This article originally appeared in “Chicago Tribune.”
i’m naturally awkward, a poor conversation starter and my own husband cringes when watching me faced with an unfamiliar social situation. I am a card-carrying introvert. Which is why, when I recently realized the wealth of friendships I’ve somehow amassed as an adult, I felt quite impressed with myself.
You see, the other day I came across an article in The Wall Street Journal that discussed the difficulty of maintaining friendships as an adult. Research shows that as we age and enter different phases of life – marriage, motherhood, job changes, etc. – we gradually lose friends, and making new ones becomes more difficult. Yet, we need friends – even those of us who are introverts. People with solid friendships have been shown to be happier and even to live healthier and longer lives.
Maybe deep down inside, I actually like people. Or maybe I’ve just been accidentally thrown into enough social situations that my awkwardness has waned a bit. But somehow, I have some pretty awesome friends, and I’m convinced that if even I find them to be a valuable part of my life, these are the kind of people who ought to be in yours, too.
Behold, my list of girlfriends every mama needs in her life. (Just don’t ask me how to find them.)
The experienced, older mom friend
I once witnessed a mom friend cry when she saw my boys’ tiny fingerprints on our front window. She says it brought her back to the day her own boys were little – days she misses and treasures. The been-there, done-that mama friend will help you appreciate where you are and prepare you for what is to come with your kids. She knows what you’re going through and doles out smart advice without judging you. And yet, she’s not necessarily in the clear with her own kids – which means she’s great for putting things into perspective. You think potty training is bad? Just wait until high school.
The shared-interest friend
It’s tough for us mamas to pursue our interests outside of parenting and working – which is why you need friends who are successfully doing just that: A friend who will go to a quirky musical theater production with you. A friend who will teach you how to use clip-in pedals. A friend who will encourage you to set up your own Etsy store. For me, these friends have always been my running buddies. They motivate me to get outside on cold days and make me feel at ease about fleeing the family to run on a Sunday morning.
The ‘can I borrow a cup of sugar … or your car … right now?’ friend
The other day, my car wouldn’t start and I needed to get my boys to preschool. I was already a wreck on that particular morning and when I ran across the alley to ask my friend for help, I was almost in tears. She handed me her car keys (her kids are the same ages, with the same car seats), no questions asked. The same friend has popped over to our house, desperately needing a diaper. What distinguishes this friend is that you don’t need to be polite nor politically correct around her. You recognize that stuff happens and you’ve got each other’s back.
The professional friend
This is the friend who encourages your creativity, growth and personal and professional development, and who doesn’t turn the conversation to sleep training and meal planning every time you get together. She sees you as a person, not just someone’s mom, and encourages you to dream big and pursue your goals. She has a true “lean-in” mentality. I am completely spoiled here, as I’ve somehow managed to find myself in an all-female “business book club” full of badass entrepreneurs.
The mom-of-your-kids’-friends friend
We, of course, encounter lots of other mamas through our kids. But only a few special ones – ones who will drink a beer with us on a play date while commiserating about our children – are true friend material. Because parenting is hard, and life is too short for people who judge.
Nicole Radziszewski is a freelance columnist. She lives in River Forest and is a certified personal trainer and mother of two. Check Nicole out on Facebook at Facebook.com/mamasgottamove.