A couple of years ago, the New Yorker ran a story that was essentially a mock conversation between two mothers at a park. Between lines like, “Sometimes, when I’m in the sandbox … I can feel the sand slowly surrounding me, suffocating me, and it feels good” and “Last night, I found a cheddar Goldfish in my vagina,” every mom I know went nuts over it. “How cliché we had all become!” we joked as we passed the La Croix. But surely, we all silently promised ourselves, we’re not that bad.
Then one day I found out that my husband had learned more about a new mom friend of mine in five minutes than I had in an entire school year, and I realized: Yes, I was the mother with the cheddar Goldfish in my vagina.
J. and I had met at our kids’ school: Her son and my daughter were in class together. We saw each other multiple times a week when picking up the littles and found ourselves killing a few minutes before the preschool doors swung open. So we’d chat: About potty training. About temper tantrums. About sleepless nights. Normal parenting stuff.
One night, as my husband and I chatted during dinner, I found myself relaying something J. had said. He mentioned that he had talked with her at a recent birthday party. “How cool is it,” he asked, “that she’s a formally trained chef?”
“Yeah, and did you know that she and her husband met in Europe, while she was studying abroad? And that A. [another mom who frequently joined J. and me in our hallway convos) went to college with us?”
Nope. No clue.
“You see them all the time. What do you guys even talk about when you’re together?”
I was embarrassed to admit that all we talked about was our offspring. How utterly, excruciatingly boring. Here we were, vibrant women with stories to tell, and all we could muster the energy for was a conversation about crustless PB&Js. Yes, having young kids is draining, but that’s no excuse for allowing ourselves to succumb to the mommy talk trap. We’re better than that. Before we gave birth, we were us. We lived full, exciting lives; we have nonparent interests of our own. Defaulting to cheese stick banter isn’t just taking the easy way out, it’s doing our souls a disservice. As a health writer, I spend my days interviewing experts on topics I find exceedingly interesting — veganism, body image, memory enhancement, organic vs. no-organic. I speak with real women about their struggles with infertility, cancer, immigration, intimacy, feminism. I could have been sharing some of that info with J … while asking her about the killer chocolate soufflé she was currently whipping up at the hot restaurant where she worked, or about the flat where she lived in Brazil while dating her spouse. Instead, we stuck to “Which playground has the better water feature?”
That conversation with my husband was a wake-up call for me. Now I try to make a point of getting to know new mom friends as the women they are, not just their role as caretaker/quesadilla maker/tush-wiper. These women are running marathons, running companies, raising funds for medical research, arguing important cases in court, reading good books. That’s the stuff I wanna hear about.
Although if anyone else finds a Goldfish in her vagina, I’d love to hear about that, too.
Everyone needs a girlfriend!
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