So, I don’t know if you knew this, but I’m a mom.
Yeah, I know, I’m kind of surprised, too.
Anyway, life gets different when you have kids, and sometimes those differences lead to pain – and I’m not talking about the C-section incision. That’s right, I’m talking about the rash of friend breakups that happen when you have kids, ranging from intentional, fast, and explicit to the slow but inevitable drifting apart.
I’m just recovering from the world’s Most Awkward Mom Breakup. Picture this: shortly after moving cross-country with an 18-month-old, I manage to meet a nice gal with a daughter just a few months older than mine. We bond over mutual hippie values and the girls rapidly become best friends. We average at least one playdate a week for two years. Then I have a baby and write a blog post and suddenly she tells me, in response to my question about whether she will bring her daughter to my kid’s 4th birthday party, “now that you have two kids, we just don’t have that much in common anymore.” Uh-huh. Fast forward three months of zero contact, and I get the mother of all mommy breakup emails. In true breakup email form, it even talks about how she will always love me, but she needs to move on with her life.
Anyway, this whole experience has led me to think about better and worse ways to handle mom breakups. Obviously YMMV, and you have to think about the personalities involved, but here’s what I came up with.
- Scenario 1: a new friend turns out to have a parenting style that just completely freaks you out. Breakup style: quick, clean, and impersonal. “You seem nice, but I don’t feel like we see eye to eye.” You can do this one by text or email without guilt.
- Scenario 2: you love the mom, but your kids fight like wild dogs. Breakup style: honest, create opportunities for alternative meetings. “I love hanging out with you, but the way our kids fight stresses me out. Maybe we should take an art class together, sans kids, instead?” Try to do this one in person. Oh, and a side note: with older kids, this breakup becomes unnecessary – have a coffee date with your mom friend before going to work while your kids are at school!
- Scenario 3: you’ve just drifted apart. Breakup style: let it be – unless it’s one-sided. If you’ve both reduced the intensity and frequency of contact, there’s really no need to have a formal breakup. If, however, you’re not feeling as close, but your friend is still contacting you a lot, it’s worth requesting a break. I’d be gentle; “things have been crazy lately and I’m just trying to focus more on my family right now. It’s nothing personal, I just need a break.”
- Scenario 4: the kids love each other, but you want to claw your eyes out whenever you spend time together. Breakup style: If your kids are too young for dropoff playdates, either switch to activity-based get-togethers where there is less need to interact, or just nuke the relationship from orbit and tell her, “it’s great that our kids get along, but it seems like we don’t have a lot of common ground.” If your kids are old enough to drop off, do it!
- Scenario 5: things just get…weird. (My personal example: the time one of my mom friends asked if we could swap husbands for a night. Not my style, not even a little bit!) Breakup style: quick and clean…or just let it end. Depending on how much drama would ensue, you can either say, “um, hey, that thing that happened? Totally freaky.” Alternatively, just schedule playdates less and less frequently until you feel okay stopping altogether.
I want to close by saying: mom breakups happen. Over the course of your life, you’ll almost certainly be on both the giving and receiving end of these, and that’s okay. There’s no need to take it personally! Plus, you can always make new mom friends – with 35 million moms with kids aged 18 or younger just in the U.S., even if your former friend was one in a million, you can still find 34 more!
Do you have an awkward mom breakup story? Please share in the comments!