’t forget their names.
And with that, I was on the prowl once more.